Category Archives: Choirs

In Sweet Music: Live recording with Vancouver Cantata Singers

This spring, I’ve been able to perform two of my pieces with the amazing ensembles that bring them to life.

Last weekend, Vancouver Peace Choir gave two concerts that included “Grant Us Peace”, with me at the piano and Brian Wismath conducting. A month earlier, I sang “In Sweet Music” from the tenor section with the Vancouver Cantata Singers (Paula Kremer, Artistic Director).

“In Sweet Music” tells the legend of Orpheus, whose music had the power to move mountains, among other superhero-like qualities. Even more importantly, Orpheus’ music could change people by helping them forget their troubles, putting them to sleep, or even killing them. For a composer, these are troubling thoughts.

I’m grateful to be able to share this live concert recording of “In Sweet Music” from Vancouver Cantata Singers’ “Full Fathom Five” concert in April 2017. Listen and watch the score, with a few of my notes and sketches. Singing in the tenor section with this group has been amazing and I look forward to next season, coming soon!

In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart,
        Fall asleep, or hearing, die.

“In Sweet Music” won DaCapo Chamber Choir’s 2015 Young Composers’ Competition. I’m grateful to DaCapo Chamber Choir and Leonard Enns, who gave the premiere performance in 2016.

Composers in concert with Vancouver Peace Choir

Some rehearsals make me especially glad to have written some music. This was one of those times.

On Sunday I joined Vancouver Peace Choir to rehearse for their Canadian Landscapes concerts – two shows devoted to Canadian choral music and led by artistic director Brian Wismath. At those concerts, I’ll be at the piano to collaborate on pieces by fellow Vancouverites Stephen Chatman and Amy Stephen, and also my “Grant Us Peace” (SATB + piano, score available from Cypress Choral Music).

This was not the first time I’ve enjoyed hearing and working with “Grant Us Peace” since its 2014 premiere, but it was a privilege and a joy to have 30 or 40 people sing this music back to me at the piano in true surround sound.

Amazing sounds or not, I’m convinced that the satisfaction stemming from releasing a work into the world is one of the strange, rewarding sensations that keeps composers alive. We’re happy that our ideas are out there. We believe that they’re interesting, no matter what happens to them. Sometimes we are simply glad to have written something, anything. But when the music results in beauty beyond the page, when people are engaged and expressive and musical, it is wonderful. That’s what happened here.

I’m not sure which of us was happiest to be at rehearsal. It was probably a draw. (L-R: Chris Sivak, composer; Brian Wismath, artistic director; me, composer/pianist)

After my rehearsing had finished for the night, I tagged composer Chris Sivak into the ring and watched as Brian led the choir through Chris’ newly commissioned a cappella piece called “Fierce Green”. The choir made inspiring sounds. (Read the story of “Fierce Green” on Chris’ blog.)

Vancouver Peace Choir
Composer composing, conductor conducting, choir singing. (Chris Sivak, left, at the piano; Brian Wismath, centre; Vancouver Peace Choir, everywhere)

This was a rehearsal of firsts for both of us composers: me on the piano for “Grant Us Peace”, and Chris hearing his new dots vibrating the air around him for the very first time.

You can hear those vibrations in Richmond or Vancouver on May 26-27, 2017. Join us for the music; get tickets for Vancouver Peace Choir’s Canadian Landscapes.

Learn the story behind Grant Us Peace, and get the score from Cypress Choral Music.

Grant Us Peace Returns to Edmonton!

Especially for my Alberta friends

This is where meaningful words meet meaningful music.

This Sunday, May 3, the Edmonton-based community choir Vocal Alchemy will perform my Grant Us Peace (SATB + piano) during their upcoming concert, “Beauty Knows No Discord”. The choir’s website describes the concert this way:

“An eclectic program, with music from the Renaissance period through 2014. Classical, folk, jazz and pop. Featuring pieces composed by Eric Whitacre, Morten Lauridsen, George Shearing, Stephen Chatman, and many more.”

Inspiration

Grant Us Peace was inspired by the struggles and faithfulness of family members dealing with long-term illness. It is a remembrance of good times gone by, and the uncertainty that is always the future. It is personal and heartfelt, and it is my original words and music.

Poetry from a draft of Grant Us Peace.
Poetry from a draft of Grant Us Peace.

Vocal Alchemy’s Choral Assistant, Kimberley McMann, will take the podium with Kim Cousineau at the piano for this performance.

Last summer, Edmonton’s Singspiration Youth Choir (Brian Wismath, clinician) sang Grant Us Peace, which was originally written in 2014 as a commission for Victoria’s Linden Singers. The piece was later published by Cypress Choral Music.

You’re Invited (Concert Details)

If you’re in the Edmonton area, go to this concert!

Vocal Alchemy: Beauty Knows No Discord
Jordan Van Biert, conductor
Kimberley McMann, conductor
Kim Cousineau, piano
Sunday, May 3, 2015; 7:30 pm
McDougall United Church, 10025 101 St, Edmonton, AB
Tickets: $17/15 in advance, $20/18 at the door

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE
Read more about the event on Vocal Alchemy’s website.

See more info about Grant Us Peace at Cypress Choral Music.
See more of my choral scores and listen to recordings.

New Recording: Ar Hyd y Nos Arrangement

I’d like to share this new arrangement!

I know, it’s a bit late for Christmas, but bear with me.

Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night) is a traditional Welsh carol. Written for SATB choir, this was commissioned by Vox Humana (Brian Wismath, director) for three performances back in December. They were kind enough to make this very nice recording after the concerts!

Vox Christmas Stage 2014
Alix Goolden Hall, Victoria, December 2014

Some details: The arrangement begins with 9 bars of humming that can be repeated or omitted as needed. Vox used it as they walked on stage – great way to start a concert. The song has three verses. The first two are set identically as a repeat, except for a brief soprano descant in the second verse. The third verse is more involved, with some divisi and more extended harmonies. Overall, a medium difficulty arrangement, but I think it would be no problem for many community choirs.

To read the score while you listen, click the link:
Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night)

Or listen using the Soundcloud window below.

Every Concert Is A Surprise Party

Hearing my music performed live is surreal.
Kind of like a birthday party. But with less cake.

From my vantage-point in the audience, I’m a little nervous – but without the anxiety that can come with performing. It’s more like excitement, because all the effort – writing confusing sketches, shaping those sketches into a draft, editing those drafts into something clear, and handing over the score to someone who will interpret and practice and lead others in their practicing and interpreting – is finally going to materialize in the open air.

And who knows what will happen then??

De Profundis sketch
Pretty clear, right? An early sketch of De Profundis.

Surprise Party

The strangest moment of the concert happens to me after the piece is over. After that little moment of silence, when my adrenaline is in full force, and the applause begins. The conductor steps aside during the applause, and then points to me, “David Archer (1985 – )”, which is how I’m known in the program. Because to be alive and also present at a classical music concert is a rare feat for a composer. It’s worth a remark.

Then there is some creaky shifting in pews as the audience looks around to see who they are now clapping for. It’s the guy who’s stood up to clap back at the choir from the middle of the hall to say thank you. Some people are startled to be sitting next to him.

It always feels like a surprise party, but in reverse. Because I’m the surpriser. It’s so sneaky, and it works every time.

Recent Concerts

I got to attend two important concerts recently in Vancouver:

De Profundis (Out of the depths…)

On March 21, Oculus Chamber Choir (Ben Ewert, director) sang the premiere of De Profundis, a setting of Psalm 130/129 in English and Latin. This was a gorgeous concert of choral laments, with sacred music dating back to the 16th Century. To lament is to be human.

De Profundis Premiere 10422252_1813989085493224_108358199603226174_n

Compassio

And then on March 29, Brian Wismath led a quartet presented by Vox Humana (the amazing Kirsten Birley, Stephanie Sartore, Carman J. Price, and Stephen Bélanger) in The Little Match Girl Passion. Compassio served as a prelude to the longer work. This extremely skilled group of singers gave a moving performance of my piece for choir, singing one on a part. It was a privilege to hear this!

Compassio March 2015IMG_5290

Scores and info about these two pieces are available here:
De Profundis
Compassio
More choral music

Read more about the choirs here:
Oculus Chamber Choir
Vox Humana Chamber Choir

Thanks for reading the blog. Next time I’ll share a new recording with you!