Welcome to #NewTuneThursday! (Parts of this post were published three years ago.)
The story behind “Butterfly Lullaby” is an interesting one! While I completed it in its present state in 2012, it actually existed long before that as a simple violin and piano duet called, “A Lyrical Interlude,” originally composed in 1998…. Wow! It is truly a blast-from-my-past – I was only 18 years old! ?
Late in 2012 – before I had any real discography – I had decided that, with some of my more current works slated to come out on the Navona Recordings label soon, I wanted to self-produce a very simple, eclectic album of all my older and perhaps more naive compositions – because I still enjoy them and didn’t want them to be forgotten, even though they were early works from a much younger composer. ? As I was compiling all the pieces I wanted to record and include on this album, I came across my old little violin/piano duet, which I had performed several times years prior with friends in private concerts and events. It lacked the intro and “bridge” section of the current Lullaby, and it didn’t modulate keys as it does now, so it was very short and simple. But I loved it dearly and really wanted to include it.
I considered to myself how, in 2012, I rarely played the violin part any more, but I did find myself singing it regularly! So, I said to myself, why not 1) turn the violin part into a vocal solo and add lyrics, 2) keep and embellish the piano part, and 3) add another melodic line to harmonize with the vocal part?
I went to work on it with excitement and finished “Butterfly Lullaby” in only a matter of days! With such a charming and unpretentious melody I knew it had to be a lullaby of some sort, and, after some light research, I had decided that the topic would be loosely based on Native American mythology – that of the tale of the Butterfly as the bringer and keeper of dreams. And, from that moment on, this piece was given a grand rebirth!
Take this Butterfly, Bye-Bye, Sweet Child; Embrace her comfort as her wings brush against your skin. And with your breath whisper a wish Into her ear; She’ll make no sound but trust it only to Heav’n. Dance beneath the Moon, Bye-Bye, Sweet Child. His guardian light embraces all of the earth and sky. And as you lay your heavy head Upon your bed, The Butterfly will bring your dreams while you sleep. Though sorrow looms, be not afraid; Time wil prove true. Shake the dust from your wings; Give thanks for life’s renewal! Behold the Morning Star breaks forth. Fare thee well, Sweet Child. And with the dawn, ancestral spirits smile down on you. Sleep well and dream the Dream of Hope, Bye-Bye, Sweet Child. Butterflies will greet you when you awake.
“Butterfly Lullaby” can be performed by an early-intermediate ensemble. Get the sheet music here! And stay tuned for our new work of next week…
Today’s tune is our next track from “Music for The Book of I” — Faces in Foam, which is actually the opening track for the whole “Book of I” experience.
The woman sits at the edge of the cliff looking out to the sea…a daughter of North Africa perhaps. Her cheeks reflect olive light. She looks at me, carving her face in my memory…the step towards the rocky edge…I listen to the lines forming her face…I return to the melody still dancing in the air… Lucio…had a delicate face…sharp angles, oblong eyes, and a classic Greek nose. I saw his face before the rocks disfigured him…he has the face of the forgotten… I try to paint him… I take a Renaissance approach, depicting him in a diaphanous light, like an angel… I know those faces are…around me… They joined the sea because they had no other choice. Their faces are washed of past concerns. …If I…attempt to render them as ex-living people in my canvas, the white foam is quick to reclaim them. That is why all my canvases turn white–the frothy sea swallows them.
I knew several things when I started writing this track: I wanted to feature “the Olive Woman” with a pseudo-African or -Egyptian feel; I wanted to also feature the little, angelic, Greek boy Lucio; and tying it all together with the rest of the album, I wanted to create a Herrmann-esque wave of crashing drama that called forward to the central track, “I Know What Death Sounds Like.”
I love the “African” drive of the first part of the work. But I very much love the latter part–Lucio’s part. I tried to create an open, early Greek aesthetic with the intertwining lines of muted and plucked strings. And then, “Lucio himself” sings (in this recording it’s the wonderful voice of countertenor Caleb Barnes); it’s a haunting setting of the Alma Redemptoris Mater:
Sweet Mother of the Redeemer, the passage to the heavens,
The gate of the spirits of the dead, and the star of the sea, aid the falling.
Mother of Him who cares for the people, have pity on us sinners.
This final cry by Lucio just sums up the whole work beautifully as the “Faces” Teaston encounters get swallowed by the “Foam”… and we move forward into the rest of the story…
Our first new composition of the new year is a 2013 work for solo soprano, women’s choir, piano, and string orchestra, with english horn and soprano recorder.
Completed in 2013, Of Roses and Lilies is “A Romantic Expression Based on King Solomon’s Song of Songs.” Flirting with musical and dramatic elements from Medieval Europe to the ancient Middle East and Greek Theatre, this work features the solo soprano in the role of The Woman. She expresses her love, devotion, and delight toward her Lover while the Daughters of Jerusalem — as with that of the collective commentary of a Greek chorus — listen and engage with The Woman in her tales touting the glories of her Beloved.
The work is in three major sections following the expressive and fluid introduction: the first in A Minor, introducing the characters and their vivid emotions; the second in A Major, during which The Woman shares a tale of her Lover calling her to escape with him into the night… “For the winter is past and the rain gone…” —when for a moment she hesitates, she wonders if she is too late, only to find that he is still there waiting for her, encouraging her with the sweet words of his continued adoration toward her; the third section returns to the original themes in A Minor, yet gains an expression of great power and fervency as The Woman’s love for her Beloved utterly transforms her.
Here’s some cool background trivia for you: I actually originally created this work (for piano and all the voices without the strings and winds) several years prior… Maybe as far back as 2003-ish?? And this was during the time I was still writing everything by hand, with pencil on paper! After it sat around for 10 more years or so, I took another look at it and decided to polish it up… It was just too charming to allow it to disappear into obscurity. And then, as I worked on it, I decided I needed more instruments to really flesh it out the way it was meant to be… 😉
You can hear it below, featuring one of my former composition students, Ayla Draper-Lippincott, on the solo voice part.
“Of Roses and Lilies” can be performed by an intermediate-advanced ensemble. Get the sheet music here! And stay tuned for our new work of next week…
Today’s tune continues the Christmasy-slash-Holidays edition of these four Thursdays in December.
I have to say I really love today’s tune! It’s sassy, medieval-feeling, and conveys the imagery of youthful revelry during holiday celebrations.
This work for SSA a cappella trio and hand percussion (rainstick, tambourine, and finger cymbals) is an exotic treatment of the 16th century poem of the same name by Thomas Campion. Moderately extended vocal techniques and microtones grant an almost Eastern or Indonesian flavor to the imagery of bacchanal youth during Wintertime Festivities.
Enjoy listening to it below…. Lyrics
Now winter nights enlarge
The number of their hours;
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups o’erflow with wine,
Let well-turned words amaze
With harmony divine.
Now yellow waxen lights
Shall wait on honey love
While youthful revels, masques, and courtly sights
Sleep’s leaden spells remove.
This time doth well dispense
With lovers’ long discourse;
Much speech hath some defense,
Though beauty no remorse.
All do not all things well;
Some measures comely tread,
Some knotted riddles tell,
Some poems smoothly read.
The summer hath his joys,
And winter his delights;
Though love and all his pleasures are but toys,
They shorten tedious nights.
“Now Winter Nights Enlarge” can be performed by an experienced ensemble with advanced ability. Get the sheet music here! And stay tuned for our major holiday work of next week…
Today’s tune kicks off the Christmasy-slash-Holidays edition of these four Thursdays in December.
Sadly I have yet to hear this lovely little song for SATB and solo instrument performed with real musicians; I can only give you a tase of its beauty with the midi demo below… But, hopefully, one day, a choir will be willing to bring “Cradle Song” to life….
“Cradle Song (of Mary’s Beloved)” is a 3-minute-long work for SATB choir with either brass or woodwind instrumental solo (the solo part is available for either the original Bb Trumpet or C Flute, Bb Clarinet, or F Horn).
The text, adapted from the 1901 poem of the same name by Patrick K. O’Horan, is a sweet lullaby sung by Mary, mother of Jesus, to her “beloved little One” of the “Holy, Immortal, Ineffable Name.”
The minute I stumbled on this sweet poem in 2015, I knew I had to set it to music!
As you listen to the demo, try keeping the lyrics in mind:
Sleep, O my little one, quietly sleep,
Angels shall guard thee slumbering deep.
White wings about thee
Enfolding that flame,
Sleep, O my little one, quietly sleep,
Heaven’s high hosts around thee shall creep.
All love and glory,
Beauty and grace —
With kiss of a mother–
rest on thy face.
Sleep, my beloved, my little one sleep;
No crying be heard: O stir not nor weep.
A bright Star is shining
Above thy dear head,
And to this poor shelter
The great Kings are led.
Sleep then, my Kingly one, gently and still.
See how thine angels watch on each hill.
Here is thy mother
Close, dearest heart:
I shall be with thee
When shepherds depart.
Sleep, O my little Lord, darling one, sleep.
“Cradle Song (of Mary’s Beloved)” can be performed by a choir with advanced ability. Get the sheet music here! And stay tuned for our work of “Holiday Frivolity” next week…
This little song for mezzo-soprano, string quartet, and piano was written back in 2002. I recall originally composing its melody and words by hand while on one of my music tours (“Pittsburgh Melody” was another such song, written while we were, quite literally, driving through Pittsburgh…).
In 2003 I took a chance and entered “Face in the Moonlight” into that year’s BMI John Lennon Song Writing Contest and surprised and thrilled to find that it was selected as a State Finalist Winner! It was certainly a boost of encouragement to me. 🙂 Likewise, some years later, a friend of mine who was acting as a missionary in Israel wrote me a note to let me know that she had introduced her congregation to this song, and that it had become a favorite.
I hope you also find enjoyment, listening to this charming tune. 🙂
“Face in the Moonlight” can be performed by anyone with intermediate ability. Get the sheet music here! And stay tuned for our featured work next week…
I have a definite fondness for this week’s tune. “Fair Katrinelje and Pif-Paf-Poltrie” was originally composed in 2008, during my years of graduate study. It was part of a general, semester project, with the requirement that we each compose an original work for soprano, flute, cello, and piano. I’ve always had a thin for Stravinsky, and I had recently run across a darling little work of his for soprano and piano, called “The Owl and the Pussycat.” So, combining the idea of that song with my love for the Bros. Grimm and other such tales, “Fair Katrinelje” was born!
Fair Katrinelje and Pif-Paf-Poltrie is a comedic dialogue. Our hero, Pif-Paf-Poltrie, is out to seek the hand of his beloved, the Fair Katrinelje, in marriage. Being the gentleman that he is, he approaches in turn each member of his beloved’s family to ask their permission. Father Hollenthe, Mother Malcho, Brother High-and-Mighty, and Sister Käsetraut all respond in turn similarly –
essentially, “If it’s all right with everyone else, it’s all right with me.”
Later on, I had an opportunity to set another Bros. Grimm tale, “The Old Beggar-Woman,” for soprano and violin. So, my ultimate goal (which I hope to accomplish very soon) is to include these two songs in a longer song cycle, featuring 5 more tales set to music that features the soprano and is accompanied by rotating accompaniment of piano, cello, flute, and violin (think, “Quartet for the End of Time“…)
This amazing work can be played by anyone with advanced ability. Get the sheet music here! And stay tuned for our featured work next week…
I’m super excited to have finally organized my thoughts regarding the unifying elements of my upcoming album into an effective album description.
“The word Paroketh (PRKTh) refers to the Four Elements: Peh (Water), Resh (Air), Kaph (Fire), and Tau (Earth). It is the Veil of the Temple before the Holy of Holies… a veil made up of the four classical elements of the human body” (Dan Sewell Ward, Feb 2007). In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the “Veil of Paroketh” lies between the middle branches of intention, or consciousness, and the lowest branches of our physical reality. Everything “above” Paroketh’s Veil emerges from our conscious decisions and beyond… from the past stories and experiences that help shape our intentions to act as we choose in the world.
A vintage aura of story and myth envelops this intimate collection of chamber music. For example, “Falada” — Portuguese for “speaking” or “discourse” — brings to mind the role storytellers of old played in their communities, passing down vital history and life lessons to the young. “Weeping Willow” recalls emotional whirlwinds of despair, hope, and passion — emotions common to us all. “Forgotten Melody” seeks deep within the soul to uncover that which was once hidden. And the three diverse works — “Of Roses and Lilies,” “Aradia, La Bella Pellegrina,” and “The Oracle” — tell the stories of their respective characters: ancient tales that continue to impact our modern culture.
May we embrace our past stories to uncover the commonality inherent to all humanity.