Program 18

Ann Callaway  

Alma redemptoris mater (premiere)

Tonia D’Amelio, soprano
Ann Callaway, piano

Peter Josheff
Images from the Past (premiere)

  1. Mating calls
  2. A gray ocean
  3. Restless
  4. Gadding about
  5. Walking downhill
  6. Bell roars

Peter Josheff, spoken voice
Karen Rosenak, piano

D’Arcy Reynolds 

Tangria (premiere)

  1. Tangria
  2. Dolorosita
  3. Vals
  4. Manga milonga

Beni Shinohara, violin
Victoria Ehrlich, cello
Amy Zanrosso, piano

Claudia Stevens                                          

Fragments Shored Against Ruins (premiere)

Claudia Stevens, pianist/singer/actor

Peter Josheff

September (premiere) 

Terrie Baune, violin

Ann Callaway 

Gallant Invention (premiere)
Vogelweid the Minnesinger (premiere)

Tonia D’Amelio, soprano
Richard Mix, bass
Ann Callaway, piano

Allen Shearer

Psalm, Lament and Aubade (premiere)

  1. Psalm of the Wind Dweller
  2. Dell’interno
  3. See it does rise

Tonia D’Amelio, soprano
Peter Josheff, clarinet
Karen Rosenak, piano


Rhymes of History and Myth: Three diverse songs for soprano, bass, and piano

Alma redemptoris mater (soprano and piano). 11th C.:  A night of freezing cold, sleet “pinging” against an icy ground. Hermanus Contractus sets down his dream of a condensed version of the life of Christ, beginning with a vision of the Virgin Mary, called “Redemptoris Mater,” which becomes the refrain of his poem.

December, 21st C: Again a night of freezing cold, a piano accompaniment evoking a childhood memory of sleet “pinging” on frozen snow, as a soprano sings my setting of the Middle English poem of Hermanus Contractus at the Christmas Eve service at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Walnut Creek in 2016.

Gallant Invention (bass and piano). The myth of Actaeon and Diana provides a poet with the fantasy of himself disguised as a deer and content to live in the forest, where he can closely approach the woman he adores without alarming her. He would be merely “a hart of pleasant hue,” albeit an unnaturally friendly one! As the song opens, the piano accompaniment is full of hesitations, as might be this forest creature who cautiously steps though the undergrowth. My setting was written for Richard Mix, who had presented me with a copy of this untitled poem by the ever popular Anonymous, in A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions, 1578.

Vogelweid the Minnesinger ( soprano, bass, and piano). The legend of Walther von der Vogelweide, of the medieval town of Wurtzburg, has spurred the imagination of at least two people: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) and myself, and concerns the famed minnesinger’s admonition before his death to feed the birds, who have taught him the art of song. His loyal monks followed his directive until a “portly abbot” declared this feeding to be a waste of human resources and stopped the practice. But still “the birds repeat the legend, and the name of Vogelweid.”–Ann Callaway

September (2017)After composing a large ambitious piece I often enjoy writing something more concise and manageable. Exercising restraint can boost confidence to tame larger projects when they threaten to get out of hand… 

September for solo violin was commissioned by Alison Jewer, a friend from Wisconsin. Alison was one of the first to support my fledgling efforts as a composer before I moved to California. September resembles others of my smaller works such as Big Brother (2014) for solo piccolo and Leaves (1997) for solo clarinet. The intention in these pieces is to take the musical material at hand and guide it along for a few minutes without feeling compelled to plunge headlong into the depths. The surface is a fine place to hang out now and then.

Images from the Past (2018) is a further development of my work with spoken voice over the past couple of decades. Like last season’s Dream Spaces & Recurring Nightmares (2017) this new work incorporates my own poetry and is written for my own speaking voice. In contrast to Dream Spaces’ hefty forty minutes of music, Images from the Past is a mere six minutes long. In addition to being concise, Images gets more detail of vocal inflection onto the page. Closing in on my ‘ideal’ naturalistic reading of the text—finding one’s voice in every sense. –Peter Josheff

Tangria is in four movements, each reflecting aspects of the tango. The first, “Tangria,” highlights the typical contrast between rhythmic and lyrical elements so often found in tango music. The piano is used more as the ‘rhythm section’ and has an orchestral scope in terms of register and function. Some of the special effects include chicharra (a cricket-like sound played behind the bridge) in the violin part, glissandi, and the yumba percussive effect in the piano part.

The lyrical “Dolorosita” features the bordoneo (3+3+2) and milonga rhythms in an expressive, slow tempo. Tango ornamentation such as mordents, grace notes, arrastres, and turns add variety to the melody, while ever-changing “marking models” create the rhythmic structure. Arrastre: anticipation of a downbeat, using a glissando or series of rapidly ascending notes.

The third movement is a vals, which has many pianistic features common to tango. The syncopation, chromaticism, contrasting registers, glissandi, and grace notes are all derived from the idiomatic tango language. The strings contribute to the marking models with the use of rhythmic double stops when the pianist takes over the melodic lines.

The final movement Manga milonga is a milonga. This is a fast movement using a 3+3+2 rhythmic ostinato, along with the milonga rhythm. Extended techniques are used in the violin and cello, including glissandi, chicharra, box slaps, and arrastres.

The tango has a very specific language that gives it its unique character. There are marking models (rhythmic patterns) that typically change every four bars, though many composers and arrangers have strayed from this standard. While tango generally uses the traditional tonic/dominant relationship, modern tango has been strongly influenced by jazz harmonies, with altered dominant chords and reharmonization. –D’Arcy Reynolds

Fragments Shored Against Ruins* is a meditation on musical romanticism and political idealism, for which some of us – and the greatest exponent of both, Ludwig Van Beethoven – longed, and still may long in spite of ourselves. The look backward is facilitated at the piano by a clouding and “misting-over” use of pedals, an embodiment in sound of the, by now, misted-over and dirtied lens of time and calamity through which we must peer. Shards of music and words from Beethoven’s letters and conversation books penetrate, or are superimposed over, a soundscape of musical fragments that plot a verbal and musical course from youthful vainglory and defiance of authority, to disillusionment; and finally, to resignation. A glimmer of the old longing, an occasional twinge of romantic mystery still might peek through.

In creating a variety of works for my self-accompanied performance over three decades, I have been influenced by styles of melodrama, the cabaret, DADA and theater of the absurd, as well as more modern techniques of musical minimalism and film. My composition teachers, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for putting up with me, include Richard Wilson, Leon Schidlovsky and David Del Tredici. There also were one or two who did not put up with me, and I do not mention them here. –Claudia Stevens

*c.f., the ending of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” referenced in a time of political consternation.

Psalm, Lament and Aubade is my setting of three poems by April Bernard. In 1993 the author gave me a copy of her book Psalms from which “Psalm of the Wind Dweller” is taken. Her “psalms” are secular but fervent evocations of the Book of Psalms; the line in this poem “I look to the flatlands, from whence cometh my help” is one of many biblical references in her collection. The final stanza is

Today the prayer came like blood upon my lips:
Give me the courage not to hate,
Take the sweet taste from the violent thought,
Give me charity for my stammering heart,
And let me on your wind pass one dreamless night

At this point in my setting I introduce as a background element the Protestant hymn “Schaff in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz” (“Create in me, God, a pure heart”) by Johann Georg Winer.

I chose the anguished, confessional “Dell’ interno” for its extreme contrast with the poems on either side of it. The author gave this poem the subtitle “aria from Giancarlo Cazetti’s L’anima di Marina.”  The opera cited and its composer are purely fictional. 

“See it does rise” is the aubade (dawn song) of the title of the cycle. Hope is renewed with the assurance that yes, the sun does rise again. –Allen Shearer