Happy New Year's Eve! As 2015 comes to a close, I'm spending a little time looking back on the past 12 months and remembering everything that happened this year. I don't often share behind-the-scenes posts, but today, I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite things from 2015.
2015 was a big year for me, personally and professionally. My wife and I bought our first home in Rochester, NY this summer (a 1920 Colonial) and we're slowly learning how to be homeowners (and how to fix things!).
On a professional note, it was an honor to have my music performed at a number of all-state conferences and honor band festivals in New York, South Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Hawaii, and Kentucky. In addition, I was thrilled to have my music performed at the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) conference in July and by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) All-National Honor Band at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in October.
I attended the Chamber Music America (CMA) conference in NYC in January and helped organize the pre-conference day, "How to Succeed in a Changing Musical World," hosted by Eastman's Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research. We had a great time at the conference and enjoyed exploring Times Square for a few days!
I had the pleasure of working with several great high school and college bands this year (and a church choir, or two!), with residencies, guest rehearsals, and Skype sessions at Nazareth College, Augustana University, Liverpool High School, Trinity Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Arkansas Tech Summer Band Festival, and Canandaigua Academy, among others.
As a composer, the best part of my job is when people play (or sing) my music. This year, I counted over 65 performances in 18 states (and I know I'm missing some! Side note: I'd love to include your performance on my events calendar! Just fill out this form).
As most of you know, I self-publish the majority of my work, but over the past few years, I've started working with a few publishers for some of my choral and chamber music. This year, I had five pieces accepted for publication with Colla Voce, Augsburg Fortress, and Keyboard Percussion Publications:
It was a busy writing year for me, with two new pieces for band (Vermont State Fair and River Town Jubilee), two pieces for orchestra (Winter Song and Vermont State Fair), a new chamber version of "A Country Boy in Winter" (from Alcott Songs), and my second song cycle (New England Folk Songs).
P.S. Thinking about a commission for the 2016-2017 year? Let's talk!
As always, thanks for your continued encouragement and support of my music. Cheers to 2016!
The past few months I have been writing a new set of songs based on wonderful texts by Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, and Sarah Orne Jewett. My first song cycle, Alcott Songs, features a collection of texts by Louisa May Alcott that I arranged into what seems like a summer day - from morning to night. I like the idea of having some sort of narrative like this within the cycle, and so for this cycle I decided to use the narrative of the seasons. Being from New England, I wanted to highlight the beautiful seasons in the region with texts by New England poets.
And so the search for texts began.
Whenever I look for new texts, I am constantly thinking about whether or not the work is in the public domain, and therefore whether or not I need permission to set the text to music. If the text is not in the public domain, you must contact the copyright holder for the text, request permission, and receive permission before moving forward. If the text is in the public domain then you do not need permission to set the text.
There are a couple of really great websites with public domain material - Project Gutenberg and archive.org. Both of these sites let you see digitized or HTML text versions of complete texts that are often in the public domain.
When I first started searching for texts for this cycle, I did some quick internet searches for New England poets who lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the poets I discovered was Sarah Orne Jewett. I found much of her poetry to be beautifully crafted, very creative, and full of imagination. I was drawn to a number of her poems, and found several that seemed to focus on the seasons. Perfect! I also found a number of poems related to the seasons by 19th century New England poet, Emily Dickinson.
Last year, I came across a poem of Emily Dickinson that I thought would be perfect for this project. But, as I dug into the research, I learned that although Dickinson lived in the 19th century, much of her poetry was not published until well after her death, in the early and mid twentieth century. So, even though the works were written in the 19th century, many were published after 1923, and therefore, still under copyright.
Since Harvard University Press (HUP) controls all the permissions for Emily Dickinson’s works, I completed their online permission request form (here, for those of you who are interested). On the HUP site, it says it may take them up to 10 weeks to respond to your request. Indeed, it was 10 weeks before I heard back, but thankfully, they approved my request. I will have to pay HUP a percentage of all the income I receive from this work, but I am excited to include Emily Dickinson's work in this cycle!
In addition to the Emily Dickinson poem, I chose four other texts for the cycle - three by Sarah Orne Jewett and one by Louisa May Alcott. Having just researched Louisa May Alcott’s work in the past couple of years for Alcott Songs, I found a perfect seasonal text to open the cycle. The poem paints a picture of a snow-covered seed breaking through the ground and blooming into a spring flower. This poem was published as part of the short story "The Frost King and How the Fairies Conquered Him," in a collection called Lulu's Library, Volume II. Public domain! Excellent.
The three poems by Jewett that I chose to include in the cycle are "Boat Song," "Top of the Hill," and "A Country Boy in Winter." "Boat Song" is a captivating poem about a starlit summer evening, "Top of the Hill" is a wonderful reflection on the New England autumn, and "A Country Boy in Winter" is a fun, lighthearted poem that makes winter sound a bit warmer and cozier.
All three of these works were published prior to 1923 - two of them appear in Verses 1916, which you can view on archive.org. "A Country Boy in Winter" was published in Harpers Young People magazine in 1882. With a little Google searching, I found a digitized version of the actual magazine on Google Books (see it here). The internet is truly amazing sometimes!
The cycle begins with the Louisa May Alcott poem and the transition from winter to spring. Second is the Emily Dickinson text - a fun, springtime adventure involving bees, frogs, and birds. Third is Jewett’s “Boat Song” to give us a picture-perfect summer evening. Fourth is Jewett’s “Top of the Hill” to provide a colorful and reflective autumn portrait. The last song in the cycle sets Jewett’s “A Country Boy in Winter,” closing the work with a fun and witty wintertime adventure!
See the score and preorder your copy of New England Folk Songs here. The music will be ready to ship by the end of April!
Introducing my newest song cycle, New England Folk Songs! In this cycle, I explore the New England seasons with texts penned by New England poets. Written for medium voice and piano, the cycle takes you through all four New England seasons through the lenses of 19th/early 20th century poets Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, and Sarah Orne Jewett. Read more about the work, see the score, and order online here.
I'm pleased to share that three of my works recently accepted for publication are now available directly from the publishers: Augsburg Fortress, Colla Voce Music, and Keyboard Percussion Publications.
- Chorale Variations, commissioned by the percussion duo Escape X, is now available from Keyboard Percussion Publications here.
- Speaking Love, a Christmas Carol for SATB Choir and Piano is now available from Colla Voce Music here.
- Filled With His Voice, (SATB+piano+alto sax) commissioned by the Bethel College Concert Choir directed by Dr. William Eash, is now available in the St. Olaf Choral Series of Augsburg Fortress here.
Some of you might remember hearing me talk about a new marimba duo commission and CD release last summer. Escape Ten, the fantastic percussion duo, asked me to write a piece for them in 2013 and I created the five-movement piece, “Chorale Variations.” Escape Ten has a new publication series with Keyboard Percussion Publications (aptly named the Escape Ten Publication Series) and they will be releasing my piece and several other works commissioned by the duo very soon!
I proofed the final draft of the piece just last week. To tide you over until the piece is available for purchase, here is a video of Escape Ten performing the first movement of "Chorale Variations."
The percussion duo Escape Ten recently released its debut album "Colours of a Groove" which features a work of mine that they commissioned in 2013 - Chorale Variations. You can listen to the album on CD Baby and iTunes. Enjoy! About Chorale Variations Chorale Variations is comprised of five short movements, all variations on an original chorale theme, which appears in the second movement. It incorporates a range of musical styles: from lighthearted, dance-like passages to lyrical solo lines. It takes advantage of the wide range of sonic possibilities that the marimba presents with music that is warm, rich, and vibrant.
I am very excited to be organizing a consortium of ensembles to support the composition of a new song cycle scored for soprano and chamber winds octet! You can read all about the project background and details <a title="Alcott Songs – Consortium for Soprano & Chamber Winds" href="http://www.stevedanyew.com/alcott-songs-winds/">here</a>. You can also listen to a couple of the songs (voice & piano versions) below! VI. Lullaby
I. Awake! Awake!
If you are interested in joining the consortium, or if you have a question about the project, please send me a message via the form at the bottom of <a title="Alcott Songs – Consortium for Soprano & Chamber Winds" href="http://www.stevedanyew.com/alcott-songs-winds/">this page</a>.
Thanks to all these ensembles and directors who are including my work on their programs this fall! If I left out a performance, please email me and I will add it to this list! October 7, 2013 Escape Ten Virginia Tech University performing Chorale Variations (world premiere)