Vanguard Premieres Composers - 2010
Erin studied classical guitar, theory, and composition at the University of Washington and at Edinburgh University (United Kingdom). As a composer, he explores the harmonic richness and poignancy possible with an a cappella chorus. He is also an accomplished fingerstyle guitarist. His recent album, Arrival, a collection of guitar/piano originals, was #1 on the NAR instrumental charts for two months. Arrival was produced by Will Ackerman, founder of Windham Hill records. Erin’s compositions have appeared on radio and television. He lives in Seattle, Washington, where he also competes as a triathlete and frequently prays for more sun.
Alleluia - Emitte Spiritum Tuum (Notes by the composer)
I conceived of the opening of the piece in 2007, before I had chosen the text. As with a number of my compositions, I allowed this musical idea to germinate until I found a text that matched its tone and essence. A verse from Psalm 103 provided just that: a simple passage that specifically served as an invocation to a higher power and lent itself to musical interpretation.
The piece begins with this invocation, the voice of the people asking their god to come forth. The remainder of the piece is an exploration of this theme that utilizes lush harmonies and contrasting parts, textures, and dynamics. I further explore contrast by setting a second similar alleluia (from the Roman Mass of Pentecost) in an entirely different, somber tone. I finish by revisiting the original idea in earnest.
I am honored to have been chosen to be part of Vanguard Premieres this year!
Born in Locarno, Switzerland in 1963, Ivo Antognini obtained his degree in piano in 1985 at Lucerne, studying with Nora Doallo. His diploma in piano was followed by studies at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne with pianist Joe Haider.
Dos Palabras (Notes by the composer)
Alfonsina Storni was born in 1892 in Ponte Capriasca, a small village in Ticino (Switzerland) which is 15 kilometers from where I live. When she was four, her family moved to Argentina where she soon began writing poems. She lived an unconventional and adventurous life punctuated by difficulties and misfortunes.
In the summer of 1935, Storni found out that she had breast cancer. She was operated on but the cancer continued. In 1938 she committed suicide by walking into the ocean at Mar del Plata and drowning. She was a teacher, actress, journalist, writer, and single mother during all the challenges and prejudices of Buenos Aires in the twentieth century.
Dos Palabras is an extraordinary love poem that I’ve translated into music trying to preserve all the sensuality, the passion, and the freshness which is evident in the poem.
Mark Buller was born in 1986 in Maryland. He began his musical studies at a young age, studying percussion at the Peabody Preparatory with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra percussionist Leo LePage. He later studied piano with respected pedagogue Jan Puckett. Mark earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance at Bob Jones University, where he studied with David Lehman. He went on to earn a graduate degree in composition from BJU, studying under Dan Forrest. In the summer of 2010 he participated in the highSCORE Festival in Pavia, Italy, where he studied with Christopher Theofanidis and Paul Moravec, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for music. Mark, who has also studied with Grammy award-winning composer Richard Danielpour, is a recipient of several awards, including the 2010 Vanguard Premieres Choral Composition Contest (Emerging Composers Category) and the 2009 ASCAPlus Award.
Mark is frequently commissioned to compose for a variety of vocal and instrumental forces. Chief among such commissions are seven song cycles (to date), a number of art songs, a wind octet, and works for solo instruments. Recent works to garner acclaim include a set of quodlibets for wind quintet, the String Quartet No. 2 (a finalist in the 2010 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards), several works for solo instruments, and a set of neo-Renaissance motets for choir. Current projects include commissions from a wind ensemble, pianist Courtney Popow, and guitarist Isaac Greene; further works for choir; and incidental music to the Terence Rattigan play The Winslow Boy.
Sicut Cervus (Notes by the composer)
Sicut Cervus is a setting of Psalm 42:1, in the version from the Psalterium Romanum. This well-known verse compares the deer’s desire for ‘fountains of water’ to the psalmist’s desire for God. My setting begins with an ostinato which never quite settles metrically; note values are constantly changing. Above this, the ladies sing the first half of the text using ‘blue’ notes to depict the deer’s desire. This desire, however, is contrasted in the second half of the verse; here, the word desiderat is set using dissonances more likely to be found in sacred music from the Renaissance, as if to show a more ‘chaste desire,’ in the words of Charles Wesley. The work ends on a slightly uncertain note (the tonic is not sung in the final chord), as if to depict man’s continued (and as yet, not completely requited) longing after God.
Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum
Christopher Cooley began composing in 2008, and has since seen his Christmas piece, Il Canto della Rosa for soprano, chorus, and orchestra, premiered in Busseto, Italy. He is also in his second year as a composer and lyricist in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. His song, “Completely Different Place,” written with lyricist Benj Pasek, has been recorded by Tony-nominated Broadway star Kelli O’Hara, and is part of the soon-to-be-released BMI compilation CD No More Revivals. His arrangements and orchestrations have been performed by the choirs of the Marymount School and the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York, as well as the Summer Musical Theater Conservatory at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey.
Christopher Cooley holds degrees in Piano from Florida State University, the University of Texas-Austin, and a doctorate in Accompanying from the Manhattan School of Music. He has played with various instrumental and vocal soloists in Italy, Germany, Austria, England, Russia, South Africa, Japan, and Korea, as well as Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall (Lincoln Center) in New York City, where he lives. Mr. Cooley collaborates regularly with renowned soprano Lauren Flanigan on music written specifically for her by Stephen Schwartz, Thomas Pasatieri, and others. Cooley and Flanigan have performed together at various New York venues from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the George London Foundation’s Recital Series at the Morgan Library. In Opera News Joanne Lessner wrote, “Pianist Christopher Cooley did a superb job, playing dependably and colorfully, always keenly aware of Flanigan’s dramatic intentions.”
Unsubdued (Notes by the composer)
Unsubdued is only my second original choral work, and it is the first for which I actually chose the text. I was moved by Kiser’s uplifting poem about the struggles of human life and the strength to persevere. The poet’s sense of defeat and anger, echoed in the tumultuous piano part, gives way to triumph and determination to carry on. After the rhythmic turbulence of the tribulations of life is transformed into heroic fanfare, the optimistic sense of possibility felt at the beginning of the piece returns in a hushed atmosphere of tranquility and hope.
David Jones (b. 1950) holds degrees from Texas State University (1975 and 1977) where he studied composition with Russell Riepe. Currently, Mr. Jones is professor of music and serves as chair of the music department at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas. He was instrumental in developing and implementing both the music and commercial music programs at ACC and, in 1998, received the NISOD award for teaching excellence.
He began his musical activities at the age of 12 playing guitar in a rock band. He went on to perform as a guitarist and keyboardist in a variety of popular genres including jazz, rock, funk, etc. While his current interests are primarily in “classical” mediums, his compositional style reflects his 30 years of experience in jazz, popular, and classical music.
Mr. Jones has composed a variety of works, ranging from solo, chamber, and choral music to pieces for small jazz ensembles. His composition Crosswind for alto saxophone and piano was recorded and released on Arizona University Recordings’ America’s Millennium Tribute to Adolphe Sax, Volume X. In 2005, Crosswind was performed by Christopher O’Riley and Mr. Jones’ son, Davis (alto saxophone), on the nationally broadcast PBS program From the Top.
Sanctus (Notes by the composer)
Sanctus is a multi-sectional workfor chorus, brass quintet, marimba, and piano. Based on the traditional Latin liturgical text, the harmonic and rhythmic character of the piece combines elements of jazz and contemporary classical music. The introduction begins with swirling secundal/quartal harmonies creating a sense of reflection and longing then giving way to a more declarative polyphonic instrumental statement which recurs periodically as transitional material between varying sections and again to introduce the final section. Rhythmic motives are utilized throughout, alternating between energetic homophonic and longer more fluid contrapuntal lines leading to the climatic and energetic exuberance of the final Hosanna section.
Frank La Rocca (born 1951 in New Jersey) was educated at Yale (B.A. 1973, cum laude) and the University of California at Berkeley (M.A. 1976, Ph.D 1981 in Music). His early experiences in music ranged from the study of classical piano to playing electric keyboards in a variety of rock and blues bands. He began composing at age 14 and first undertook formal studies in composition and theory while at Yale. His teachers include Edwin Dugger, Andrew Imbrie, Olly Wilson, Jonathan Kramer, Frank Lewin, and John Mauceri.
He is the Winner of the 2010 Vanguard Premieres Choral Composition Contest (General Category) and a winner of Second Prize in the 2010 International Sacred Arts Composer Competition, as well as the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Composer Fellowship, a California State Artist Fellowship, ASCAP Young Composer’s Award, Special Commendations in the ASCAP/Nissim Orchestral Competition and Amherst Choral Competition, and honorable mentions in the Meistersingers (2005) and Vanguard Premieres (2004) competitions. He is a featured composer in the registry of the Foundation for Sacred Arts and has been recognized on three occasions for Outstanding Merit as a Professor of Music at California State University, East Bay.
Notable recent performances include Echo at the 7th World Symposium on Choral Music in Kyoto, Japan by the San Francisco Girls Chorus; Expectavi Dominum in the Cathedral at Aarschot, Belgium; In This Place at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, and O Magnum Mysterium by the Grammy-Award winning Cathedral Choral Society at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Overseas premieres of O Magnum Mysterium and Magnificat in the United Kingdom, Exaudi in Brazil, Miserere in Portugal, Sicut Cervus in France, O Nata Lux in Germany, and Cantate Domino in Prague have all recently been heard.
La Rocca’s music has been recorded by Artist’s Vocal Ensemble (AVE), the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Vanguard Voices, Prague Radio Orchestra and Chorus, the Alexander String Quartet, cellist Lawrence Granger and the trio, Strata, among others. He is published by Boosey & Hawkes, Walton Music, and Santa Barbara Music Publishers.
A founding member, past Executive Director and current Artistic Director of Composers, Inc., La Rocca teaches at California State University, East Bay, where he is Emeritus Professor of Music and former Chair of the Music Department.
The Divine Image (Notes by the composer)
The Divine Image sets a remarkable poem of the same name by William Blake. The poem is a paean to the virtues of “Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love.” Identified initially with God, Blake then works with an interplay of human/divine, locating these same virtues in Man (“the human face divine”).
In his attempt to deify the character of man he engages, for me, a Christological perspective. Although this poem may be read by many as strongly humanist in its focus, it is the Christological element that resonates with my reading, and—in the juxtapositions of text fragments I introduce—is the reading made explicit in my setting.