Beautifully timed with Father’s Day, the Hollywood Master Chorale (HMC) will perform compositions by the young winners of its “Voices of LA” student competition *on* Father’s Day, June 17, 2012, at 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Lutheran Church in Los Angeles.
“Traditionally, a father’s role is to nurture, encourage and provide guidance for his child,” explains Lyndia Lowy, President of the renowned ensemble. “And that is very much the role HMC envisioned for itself when we established our ‘Voices of LA’ student competition. It’s been such a gratifying experience, commissioning – and now performing – works by four very talented young composers just embarking upon what we are sure will be major careers. We’re so proud that we can say we are among the first to discover them.”
The four student winners are Joshua Fishbein, a PhD student in Music Composition at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music; Saad Haddad, a sophomore at the University of Southern California (USC); and Jordan Nelson and Mark Popeney, who are both currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Composition from USC.
“We asked each of our winners to write a piece that incorporated the text from William Blake’s book of poetry, ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience,’ says HMC’s Artistic Director Lauren Buckley. “We’re using Blake’s text because it so beautifully illustrates the overall theme of this two-year cycle. This is the first year’s cycle, when the emerging composers write their own music, setting text from the 19 poems in the ‘Innocence’ section of the book. Next year, our composers will work with texts from the ‘Experience’ part…and they’ll collaborate with more ‘experienced,’ established composers!”
“The fact that these poems seem to have musical rhythm inherent in them makes them an obvious choice for a choral text,” adds Lowy. “The poems resonate with the rhythms of the music Blake heard all around him in 18th Century London – the music of street-sellers’ cries, game songs, drinking songs and broadside ballads. Some scholars even think that he set some of these poems to music himself, but no record survives of whether he composed music himself or ever expected these poems to be sung to tunes of the day.”
About the young composers:
Over a century later, composer Saad Haddad found himself so entranced by the musicality of Blake’s writing that he wound up selecting not one, but two poems – The Little Boy Lost and The Little Boy Found.
“When I first saw the text, I knew that I wanted to have both poems in my piece,” relates Haddad, who earned a 2010 ASCAP Young Composer Award for his orchestral piece, Heart of the Hall, and was one of fourteen students selected this past summer to study with Professor Samuel Adler of the Juilliard School in Berlin as part of the Freie Universitat in Berlin International Summer Program. “It then became clear to me that I had to use all the text, although some words became more important than others, like the word, father.”
“The piece,” Haddad continues, “is about this boy who simply does not know where his father is going, but then realizes that he really is alone and that his father will not come to comfort him. Yet, in the end, I kind of leave it up to the listener to decide whether or not the child eventually reconciles with his father. I guess it just depends on whether the listener is an optimistic person or not!”
Composer Joshua Fishbein also opted to use all of Blake’s text.
“After reading through all of Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’, I picked those that I liked the most and which also fit the time restriction,” says Fishbein, a singer and pianist who has written award-winning works for both vocal and instrumental ensembles. Recent awards include the Raymond W. Brock Memorial Student Composition Competition of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Lutheran Choir’s 25th Anniversary Choral Composition Competition, The Esoterics’ POLYPHONOS Competition, and WomenSing’s Youth Inspiring Youth Competition.
“Piping Down the Valleys Wild made the final cut, although I was also interested in setting Blake’s Laughing Song, and may do so in the future,” continues Fishbein, who memorized the poem and practiced reciting it aloud before setting the words to music. “In order to do justice to the text, I set the words in order without omitting or rearranging any of it. I do some word repetition locally, but this poem has a lot of repetition built into it already.”
Unlike his colleagues, composer Jordon Nelson opted to use much less of Blake’s text when he composed The Echoing Green.
“I actually set only a small portion of Blake’s poem, taking lines from the first of the three stanzas,” says Nelson, whose electronic and electro-acoustic works have been performed by Orchestra 2001 of Philadelphia, PA, New York City’s NOW Ensemble, the USC Thornton Symphony, contemporaneous of Bard College, Simon Carrington’s Schola Cantorum of Yale University, and the USC Chamber Singers, among others.
“My interest in the composition was to set the mood and scenery of Blake’s poem and not necessarily rely on the words but, rather, the music to express the sentiment,” Nelson explains. “I remember feeling encouraged by Lauren to explore this sort of setting, but I don’t think she necessarily pushed me in that direction, as much as the text suggested an almost orchestral approach to the depiction of Blake’s story.”
Initially, composer Mark Popeney did not intend to use all of Blake’s text in his composition, Night, either.
“It simply seemed too much text to handle for a short piece such as this,” says Popenay, whose string quartet, Channels, was awarded the Peter David Faith Memorial Award in Composition at USC in 2010 and won honorable mention in the National Association of Composers, USA composition competition in 2009. “However, as I got into the thick of it, I realized that in actually using all of them allowed for a pretty neat overall structure. The music that emerged ended up able to handle the healthy amount of text, after all.”
Yet setting Blake’s words to music “turned out to be quite a challenge,” Popeney admits.
“Many of the poems in ‘Songs of Innocence’ have a sing-song, almost nursery-rhyme quality to them,” he explains. “To me, that makes it hard to set – you don’t want to ignore the musicality of the text, but you also can’t let it write your music for you.”
More about the young composers:
Jordan Nelson has a slightly different perspective. “There is something inherently musical in Blake’s poetry,” says Nelson, who describes himself as “a big fan” of Blake. “I found myself full of compositional ideas from the very first read of The Echoing Green.”
Saad Haddad’s appreciation for the poet took a little longer to grow, he admits. “The first poem of his I was introduced to was The Tyger, in my 10th grade English class at North Hollywood High School,” recalls Haddad. “I thought it was very silly, and my buddies and I had our jokes about it. But, as I began work on The Little Boy I grew to have a keener appreciation for Blake, and in a weird way, found myself seeing eye to eye with him with regard to his relationship with his father, which we can only speculate this set of poems is about.”
The competition was also Joshua Fishbein’s first experience setting William Blake’s poetry to music. “I think that his poetry works well for music,” says Fishbein. “In fact, I’m really looking forward to setting text from his ‘Songs of Experience’ next year for the second year of the Hollywood Master Chorale’s ‘Voices of LA’ project.”
Lyndia Lowy looks forward to the second phase of the competition as well.
“I’ve read the entire cycle of ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ a number of times over the years, and my appreciation of them has grown,” says Lowy. “They’ve long been revered as one the great works of the English Romantic imagination…and for good reason. Even though the poems themselves are childlike, the entire cycle develops a vision of humanity encompassing ideas about love, freedom and justice. And that’s something worth singing about!”
HMC will also perform works by Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, Samuel Barber and William Billings, long considered the father of American choral music.
“Including works by these composers works so well with the fact that our performance turned out to take place on Fathers Day,” says Buckley. “Yes, the main purpose of this concert is to introduce four of the most gifted members of the next generation of choral composers to our audience. But, at the same time, we will showcase and celebrate the artistry of those who came before them…who, in a sense, ‘fathered’ them.”
The Hollywood Master Chorale thanks the Los Angeles County Arts Commission for providing a grant to help fund “Voices of LA.”
Hollywood Master Chorale (HMC)
“Voices of LA”
Hollywood Lutheran Church
1733 N. New Hampshire Avenue
Los Angeles, 90027
Father’s Day, June 17, 2012, at 7 p.m.
Seniors and students $15.00
Tickets are available either online or at the door.
For additional information, please visit the Chorale’s website.
Or call 323-960-4349.
A dessert reception will follow the concert.
ABOUT THE COMPOSERS/COMPETITION WINNERS
An accomplished singer and pianist, Joshua Fishbein (b. 1984) composes for both vocal and instrumental genres. Currently, Fishbein is a PhD student in Music Composition at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. He recently won the Raymond W. Brock Memorial Student Composition Competition of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Lutheran Choir’s 25th Anniversary Choral Composition Competition, The Esoterics’ POLYPHONOS Competition, and WomenSing’s Youth Inspiring Youth Competition.
Fishbein completed his Master’s degree in Music Composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), where he won first prize in the SFCM Artsong Competition, and where he enjoyed serving as Assistant Conductor to David Conte of the Conservatory Chorus. While earning undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Music Composition at Carnegie Mellon University, Fishbein won the Harry G. Archer Prize in orchestral composition for his senior project, Shoreside Melody.
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Fishbein studied piano performance and music theory at The Peabody Preparatory, where he received three awards of achievement in theory. Fishbein’s Hebrew choral music was recognized with its inclusion in the Baltimore Choral Arts Society’s Student Composer Project, Shalshelet’s Second International Festival of New Jewish Liturgical Music, and most recently the Guild of Temple Musicians’ Young Composers Award.
For more information, please visit the composer’s website at www.fishbeinmusic.com
Saad N. Haddad is an aspiring Arab-American composer who has written for solo, chamber, band, and orchestral settings, as well as showcasing his Middle-Eastern heritage in a few of his compositions. He resides in Los Angeles, California and is in his sophomore year at the University of Southern California, majoring in Music Composition with a minor in Cinematic Arts. Among Saad’s accomplishments, the composer earned a 2010 ASCAP Young Composer Award for his orchestral piece, Heart of the Hall, which was premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This past summer, Saad was selected as one of fourteen students across the United States to study with Professor Samuel Adler of the Juilliard School in Berlin as part of the Freie Universitat in Berlin International Summer Program. His cello duo piece, Zwiegespräch, was premiered at the end of the program, and is the composer’s European debut. The piece has been performed at the University of Michigan and the Juilliard School in their 2011-12 seasons. It went on to help the composer earn a Finalist designation in the 2012 ASCAP Young Composer Award. Saad’s composition professors include Drs. Steven Stucky, Donald Crockett, Samuel Adler, and Stephen Hartke.
Jordan Nelson is currently pursuing a D.M.A. in Composition at the University of Southern California (USC) Thornton School of Music, where his primary teachers are Morten Lauridsen, Stephen Hartke, and Donald Crockett. Both acoustic and electronic, Jordan’s compositions are inspired by an eclectic array of influences, often motivated by the narrowing gap between ‘art’ and ‘pop’ music. Jordan’s music has been performed by Orchestra 2001 of Philadelphia, PA, New York City’s NOW Ensemble, the USC Thornton Symphony, contemporaneous of Bard College, Simon Carrington’s Schola Cantorum of Yale University, and the USC Chamber Singers, among others. In addition to concert music for both acoustic and electro-acoustic ensembles, Jordan’s recent projects have included a collaboration entitled ‘Greetings! From Los Angeles,’ produced with painter/curator Kira Shewfelt, a guitar quartet, and a collection of haiku settings for a cappella mixed chorus.
Jordan earned his Masters degree in Composition from the USC Thornton School of Music in 2009 and was awarded a B.A. in music with distinction from Yale in 2006. Born in 1984, Jordan grew up in Swarthmore, PA. In addition to composing, Jordan is active as a singer, as a pianist, and as an arranger. For more information, or to hear some samples of Jordan’s work, please visit Jordan’s website at www.jordannelsonmusic.com.
Mark Popeney (b. 1982, San Diego, Ca) is a composer whose music spans many styles and media. He has experience composing a wide array of music, whether for the concert stage, musical theater, or film. His music has been performed on both coasts, with premieres by such ensembles as the USC Thornton Symphony, UCLA Philharmonia, the UCLA Chorale, the Definiens Project, the USC Contemporary Music Ensemble, the UCLA Wind Ensemble and the Third Wheel Trio. His musical, irl (In Real Life) (co-written by Alexandar Castaneda) was premiered by Hooligan Theater Company in May 2011. Mark’s string quartet, Channels, was awarded the Peter David Faith Memorial Award in Composition at USC in 2010, and won honorable mention in the National Association of Composers, USA composition competition in 2009. In 2006 he received the UCLA Mancini Award for film composition.
Mark is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he studies with Stephen Hartke and Donald Crockett. Mark earned his master’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2007, studying composition with Ian Krouse, Paul Chihara, Roger Bourland, and David Lefkowitz, and film scoring with Charles Fox. He received his bachelor’s degree in 2004 from the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in music and political science. There he studied composition with John Thow. In addition to his work in composition and theory, Mark has studied choral and orchestral conducting with Lucinda Carver, Larry Livingston and Donald Neuen, and has experience directing children’s choruses and collegiate vocal ensembles. Mark teaches music theory and composition privately and at New Roads School in Santa Monica, Ca, and serves as a teaching assistant at USC. Mark is an avid singer and guitarist, and has performed with and led numerous ensembles in many styles. Currently, Mark performs with the Los Angeles-based rock quintet Dream Hydra.
ABOUT HOLLYWOOD MASTER CHORALE
The Hollywood Master Chorale (HMC) currently celebrates its 16th season of outstanding music. Founded in 1995, the Hollywood Master Chorale is a non-profit vocal organization comprised of men and women who share a passion for the art of choral music and a dedication to service in their community. The volunteer Chorale is known for its ability to perform a diverse repertoire, including Baroque, Classical and contemporary music.
A recognized and respected ensemble, the Hollywood Master Chorale offers three major concerts with pre-performance discussions and an intimate Cabaret annually throughout the greater Los Angeles region. In addition, the HMC regularly performs at private, community and civic functions.
Highlights of recent performances include:
The HMC has also been featured at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Torrance Invitational Song Festival, various summer concert series and mayoral installations.
The Chorale enjoys performing with guest musicians such as the Calabasas Baroque Orchestra, the California State University Long Beach Brass and Percussion Ensemble, the Mark Twain Ringers, the Ebell Chorale and the Hollywood Master Chorale Orchestra. Guests including Julia Migenes and soloists from the Los Angeles and San Francisco Opera Companies have also contributed to captivating Hollywood Master Chorale performances.
Community outreach is one of the cornerstones of the Hollywood Master Chorale. The HMC focuses on three areas of service: the disabled community, youth and arts education and cultural diversity.