Recent work – Fall 2015

The last couple of months have been packed with a lot of good work. A partial list of work done for December concerts:

  • Michael Card’s New Hope Born Christmas Tour
    • I wrote four choir arrangements for this tour, a fun full-circle moment for me as I toured with Mike a decade ago as part of his tech crew. He performed in the USA, Enniskillen Northern Ireland, Inverness, London, and Budapest, with local choirs joining him and music director Jeff Taylor in each city.
  • CMA Country Christmas 2015
    • Did the music prep for orchestrators Kristin Wilkinson, Larry Paxton, and Buddy Skipper again this year, for artists including Jewel, Charles Kelley, Martina McBride, Jennifer Nettles, Darius Rucker, Brian Setzer, and Michael W. Smith.
  • Peace On Earth: A Gala Celebration of the Arts
    • This concert at the University of Alabama in Huntsville featured the band Act of Congress with members of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Huntsville Community Chorus, and the U.S. Army Materiel Command Band. Don Hart was the orchestrator, and I did the music prep.
  • Kid Pan Alley
    • Don Hart orchestrated four new songs for Paul Reisler for a concert with the Manassas Symphony Orchestra, and asked me to help out with transcriptions and music prep.
  • Hosanna! Church’s annual Christmas Concert with the Minnesota Orchestra and a 300+ voice choir
    • I did the music prep for several new arrangements and orchestrations written by Carl Marsh, including a mini-suite from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker that involved entering 14,000+ notes into Finale (giving me the chance to make it through a couple audiobooks while I worked).


Premier of new piece for voice and chamber orchestra, “Hundreds of Ways”

Hundreds of Ways

I’m excited to have a new piece on the program for this Sunday’s Nashville Composer Collective concert, a setting of a favorite poem by 13th century Persian poet Rumi for voice and chamber orchestra. Over the last couple of years, I’ve immersed myself in the world of choral music, studying pieces like Samuel Barber’s “Prayers of Kierkegaard” and “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” Mahler’s song cycles, Stravinsky’s “Symphony of Psalms,” Henryk Górecki’s choral works, and contemporary composers like Eric Whitacre and Rob Mathes (Rob’s album Orchestral Songs is in frequent rotation at my house). Just last weekend the Nashville Symphony performed Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, a brilliant, moving work that combines a large orchestra, choir, soprano soloist, and off-stage children’s choir singing the traditional requiem text in Latin, with two male soloists singing the poetry of Wilfred Owen, accompanied by a small chamber orchestra; I ordered a copy of the score as soon as I got home. “Hundreds of Ways” is my first attempt at contributing to this genre.

When I first started working on my piece, I was listening to Sarah Masen’s recent projects, A History of Lights and Shadows and The Trying Mark, and kept hearing her voice singing the melody I was writing, so I asked her if she would do me the honor of performing it and she generously agreed. She’ll be accompanied by 17 string players, flute, English horn, bass clarinet, French horn, and harp.

The concert is this Sunday afternoon, June 7th, at 3:00 in Lipscomb University’s Ward Hall. Admission is free (although a suggested donation of $5 would be appreciated to help cover the costs of the piano tuning, etc.) and the program looks like it will be a lot of fun: one other vocal piece by a composer new to Nashville, Cristina Spinei, a jazzy setting of a traditional Chinese folk tune for piano trio by Carl Marsh, a piano/violin duet by John Darnall, and more. I’d love to see you there!

Trey Anastasio – “Wilson” intro with the Seattle Symphony

Trey Anastasio holding Wilson score

When I first showed Trey the score, he handed me his phone and asked me to take a picture of him showing it off to post on Instagram.

One of the fun projects I did music prep for last year was Trey Anastasio’s symphony tour, working with Nashville orchestrator Don Hart. Trey performed in Portland with the Oregon Symphony on a Tuesday night, the Seattle Symphony on Thursday, and then closed out the L.A. Philharmonic’s summer concert series at the Hollywood Bowl two weeks later.

At the end of Trey’s first rehearsal with the Seattle Symphony the day before the show, he told me the story of how the intro to the Phish song Wilson came to be played for the Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when he walks into the stadium, and asked if I could write it out for the orchestra so he could include it in the encore. So while drinking my coffee the next morning, I looked up a couple videos to see how it went, created the orchestral parts, and passed it out at the rehearsal. And then this happened.

Michael McDonald – Takin’ It to the Streets

Evolution of an orchestration: start out with a pencil and a stack of blank score paper, input the mostly-written orchestration into Finale, finish orchestration, edit and lay out parts and score, print approximately 350 pages of music (two sets of parts-one for the Cincinnati Pops, one for the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra), and FedEx the parts overnight to the orchestras. Lastly, if possible, attend the concert, and sit there wishing the sound guy would turn the band down so you can hear the orchestra a little better.