Composer Charles Griffin was born and raised in New York. He currently lives in Orlando and teaches in Full Sail University’s Bachelor of Science in Music Production degree program. His original music has been performed in 20 countries in venues like Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, New York’s Merkin and Weill recital halls, the American Cathedral in Paris, and festivals such as Aspen, SpoletoUSA and Mexico’s International Cervantino. Active in the Orlando area, he is the founder and first president of the Central Florida Composers Forum, and has been a large budget panelist for United Arts of Central Florida, a radio show host on WPRK 91.5fm, and the music columnist for Artborne Magazine. Griffin embraces creativity in many forms: in 2017, he wrote, produced and performed in an improv/sketch show for the Orlando Fringe Festival, and also began working on a second bachelor’s degree, in creative writing.
Composer Charles Griffin’s works have been regularly performed throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico in such venues as Merkin and Weill Recital Halls in NYC and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, the SpoletoUSA, Aspen, and International Cervantino Festivals, and conventions of the WPPC (World Piano Pedagogy Conference), PASIC (Percussive Arts Society), ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) and NFA (National Flute Association).
Since moving to Central Florida in 2010 to join the faculty in Full Sail University‘s Bachelor of Science in Music Production degree program, Charlie Griffin has become an active member of the musical and cultural scene in Orlando. In early 2011 he founded the Central Florida Composers Forum, a grass-roots local presenting organization for local composers. In 2014 he inaugurated Zero Crossings, a once-weekly radio show on WPRK 91.5 FM at Rollins College, and Orlando’s home for contemporary and 20th century classical music. With an emphasis on living and local first, Griffin interviews today’s composers, conductors and performers and broadcasts the masterpieces of tomorrow. He has served as a panelist for United Arts of Central Florida since 2015. In July 2016 he was invited to contribute a monthly music column, called First Contact to the then fledgling and now award-winning local arts magazine, Artborne. Current and upcoming commissions include works for the Orlando Philharmonic and for guitarist Robert Phillips.
Alongside those endeavors, Griffin began exploring a different side of creativty: improv comedy, standup comedy, and acting. In May of 2017, his one hour sketch-prov comedy show, Biblical Fan Fiction, will have a 5-show run at the Orlando Fringe Festival.
From 2005-10 he relocated to Latvia from New York, where he worked on projects with his own 8-piece ensemble as well as commissions from regional sources, such as several works for the Riga-based women’s vocal ensemble Putni, a large work for organ, timpani and 30-voice choir to mark the 6th International Organ Music Festival in Liepaja, and a large work for electronics, flute quartet, dancers and video for a premiere in Riga in 2010, with premieres following in Sweden and Lithuania. He was also a lecturer for the US Embassies in Latvia and Lithuania during this period, and a co-administrator of New Music Incubator, an international collaborative project between composers and performers from Baltic and Scandinavian countries.
He has received grants from ASCAP, Meet the Composer’s Commissioning Music/USA, Queens Council on the Arts and New Dramatists, and commissions from Ethos Percussion Group, the Piedmont Choirs, and the Dale Warland Singers, among others. His work has been included on several Compact Discs and has regularly been aired on radio stations such as WNYC and WQXR in New York, WGBH in Boston and WHPK in Chicago.
His several residencies have included Faith Partners (an interfaith residency in New York City funded by the Wolfensohn Family Foundation involving Temple Emanu-el, St. Bartholomew’s Church and St. Ignatius-Loyola, where he composed four choral works for the three institutions), another choral residency at the Frank Sinatra High School for the Arts, and during the summers 2004 and 2006 at the International Festival for Young Latvian Musicians, in Ogre, Latvia.
As a freelance copyist, orchestrator or arranger, Griffin has worked on projects for Phillips Classics, Jessye Norman, Hugh Downs, Yo Yo Ma, and President Clinton’s Inauguration. He earned his B. A. in voice and composition and M. A. in composition from Queens College, City University of New York, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He is a member of ASCAP, former Director of the New York Chapter of the American Composers Forum, and was on the board of directors of the Long Island Composers Alliance for several years. He has served on the adjunct faculties of Hofstra University, Columbia University’s Teacher’s College and Nassau Community College. He was elected into the Latvian Composer’s Union in 2006.
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“Starting off the program was Griffin’s Vernacular Dances, which plays off popular styles (Latin rhythms, blues, jazz) in a very serious way. This muscular work, expertly played by pianist Perry Townsend, was the strongest of the concert.”
New Music Connoisseur, Vol. 5, No. 4
“Equally successful are the kaleidoscopic textures of the brief and hypnotic Oriental Poppies by Charles Griffin. Centered around a short descending motif, the movement here is fueled by imaginative quasi-improvised melodic figures and an ever-shifting rhythmic emphasis.”
Paul Fowles – Classical Guitar
“The first section’s freely tonal sound made for many wonderful moments which can only be described as spooky and funky. The second section was beautifully canonic which, if it lacked the harmonic interest of the opening, was extremely musical. It was enjoyed by the hall.”
Alf Bishai, NY Chief Correspondent – Film Music Magazine
“Charles Griffin’s Fragmentary Rondo for solo flute should join the ranks of standard repertory.”
Steven Rosenhaus – New Music Connoisseur, Vol. 5, No. 3
“Charles Griffin’s Concentric Dance, with [its] complicated rhythmic and contrasting sections, [was] gripping from beginning to end.”
review of Mariah Wind Trio at U of OK Clarfest – The Clarinet
“The other premiere was Charles Griffin’s Panta Rei, a pulsing, fast, free-flowing piece of tight, dense textures and few open spaces, save for an island of rather uneasy repose in the middle.””
The Buffalo News
“Charles Griffin’s Rekviem is a beautiful requiem — dark, almost threatening.”
KEN BULLOCK – San Francisco Classical Voice
“The surprise came in the form of Griffin’s four-movement Concerto for Chamber Orchestra. A sort of Baroque dance-suite, the music opened with a Trance Overture, in the manner of the gamelan orchestra of Bali, percussive, chiming, clangorous, brash, and declamatory. Long pedal points punctuated the interlocking rhythmic impulses. The 2nd movement, Pavane, sounded like a medieval consort, utilizing a concertante violin to intone a 13th-century cantus firmus. The 3rd movement enjoyed a concertante cello opening. The music became quite syncopated, and at its climax became a fugue in flamenco style. The last movement began with a viola that lisped in Irish accents, inviting us to a fierce gigue or reel. Almost every member of the orchestra had a virtuoso, solo run or riff to offer the color of his contribution. Eclectic it was certainly, ending with something like a sea-shanty in Technicolor. But, that it was a successful vehicle for Turner and her SJCO there could be no doubt.”
Gary Lemco – The Classical Music Guide Online
“The San José Chamber Orchestra opened its season with Charles Griffin’s “Weaving Olden Dances,” a big 31-minute, four-movement work of modern sounds laid over traditional forms—a well-made piece avoiding the expected clichés. Griffin enters skillfully into disparate realms. An agitated timpani opening gives way to a perpetual-motion ostinato inspired by the gamelan. The Pavane section that follows is lovely, escapist romanticism soaring skyward. The 3rd movement is the most overtly dance-like, with the orchestra parroting the broad strums of the flamenco guitar running through modes as well as the beat of the zapateado dance—a latino tap dance without the tap shoes. The finale, after Irish models, is a joyous noise rushing to a climax. The format idea is derived from the dance suites so prevalent 300 years ago. There were various solos throughout, none more notable nor more praiseworthy than on viola (Eleanor Angel) and cello (Lucinda Breed Lenicheck). ”
Paul Hertelendy – artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance
“…most of all, Charles Griffin’s “El Paso de la Siguiriya,” on a dark, dreamy Federico Garcia Lorca poem. “El Paso” is a flamenco a cappella fantasy with episodes of rhythmic clapping, melisma inflected in the Andalusian way and choruses in Spanish dance rhythms. Mezzo Rebecca Davies was ravishing in the solo that is the soul of this piece. She must have listened to a great deal of flamenco singing to prepare; she was at once elegant and earthy. Much of the choral work in “El Paso” is in free rhythm. Hansen shaped it with a soloist’s latitude. Seventeen voices responded, and the choir became a single voice.”
Tom Strini – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Charles Griffin’s 1998 “Persistence of Past Chemistries” opened the concert, a composition of teasing rhythms for mallet keyboards intermingling jazz with the repetitive nature of minimalism. Again, as throughout the hour, the four musicians, unidentified, accomplished wondrous feats of coordination and sound production. Those mallets moved so fast they almost disappeared before one’s eyes.”
Peter Jacobi – Herald Times, Bloomington Indiana