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MUSIC AND SWEET POETRY GETS SWEET-TALKIN' REVIEWS

THREE NEW HARRIS SCORES RELEASED BY EDITION PETERS

FINALLY, SHAKESPEARE SONGS AS SHAKESPEARE INTENDED

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Are you hungry? Because Kantorei of Kansas City's new album, Music and Sweet Poetry: Choral Music of Matthew Harris is on a roll — a sweet roll. Take Classical Net's review, for example: "This is a major release for choral fans...His diversity of styles, accessibility, and real feeling for the choral idiom continue to appeal to choirs around the world...harmonically challenging and quite stunning in terms of contrast and emotion...one of the finest choral composers working today...Harris has the good fortune to have a really fine choral ensemble willing to champion his works...If you care at all about choral music, you need to hear this." The album's on iTunes, Amazon and the London-based Resonus Classics's own site. Bon Appétit!

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Perfectly timed with the release of the album, Edition Peters has recently published If Music and Sweet Poetry Agree [EP68465], i love you much(most beautiful darling) [EP68494], and My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold [EP68466].

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This October, when the wonderful Pacific Repertory Theatre in Carmel, CA performs Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, the cast will break into 4-part harmony every night to sing my setting of "When Daffodils Begin to Peer." This is unusual because an acting company is not put together on the basis of its SATB potential. So if they must all sing together, the safest thing is to have them do it in unison (which means no Harris). Hats off to Director Kenneth Kelleher and his talented troupe for not taking the easy way out!

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JOURNAL
 
     
  07.09.14  


 

 

I'm listening to string quartets on my Shuffle these days as I do my daily run in Central Park. Not your typical workout music! The mind does wander, especially on a hot day. Going between Beethoven and Carter, I realized contemporary music isn't really harder to listen to, it's just harder to not listen to.


It was fun teaching a harmony course again last semester after so many years. The Brooklyn College kids were sharp and worked hard, so all those hours of grading their homework were well worth it. I didn't think it was possible for me to like Mozart any more than I already did, but the textbook and workbook were full of Mozart examples and, whether it's voice leading, phrase structure or modulation, he's the man! Working on a whole 'nother level, he was.

 

Last summer at this time we did an apartment swap with a family in Barcelona. But no getting lost in old tiny streets on the way to Medieval Cathedrals, Roman ruins or the beach this time around: we're sticking it out in New York, even on the weekends. Well, I'll be doing jury duty soon, so at least I'll get a taste of the Medieval again!


I walked into a bar last week and saw that day's big soccer match on a giant screen and, for the first time, I was actually caught up in it. I don't know what finally clicked in me but suddenly I didn't care that nobody was scoring. It's like the taking of a Queen in chess: of course it hardly happens, it has to be worked up to, step by step, over the course of an hour.

 

How shocking to read of composer Lee Hyla's sudden passing. I barely knew him but we were both at New England Conservatory for a year. Aside from his musical gifts, he was into titles before title were cool: I'll never forget "White Man on Snow Shoes." RIP.

 Those who would like their performances of my works listed here, please feel free to e-mail me.

 
Recent News


DO I AMUSE YOU? Perhaps I did last month, when the Manhattan women's vocal ensemble, Amuse, performed a set of my Shakespeare Songs which I arranged for them...Also in June, Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble was ending their Shakespeare-themed concerts with a bang — that's to say, with the 16-part When That I Was and a Little Tiny Boy...Camerata California gave the West Coast premiere of In the Arms of Music (for soloists, chorus, children's chorus and orchestra) in Sacramento in February, the composer conducting. (Watch for their reprise of A Child's Christmas in Wales in December.) Speaking of which, earlier in the season, Chor Plan b of Bremen gave the German premiere of A Child's Christmas in Wales (a cantata for chorus and orchestra on the Dylan Thomas tale) with German uber-titles projected above...In the fall, Mastersingers by the Sea performed Oceanic Eyes (sultry Neruda love songs for chorus, string quartet and guitar) in venues around Cape Cod.

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Last Season:

Chelsea Opera premiered the Harris-Quinn opera The Mark of Cain in lower Manhattan in November. Blythe Gaissert and Brace Negron sang the lead roles; Steven M. Crawford, formerly of The Metropolitan Opera, conducted. St. Francis College (Brooklyn) gave a concert performance of the opera later that season with Laila Salins and Bruce Negron in the lead roles and Samuel McCoy conducting. Center for Contemporary Opera had previously produced a semi-staged reading of the opera at the Flea Theater in downtown New York City...Golden Fleece's 21st annual opera commission went to Matthew Harris to create a condensed version of his three-act opera, TESS. Golden Fleece's concert performance took place at Opera America's NYC Recital Hall in June.

Uptown in Manhattan, the New Amsterdam Singers gave the U.S. premiere of my 8-part, William Carlos Williams triptych, Three Plums and the New York premiere of Fantasy on La Bamba while downtown, Amor Artis premiered Three Sacred Pieces at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in New York City...Kantorei performed the Harris album material around Kansas City — one of the pieces was a setting of e. e. cummings's i love you much(most beautiful darling), which the Voce Chamber Singers had commissioned and premiered earlier that season around the D.C. area...Amuse gave a reprise performance of Women in Love, the 6-part Wendy Cope song-cycle they commissioned from Harris in 2006.

A shout-out to some Shakespeare Songs performances I saw or heard about: Connecticut Chamber Choir/MixTape Dance, University of Washington Choir, Houston Cecilia Chamber Choir, Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale, La Caccina (Chicago), Harmonium Choral Society (NJ), LOCUS (Japan), Treblemakers (England) and Con Brio (New Zealand).

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The Season Before:

The Astoria Symphony and Symphonic Choir (NYC) conducted by Adam Eggleston, performed Arias and choruses from TESS...CHELSEA OPERA presented A Child's Christmas is Wales — other recent performances of this work: Wellington Shropshire, England: New College Chorale, Newtown, CT: Newtown Choral Society, and giving the West Coast premiere in Sacramento: Camerata California.

Cois Cladaigh, the Galway group that commissioned Three Plums, performed it at the Cork Festival and on their 30th anniversary concert with guest conductor Donal Doherty...Western Wind continued their 14-year tradition of performing little tree on their Holiday Light concert in New York City. Chicago A Cappella, a group with a CD of various Shakespeare Songs, performed On This Starry Night on their holiday concerts...And a shout-out to the U. of Arizona Symphonic Choir, McDaniel College's Madrigal Singers, Wisconsin Lutheran Choir, and Southern Oregon Repertory Singers.

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Various and Sundry:

On Disc: 1)Kantorei of Kansas City's Music and Sweet Poetry: Choral Music by Matthew Harris is out (see above). 2) Voce released a CD of the complete Six Books of Shakespeare Songs. 3) Montage Music Society's Starry Night Project — Music Based on Visual Art [MS 1264], featuring Harris's award-winning "Starry Night: Seven Paintings for violin, cello & piano," is available at MSR Classics, Amazon, and CD Baby, etc. Of course, for any of these albums, you can also go to iTunes.

On The Air: 1) On WQXR (105.9 in New York), Choral Fixation (about 14 minutes in) played seven Shakespeare Songs from the New Amsterdam Singers CD. 2) Harris was interviewed at WWFM (89.1 in NJ and on the web) on Cadenza and Sounds Choral. 3) An NPR Morning Edition segment: Barenaked Ladies Meet Shakespeare, wherein Harris's It Was a Lover and His Lass is compared with the rock group's version.

In Print: 1) British scholar Charles Pettit has been in touch with Harris for an article he's writing for The Hardy Review (the journal of the Thomas Hardy Association). It will include information about Harris's opera Tess, based on Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. 2) The American Choral Director's Association publication, Choral Journal, featured an article titled "Matthew Harris's Shakespeare Songs: The Bard's Lyrics Meet American Popular Music" by John M. Petzet, based on his doctoral thesis. 3) The other doctoral thesis on Harris, by Joseph Ohrt is an overview of all the choral works.

In Books: There's an entry on Matthew Harris in Choral Repertoire, a new book by Dennis Shrock, published by Oxford University Press, covering composers from the Medieval era to present date. Harris is also in Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, by Nick Strimple, published by Amadeus Press.

More performances of A Child's Christmas in Wales: North Country Chorus (Vermont and New Hampshire), Buck's County Choral Society (Pennsylvania), Village Voices (New York State) Manchester Choral Society (New Hampshire) and The West Side Singers (Greenwich Village, NYC).

More performances from here and there: San Francisco Lyric Chorus, Da Camera Singers (Amherst, MA); Dallas Chamber Singers, Voce Novae (Louiville, KY) and Carroll U. Vocal Collective (Waukesha, WI), Concora's 35th Anniversary Gala (New Britain, CT), and the Virginia Chorale.Macalester College and the Festival Chorale: Minn., Musica Sacra: Cambridge, Ma; Amare Cantare: Exeter, NH.; George Fox University Chamber Singers: Newberg, OR; University of Virginia Chamber Singers: Charlottesville, Acappellago: Chicago, and the Bowdoin College Chamber Choir.

And across the Pond: Romulus Singers in Hale Barns, Yeovil Chamber Choir, Somerset Chamber Choir, The Levens Choir in Kendal, The Nonesuch Singers and The Oriana Choir in London, The Ebor Singers in York Minster, Ave Maris Stella in various British cities.

Google Catch of the Day: Accragio, a chorus in Ghana, performed "It was a Lover and her Lass."

For the Children: Recent commissions for younger choruses: Beannacht (Blessing), on a poem by the late Irish poet, John O'Donohue, for the Lexington High Chamber Choir, Jason Iannuzzi, Director. (To be premiered this December)...La Guitarra (Garcia Lorca), for chorus and guitar, for Central Buck's West High, Dr. Joseph Ohrt, Director..To You, (poem by The Mark of Cain librettist Terry Quinn) for James Rensink, Artist in Residence and Choral Director at The Storm King School.

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