Vanguard Premieres Composers - 2012
Jack Ballard, Ph.D. Theory/Composition), has composed and produced music in a variety of genres, from classical and film music to jazz and bluegrass. He worked with Gunther Schuller, Wendell Jones, Arthur Post, David Maddux, and Frank Wiley, and received B.A.Ed. and M.M. degrees from Central Washington and Eastern Washington Universities. His half-dissertation on hyperextended tertian sonority is from Kent State University. Its initial research received the Bruce Benward Student Music Theory Award in 2007. His ballet for orchestra, The Castle, received the Ipark Foundation’s Thanatopolis Prize for Memorial Composition for the movement “Lament.” His most recent work is an oratorio for choir, soloists and orchestra entitled Incarnatus Dei. He received a Fulbright Scholarship for 2012-2013 to teach music and research African music in Nairobi, Kenya.
Probably the best known representation of his diversity in styles and instrumentation is his song cycle The Psalms (REX Music, 1994), which includes such jazz notables as Alex Acuña, David Friesen, Fletch Wiley, Tom Patitucci, and others, and members of the Oregon Symphony. “So unique and creative, it breaks new artistic ground” from National Religious Broadcaster. “A great collection:” Moody Monthly. Of his symphonic poem for orchestra, The Traveler’s Psalm, the Durango Herald wrote: “Enchanting, lyrical and polished to the point that it sounded as if it were the work of one of our time-honored masters.”
His pieces often incorporate classical and ethnic styles throughout the world, but especially New World and Old World styles that contributed to the development of music in North and South America. Ballard’s production company, Kiwibird Creative Services, specializes in production that develops popular and classical style integration, such as film scoring and eclectic CD projects. The company markets its services in the film world as being genre- and period- specific and prides itself on being able to do original and unique scores culturally supportive of period, ethnic, and exotic settings.
He is music department chair and presently teaches music production and composition at Malone University in Canton, Ohio.
No. 15in the oratorio Incarnatus Dei, “Cherubim Bells” is a chorus reflecting the ways God’s presence is made known to the writer in the uttermost stillness of winter. The choir, celesta, and percussion are played softest to bring out the sibilance in the voices, and mute the attacks of the percussion without losing the sonority of the latter. It uses several imposed meters underlying a strophic verse in a 4-beat feel.
Scott Gendel, (b. 1977) is a freelance musician whose musical activities include composing and arranging new works on commission, acting as a vocal coach and accompanist for professional opera companies and students, teaching private composition lessons, and serving as music director and pianist for theatrical productions.
As a collaborative pianist, Scott has performed a wide range of repertoire, including performances with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in operatic productions, a black-tie benefit concert with Chicago cabaret singer Jennifer Chada, a featured performance with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, and recitals with faculty members at various colleges. He is the official staff accompanist for Madison Opera, and has worked as a rehearsal pianist for Opera North and the UW-Madison Opera program.
As a composer, his music has a wide-ranging scope, but Scott is particularly fond of all things vocal, having written twelve song cycles, thirteen stand-alone songs and duets, four pieces for voices and orchestra, nineteen choral works, and three operas. In 2005, Scott was awarded first prize in the ASCAP / Lotte Lehmann Foundation Song Cycle Competition, a juried national award in its inaugural year. That same year, he received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a minor in Opera Accompanying and Vocal Coaching.
Scott’s music is published by ECS Publishing and the Tuba/Euphonium Press. Recordings of his work are available on Albany Records and in an upcoming Naxos release. Scott just finished a tenure as Composer-In-Residence with the Madison Festival Choir. His composition teachers have included Stephen Dembski, Daron Hagen, and Joan Tower. Scott’s recent commissions include a Christmas carol for the Madison Symphony Orchestra Christmas Spectacular featuring the Madison Youth Choirs; an anthem for choir, brass, and organ to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Emory & Henry College; and a full-length music theatre piece fusing operatic and bluegrass music to be premiered in 2013 on Endstation Theatre Company’s Blue Ridge Summer Theatre Festival.
Please visit Scott’s website for a longer biography, sound samples, a list of works, recent news, and more.
The Last Invocation (Notes by the composer)
When I first read Walt Whitman’s The Last Invocation I thought it was a lovely poem about wishing for a peaceful passing on, without conflict. And while that’s true, it’s also a poem full of conflicted feelings, even directly contradicting its own message. The more I live with this short poem, the more weight I give to the last two lines: “(Strong is your hold O mortal flesh, / Strong is your hold O love.)” It strikes me that Whitman is expressing, in most of the poem, an idealized version of his own death, a “glide noiselessly forth” that in reality is impossible, especially for Whitman himself. Even while he’s trying to describe that ideal, his overwhelming love of life shines through it, his love of earthly pleasures resonates in the sound of the words, his pure love overtakes that conflict-less ideal and infuses it with drama and passion and lust for life.
Following that interpretation, my setting of Whitman seeks to reflect that same contradiction, those words about peaceful wafting away engaged in a constant battle with earthly love and passion. So the choral textures are thick and lush with juicy, lusty harmonies, even when the text is professing to be simple and tender. The solo soprano line expresses that unfettered gliding towards the heavens, but is always pulled back into the choral texture by surging emotional outbursts of music. The lovely sound of Whitman’s language is lingered upon a little longer than is comfortable, so that the luscious sound of those words threatens to undermine their very meaning. Aching dissonances in the choral parts abound, and constantly tug at the texture, making sure it never simply floats away. And in the end, as in Whitman’s poem, the lovely vision of a peaceful, untroubled death is trumped by the power and beauty of love on this mortal earth.
Sam Ritter (b. 1990) received his Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance (2012) from Union University, located in Jackson, Tennessee. While at Union, he performed in most of the University’s musical ensembles and at major collegiate events as a vocalist, piano soloist, instrumentalist, and accompanist. During his time at Union, he was a finalist for the Clara Wells Piano Competition (2010) and served as a counselor at the New York Summer Music Festival (2009).
As an undergraduate, Mr. Ritter was a vital part of Union’s premier chamber choir which laid the foundation for his interest in choral conducting. He completed an independent study in 2012 of Brahms’ Liebeslieder & Neue Liebeslieder Waltzes. This endeavor culminated with Ritter conducting the Brahms in a choral recital and a formal presentation of the Brahms lecture material. Ritter’s independent study of Brahms was the catalyst for his further study in composition under Dr. Daniel Musselman. Ritter began work on his first choral composition, Lament Not, My Dearest, in early 2012.
As the son of a career Army Bandmaster, Ritter was exposed to diverse musical genres since childhood at countless musical events and concerts throughout the United States and Europe. He plans on utilizing his experience and talent to the fullest by accepting an internship in Rome, Italy, where he will continue conducting, composing, and performing while preparing for graduate school through further study in piano performance, composition, and conducting.
Lament Not, My Dearest (Notes by the composer)
Lament Not, My Dearest is a setting of Requiem, a poem written by Christina Rossetti. I was introduced to other settings of Rossetti’s works and have kept a mental note of her passionate texts ever since my first encounter with her prose. This text lends itself to a wide variety of compositional styles. In this case, I’ve chosen a pensive, reminiscent interpretation.
Composed in ternary form, this piece opens with an introduction beseeching the audience to continue living as if the death of a loved one had never happened. A common tone modulation moves the piece into the B section where the torment realized is a tearing back and forth of one’s thoughts—personifying the pain lost in death. A lilting soprano and tenor solo marks the end of this section, funneling the listener into a loose recapitulation. The coda section of the piece is marked by a single pitch sustained on the word “forget” by the alto voices. Fragmented entrances of the choir paint the release and acceptance of the need for the continuation of life in spite of the passing of a loved one. It is followed by a satisfying sigh and liberation of pain which is depicted by the final tonic chord.
Erin Tomkins is a recent graduate of the University of Kansas School of Music with degrees in piano performance and composition, where she studied piano with Richard Reber and composition with Forrest Pierce. Erin is interested in writing music that expresses her own emotional experiences in an accessible way. Her music is primarily programmatic, quasi-tonal and melodically driven, with influences from John Adams, Karl Jenkins and Samuel Barber. Erin Tomkins’ music was performed at the Oklahoma State University Festival of Contemporary Music earlier this year, as well as in Cortona, Italy in the summer of 2011, where Erin is a fellow of the Cortona Sessions for New Music. Her composition Images of Water was recently awarded an honorable mention in the 2012 Buffalo Chamber Players International Composition Competition, and was premiered in Buffalo, New York. Erin is also involved in theatre; in 2010 she composed the score and designed sound for the Multicultural Theatre Initiative’s production of The Pillowman, as well as designed sound for the University Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Original Pronunciation, for which she received a Special Commendation from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
Falling Snow (Notes by the composer)
Amy Lowell was part of the Imagist movement, which strove to create precise imagery using concise language, while distancing itself from over-sentimentality. This piece takes the poem, Falling Snow, and creates the musical equivalent of the imagery in the work. The constant ostinati moving throughout the choir evoke gentle snowfall, and the whispering conveys the swirling wind as it moves from voice to voice. The distant, wintry harmonic language is at times broken by richer sounds that recall warmer emotions.
His music has been described as “glittering with professionalism” (Vancouver Sun) and he has been hailed as “a composer of great promise” (Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra).
Roydon Tse (b. 1991) is currently a Bachelor of Music student at the University of British Columbia studying composition with Dr. Dorothy Chang and piano with Alice Enns. Originally from Hong Kong, he began his musical studies at a young age with piano and violin lessons. Roydon’s talent was recognized when, at 13 years of age, he was awarded a major music scholarship for study in the United Kingdom at Eastbourne College, an independent boarding school. At age 14, his compositional experiments began in earnest and his music has since been performed by elite ensembles such as the UBC Contemporary players, Land’s End Chamber Ensemble, the Slide Rule Trombone Choir, the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra, and the Edmonton, Victoria, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras.
Already winner of several awards, he was the first prize laureate of the Land’s End Chamber Ensemble’s 12th Annual Emerging Composers Competition (2012), the first prize winner of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra’s National Student Composers Competition (2011), the winner of the Stantec Youth Artists Award at the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, Edmonton (2009), and most recently, the winner of the Vanguard Premieres Choral Composition Contest (2012).
Apart from composing, he performs for the Health Arts Society’s Artsway Ambassador program, arranges and composes pieces for several weddings, and teaches piano and composition to students of all ages. He would like to gratefully acknowledge Vanguard Voices and Artistic Director G. Kevin Dewey for selecting his work for this award and for supporting his artistic endeavours.
Glorify! (Notes by the composer)
Glorify! (2011) is a radiant and energetic piece set to the words of King David in his legendary Psalm 34, employing SATB Chorus, Brass Quintet, and Piano. The Psalms have been a favourite inspiration for many choral works since the translation of the Bible, and I find them to be a constant inspiration for life and celebration. I took words from the first three verses and wrote three distinct sections of music for them, each different in texture and rhythm. The main subject is set to verse 3: “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” The rhythmic quality of the word “Glorify” led me to set this section in a 3/4 and 3/8 alternating meter, emphasizing the title of the piece. The second verse is slightly more sober but nonetheless energetic: “My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.” A motif introduced in the lower brass and piano sets the tone for this darker middle phrase, and alternates with the choir singing in unison. This is followed by a quieter middle section setting the first verse, with the choir singing a new subject with staggered entrances. The piece climaxes as the full ensemble arrives at a held G major chord, which anticipates the ultimate appearance of the theme.