I was really fortunate this year to be named the 2022-23 Student Composer in residence with Seraphic Fire. They are one of the best choirs around and have enormous range in terms of style, anything wild and contemporary all the way back to the early music. They can do it all. It has been a fantastic privilege to write for them.
It was quite a challenge, especially because so much is possible!
They gave me a text from Shakespeare's The Tempest:
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
I decided to not to focus on the context of the text within the play, as there are many that already do so.
SO, dreams. Sounds and sweet airs.
And like proper composer, I decided to start with a nightmare. Biting dissonances, before "Be Not afeard" begins to sound like calm, like a voice of reason.
From there, a chorale, an oasis after the stormy opening. I showcase SF's incredible sensitivity with some subtle, but chromatically twisted voicings.
But, on the words: "Sometimes a thousand tangling instruments will hum about mine ears", we enter a glade. I built a duet between the altos and the tenors that is reminiscent of an early madrigal. It quietly flows, words repeating like an echo in a beautiful, yet eerie forest.
From there we approach the climax, where everything opens up harmonically. Lot's chromatic twists, before finding our way back to the opening.
The rest, well, you will just have to come to the concert to hear :)
I am extremely excited for this week. This is the first time I've ever written for choir, and this is the first time I've ever had a piece played back to back 4 times (!) on a tour! Many firsts, and I'm thrilled.
Here's to a happy premiere!