Saturday: Calloways perform Carey in Miami

I’m very pleased to report that mezzo soprano Rachel Calloway and cellist Jason Calloway will be, to my knowledge, the first musicians to perform my music in Florida. Tomorrow (Saturday 9/29) at 8 PM, they present a free concert at the Harold Golen Gallery in Miami.

Part of the Acoustica 21 series run by FETA (Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts), the program will include pieces by Peter Sculthorpe, Andrew Waggoner, and Carl Schimmel, and my own triptych of Jane Kenyon settings.

“He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” this Saturday in PA (Video)

Last weekend, mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and violinist Joseph Kneer premiered a new version of “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” (2011) on the Federal Hill Parlor Series. They are going to perform the piece again on Saturday in York, Pennsylvania. Below is a YouTube video of the 1/25 performance  (the first I’m aware of that features one of my compositions).

The Federal Hill Parlor Series: the enormity of small things
Sat, Jan 28, 2012, 07:30 PM
1701 || Gallery
1701 S. Queen St
York, PA, USA
$20 at the door

Concert Announcement: Federal Hill Parlor Series on 1/21

Please join us for the Federal Hill Parlor Series’ January Open House: the enormity of small things.

Featured Performers:
Lydia Beasley, Soprano
Megan Ihnen, Mezzo-Soprano
Joe Kneer, Violin

Jordan Faye Contemporary Gallery
1401 Light St
Federal Hill
Baltimore, USA

Featured Composers:

Josh Bornfield
Doug Buchanan
Christian Carey

Vaughan-Williams ‘Along the Field’
Gustav Holst ’4 Sacred Songs’
David Lang ‘I had no reason’

Tickets available online (recommended) and at the door: $20.00.
Please also take a moment to thank our contributing composers by making a donation to the Composers Fund while purchasing your tickets.

Tickets can be purchased/donations can be made here.

Even if you are not able to make it to this performance, please consider making a donation to the Composers Fund so that the Parlor Series may continue to bring new and important contemporary works to our guests.

Program note for piece by Christian Carey:

I enjoy working with unconventional combinations. I’ve composed a number of pieces in recent years for solo voice and solo string player. The W.B. Yeats poem “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” was one of the readings that my wife and I selected for our wedding ceremony. For our first anniversary, I created this setting for vocalist and string instrument. The inscription on the score’s title page reads:

To my wife Kay Mitchell on the occasion of our first Wedding Anniversary (They say the appropriate gift is paper; I took the liberty of adding notes.)

-Christian Carey

Dale Trumbore: Snow White Turns Sixty (CD Review)

Snow White Turns Sixty
Gillian Hollis, soprano
Dale Trumbore, piano
Dissonant Gorgeous Productions CD/DL

In the call for scores for the Sequenza 21/MNMP Concert, we were smitten with twenty-something West Coast (by way of New Jersey) composer Dale Trumbore’s music. We’re thrilled that her string quartet How Will it Go is going to be performed by ACME on the concert (10/25 at Joe’s Pub: have you reserved your free seat yet?).

My own enthusiasm for Trumbore’s work recently received further confirmation when her debut CD arrived in the mail. Snow White Turns Sixty includes three of Trumbore’s song cycles, all of them settings of contemporary female authors. The musical language is post-romantic in tone, peppered with reference points ranging from high brow musical theater such as latter day Stephen Sondheim to the lush art songs of Dominic Argento and Daron Hagen. Occasionally, as in the song “Hazel tells Laverne,” one encounters a breezy jazzy cast, similar in temperament to that found in the cabaret songs of William Bolcom (but written for Gillian Hollis’ high soprano voice). Hollis sings with great flexibility, and never allows the punishingly high tessitura of some of the songs to deter her from poise-filled musicality. Trumbore performs the piano parts with a pleasing, delicate touch and in supportive fashion. While the disc strikes me as more gorgeous than dissonant, it whets my appetite for more music from this talented emerging composer.

Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 2 (CD Review)

Randy Newman

The Randy Newman Songbook, Vol. 2

Nonesuch CD

Randy Newman has gained acclaim for his Hollywood film scores, which deploy full orchestrations alongside his singing and piano-playing. His studio albums have featured similar instrumental line-ups, something that’s given his pop a classy sheen that’s served as something of an ironic foil for the ofttimes biting satire of his lyrics. It’s refreshing to hear the songs from Newman’s pop canon in a stripped down setting: you’ll hardly miss the strings!

In this, the second Nonesuch release on which Newman performs his best known songs solo, with only a grand piano for company, one learns or is reminded of, several things about the artist at this stage of his career. First, he’s still a mighty fine piano player, shuffling through mid tempo rags and drawing forth imaginative voicings in a style that may at times sound deceptively simple, but is anything but simplistic. A supple sense of timing is omnipresent, and Newman’s use of articulation and a wide dynamic range help to remind one of the instruments featured in the original recordings of these songs. Newman’s voice has always been a distinctive one; expressive rather than “pretty.” And if it’s lost a fair amount of the limited lilt it had when he was younger, and if a few high notes strain more than they used to, it’s still remarkable to hear the characters his singing calls forth, and the way that he can inhabit a song.

This CD’s been in the stereo quite a bit this summer. And one of the marks of its durability is the amount of times tracks have been repeated to get a second listen to a particularly fetching rendition. Those who suggest that Newman’s songbook has too many similar-sounding entries need to listen more carefully; there’s a lot going on above those shuffles; both musical and lyrical nuances. Hearing him perform the songs in this intimate setting underscores their vitality.

Jon Anderson: Without Yes, but still an Affirming Artist

Jon Anderson

Survival and Other Stories

After lengthy legal wrangling, Chris Squire holds the rights to the name of prog-rock band Yes (he’s the only one who hasn’t, at some point or another during its four decade history, quit the band!). Still, from an outsider’s perspective, it can’t help but seem churlish that the other members of Yes have ousted Jon Anderson, the band’s vocalist on all but one of its albums (Drama), in favor of a singer from a Yes cover band.

It’s more than a bit satisfying to find Anderson in such fine voice on a solo effort, Survival and Other Stories. Anderson’s solution to being “between bands” was to engage a host of collaborators via the internet. Despite trading mp3s back and forth and engaging in most of the interactions remotely, the results are surprisingly cohesive.

Survival brings together various strands of Anderson’s musical interests – Celtic, folk, New Age, prog rock – resulting in a collection that’s likely to please fans from various stages of his storied career. And, to answer the inevitable question, the 67 year-old can still hit all his high notes – with aplomb!

Bobby: self-titled debut (CD review)

Partisan Records CD

Bobby, a band based in Montague, Massachusetts, shares some personnel with Mountain Man (including vocalist Molly Sarle) and is filled with alums from Bennington and Hampshire Colleges. Both of these schools are places that encourage self-starters to pursue eclectic courses of study, and this shows in the group’s self-titled debut. It manages to harness the intimacy of bedroom pop while eschewing a lo-fi aesthetic in favor of a spacious, layered production aesthetic.

If one tried to pin down Bobby to a single genre, they’d likely be oversimplifying matters. The band is fascinated with the polymetric constructions of African drumming and the structures of Javanese gamelan. At the same time, the pastoral arrangements that are buoyed by these intricate rhythms frequently channel alt-folk. Sarle’s supple voice and phrasing remind one in places of Vashti Bunyan. She and band founder Tom Greenberg are fetching partners in several vocal duets on the recording. What’s more, there’s more than a smidgen of electronics savoring the mix, creating surprising juxtapositions with the more rustic post-psych guitar textures.

While locating all of these various signatures requires concentration, one’s labors are amply compensated by the often beautiful musical concoctions Bobby has on offer.


Bobby is out on 6/21 via Partisan Records.

Tansy Davies’ Troubairitz (CD Review)

Tansy Davies

Anna Snow, voice; Damien Harron, percussion; Azalea Ensemble; Christopher Austin, conductor
Nonclassical CD

A constant, if sometimes subtly articulated, pulse runs through much of British composer Tansy Davies’ Troubairitz, a portrait disc on the Nonclassical imprint. While percussionists Damien Harron and Adam Clifford perform their parts with sensitivity, and are seldom asked for a flurry of activity, their omnipresent exertions have certainly earned them overtime pay. Indeed, sometimes they are required to unfold multiple simultaneous tempi. The terse punctuations that undergird ensemble works such as Neon, Inside Out, and Grind Show demonstrate Davies’ affinity for experimental jazz and pop references. Like fellow British  composers Mark-Anthony Turnage and Oscar Bettison, she uses these vernacular references as a foil for the classical instrumentation and dissonant counterpoint that populate her works. Thus, listeners are apt to hear Radiohead and Matmos as much as Knussen and Andriessen serving as touchstones for these pieces. The result is a language that is pervasively energetic, at times spiky, but capable too of moments of delicate repose. The Azalea Ensemble, under the able direction of Christopher Austin, are keen interpreters of this supple and eclectic music.

Some of the most sensitively wrought pieces on the disc are its vocal selections. Again taking a cue from countrymen such as Peter Maxwell Davies and Gavin Bryars, Davies recalls early music in the title work, a song cycle based on 12th Century Provencal poems by female troubadours. Anna Snow’s voice,  deployed with sparing use of vibrato, seems ideally suited to “period informed” performance; yet she’s also able to conquer the postmodern pitch language and challenging tessitura of this work with assuredness.

Greenhouses, a setting of an excerpt from an email by Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist killed by Israeli forces while trying to prevent them from destroying Palestinian homes on the Gaza strip in 2003, is a thoughtful and touching piece. Davies is never heavy-handed in treating this delicate subject matter, but instead allows Corrie’s text a poignant, understated eloquence that is most affecting.

Babbitt sets Ashbery (WNYC)

Stumbled across this broadcast of the premiere of Babbitt’s “No Longer Very Clear,” a 1994 setting of the John Ashbery poem. It features a characteristically charming interview of the composer by John Schaefer.