LISTEN: Classical Music

Ariel’s Suite

The First Readings Project in Minneapolis, J. David Moore, conductor, has recorded two of my new settings of Ariel’s songs from Shakespeare’s Tempest. Both were finalists for the American Prize in 2016. “Full Fathom Five” has yet to be recorded.


Where the bee sucks there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.


While you here do snoring lie,
Open-eyed conspiracy
His time doth take.
If of life you keep a care,
Shake off slumber, and beware:
Awake! Awake! Awake!


The White Owl

This recording was made by G. Schirmer Music Publishers and Hal Leonard at Aire Born Studio outside of Indianapolis. I am grateful to them for allowing me to put up the whole recording here.

The White Owl

High in the rafters, on an old yellow beam,
A white owl peers out from under her wing.
Disturbed on this night, as a hundred before,
By the jangle of strangers at the poor stable door.

A musty, gray donkey and a woman step in,
Behind them a man with a cloak worn too thin.
The donkey finds hay and barley to eat,
While the man helps the woman stamp snow from her feet.

But the two never leave as the hundred before;
The man spreads his cloak on the hard earthen floor.
He gathers some hay and a grain sack instead
And carefully fashions a crude, lowly bed.

And high overhead, as a star starts to sing,
For a long night of hunting, a white owl takes wing.

Audio: The White Owl

Christine Brewer sings The White Owl

On Christmas Eve 2015, world-renowned soprano Christine Brewer sang “The White Owl,” in an arrangement for solo and chorus, with the Lebanon First United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Illinois. She and choir director Richard Boyd were kind enough to let me post my bootleg iPhone recording here.

Video: Christine Brewer and the Lebanon First UMC sing The White Owl


The Gentlest Lady

The Gentlest Lady is a triptych of settings of poems that Dorothy Parker wrote about Mary (and are, it should be assumed, Christmas poems). The three pieces, set for chorus (in various configurations) are “Maid-Servant at the Inn,” “The Gentlest Lady,” and “Prayer for a New Mother.” The title song was a winner of the Manhattan Choral Ensemble Choral Composition Competition.

The Maid-Servant at the Inn

Recorded by the house chorus at Hal Leonard (published by G. Schirmer in the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series).

(The solo arrangement of “Maid-Servant” received its world premiere at Encompass New Opera Company, performed by soprano Brittany Palmer and Encompass music director Mara Waldman, in February 2013.)

The choral recording appears below the text.

“It’s queer,” she said; “I see the light
As plain as I beheld it then,
All silver-like and calm and bright-
We’ve not had stars like that again!

“And she was such a gentle thing
To birth a baby in the cold.
The barn was dark and frightening-
This new one’s better than the old.

“I mind my eyes were full of tears,
For I was young, and quick distressed,
But she was less than me in years
That held a son against her breast.

“I never saw a sweeter child-
The little one, the darling one!-
I mind I told her, when he smiled
You’d know he was his mother’s son.

“It’s queer that I should see them so-
The time they came to Bethlehem
Was more than thirty years ago;
I’ve prayed that all is well with them.”


The Gentlest Lady

“The Gentlest Lady,” the title song in the cycle, was a prize winner in Manhattan Choral Ensemble’s New Music for New York choral composition competition and received its world premiere in May 2013. The recording below (after the poem) is by the house chorus at Hal Leonard (the sheet music is published by G. Schirmer in the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series).

The Gentlest Lady

They say He was a serious child,
And quiet in His ways;
They say the gentlest lady smiled
To hear the neighbors’ praise.

The coffers of her heart would close
Upon their smaliest word.
Yet did they say, “How tall He grows!”
They thought she had not heard.

They say upon His birthday eve
She’d rock Him to His rest
As if she could not have Him leave
The shelter of her breast.

The poor must go in bitter thrift,
The poor must give in pain,
But ever did she get a gift
To greet His day again.

They say she’d kiss the Boy awake,
And hail Him gay and clear,
But oh, her heart was like to break
To count another year.



Prayer for a New Mother

The third in the series. The recording below (which appears after the poem) is by the house chorus at Hal Leonard (the sheet music is published by G. Schirmer in the Craig Hella Johnson Choral Series).

Prayer for a New Mother

The things she knew, let her forget again
The voices in the sky, the fear, the cold
The gaping shepherds, and the queer old men
Piling their clumsy gifts of foreign gold

Let her have laughter with her little one
Teach her the endless, tuneless songs to sing
Grant her her right to whisper to her son
The foolish names one dare not call a king

Keep from her dreams the rumble of a crowd
The smell of rough-cut wood, the trail of red
The thick and chilly whiteness of the shroud
That wraps the strange new body of the dead

Ah, let her go, kind Lord, where mothers go
And boast his pretty words and ways, and plan
The proud and happy years that they shall know
Together, when her son is grown a man

Recording: Remembering That It

Happened Once

This setting of Wendell Berry’s beautiful Sabbath Poem received its East Coast premiere in December 2016 with the Canticum Novum Singers in New York City, Harold Rosenbaum conductor. The work is published by NoteNova Music and was recorded (here) by the First Readings Project in Minneapolis, J. David Moore Conductor.

Remembering That It Happened Once is a 2014 Pulitzer Prize nominee and a semifinalist for the American Prize.


Remembering That It Happened Once

Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought,
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened,
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.