Friday, March 21, 2014

I Am in Love with the World

Big things this summer! I have not one but two performances of a substantial work that I wrote being performed by LGBT choirs. Let me back up the story and start from the beginning.

Around 2012, I got a call from my friend Keith Hampton, a poet/musician/performer et al. who heard an interview that Maurice Sendak (the author and illustrator famous for Where the Wild Things Are) gave on NPR, and found it very touching. He was hoping I'd be interested in setting (to music) the text he had chosen, and I thought that was a great idea. The way Keith chose particular words and phrases to highlight just made Maurice's interview seem so musical right from the start. It's like it was calling out for it to be made into some kind of song! These texts became the piece 'I Am in Love with the World'.

The text from movement V, for example:

And the man i lived with oh about fifty years
we lived together for all those years
so that we could
make trips to our favorite places
read our favorite books
we could listen to music
the fragility of life
the irrationality of life
the comedy of life
…my tears flow

(Italics and capitals, Hampton's own.)

Sendak was openly gay, and unapologetic about his views of life, love, death, and family. In his older age, he was not afraid of death; his perspectives on friendship and having lived a good life are at times funny, sad, curious, and heart-breaking. The piece I wrote in response to his interview with Terry Gross ended up being just over 16 minutes long, written for an SATB chorus (the typical four voice parts) and piano, with a baritone soloist.

All the words in the new piece are taken from Maurice Sendak's last and final interview with Terry Gross on NPR before Maurice passed away. We received permission to set the text to music. The piece was written relatively easily and speedily, but the hard part came in trying to find a chorus to perform the piece. Choirs don't often readily accept new works, especially that they didn't commission themselves, so I had to think a little more broadly about this. Sendak was a gay, independent minded amazing man, and deserved the same kind of appreciation and hard work that he gave to his work and life. The perfect ensemble to sing a tribute to would be a gay choir!

I basically emailed every gay choir in America, hoping for some interest. Then, some radio silence. Until one day! And then a couple weeks later, another response! In the end, two choirs, the New Wave Singers of Baltimore, and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, are programming the work. And coincidentally, the performances are exactly one week apart. Baltimore's performance is on June 7, and San Francisco's is on June 14th. I'm going to both concerts and hopefully meeting other folks interested in continuing the life of the piece.

This is actually the first piece of mine that's ever been performed where I haven't known anyone involved or had a friend of a friend pass my name along. To a composer, that's a pretty big deal. I hope this is a good sign that the piece will have a little life of its own, and I would be happy to share the work with any other groups who are interested in performing it.

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