Tomorrow (May 13) at 1:30PM in Kobacker Hall, my Ross Gay Songs will be premiered by soprano Sara Noble and pianist Nadia Shpachenko as part ofNew Music Gathering 2017 , held this year at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH).
Pianist Nadia Shpachenko
Three Ross Gay Songs were composed while I was recuperating in Tennessee from cancer surgeries. Looking for something uplifting to read, I went to Anne Patchett’s bookstore Parnassus and was instantly drawn to the vibrant colors on the cover of his book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. What I found on the pages within was poetic ‘music’ that nearly sang off the page, providing me with much joy and consolation: and ideas for several songs. ode to drinking water from my hands mirrors a childhood memory of my own, learning to use a water pump in my grandparents’ garden. wedding poem is an example of the vivacious and poignant connection to nature that Ross Gay, who maintains orchards and community gardens in Indiana, finds central to most of his work. ode to the flute is pithy yet filled with evocative imagery. These texts are used with the kind permission of the poet and the songs are dedicated to soprano Sara Noble.
Wendy first premiered my piece, He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, a Yeats setting, in 2010 at a show that Kay and I presented at Bushwick Starr Theatre in Brooklyn. I selected the text because it was one of the readings at Kay’s and my wedding. In fact, the composition was a first anniversary present to Kay. It is inscribed:
They say that the proper gift for a first wedding anniversary is paper. I hope you don’t mind that mine includes notes.
All my love,
Wendy has been a true champion of the piece, and has since performed it in Ohio and Alabama. Other champions need mentioning: Mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and violist John Yuan have performed Cloths of Heaven as a duo and Megan and mezzo-soprano Ellen Broen have also performed a voice-piano version with pianists Graeme Burgan and Jonathan Palmer Lakeland. Megan has even switched roles and performed it in a higher key with a violinist.
All of this to say that Wendy’s commission sparked my inspiration, and gave impetus to a piece of mine that has had a larger life than many, and that makes me all the more grateful to her. I am thrilled that she will be recording the piece and am excited by the works that are alongside it on the program; many are by close friends which makes this project feel particularly close-knit. She has made an IndieGoGo page for her funding campaign for the recording. You can check it out here.
Wendy Richman played my voice/viola piece “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” (a Yeats setting) at the American Viola Society Festival 2016 at Oberlin College, performing both parts simultaneously. Here is a terrific recording of her live in concert.
I am very proud of flutist Gina Izzo and pianist Erika Dohi. Their duo, known as Righteous Girls, performs twice in Japan this week. They are presenting their Gathering Blueproject, recorded on New Focus Records, at Horie Arte, 1-18-17 Kita-Horie, Osaka, Japan,on June 3rd and 5th at 7:30 PM.
Gathering Blue features composers Ambrose Akinmusire, Andy Akiho, Dave Molk, Jonathan Ragonese, Pascal Le Bouef, Randy Woolf, and Vijay Iyer. Gina and Erika have also included my duo “For Milton:” an homage to Milton Babbitt that mixes serial outer sections with a slice of swing in the middle.
I’m excited to have my music visit Japan: I hope to get there myself someday!