he opens (2019)
5 queer love songs for baritone and piano
Duration: 12 minutes
Text: Matthew Stepanic (b. 1990)
Commissioned by baritone Adam Arnold. To be performed May 2019 by Adam Arnold and pianist Claire Butler in Calgary, Canada.
he opens was written as a companion piece to Schumann’s Dichterliebe—an intentionally queer work on the same themes of love & loss, intertwined with images of nature in bloom. Adam Arnold, who commissioned this work, put me in touch with Matthew Stepanic, an Edmonton-based queer poet who enthusiastically gave me free reign over his poetry. Stepanic’s words are lush and beautiful, but speak unambiguously about past male lovers, replete with sexual metaphors and embracing the emotional complexity of these relationships. Although each poem used in this cycle was written about a different person, the five poems together weave a single narrative of love and loss. Whereas Schumann’s cycle ends in sadness and despair, this cycle ends in peace and understanding—at the wedding day of his former lover, reconciling the past with his future.
Sonnet 50 (2016)
for baritone and piano
Duration: 3 minutes
Text: William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Commissioned by baritone Joshua Hendricksen (Regina, SK). First performed April 2017.
Sonnet 50 is a brief setting of the titular Shakespearean poem, in which the narrator, embarking on some unknown (and unwanted) journey, laments the distance it will ultimately take him from his friend. Set in a traditional style (following the strophic and melodic form of nineteenth-century lieder), my song uses both plodding rhythms and heavy modality to express the emotional weight of the narrator and his journey.
Wedding Cantata (2014)
for tenor and baritone soli, SATB choir, and organ
Duration: 20 minutes
Text: Latin Vulgate Bible (I John 4:16; Colossians 3:12-17; Song of Solomon 2:10-13; Ephesians 3:14-19; Psalm 100; Numbers 6:24-26)
Currently unperformed. Version with string orchestra in preparation.
Wedding Cantata was written for my husband Nick on the occasion of our first wedding anniversary. The texts in this work were all taken from our wedding ceremony: the four scriptural readings, as well as the celebrant’s invitation and blessing. Wedding Cantata is structured in two large sections, each approximately ten minutes. The first half consists of a processional, a brief duet, and an aria from each soloist. After this, an intermezzo, played by the strings alone, represents the actual moment of spiritual binding in holy matrimony. In the second half, the chorus enters with a chanted prayer and an anthem, ending with a final blessing. In this piece, I aimed to create a work which was emotionally satisfying, one which openly acknowledged and celebrated the religious union of two men through deeply personal music.
Three Extremes (2013)
for mezzo-soprano, violin, guitar, and harp
Duration: 6 minutes
Text: Yosa Buson (1716-1784); Alessandro Striggio the Younger (1573-1630) [Excerpt from Monteverdi's L'Orfeo]; Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
First performed December 2013 by Mary Beth Ault, Etelka Nyilasi, Marek Orszulik, and Samantha Spurrier (with Andriy Talpash, cond.) in Edmonton, AB. Version for mezzo-soprano and piano also available.
Three Extremes was created entirely from the bizarre nature of the ensemble for which I was writing: a vocalist, accompanied by three distinct string instruments. The possibility to explore three distinct emotions through these three instruments led me to selecting three “extremes”: texts which contrast not only in emotion, but also style, form, and language. The first movement, “Loneliness,” sets a haiku by the Japanese poet Yosa Buson. Here, the vocalist is metrically divided from the rest of the ensemble. A central harmony, echoing between the guitar and harp, acts as the foundation to the piece while slowly shifting and becoming increasingly distant. The second movement, “Lament,” uses an excerpt from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, where Orpheus has just learned of the death of Euridice. The movement begins with a large aleatoric section, emphasizing the dichotomy in his statements between security and insecurity. At the height of tension, the music collapses into a calm E-flat major chorale, and gently falls away. The final movement, “Joy,” uses an ecstatic poem by the American poet Sara Teasdale. There is nothing intentionally complex; this extreme declaration of love and joy is expressed through an unstable rhythmic structure, a heavily-modal harmonic language, and a vocal part which approaches pure acrobatics.