So thrilled to be included in the ReMix Program with VocalEssence! As a chorister, I sing with the VocalEssence Chorus and that organization has been so supportive of both my musicianship and the craft of contemporary choral music! Truly exciting to compose and premiere two original pieces for the ACDA National Festival in March!
From May 20 - May 30 I will have the pleasure of being part of the 2016 Alba Music Festival Composition Program with several other composers from around the world. Here is the full list of fellows and more information about the program.
Last winter and spring, I composed a new piece for the resident ensemble -- a quartet for Trumpet, Violin, Violoncello, and Piano called Scompiglio Melodioso "Melodious Disarray." I will have the chance to workshop the piece before the premiere, take classes with the resident faculty and musicians, and listen to world-class performances of music as part of the festival's concert program.
Also ... being in Italy for 10 days should be a nice change of pace coming off a pretty wild months of travel and premieres ... and then summer!
(Will post recordings of the premiere afterwards!)
While attending the premiere of "Fili di Perle," which received 3rd Prize in the Karol Szymanowski Composition Competition in Katowice, Poland; a film crew from the local public television station did some interviews about the piece, my process as a composer, and my experience with contemporary Polish music. The interview and selections from the rehearsals and premiere was made into a short film.
Unfortunately, the film is only in Polish, and only available to internet users in Poland.
But regardless, the video is hosted on the Programy TVP Katowice website.
Also, a recording from the premiere on March 2 is available below through soundcloud.
Many things have happened since my last post, but look for website updates, new recordings, and premiere information here!
Major Events Missed on the Blog:
Premiere of "An Isthmus Aubade" (RECORDING)
Readings of "The God of Material Things" (RECORDING)
Premiere of "Concerto Grosso No. 1" (RECORDING)
Moving to the Twin Cities
A few notes:
The majority of my recordings are available on my Soundcloud account!
As I was playing the hymn-tune "NOEL" by Arthur Sullivan, often paired with the text "God is our Refuge and Our Strength," I became somewhat concerned with Sullivan's treatment of sequential material in the last four measures. Throughout the hymn, Sullivan uses melodic sequences, beginning in the opening melody:
and then suggested at the end:
which is paired with the bass line:
But in these last four measures, the other voices do not follow the pattern of the sequence. After singing through each part, I realized that the potential of certain lines, especially the tenor seems lost. The three C's create a suspension-type pattern, which when paired with passing tones in the other voices, stresses beats 1 and 3:
This powerful combination sets up the expectation to be used again in sequence with the soprano and bass, but this never happens. Instead, the tenor line seems rather odd: (C->C->C-Bb-A, G-C-C-A) followed by more repeated C's in the last bar (C-C-C-Bb, A), which now don't imply direction, but rather filler for the harmonic progression. Furthermore, the harmonic progression uses a borrowed V/ii, which is suggested in measure two, but then alto line moves to an E, suggesting a diminished vii in first inversion.
Although the meter of the text does suggest two-part phrases (188.8.131.52 D), many of the sentences in the text do not have punctuation at this moment (e.g. "though all the mighty billows shake the mountains on the shore" [vs. 1] and "for God will hasten to her aid when trouble is at hand" [vs.2] ) The first line "God is our refuge and our strength, our ever-present aid" is a nice two-part, punctuated phrase, but if this idea is continued for every line in double meter, the whole hymn can become a bit disjointed and bland. Adding connective material, like in the last phrase would smooth out the flow of the melodies.
So, I began to rewrite. Should be easy enough to continue the tenor sequence:
The result when paired with soprano and bass does have pretty biting dissonances, m9 and M7 (tenor Bb vs. two A's in bass and soprano), but because it is a more pure sequence, the direction seems natural and the resolutions provide a certain and tug-and-pull that wasn't in the original second measure. The alto line moves to D instead of E to further suggest Gm (ii) and the third measure continues the harmonic sequence to F major in root position, not first inversion. It seemed natural to add an alto 4-3 suspension, which sets up a chain of eight-note passing tones which is echoed by the tenor.
Sullivan's original part-writing is correct and does not sound unpleasant, but to me it feels like the potential of this last phrase was lost. By further suggesting the sequential nature of the soprano and bass, giving more time to colorful harmonic progressions (V/ii --> ii), and allowing each voice to share in the passing tones and suspension more equally, this final phrase seems more complete, with more direction and balance between turbulence and resolution.
But, then the problems began. My first attempt yield parallel octaves between soprano and tenor (m.1 into m. 2) If the tenor starting note of the sequence is the root of the chord, not the third, the sequence can resolve down to the root of the next sequence level. I also considered how the alto motion, leaping from G-E in the original, can be used in both statements of the sequence. In the third version, I mainly am experimenting with a different bass line, which uses more passing tones, which allows for the final low F to be saved until the end, but this results in another parallel octave between bass and alto before measure 3.
The final measure still has some issues with parallel octaves in tenor and bass, present in all of my versions, which are disguised by passing tones. If you keep the original voicing of first inversion, one of the them is relieved (F-A), but other remains (A-C).
Green - sequential progression
Blue - passing tones / neighbor tones
Orange - suspensions
Red - part writing that concerns me
Three ensembles at Ripon High School in Ripon, WI recorded some of my choral works through my student teaching experience. Thanks to all of the fine students at this school! They were wonderful to work with and I hope they enjoyed learning these pieces!
"Opening the Window" for mixed chorus (SATB div.)
Recorded December 19, 2012 by RHS "Prima Voce"
"Songs of Ophelia" for treble voices (SSA) and guitar
Recorded December 19, 2012 by RHS "Cantabile"
"Skyline" for mixed chorus (SAB) and piano
Recorded December 18, 2012 by RHS "Bel Canto"
November 20, 2012 -- Ben Essick, tenor saxophone and Brandon Ford, vibraphone, will perform "Separation in the Evening" and "Fire in the Evening" (2011) from "Paul Klee: Painted Songs" in recital at the University of Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne. The recording will eventually be archived on the IPFW Music YouTube page
A link to the recording of Mvt. II from my senior composition recital. Kristen Raygor, tenor sax.
Link to Dr. Farrell Vernon, saxophone instructor at IPFW, playing Milhaud's "Dance." Ben Essick is a student of Dr. Vernon, who is scheduled to perform both movements in February at the Manchester New Music Festival.
After one quarter of working with the middle school band, I have moved up the road and begun to teach both high school band and choir at Ripon High School.
In addition to my preparation of their current repertoire (Handel's Messiah, part 1, Saint-Saens' Bacchanale, Rimsky-Korsakov's Tsar's Bride, and others), I have begun to add my own band and choral compositions and arrangements.
Jazz Band -- "Reinventing No. 13" --
An arrangement of Bach's 2-part invention (No. 13 in A minor) in a jazz style.
Concert Band -- "ROMP Four Preludes for Band" --
A four movement arrangement of an original piano piece. We will focus on Mvts I, II and IV.
Symphonic Band -- "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" --
An arrangement for concert band, with some added strings, of an original piano solo based on the tune "Resignation" from the Southern Harmony hymn collection.
Cantabile (SSA) -- "Ophelia Songs from Hamlet"
A three-part women's chorus arrangement of the solos created for Dordt College's production of Hamlet in Spring 2012.
Prima Voce (SATB) -- "Opening the Window"
A setting of text by Oliver Wendell Holmes for SATB, div, unaccompanied.
Bel Canto (SAB) -- "Sky Line"
A three-part setting of Prescott Hoard's poem from 1923.
Not all of the songs have been introduced yet, but some initial recordings have already been made. Hopefully, some of the selections will be programmed on upcoming concerts and will definitely be recorded and possibly uploaded to YouTube.
Despite the intense amount of preparation involved in introducing these pieces, and the difficult rehearsals to come, I am immensely excited for this opportunity and gracious to the teachers at Ripon High School for letting me use my compositions as I complete my student teaching requirements in their classrooms.
This summer I have the incredible opportunity to be music director for the Spencer Community Theatre in Spencer, IA. Involved in this internship is the being the music director for West Side Story! This show has always been among my favorite music theatre shows and has made a large impact on my development as a musician and composer. I absolutely love the music and the story! Over the past weeks I have really dug into the score (which is very complex -- even as a piano reduction!). We will have a cast by the end of the week and are putting together the orchestra!
Super excited to conduct and teach this landmark production!
I have recently placed several recordings of my music on soundcloud. I know that a lot of them are already available on YouTube, but I was told the soundcloud community is very supportive of new music, especially contemporary classical music.
Also, something that you can find exclusively on soundcloud are recording for "Hamlet," a production at Dordt College that I completed a composition design for, recorded music, but never premiered. Hope you enjoy these recordings!
Jonathan Posthuma is a freelance composer living in Saint Paul, Minnesota.