A Good-night (2004) is composed in memory of my college voice teacher, Arpiné Pehlivanian. The text is by Francis Quarles.
Alma Mater (1988, rev. 2003) is from a poem by E.A. Robinson. The sparse piano accompaniment underscores the ominous tone of the narrative, which becomes a miniature scena.
As though the word blue had been dropped into the water (2008) is a song-cycle of "healing poems" by Northwest poet Robert Sund (1929-2001). The minimal accompaniment and simple melodies reflect Sund's lifestyle and Buddhist faith. The flute also takes on different characters throughout the set. For more information on Robert Sund, visit The Robert Sund Poet's House Trust .
Ave Maria Tango (2009) - I needed a text to set to a tango and the idea of the Ave Maria came to me while daydreaming in church. The singer can interpret the lyrics devoutly or a little bit naughtily, or both. Why not?
Canadiana Suite (2007) is a cycle of Canadian folk songs. The arrangments are meant to sound improvisatory - like a group of friends coming together to play well-known and well-loved tunes. Acadian settlers adopted the latin hymn Ave Maris Stella as their own around 1630. This arrangement is meant to evoke images of sailors playing aboard ship on their way to the new world. The melody is passed around between the instruments with good-natured comaraderie (and just a hint of competition). Nova Scotia Song was first written down in the 1930s near Halifax, although it is most likely of Scottish origin. At the beginning of the song the sea is calm. As it progresses, both the sea and the storyteller get more agitated. By the final verse we are in a full-fledged storm; whether the narrator made it back home or perished at sea is never revealed. The Ojibway were part of the Algonquin nation and lived on the northern shores west of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The tender Ojibway Lullaby gives way to the more sentimental Berceuse Acadienne. Whistle Daughter Whistle is a short comic exhange between a mother and daughter. Flunky Jim originated during the depression of the 1930s, when both work and money were scarce. As gophers ate the already scarce grain crops, the Saskatchewan government offered a penny for every gopher tail turned in. The good-natured song was made up by a father after hearing his own son talk about the clothes he was going to buy with his gopher money. Dating back to at least 1670, A True Lover of Mine is clearly a relative to Scarborough Fair; a girl coyly asks impossible tasks of her suitor before she will accept his love. Way 'Up the Ucletaw was composed in Vancouver around 1896. "Ucletaw" is the name of a very treacherous area of the Seymour Narrows off the coast of British Columbia. The Soldier And His Sweetheart is based on the song The Stormy Scenes of Winter. Some men would join any army that paid well, becoming "soldiers of fortune." They had no strong loyalties for any particular country, nor for the girls they professed to love. The girl in this Nova Scotia song knows this type of man and refuses to marry him. The haunting melody of Salish Song of Longing comes from the Salish tribe in Southern British Columbia. It conveys homesickness and the longing for loved ones far away. The popular Newfoundland song We'll Rant And We'll Roar, about a fisherman giving up his many girlfriends to finally settle down and marry, is based on the old English sea chanty Farewell and Adieu to You, Spanish Ladies. As in many songs from Newfoundland, the names of actual people are used. The places mentioned are all tiny settlements around Placentia Bay on the island's south-east coast.
The Drugs Don't Work (2009) is a direct setting of an interview with a drug-trial participant. Obviously, the drug didn't agree with the "guinea pig" and they were none too happy about the experience.
What Child Is This (1990) is an arrangement of the traditional Christmas hymn, to the tune of Greensleeves. It is written for three high voices, which interweave contrapuntally in a post-Renaissance style. Also available with the Greensleeves text (2006).
Heaven & Hell takes two lighthearted looks at what may await us in the afterlife. I Don’t Like Paradise (2003) sets an Emily Dickinson verse, in which the poet complains that she doesn’t like Heaven because God is watching her all the time. The melody is based on the revival hymn When We All Get To Heaven, and there are adaptations and variations of three other well-known hymn tunes strewn in the piano part. The accompaniment itself is divided between the weightlessness of Heaven (the right hand) and the pull of earthly existence (the left hand). If There Is A Hell (1988, rev. 2003), from contemporary poet James Kavanaugh, imagines the underworld as a locked room filled with game show hosts. And what more appropriate musical device to depict this vision of Hell than serialism? Amidst the cacophony, which reaches as high as the pile of prizes depicted, appears the game show hostess, written for “soprano obbligato.”
It was a lover and his lass (2007) - I was attracted to this text by the vivid musical imagery of birds, bells and springtime. I chose to set it for vocal quartet and a "string quartet" of violin, cello, guitar and harp. There is an ostinato figure that feels to me like flowers blooming in a time-lapse film. It begins in the guitar, and makes its way steadily through the other strings. The vocal parts start out simple and become gradually more complex as the springtime comes into full bloom.
Missa Brevis (2007) was written for Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver. It evokes renaissance style, but with a 21st century twist. The very live acoustics of the cathedral were taken into consideration and actually became a part of the texture.
Moon Chants (2009) was written for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. The texts are from Plato, Wiccan moon chants, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Greek mythology and Genesis, illustrating moon reverence throughout history. It is scored for chorus or vocal quartet, vibraphone, drum and finger cymbals.
Psalm 1 (Blessed Is The Man) (1989, rev. 2002) was originally composed for contralto and harp (or piano), in the key of C. It has also been transposed up, with some changes in the accompaniment, to the key of F. In 2004, it was arranged for voice and guitar, in the key of G. A student piece, my obvious influences were Bernstein and Poulenc.
Twilight Songs (2008) In choosing poems for this cycle, I was deeply touched by poet Wendell Berry's depiction of enduring romance in the latter years of life. I decided to create a dialogue between two lovers, remembering their youth, enjoying their years together, loving deeply still even beyond the grave, thus the title Twilight Songs. The love between these two people is unconditional and timeless. The characters have different musical personalities - the tenor's music is folk-like and extroverted, while the soprano's music is freer and more introspective. The poems come from the collection Given, but are taken from different sections to create this relationship. Burley Coulter is a recurring character in the “membership” in the novels of Wendell Berry; he is affable and fun loving, but not without intelligence. This poem refers to a night everyone in the “membership” knows about, but never acknowledges; the eventual result was Danny Branch, a “member” in his own right and Burley and Kate’s son, though they never married and he remained a life-long bachelor. I mistook your white head for a flower and They are two sides of the same coin, perhaps thought to themselves on the same day at the same time. A garden in Vancouver is as pure an expression of love as ever was and perfectly captures the mix of joy and sadness a sudden memory can bring. As Timely As A River is a fitting final hymn to this celebration of love.
The Virtues (2004) is based on the third part of the third vision in Hildegard of Bingen’s book of visions, Scivias. In this vision, Hildegard examines the “tower of anticipation” of God’s perfect will. Within each portion of the building Hildegard sees a group of Virtues. The Virtues occupy an important place in her theology; they are not exclusively human qualities but “brilliant stars given by God, which shine forth in human deeds.” The Latin virtus means “energy” or “power” as well as “virtue,” and Hildegard plays on both senses. In effect, a virtue is a divine quality that becomes an operative force in willing souls and fully incarnates itself in right action; it is a synthesis of grace and moral effort. As Hildegard puts it, the Virtues do not work of their own accord, but with the cooperation of the person who has received them from God. The first three Virtues in this tower represent the initial manifestations of the ascetic life. Celestial Love, Discipline and Modesty. There follow two christological Virtues: Mercy (associated with the Virgin Mary and Christ’s birth) and Victory (connected with his conquest of Satan). Hildegard’s allegorical technique further characterizes the Virtues by assigning intricate symbolism to their iconography - colors, garments and attributes. In addition, each Virtue utters a self-defining motto. Bookending this cantata is Karitas Habundat, based on a plainchant composed by Hildegard. Heard first in the violin, it also ends the piece in a version for vocal trio. The text for The Virtues was adapted by Richard Gleaves, from english translations of Hildegard’s original latin.
Winter’s Mantle (Psalm 147:16-18) An exercise in tone painting, this was the first classical song I composed, written as an undergraduate, circa 1987.