Hashkivenu (SATTBB, a cappella)

HashkivenuA setting of the traditional prayer in Hebrew and English for SATTBB, a cappella, with Tenor solo (2003), ca. 3’20”.

Commissioned as part of a Faith Partners Residency, sponsored by the American Composers Forum and the Wolfensohn Family Foundation.
Premiered at Temple Emanu-el, Hunter Tillman, Senior Organist.

Now published by Transcontinental Music and distributed by Hal Leonard Corp, it is available for online perusal and purchase here. Transcontinental’s description of the piece: “Griffin’s ominous a cappella setting of this prayer manages to transcend two styles – while distinctly modern and American, its freigish mode keeps it unmistakably “Jewish.” Its intricacies make it a fulfilling endeavor for a more serious ensemble.”

Text:
Hashkivenu adonoy elohenu l’sholom v’hamidenu malkenu l’chayim. Uf’ ros olenu sukas sh’lomecho. Omen.

Cause us, O Lord, our God, to lie down each night in peace. And to awaken each morning to renewed life and strength. Amen.

El Paso de la Siguiriya

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I just received a recording from the Milwaukee Choral ArtistsFebruary 14 performance, directed by Sharon Hansen, of my El Paso de la Siguiriya, a flamenco-inflected setting for women’s voices of the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca. Here’s an MP3.

El_Paso_De_La_Siguiriya     

I couldn’t have asked for a better soloist, in this case Rebecca Davies, who, to my ears, nailed the emotive power of singing in the flamenco style. Many thanks to Sharon Hansen!

El Paso de la Siguiriya (Women’s Vocal Ensemble)

Federico Garcia Lorca, text.
SSAA with Mezzo-Soprano soloist (2007), ca. 7′

Commissioned by Putni, Antra Dreģe, director, with funds from the Latvian Culture Capital Fund. Premiere in Riga October 7, 2007 at the Latvian History Museum in Riga.

El_Paso_De_La_Siguiriya     

Live performance by The Milwaukee Choral Artists, Sharon A. Hansen, conductor; Rebecca Davies, soloist

Purchase a PDF of the score for $2 per copy via PayPal (Perusal available below):















Click on the image to open a perusal PDF (pages 1-11) in a new window.
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Performance notes:

This piece grew out of some workshops I had created for the women’s vocal ensemble, Putni, which included an introduction to flamenco, among other things. The piece includes a substantial amount of clapping in the flamenco style, where two parts interlock, called the palmas and contrapalmas. This clapping can be undertaken either by members of the vocal ensemble or by separately contracted performers. The number of performers clapping is flexible and left to the discretion of the director. There are two ways to clap in flamenco: with palmas secas (loud, with palms open, clapping one hand against the heel of the other palm), or palmas sordas (quietly, clapping two cupped palms together). After the introduction only palmas sordas should be used.

El Paso de la Siguiriya
Entre mariposas negras,
va una muchacha morena
junto a una blanca serpiente de niebla.

Tierra de luz,
cielo de tierra.

Va encadenada al temblor
de un ritmo que nunca llega;
tiene el corazón de plata
y un puñal en la diestra.

¿A dónde vas, siguiriya
con un ritmo sin cabeza?
¿Qué luna recogerá
tu dolor de cal y adelfa?

Tierra de luz,
cielo de tierra.

The Footsteps of the Siguiriya
Through black butterflies
goes a girl with dark hair
joined to a white serpent
of mistiness.

Earth of light,
Sky of Earth.

She goes tied to the trembling
of a rhythm that never arrives:
she has a heart of silver
and a dagger in her hand.

‘Where do you go, Siguiriya
with a mindless rhythm?
What moon will gather up your
grief of lime and oleander?

Earth of light,
Sky of Earth.

Lux Aeterna (SATB divisi, a cappella)

Sacred Latin text,
SATB divisi, a cappella (2008) ca. 7’30”
Commissioned and premiered by Manhattan Choral Ensemble, Thomas Cunningham, director.

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Amount of copies




Program note:

On June 8, 2007, the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, Tom Cunningham, director, premiered my The Whole World Was Listening, a new work they commissioned from me as part of their New Music for New York commissioning project. Each year, the MCE commissions four composers to write short works, and then selects one of those composers to receive a larger commission to be completed the following year. I was selected for the larger commission, to be premiered June 8, 2008.

The context for the commission was that I was to write a new work that to be included on a concert of Rachmaninoff’s choral masterpiece, Vespers, or All Night Vigil. Vespers was divided in the performance into two halves, and my piece was premiered in that space in the middle. After perusing several collections of Znammeny Chant, I chose passages from a Communion Chant that I integrated into the final piece, laying the text of the Lux Aeterna portion of the Mass over it.

Lux Aeterna
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pius es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis,
quia pius es.

Translation:
Let everlasting light shine upon them, Lord,
with Thy saints for ever,
for Thou art merciful.
Grant them eternal rest, Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them,
for Thou art merciful.

Die Freudenkrone: Ehrerbietung zu J.S. Bach (Organ, Timpani, SATB Choir)

Organ, Timpani and SATB Choir (2007) ca. 11’

Commissioned by the City of Liepāja for organist Lotars Džeriņš to premiere at the VI International Organ Music Festival in Liepāja, Latvia.
Premiered September 8, 2007. With Normunds Everts, Timpani and the Chamber Choir Intis, directed by Ilze Valce

Purchase a PDF of the score and parts via PayPal for $50 and make all the necessary copies for your group. You can also email me for sample pages beforehand.:


Program note:

The title of this work translates to The Crown of Joy: Homage to J.S. Bach, and is part of the text from the chorale movement (verse six) of Bach’s Cantata BMV 103. For this piece, I used that chorale melody (with my own harmonization), along with fragments taken from his toccata and fugue in D dorian (BMV 538).

Ich habe dich einen Augenblick,
O liebes Kind, verlassen;
Sieh’ aber, sieh’, mit großem Glück
Und Trost ohn’ alle Maßen
Will ich dir schon die Freudenkrone
Aufsetzen und verehren;
Dein kurzes Leid soll sich in Freude
Und ewig Wohl verkehren.

I have for a moment,
my dear child, left you;
but see, see, with great good fortune
and comfort beyond all measure
I shall on you the crown of joy
place and honour;
Your brief suffering will into joy
and everlasting good be changed.

English Translation by Francis Browne (February 2002), taken from bach-cantatas.com

The Whole World Was Listening (SATB a cappella, with Soprano and Tenor soloists, off-stage quartet, more)

Soprano and Tenor soloists, off-stage SATB quartet, SATB choir divisi, a cappella, with or without bass drum and including aleatoric elements (2007) ca. 7’
Carl Sandburg, Text.

Premiered and commissioned by the Manhattan Choral Ensemble, Tom Cunningham, director, as part of their New Music for New York commissioning project.

Purchase a PDF of the score for $1 per copy via PayPal:















Click here to open a PDF sample of the first 10 pages in a new window.

Program notes:

Detecting in the poem three kinds of narratives/emotional/functional states, loosely paralleling a Freudian division, I carved up the musical forces so that

1. the soprano solo (and by extension the solo quartet) is the voice of religion/reason/conscience (super-ego)
2. the tenor solo is the narrator/objective observer (ego)
3. the choir proper represents the impulse toward violence (hence their essential wordlessness and martial stomping) that we somehow never seem to collectively keep in check (id)

Jaws – Carl Sandburg

SEVEN nations stood with their hands on the jaws of death.
It was the first week in August, Nineteen Hundred Fourteen.
I was listening, you were listening, the whole world was listening,
And all of us heard a Voice murmuring:
“I am the way and the light,
He that believeth in me
Shall not perish
But shall have everlasting life.”
Seven nations listening heard the Voice and answered:
“O Hell!”
The jaws of death began clicking and they go on clicking.
“O Hell!”

Aijā, ŽūŽū (SAB with Soprano solo and piano accompaniment)

SAB with soprano solo and piano accompaniment (2006) ca. 3’30″
Arrangement of two Latvian lullabies.
Premiered July 2006, at the VII International Festival for Young Latvian Musicians, Ogre, Latvia.

Listen to the premiere (put together in two short rehearsals):

01-aija-zuzu.mp3     

Purchase a PDF of the score for $1 per copy via PayPal (Comes with pronunciation guide):















Program note:

This piece interweaves elements from two of the more popular Latvian lullabies, with sparse commentary/doubling in the piano part. The piece was written assuming few male singers. If there are many male voices in your choir, you might want to consider giving the solo line to more than one singer. Use your judgment based on the dynamic balance available of your group.

Text:
Mazi bērni, maza bēda,
Lieli bērni, liela bēda, ā!
Mazi bērni maizi prasa,
Lieli bērni sudrabiņa, ā!
Pasniedz, pelīt, miedziņu caur paceples lodziņu, ā!
Ka kaķītis neredzētu, ka pelīti nenomiegtu, ā!
Aiz kalniņa mēnestiņis, aijā, žūžū, ripu rapu uzripoja, aijā, žūžū.
Mēnestiņis man iedeva, Savu zvaigžņu mētelīti, aijā, žūžū.

Translation:
Little children, little worry,
Big children, great worry, oh!
Little children demand bread,
Big children demand silver, oh!
I can see through a tiny window
The warm little mouse who brings you slumber, oh!
I pray the cat does not see him.
I pray the cat will let him be, oh!
A little moon is rising above the hill, lullaby.
The moon gave me his coat of stars, lullaby.

The Moon of the Floating World (Women’s Chorus)

Women’s voices divisi into 8 parts, a cappella (2004) ca. 4’45”
Ihara Saikaku, Text.
Premiered by Putni, Antra Drege, Director, in Riga, Latvia, and taken on their American Tour, fall 2006.

Listen to an MP3 of a live performance by Lawrence University’s Cantala Women’s Choir, directed by Phillip A. Swan, May 30, 2009:

Moon_of_the_Floating World     

Purchase a PDF of the score for $1 per copy via PayPal:















Click on the image to open a perusal PDF (pages 1-6) in a new window:
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Text:

I have gazed at it now
For two years too long
The moon of the floating world.

Rekviem

Anna Akhmatova, Text.
SATB a cappella (2004) ca. 3’

Premiered by San Francisco Choral Artists, Magen Solomon, director.

Listen to a recording of the Cantilena Chamber Choir, Andrea Goodman, director:

Purchase a PDF of the score for $1 per copy via PayPal:















Click on the image to open a perusal PDF of pages 1 & 2 in a new window:
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Program note:

Anna Akhmatova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1889 and lived there through the terrible times of the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s reign, dying in 1966. Unlike many of her contemporaries in the intelligentsia, she elected to remain in Russia at great personal risk. This small poem is a beautiful testament to how the will of the people and the reality of the state can be so painfully at odds with one another.

Nyet, i nye pod chuzhdim nyebosvodom,
I nye pod zashchitoy chuzhdykh kryl
Ya byla togda s’moim narodom,
Tam, gdye moy narod, k’nyeschastyu, byl.

No, not under the vault of alien skies,
and not under the shelter of alien wings —
I was with my people then,
There, where my people, unfortunately, were.

-trans. Orlando Figes

Lines for Winter (SATB with piano accompaniment)

Text by Mark Strand
for SATB with piano (2001, rev. 2005) ca. 5’30”
Commissioned as part of the Dale Warland Singers’ New Choral Music Commissioning Program, with major funding provided by the Jerome Foundation and additional support from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University.

Purchase a PDF of the score for $1 per copy via PayPal:















Click on the image to open a perusal PDF (pages 1-5) in a new window.
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Sometimes there is great wisdom in simplicity, and I was attracted to this text because of its powerful, simple message: love yourself. In a way, the poem seems a continuation of Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, and certainly the imagery is very Frostian. In my setting of the text I tried to provide a simple accompaniment that is suggestive of walking, sometimes slowly, sometimes moderately, and also to evoke through harmonic color the kinds of imagery pervasive in the poem. At the same time, I saw the poem as ultimately one arc that leads to the final line, and the music is similarly structured.

LINES FOR WINTER

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself —
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

— Mark Strand