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Monthly Archives: November 2017

  • Robert Lau: Keyboard Composer of the Month

    "Erase the notes you don't need."

    Robert Lau talks to us about life as a composer.

    How did you get involved with music, and what drew you to composing?

    I began violin lessons at the age of seven.  Interest in other instruments soon followed, so that by my high school years I played violin in the orchestra, oboe and flute in the band, piano in the jazz band, sang in the choir and played the organ in church.  Many of my colleagues (and people of the choral and organ world) don't know that I was a string player all my life -- violin in under- graduate school and viola in graduate school.  I also taught both instruments privately and played viola professionally in a string quartet.

    I was drawn into composing through church music. As a church organist and choir director for many years I saw pieces and texts that I thought I might like to set.  I began to compose and gradually got works published.  In a more personal way, I have found that composition has became a part of the way I worship.

    MorningStar recently released your work, Lamb of God Most Holy: Five Postludes for Lent. What inspired you to write these arrangements?

    Unlike many of my composing colleagues (so I have been told), I am very motivated by suggestion.  Perhaps it is the idea that I can fill a need that inspires me.  How did this apply to Lamb of God Most Holy? Other organists have told me that they worry about what to play for postludes during Lent.  As I said in the preface to the work, on one hand we want to "send them out rejoicing", but on the other we want to maintain the solemnity of the season.  I thought a book like this would help to fill that need.


    Is there a method you use to motivate yourself to write new music? What is your process for writing music?

    I am not a person who sits at a piano (or computer) for a set number of hours each day, composing anything and/or waiting for inspiration.  Instead I allow my ideas to "simmer on a back burner" until I think they are ready to be written down.  Fortunately, two advanced degrees in music theory and a strong interest in keyboard improvisation allow me to harmonize voice parts and arrange accompaniments quickly.

    Describe life as a composer. What are the most gratifying and difficult aspects of the career?

    To me the most gratifying experience is to hear that something I have written fills a need and appeals to a wide range of performers and their abilities.   My most vivid example occurred several years ago when I had an anthem sung at St. Peter's in Rome by a touring choir from the United States.  To "fill a need" in that venue was certainly gratifying.   But what really struck me was a letter I received about 10 days later from a woman who told me she and her small choir on an American Indian reservation in New Mexico had performed one of my anthems and it went well.  It was the SAME anthem!

    Difficulty?  Having to re-write or reject a section of a piece (or an entire piece) that originally pleased me, but for some reason doesn't "fit" any more.

    What advice would you give to aspiring composers?

    Listen to and analyze as much music as possible.  Do composers have a distinct melodic/harmonic/rhythmic style which attracts your attention?  What makes their music interesting?  And two suggestions of a more practical nature.  1) If you are interested in the commercial world of church music, know the "profile" of a music publishing company.  Are you writing the kind of music they publish? And, 2) erase the notes you don't need (my pet peeve: unnecessary doubling, especially in keyboard accompaniments).

    What can you be found doing when you're not writing or editing new music?

    I am a reader -- papers, magazines, biographies, fiction, mystery novels, books on music.  I also like travel (I could easily call France or Italy home), good food, listening to music and exercising to stay healthy.  Although I am retired after a career as a college prof  (40+ years), I still substitute as a church organist on a regular basis.

    Is there any recent or upcoming news you'd like to share?

    I recently completed three choral commissions from churches whose directors are my fellow chapter members of the Harrisburg (PA) Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.  I think it is special to be asked by your peers to write for them.

    And, by the time this interview appears I will be celebrating (to me) a significant milestone in my career: 500 published keyboard and choral works.  Beyond my dreams!

    Robert Lau is a composer of keyboard and choral music with hundreds of publications to his name. He has received 15 ASCAP awards, as well as awards from his alma mater, Lebanon Valley College, and Theatre Harrisburg (PA). He has held positions as organist and director of music in various denominations in central Pennsylvania. He studied at Lebanon Valley College (where he is now Professor Emeritus), the Eastman School of Music, and The Catholic University of America.

  • The Quiet Center - Upcoming Performances by Composer Thomas Keesecker


    Thomas Keesecker will be presenting his piano collection, The Quiet Center, as an Advent reflection of music, song, and poetry at several churches this Advent Season.


    Sunday, November 26, 6 pm, Abiding Presence Lutheran, Ewing Township, NJ

    Monday, November 27, 8 pm, St Paul's Lutheran, Glenside, PA

    Wednesday, November 29, 7:30 pm, Sacred Heart, Bloomfield, NJ

    Sunday, December 3, 5 pm, Saint Mary Magdalen Mission, Bel Air, MD

    Sunday, December 10, 6 pm, St Matthew's Lutheran, Lake Ridge, VA

    Wednesday, December 13, 6:30 pm, Grace Lutheran, Winchester, VA

    Thursday, December 15, Noon Recital, Muhlenberg Lutheran, Harrisburg, VA



    Thomas Keesecker is the Director of Music at St Margaret Catholic Church in Bel Air, Maryland. He has served as a parish musician in both Lutheran and Roman Catholic settings in Virginia, Montana, and Maryland. His choral music is published by several publishers. He grew up in Germany and Northern Virginia and attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Catholic University School of Music in Washington, D.C. He and his wife, Tricia, are parents of three sons.

  • Featured Recording: Love's Signature: Songs for Contertenor and Piano by Juliana Hall



    From Gramophone:“[Juliana Hall's] sensitivity to words is on impressive display on Love’s Signature... these songs show Hall to be a composer who savours lyrical lines and harmonies peppered with gentle spices..."

    Juliana Hall's latest recording hosts 24 songs in 3 parts, performed by countertenor Darryl Taylor, soprano Susan Narucki, pianist Donald Berman, with the composer at the piano for some tracks as well. LOVE’S SIGNATURE traverses time and space to celebrate various types of love: characters from the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) reveal universal human experiences of love throughout different times in our lives; the letters of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) exemplify the love we have for those specific people in our circles who touch us more personally; and the poems of Marianne Moore (1887-1972) speak of how one’s love for an art form like music can provide inspiration and beauty to enrich life.

    April 2017 recording of the month on Voix des Arts.

    "One comes away from this disk with a profound appreciation for the excellence and innovation of her music as well as the hope that many more people will come to explore and enjoy it ... [the composer's] considerable skills as a pianist are on grand display..." (NATS Journal).

    “The songs’ novelty is wholly organic, never contrived, and the composer perpetuates the American Art Song tradition of Beach, Barber, and Bolcom..." (Deep Roots Magazine).

    Read more reviews on MSR Classics.

  • Robert Hobby: Keyboard & Choral Composer of the Month

    Robert A. Hobby, born 1962, currently serves as Director of Music for Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his responsibilities include playing for many of the worship services, overseeing the graded choral program, and managing the concerts the church offers. Numerous activities during his tenure include Trinity Church establishing a choral series with seventeen composers commissioned thus far, hosting a regional convention of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, producing four recordings, and expanding the opportunities for music ministry.

    Mr. Hobby received his Bachelor's Degree in Church Music from Wittenberg University in 1985 and a Master's Degree in Organ Performance from the University of Notre Dame in 1987. His organ teachers have included Darwin Leitz, Kirby and Kristi Koriath, Donald Busarow, and Craig Cramer. His private study in composition has been under Donald Busarow and Richard Hillert. He has had private coaching in improvisation with Paul Manz and compositional coaching from English composer, Andrew Carter.

    To date, most of his composition time has been spent writing commissions for churches and organizations throughout the country. Over 150 of Mr. Hobby's compositions are in print with Augsburg Fortress Publishing House, Choristers Guild, Concordia Publishing House, G.I.A. Publishers, MorningStar Music Publishers, Northwestern Publishers, Pavane Publishing Co., and Warner Brothers Publishers. His music has been heard on nationally syndicated radio programs such as "The Lutheran Hour", "Pipe Dreams", and "Sing for Joy". A representation of his writing for organ, choral, and instrumental forces can be found on "Thine Is the Glory", a recording produced by MorningStar Publishers. In 2006, Mr. Hobby premiered a major work of his entitled "The Good Shepherd" which is scored for tenor solo, adult and children's choirs, and orchestra; it is published with MorningStar Music Publishers. His compositions are present in two hymnals: Evangelical Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book.

    As a performer and clinician, Mr. Hobby keeps an active schedule throughout the United States. He has played for the national conventions of the Hymn Society of the United States and Canada, Organ Historical Society, and National Pastoral Musicians, and he has played for both national and regional conventions of the Association of the Lutheran Church Musicians and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He has been a featured artist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, performing Poulenc's Organ Concerto and Haydn's Organ Concerto #2 in C. In 2005, he conducted the premiere performance of Andrew Carter's Concerto in C for organ and orchestra with David Higgs at the organ. In addition, his workshops for both regional conventions and individual chapter meetings of the American Guild of Organists and other similar organizations have gathered wide acclaim.

    Mr. Hobby is a member of a number of professional music organizations and has held a variety of leadership positions. For several years he chaired "Young Lutherans Sing", a national summer choral program for children, sponsored by the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. In 1996, he designed and coordinated a hymn festival that was performed simultaneously at 100 sites around the United States and Canada to commemorate the 10th anniversary of ALCM. He has also served as Dean of the Fort Wayne American Guild of Organists and as a member of the Program Committee for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

    Mr. Hobby and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents of three daughters: Hannah, Lydia, and Elizabeth.

    2015 Interview with Today's Catholic on composing for the papal visit.




    Featured choral works:








    Featured keyboard works:


  • News from Julian Wachner & Trinity Wall Street

    Julian Wachner conducted the first four concerts in the 12-concert series titled "The Psalms Experience," part of the White Light Festival at Lincoln Center this November. From the festival: "'Out of the depths I cry to you!' For nearly 3,000 years, humans have reached out to the divine through the Psalms, the Hebrew Bible’s book of hymns revealing the gratitude, fear, and longing of the human heart. In this unprecedented choral project, four world-renowned choirs traverse 1,000 years of music over the course of 12 thematic concerts featuring all 150 psalms by 150 different composers from Bach and Handel to today’s leading artists, including new commissions by Nico Muhly and David Lang, among others."
    Read more.


    Also in November, the Trinity Youth Chorus, joining the Canterbury Choral Society and Monmouth Civic Chorus, made their way to Carnegie Hall for a performance of Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand.

  • David Conte November Performances


    Sunday, November 12th, 2017
    “Her Kind”  from “Sexton Songs”
    Marnie Breckenridge, soprano
    Hope Briggs, piano
    Newman Auditorium, Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa, CA
    Performance details




    Sunday, November 12th, 2017
    Gift of the Magi
    University of Delaware Opera Theatre
    Performance details



    Sunday, November 19th, 2017
    “Fantasy”  for solo piano
    Matthew Odell, pianist
    An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
    Performance details






    Wednesday, November 29th, 2017
    A Copland Portrait
    Indiana State University Wind Orchestra
    Roby George, conductor
    Terra Haute, Indiana
    Performance details



  • "Buoso's Ghost" at 2018 University of Central Florida Festival

    In April 2018, University of Central Florida will stage Buoso's Ghost by Michael Ching in their UCF Celebrates the Arts Festival. The date for the performance will be announced soon. UCF plans to pair Ching's opera with Giacomo Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.

    Based on part of Dante’s Divine ComedyGianni Schicchi (the final installment of Puccini’s Il Trittico) is the beloved comic opera about the conniving Donati family’s attempts to change their deceased uncle’s will for their own gain.

    Buoso’s Ghost was first staged with the Pittsburgh Opera in 1996, and received the official premiere at Opera Memphis in 1997. The opera begins where Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi ends, and traces the sinister dealings of Buoso Donati’s family, who have allegedly poisoned Buoso. Throughout the opera, Schicchi exploits the family’s plot to outwit them time and time again.  The Chicago Tribune remarked that “Composer and librettist Ching … borrows snatches of Puccini tunes and weaves them into his own conservative-eclectic idiom, tossing in bits of American pop … for merry measure. The vocal writing is expert, the orchestration light enough to allow the singers to project the text clearly. Buoso is charming and unpretentious ….”

  • Tom Cipullo & Michael Ching featured at National Opera Association

    After Life

    Loyola University (New Orleans) stages Tom Cipullo and David Mason's After Life as part of the National Opera Association's Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition on January 5. 

    The Dominick Argento Chamber Opera Competition encourages the composition and performance of short operas especially useful in opera workshops and other training venues. The competition runs in two-year cycles. In the first year, composers submit scores for preliminary judging. Three finalists are chosen and excerpts from those operas are presented at the annual convention (odd years) for competition. The winning opera, chosen from among the three finalists, is produced in its entirety at the NOA convention the following year (even years).

    Deemed "[a] finely wrought exploration of the role of art in times of grave crisis" by the Washinton Post and "inventive, pitch-perfect, thought-provoking and refreshing" by Oregon ArtsWatch, After Life imagines a post-mortem reunion of Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein. Stein believes her beloved Alice B. Toklas has conjured her back to life, while Picasso wonders which of his many lovers has called him up from the abyss. When both realize, to their disappointment, that their great loves are not present, the two towering figures discuss their lives, their complex relationship, and their activities during the Second World War. Their outsized egos clash, resentment between them boils over and, as they confront each other, a third voice rises from the darkness. A young girl, a victim of the Holocaust, appears, and it is her questioning that has brought Stein and Picasso back from the dead. Why did she die while they lived on? Can the two artists, whose work endures, ever know death as she does? Who will remember her, when she barely remembers herself?

    Sinatra, Puccini and This Thing of Ours

    Tom Cipullo and Michael Ching lead a conversation about how American popular culture influences their music and librettos. Opera has its tradition (Puccini) and one of the factors in its rebirth is not holding a popular culture at arms' length, but embracing it (Sinatra). As a playful start, Tom Cipullo will play Frank Sinatra and Michael Ching will play Giacomo Puccini. The workshop takes place on January 5.

  • University of Oklahoma presents children’s opera "Starbird" by Henry Mollicone

    The University of Central Oklahoma School of Music Opera presents the Henry Mollicone's children’s opera Starbird on November 15-17 at the UCO Jazz Lab.

    A performer dressed as a bird stands to the left of another performer dressed as a dog.Starbird, featuring libretto by Kate Pogue, premiered in 1981 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Set in New York City, Starbird follows a dog, a cat and a donkey as they meet by chance one summer evening in Central Park. After falling asleep, they are awakened by the sound of a landing space ship and greeted by the Starbird, whose warnings they ignore. The animals board the ship, hoping it will take them to their new lives. Soon, the animals realize they are in danger and require saving. They call upon the Starbird for help, and in rescuing the group, the Starbird teaches them a valuable lesson about working with each other’s differences.

    Robert Glaubitz, director of opera at Central, notes, “We chose ‘Starbird’ as our fall opera because the storyline and characters are so unique and the music is so beautiful. It’s a great show for kids or adults. My favorite part of working on the opera is watching each singer find their robot or animal character over the rehearsal process.”

    Starbird has been called a “fetching space-age children’s fable” by Newsweek and “funny for both children and adults” by The Guardian.

    Source: UCO Press Release: UCO School of Music Presents Children's Opera 'Starbird,' Nov. 15-17

  • Juliana Hall: October & November Performances

    Several works from Juliana Hall's vocal catalog were featured in performances in October and November.

    October 1:  Renee Calvo, soprano, presented selections from Night Dances in a recital at the University of San Diego. Click here to learn more.

    October 13-15: Members of Northwest Art Song (soprano Arwen Myers, mezzo Laura Beckel Thoreson, and pianist Susan McDaniel) partnered with The Ensemble of Oregon to share a concert series titled "Nevertheless, She Persisted: Voices of Women in Music & Verse." The concert featured Music Like a Curve of GoldClick here to learn more.

    October 22: Piper Pack-Smith, mezzo-soprano, and Kyung Sun Choi, piano, performed four songs from Letters from Edna in a DMA recital at the University of Arizona.

    October 27 & 28: Great Camelot"Austism Advocacy Project", based on poems by Sameer Dahar, was commissioned and premiered as part of Lynx Project's The performances featured tenor Steven Humes and pianist Florence Mak. Click here to learn more.

    October 29 & 30: "Theme in Yellow" from Theme in Yellow was performed by Thea Lobo, mezzo-soprano, and Eunmi Ko, piano in Jamaica Plain, MA. The performance took place as part of a GroupMuse event. The performance was repeating the Sound of Music Performance Series at Temple Shalom in West Newton, MA.

    November 3: Music Like a Curve of Gold was performed Rebekah Smeltzer Staley, soprano, and Julie Silva, mezzo-soprano, as part of One Ounce Opera's 2nd Annual Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Art Song competition, of which Hall was named a winning composer. Click here to learn more.

    November 18 (Cambridge, MA), 22 (London), & 23 (Oxford): Christopher Eaglin, tenor, and Nicole Panizza, piano, present two concerts featuring The Holy Sonnets of John Donne at Harvard Memorial Church (MA), Coventry University (UK), and the University of Oxford (UK).

    November 28: Middlesex Community College hosts a free concert "And the Barriers Had Vanished: Exploring LGBT Issues through Music," which will include a performance Night Dances. The performing artists are soprano Anna Ward and pianist Elaine Rombola.

    For more information about Juliana Hall's art song catalog, click here.

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