Passing was commissioned by Voci Women’s Chorus to honor one of their founding members who was terminally ill with cancer. She selected both me as the composer and the text: the final section of Walt Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d. The work is both haunting and ecstatic over its 11-minute course, beginning and ending somberly, but digressing into moments of passion and austerity as befits this iconic poem.
On a Mountain Path was composed in the fall and winter of 2008-2009 for Voci Chamber Chorus. The inspiration for the piece came from the theme of the concert it was composed for: mountains and rivers with an East-meets-West subtheme. As I contemplated how I might realize this theme, I was immediately drawn to the idea of setting haiku. I have always been attracted to the simplicity and austerity of the form, and the wonderful invention it has inspired. I settled on five texts by Basho that all feature mountains. “Natsu kodachi” centers around a pun on the word for summer grove and short sword, describing the mountain in martial terms. “Sumiregusa” describes the charm of finding a violet on a mountain path. “Hibari yori” depicts a skylark suspended in the sky over the mountain. “Kiri shigure” reflects on the attractiveness of Mount Fuji being enhanced by its being obscured by a mist shower. “Tsuki no tomo” is the only poem that does not directly reference a mountain. It refers to a legend about Mount Obasute in which a man is persuaded by his wife to follow the old custom of abandoning his old aunt on the mountain. But the full moon rising above the mountain makes him feel so much remorse that the next morning he climbed the mountain to bring her back.
Sing, Praise! was composed during the summer of 2004 for the American Music Festival in Cluj, Romania. It is a set of seven brief “Alleluias” of contrasting style and character. It was first performed on November 5, 2004, by the Symphonic Chorus of the Filharmonica de Stat “Transilvania”, conducted by Jeffrey Bernstein.