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Sunday Music musings March 27, 2021

March 28, 2021

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and I couldn’t remember how we did Palm Sunday last year, I had to look it up. I DO remember watching on my bed with my cat and waving a daffodil instead of a Palm branch. I found the video, and looks like we were still singing (recorded)(2 staff singers Katie and Brandon and my daughter, Grace), we were distanced but not masked—there was so much we did not know yet!

Grab a Palm before tomorrow at 10!

This year Palm Sunday is also our visit from the bishop, and it will be held on the diocesan zoom, so check your email. We have lots of “choir” though, several virtual renditions. A whole lot of singers sent in their lonely videos of All Glory, Laud and Honor for a big grand rendition. Many of the kids sent their traditional verse of Were you There? (I dare you not to cry!)

A few weeks ago, I had a socially distanced recording session with my brass, so as well as Easter music, I used them on “All Glory, Laud” and for a solemn prelude, Henry Purcell’s Sinfonia arranged for brass, timpani and organ. Purcell (1659-1695) wrote this as incidental music to “Abdelazer Suite” (1695), but you’ll recognize it as the tune used by Benjamin Britten as the theme for Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.  Here is a cool rendition by the Boston Youth Orchestra. Watch is with you kids/grandkids!

Yesterday I livestreamed a recital featuring music by women composers and composers of color. You can watch it here, (and read about it in my last blog.) For the last two years I have really tried to bring some balance to how many women composers I program, and during pandemic I realized that my organ music is the most lacking. This is not because there are not excellent women composers, especially living, but I feel like the men (some wonderful composers as well) have kind of cornered the market by the publishers really not trying very hard, and conservatively sticking to the tried and true. For example, I looked in my collection of Easter organ music: 20 pieces, two women. A British publisher’s collection of Postludes contained one women in the whole book (June Nixon). Of course, there is the problem of women organists breaking into the big cathedral jobs which is just now finally beginning to happen. There is a lag, and by being more intentional, your average organist can help!

That was a very long intro to one of my favorite composers, Melissa Dunphy (b. 1980). The adult choir will sing a piece we learned completely in pandemic zoom rehearsals, A New Heart, with a text from Ezekial: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.”

Catching up with Melissa Dunphy last March at ACDA Rochester, right before the world shut down

Born and raised in Australia, Melissa Dunphy immigrated to the United States in 2003 and has since become an award-winning and acclaimed composer specializing in vocal, political, and theatrical music. She first came to national attention in 2009 when her large-scale choral work the Gonzales Cantata was featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, where host Rachel Maddow called it “the coolest thing you’ve ever seen on this show.” Her choral work What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach? won the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers Composition Competition and has been performed nationally by ensembles including GRAMMY Award-winning Chanticleer, Cantus, and the St. Louis Chamber Chorus. Dunphy has a PhD in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Benjamin Franklin Fellow, and a Bachelor of Music from West Chester University. She currently teaches composition at Rutgers University and is also active as a sound and lighting designer, actor, theater owner, and podcaster (The Boghouse).

Harmonium Choral Society gave the New Jersey premiere Work in Dec. 2019 on a text is adapted from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Just yesterday Dunphy had a work virtually premiered by PhilHarmonia with words by Abigail Adams. “Remember the Ladies.”

Most fun of all, I recommend her podcast The Boghouse which about how she and her husband purchased an old theater and became an amateur archeologists.

I wish you a blessed and mindful Holy Week. If you get a chance to thank a choir member, please do–that submitting of virtual content thing is HARD. We only get to enjoy it after the video editors work their magic. Thanks Paula and Eric!

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