Category Archives: Choral Music

A classic poem takes a new (musical) flight


A dear friend of mine, who shall remain in anonymity, once showed me e.e. cummings’ i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart). As clichéd as it sounds, I loved it. In the course of this past semester, I enrolled in a composition class. In this class put my big boy pants, and I set this poem to music. It was an uphill battle (choosing the singers, rehearsal time) in short, a battle. I won the battle and the war! Here is the finished product, while not perfect, it is pretty darn close. I hope this a start of a new, complementary chapter in my life.

If you want to commission me for a choral piece, do not hesitate in doing so! Without further ado, i carry your heart with me (i carry it my heart).

Text:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Singers:

Sopranos:

Alison Huntley
Lydia Lewis
Mariah Chapdelaine
Elizabeth Peregrine

Altos:

Carolee Stark
Abiagil Landau
Jessica Moore
Jazmine Hamilton

Tenors:

Tyler Hast
Thomas Heise
Arturo Martinez
Eric Mohlis

Basses:

Johnnie Campbell
Ethan Q. Ivey
Jordan DePatis
Jack Dessent

José Clavell, conductor

If music be the food of love…


If music be the food of love,
sing on till I am fill’d with joy;
for then my list’ning soul you move
with pleasures that can never cloy,
your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
that you are music ev’rywhere.

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
so fierce the transports are, they wound,
and all my senses feasted are,
tho’ yet the treat is only sound.
Sure I must perish by our charms,
unless you save me in your arms

-Henry Heveningham

Believe, I shall…


I believe in the sun, and the warm it exudes. 
I believe in the moon, the stars, and space. 
In the sound of the wind against my face. 
The chill of winter on a morning’s breath 

I believe in the heart, emotions palpitating…
In the sea and its temperament
I believe in starting clean, and the opportunities it can bring.
In children’s smile on Christmas day

I believe in the fall, the grace in nature’s death

Flamboyán leaves

Flamboyán Leaves


I believe in the spring, the phoenix’s birth 
In the meadow, the forest, 
the burning heats of men…

I believe in the cloud terrain after the kiss of rain
the shadows if a flamboyan tree under it’s rest
I believe in the torments that life brings 
in the act of weeping, the mourning of a death

I believe in the sun, and the warm it exudes
I believe in the crater of the moon, 
in the rouge meteors that scar the sky
I believe in the frigid winter winds against my skin
freezing my bones, and frosting my soul

But most importantly
I believe in you… 

 

Author’s Notes: Here you have my first poem of 2014. I was inspired by the Composer Ola Gjeilo’s “Across the vast eternal Sky”. Something I have learned about life in the last couple of months is that we should never stop believing… I hope you enjoy. Happy New Year! 

-Musical Poetry 

One Winged Angel


Lately, I’ve been overthinking. More than usual. I’ve been pondering in my relationship. I’ve ben pondering in my relationship with peers, friends, and professors. I’ve transported myself back to the time where it felt just like this one. I call it the Great Depression of 2008. But (there is always one, isn’t there?) it’s not.  The circumstances are not the same. Many things are similar, financial problems, for instance is one of them. Also, it reminds me when I started in studying music in 2002. In short, I rediscovered or should I say reaffirmed that everything is a cycle. The good things and the bad. But in everything that has happened to me. In all these almost 24 years, there has been one single common factor: Music. My One winged Angel.

One Winged Angel

When I started studying music in 2002, I was bullied. I never wanted to accept it (as many things about myself, my reality or my life), but I did struggle with it. My defense mechanism is to over-work. So I became more of a workaholic (if it can be possible). I also became (more than ever) distant with my reality and the people who were close to me, and acted as if everything were peaches & cream. My family (who I believe never noticed anything, I am a good actor when I need to be) finally let me take music classes. So, I poured myself into the only thing I could. Music. I also did my academics, but who cares! I had MUSIC from 4:30 to 6:30 from Monday to Saturday. I made my own little universe of pitch, tones, harmonies and I stayed there. I did it so much that it was the only thing I could think of from when I got woke up until I would fall asleep. I attended Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, Plucked Strings Orchestra, Guitar. Cuatro, Theory Classes, in short everything and anything I could musically. I also founded a Music Club in my school so that I could think about music at school too. After doing all of this, did it work? Did it seclude me from my reality, and most important my problems? I can say yes. Did I learn from it? Yes. Did it help me? Absolutely. Was it maybe a bad way to manage my problems? Yes. Which is why I have tremendous empathy for people who have battled with depression. Everybody deals with depression, rejection, and anxiety in different ways and every case differently. My escape is (and always will be) Music. Sometimes it frustrates the hell out of me. Hell, sometimes it gives me a migraine! Sometimes I take it very, very, very personal when other musicians do a crap job (or don’t care). Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me but I can’t help it. Music has giving me so much, that I just want to do the best.

I struggled, but survived High School. I thought that everything would get better, and for a moment it I was under the aloofn

This time I wasn’t really that good at acting. Mainly my brother was the one who noticed. I lashed out on everybody in my family, but kept a happy face and my strong demeanor in my college life. I have basically no social life so (I believe) they didn’t noticed. I was the same (even more) nerd that I was on my freshman year and continued to do so. My bachelor is in Musical Education, so I majorly focused on my studies and vowed to “get out of this place and promised myself I wouldn’t do what I was living to myself or to my loved ones”ess that everything would. Untill 2008 rolled in. I was in college. I had a good freshmen year. I was getting to know my peers, making new relationships, new friends like Sheila, Glorimar, and Yolimar. And just like “The Last Airbender” scene: “Every thing changed when the fire benders attacked”. Everything that was dear to me changed, was grabbed like a lolly from a baby and I was down, again. And I was on the floor receiving kicks. Life intervened again, and just like that self-defense mechanism did too. I had to move from my house (to my sisters and then to the apartment where I currently reside). I had to basically sell (most) of everything I owned, because it was “no longer mine”. Everything changed, and so did I.

During my passage through the Music Institute I was always keen in Conducting (especially to Choral Conducting), and my musical mother Fombe, noticed. She basically took me under her wing for the past decade, and she made me a chorister, a singer but most important a teacher. When I was in college my passion for Music Investigation was Prof. Laracuente. My love for writing flourished tenfold thanks to Doctor Mercedes Torres. My love for Choral Conducting (and the one who gave me as much opportunities to cond

uct) is thanks to Prof. Ruben Colón Tarrats. But  there was one professor who taught me the most about musicianship. That was Professor Freddie Feliciano (AND) Aponte (because I have a mother!).

Professor Freddie Feliciano (and) Aponte is the one who basically told and taught me to believe in myself. He was the one who told me that if I have a talent I must share it, the one who told me one day that I must love and let myself be loved. The one who basically flat out told me (very sassily) that I have all the passion, talent, but “most importantly the drive, and motivation” to do anything I want in my life is Prof. Freddie Feliciano.  Freddie is an amazing person.

Professor Freddie Feliciano

Prof. Freddie Feliciano (AND) Aponte

Freddie (because that’s one of the things I love about my music department, the professors encourage you to call them by their name) showed me who a musician is, how a musician should act, and how a musician reacts to to the world around him/her. Freddie taught me not to give a damn about what other people think about you. Freddie taught me and rekindled (just as did Kevin) my love for languages, especially the French language. It never occurred to me HOW much he taught me. And the only thing I can think about is the same question I have to all the professors mentioned above… “You’ve taught me so much. More than I have ever imagined. How can I repay you?” I read an article a week ago. In the article Dr. James Jordan from Westminister Choir College asks this to his mentor. Her reply was “Light a candle in every student you meet. That is more than enough.” I can say that I met Freddie in a crucial part of my life. And I can say that he’s another One Winged Angel I have in my life.

When I finished my bachelors’ degree I knew I learned a lot. From my personal life to my personal life. What I can say from both is that no matter what may happen to me, how I feel or what life can throw at me… I have Three One Winged Angels: Music, Freddie, and Kevin. In my life, these two people and music have done so much to me that they can’t even imagine how they have changed my life for the better. Kevin, Freddie, and Music literally and figuratively they have saved my life. I only wish Kevin, and Freddie have One Winged Angels as I do. As for Music? I believe she’s an angel who has saved many and still has more people to save.

Let’s Chat Over Coffee- Chapter 6


Chapter Six

                 So was this you trying to impress me? By tripping on the carpet. By the way that cinnamon dolce latte is really good. It might be a new favorite. It might be. Said Colin smirking. Oh shut it. I did not trip. As I told you the Earth rotated against my will. Didn’t you come here to help me? Instead you are judging my amazing Earth rotating abilities? I am disappointed at you. Judging someone over they’re abilities. Said Bradley holding his literature book. Ok ok, I’ll stop judging you. Now what is it that you don’t understand? Said Colin smirking. Ok… Here-  Bradley hands Colin a yellow folder labeled “To-Do List”- The ones I can’t figure out are the ones marked in yellow. – Do you even understand the material? There has to be like 30 terms! Colin said surprised. And that’s why I need your help. Said Bradley with one of his award-winning smiles. Ok. So let’s starts with the Iambic Pentameter…

 ______________________________________________________________________________________ 

                 Bad night, Arth? Said Eoin, rummaging in the fridge. “Why are you in my flat? I was informed that you were moving out last week.” Said Bradley throwing himself to the couch. “I knew you wouldn’t live without me.” Said Eoin as he bit an apple. “That means you couldn’t find a flat that was cheap enough, close to the bar and college. And the fact that you can’t cook makes it harder for you to live ‘cause you cant live with just Beer and Healthy Choice’s Café Steamers.” Bradley got up from the couch and heads to the kitchen and slaps Eoin in the head. “So that means you have to pay rent on time, buy groceries and pay half in everything. If you can’t do that I will kick you out.”I am pleased to inform you that you are going to buy dinner ‘cause as you can see my former flat mate ate everything and now I don’t have anything to eat.” Said Bradley hitting Eoin again but with an orange. “Fine! I’ll order some pizza. At least you have some of that wimpy beer”- Hey! Smirnoff is not a “wimpy beer” and what are you talking about? You drank half of them last week!  Said Bradley insulted. Exactly, I didn’t get wasted. Hence why its wimpy and you should buy straight up vodka. What’s the number of the pizza place?  Said Eoin after munching another piece of apple and fumbles with his krazor.

______________________________________________________________________________
For what it’s worth

I miss you…

Why do you linger?

Why do you stay?

Can’t you see this can’t happen?

Not this way?

 

Colin tries to shake his thoughts as he sits down. Closing his eyes he exhales and places his hands on the keys. He opens his eyes; his hands linger over a C7th  he shifts his hands as he meticulously starts playing. Exhaling and inhaling with the beats, he closes his eyes. An amalgam of arpeggios, chords bounce off the walls and fly off the tiny cubicle. Students stop and stare at Colin’s piano playing, asking each other “who is the virtuoso pianist?”

                 When he finished playing, he could feel himself sweaty and hyperventilating. Oblivious to the crowd outside, he closes the piano, picks up his bag and heads to the door. Colin halts as he stares at the people staring back at him. He starts to slowly move towards the door as he looks at the students fleeing the scene and only one figure is left. Colin opens the door and recognizes Eoin. “So why aren’t you studying music. You studied with Gaius didn’t you?” “ Um, yeah I-” Colin started to ramble. “I don’t know why you stopped playing, but you should continue, I’m looking forward to more of you impromptu concertos” Eoin smiles as he flips his black wavy hair to the side as he smiles cockily. “Could you at least tell me what it was?” “The people united will never be defeated, the Variations 27-29th by Federic Rzewski” Said Colin in shock. Eoin walked away as he said “I’ll see you when I see you, mysterious pianist”.

_____________________

Here’s a video of the piece Colin played:

Sube el telón…


“No hay nada más poderoso, aterrador, hermoso y fascinante, estar en un teatro (del tamaño que sea), suban el telón y de repente, todo el mundo vea cada uno de tus movimientos, mientras ese silencio aterrador nos consume y nuestro estómago vacío quiera virarse de donde está, y con solo un movimiento de manos, una respiración, un gesto, viole ese silencio y por varios minutos, el mundo gire alrededor de nosotros, controlemos los sentimientos, el espacio,el tomar control de cada fibra de los demás (para bien o para mal) luego de trabajar tanto, solo por un momento. No importa si lo graban, si lo publican… Ese momento intimo entre tu y yo, eso es lo que cuenta… Porque esa es mi vida, no importa cuanto escriba, cuanto suspire, cuanto yo gima y suplique en una obra o canción de amores pasados o presentes, de lo que paso, lo que fue y lo que será… ese momento es de nosotros. Porque mi vida es la música, porque vivo por cantar, vivo por tocar porque vivo… para tí”

– José A. Clavell ®

Misty Snowy Woods: Creating Musical Poetry


Last year, I enrolled in the Creative Writing (ENGL.400)  at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. As the semester progressed, our professor Dr. Mercedes Torres, challenged me in how I wrote literature and music. As the semester came to a close, I had to turn in a chapbook with all of my writing that I composed in the semester. Dr. Torres challenged me in taking a piece that I had in the chapbook and add music to it. Being the overachiever that I am, I gave the breath of music to two of my writing. The first is “Silence” which was inspired by my nephews and their constant battle when the time comes to fall asleep. “Misty Snowy Woods” was inspired by a mist that embraced the mountains one day I was going to San Juan, Puerto Rico and the idea of an old man reminiscing the days with his lover and him visiting his lover’s   grave on the day of their anniversary. Here I will explain the process of “Misty Snowy Woods” and how the music came to be.

After the trip I had to San Juan, I wrote the poem in my house. After a day or two I was on a study group session with a dear friend, Kevin Santana. When we had a break, I showed him the poem, and he told me I had to add music to it and add it to the chapbook. Then I started think that I could add music to it, but the question awoke inside of me How?! I don’t know about other composers, but for me I start a project and I leave it, since I don’t know how to finish what I start. After a few minutes I started to whistle a tune (which came to be the motif,  a short succession of notes producing a single impression; a brief melodic or rhythmic formula out of which longer passages are developed). After whistling 6 notes, I knew that I had the beginning of the song/poem. I had my MacBook Pro so, I started to check write the notes in my finale 2011. After 15 minutes of deciding, what tone served best for a 4-8 voice piece for a mixed choir, checked the meter. After analyzing that I had an iambic pentameter, I decided the song was best in a 2/4 with a few changes in meter, as the song progressed. After deciding all of this, I started to write on the blackboard we had in the classroom., you can see this in these pictures:

           (As you can see here, this is the lyrics with the beat.)

          (In this picture you have the motif of the song.)

After doing all of this, I started to write and had the first phrase in no time. After a day or two I had the poem and the song. Here you have the lyrics, an excerpt of the sheet music, and the audio of the song.

Hazy mist
Foggy snow
Clouding mind
Falling slow
Wishing you were close to home…

Sighing ghost ‘emorie flow Adjusting to

the homeless home

Blurry signs Vaguely shows Memories fall

To a hazy show

Wandering clouds
Hazy tress
Wishing you were close to me

Embracing you
Blurry dreams
Looking at those white pine trees

Hazy mist
Foggy snow
Smoggy mind
Surely falls
Crouching low
Kissing you again, once more

And here is the first phrase of the song:

O Magnum Mysterium- Kevin Memley’s


E.E. Cummings poetry in Choral Music.


i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
-E.E. Cummings

When Music and Literature intertwine.


When literature intertwines with music, it creates a whole new world that can be a fertile ground in which both musicians and writers strive to experiment. As composers, we look for amazing and out-of-the-ordinary texts. Inspired by this, we can create or bring to life the world that the writer imagined. As choral conductors, we look for poems with outstanding word choice, energy, gaps, and leaps. These poems must evoke emotion(s) in the audience when they read them. After the composer adds music to this poem, and when a choir sings and the choir sings the poem –now song– it will transcend time and space, while reality shatters for a moment.

In this post we are going to see how Eric Whitacre (choral conductor, composer, and arranger) was inspired by Charles Anthony Silvestri’s poetry. This post will only expose the concept of what the philosophy of The Art of Musical Poetry is about. The pieces we are going to explore are: Sleep, Leonardo Dreams of his flying machine and Nox Aurumque.

Here’s an example of when Choral Conductor/Composer/Arranger Eric Whitacre (http://ericwhitacre.com/)makes a poems take flight (Charles Anthony Silvestri’s poetry) by adding music.

The first one we are going to examine is Sleep.

The evening hangs beneath the moon
A silver thread on darkened dune
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon

Upon my pillow, safe in bed,
A thousand pictures fill my head,
I cannot sleep, my minds aflight,
And yet my limbs seem made of lead

If there are noises in the night,
A frightening shadow, flickering light…
Then I surrender unto sleep,
Where clouds of dream give second sight.

What dreams may come, both dark and deep
Of flying wings and soaring leap
As I surrender unto sleep
As I surrender unto sleep.

Charles Anthony Silvestri, 1965-present

For the story behind this piece go to: http://ericwhitacre.com/music-catalog/satb-choral/sleep

Another one is Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine. This choral piece portrays a young Leonardo Da Vinci tormented by his visions of a flying man.

Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine

I.
Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine…

Tormented by visions of flight and falling,
More wondrous and terrible each than the last,
Master Leonardo imagines an engine
To carry a man up into the sun…

And as he’s dreaming the heavens call him,
softly whispering their siren-song:
“Leonardo. Leonardo, vieni á volare”. (“Leonardo. Leonardo, come fly”.)

L’uomo colle sua congiegniate e grandi ale,
facciendo forza contro alla resistente aria.
(A man with wings large enough and duly connected
might learn to overcome the resistance of the air.)

II.
Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine…

As the candles burn low he paces and writes,
Releasing purchased pigeons one by one
Into the golden Tuscan sunrise…

And as he dreams, again the calling,
The very air itself gives voice:
“Leonardo. Leonardo, vieni á volare”. (“Leonardo. Leonardo, come fly”.)

Vicina all’elemento del fuoco…
(Close to the sphere of elemental fire…)

Scratching quill on crumpled paper,

Rete, canna, filo, carta.
(Net, cane, thread, paper.)

Images of wing and frame and fabric fastened tightly.

…sulla suprema sottile aria.
(…in the highest and rarest atmosphere.)

III.
Master Leonardo Da Vinci Dreams of his Flying Machine…
As the midnight watchtower tolls,
Over rooftop, street and dome,
The triumph of a human being ascending
In the dreaming of a mortal man.

Leonardo steels himself,
takes one last breath,
and leaps…

“Leonardo, Vieni á Volare! Leonardo, Sognare!” (“Leonardo, come fly! Leonardo, Dream!”)

Charles Anthony Silvestri, 1965-present

And last but not least, Nox Aurumque.

This piece is the continuation of another piece titled Lux Aurumque. Whitacre wanted to create a second part to Lux aurumque and asked Silvertri to write something in Latin whose lyrics in Latin could be easily manipulated when sung. For all the background information, on how this piece came to be you can go to: http://ericwhitacre.com/music-catalog/satb-choral/nox-aurumque

Nox Aurumque

Gold,
Tarnished and dark,
Singing of night,
Singing of death,
Singing itself to sleep.
And an angel dreams of sunrise,
And war.

Tears of the ages.
O shield!
O gilded blade!
You are too heavy to carry,
Too heavy for flight.

Gold,
Tarnished and weary,
Awaken!
Melt from weapon to wing!
Let us soar again,
High above this wall;
Angels reborn and rejoicing with wings made
Of dawn,
Of gold,
Of dream.

Gold,
Singing of wings,
Singing of shadows.

Charles Anthony Silvestri, 1965-present

As you can see from these past examples, when Literature and Music intertwine, one can create worlds we can not imagine we could create, making the reader/audience forget about their reality and “abduct them” to the reality one creates when we are making music/reading/sharing a piece of literature. If only we took the chance to actually try and pursue this, just as our friend Eric and Charles, we can with “flying wings and soaring leap” create worlds that will forever stay… in our hearts… and minds.

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