Blind Mary’s Broomstick Dance (2014)
Commissioned by Ben Fraley
Instrumentation: Percussion and Wind Ensemble
Premiere: March 15, 2015 | The MSC Wind Ensemble with Ben Fraley, percussion
Blind Mary’s Broomstick Dance was written in 2014 for Ben Fraley and the Mount Saint Charles Academy Wind Ensemble directed by Marc Blanchette. The MSC music program provided both Ben and I with some of our most formative musical (and social) experiences, one of which was a trip to Ireland in 2000. Inspired by memories of that trip, I decided to base the main melody of this piece on an Irish air called “Blind Mary”. The original is a slow, nostalgic tune, but I chose instead to transform it into a somewhat distorted jig (though something much closer to the traditional version makes a brief appearance later in the work). The percussion part uses bodhran, an Irish frame drum, as well as instruments from other musical cultures and found objects. Since I knew I was writing the solo part for Ben, I specifically tried to highlight his versatility and sensitivity as a musician while also exploring the different types of interaction between soloist and ensemble one can find in the concerto genre.
The second part of the title—the broomstick dance—comes from a story my husband’s grandmother told me recently. When she was much younger, her family would frequently dance together, and she recalled her favorite dance being one where her father would hold a broomstick while the music played. When the music would unexpectedly stop, everyone would have to change partners, and whomever was left without a partner would need to then dance with the broom. I loved the image of this dance equivalent to musical chairs and tried to incorporate it into the piece via both the dance-like nature of the music and the frequent juxtapositions between instruments passing around fragments of the melody.
The work is a very personal one for me, but also something I hope will be fun for the both the performers and the audience. I would like to thank Ben and Marc for giving me the opportunity to work with them in this musical homecoming.
Sleeping Standing Up (2012)
Written for the CUNY Contemporary Music Ensemble
Instrumentation: Wind Ensemble
Premiere: April 25, 2012 | CUNY Contemporary Music Ensemble
Sleeping Standing Up was written for the CUNY Contemporary Music Ensemble in the spring of 2012. It was inspired by the poem of the same name by Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop’s brief four stanzas depict a surreal dreamworld filled with fleeting scenes that lead, smoothly but incongruously, one to the next, ending up with a sense of nostalgic longing (tempered by an undertone of cynicism) for a goal never quite reached.
From the Blue Fog (2009)
Commissioned by the Central Connecticut State University Chamber Players
Instrumentation: Wind Ensemble and Fixed Electronic Media
Premiere: Dec. 3, 2009 | CCSU Chamber Players
From the Blue Fog was written for the Central Connecticut State University Chamber Players conducted by Dr. Daniel D’Addio during the summer of 2009. The work was inspired by experiences I had that July while attending a music festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I noticed while hiking slightly higher up the mountain than the main area of activity for the festival that I could hear snatches of the rehearsals going on below. The idea of these musical fragments emerging from the sounds of the forest became the foundation for this piece.
A November Night (2008)
Commissioned by Conductor Anne Tortora
Instrumentation: Concert Band
Premiere: May 9, 2008 | The Hartt School Symphonic Band
Written for conductor Anne Tortora, A November Night
is based on a poem of the same title written by Sarah Teasdale, an early twentieth century American poet. Teasdale lived a dramatic life: as a young woman, she was connected romantically to poet Vachel Lindsay, but eventually chose to marry another man. Teasdale’s marriage failed, and though she and Lindsay remained close, he eventually committed suicide, as did she.
Many of Teasdale’s poems deal with topics relating to young love, as well as darker issues of despair and love unfulfilled. Her poem, “November Night”, is told from the point of view of a person in throes of passionate attraction who is meeting the object of his/her affection. The narrator flutters around a number of conversational topics, yet the voice of the beloved is never heard in the poem. The obvious excitement of the narrator is set off by the silence of his/her partner, suggesting that more than just the poem is one-sided. The blissful nature of the ramblings indicate the narrator does not realize (or else is trying to hide) the fact that everything is not right with the relationship, and the poem ends without any sort of clear resolution.
My composition stems from a number of images expressed in this very evocative text. Some of the sections are taken out of order, but the form of the music is based on a sense of circling (occasionally interrupted by tangents) that comes directly from Teasdale’s words.
In Dark Places, Light (2006)
Written for The Hartt Contemporary Players
Instrumentation: Wind Ensemble
Premiere: April 21, 2006 | The Hartt Contemporary Players
Choreography by Alicia Rezendes
In Dark Places, Light was written as part of a collaboration between The Hartt School Composition Department, The Hartt Contemporary Players, and The Hartt Dance Department. In writing the piece, the composer worked closely with Alicia Rezendes, who later choreographed an original work based on In Dark Places, Light. The premiere performances took place on April 21 – 23, 2006.
Through the Looking Glass (2005)
Commissioned by The Hartt Community Division Concert Ensemble
Instrumentation: Youth Band
Premiere: June 3, 2005 | The Hartt Community Division Concert Ensemble
This piece was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classic books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Particularly, I was interested in the idea of moving from one world to another where everything is recognizable yet transformed. That was embodied in this work through the use of isorhythmic techniques where a certain set of pitches was repeated while cycling through a repeating rhythmic pattern of a different length. Such lines are often fragmented and passed between the instruments of the band, allowing the various sections to take center stage at various points in the piece.
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