The Ave Regína Cælórum is an ancient Marian prayer of the Catholic Church, one of four Marian antiphons. The text can be translated as:
Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.
Hail, by angels mistress owned.
Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn
Whence the world's true light was born.
This is a simplification of the double-chorus version, where each SATB choir is represented by a single melody line. The two parts weave counterpoint over a substratum of quintuplets played by the piano. The harmonic language is tonal, triadic, and major.
This piece is scored for two-part treble chorus, but it would work equally well in two-part men's chorus.
This version of Ave Regína Cælórum was performed by the Greeley Children's Chorale of Greeley, Colorado during their 2011–2012 season.
It's interesting how this piece came to be — I began, as I often do, by composing the piano part. Afterward, it seemed à propos to add a very thick-textured, homophonic eight-voice choir, and I began looking for a text that could fit. The Ave Regína Cælórum seemed perfect — it fit rhythmically, and I love texts that honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, I never composed the eight-voice arrangement I'd envisioned. Instead, I created this two-part children's choir setting first. Later, when the Vittoria Ensemble showed interest in my work, I took the existing two-part arrangement and expanded each voice into its own four-part choir (see other listing), which ironically made for a more interesting piece than I had thought of initially.
Believe was composed in 2009 as part of a commission for Frontier Academy charter school in Greeley, Colorado. The school's music teacher worked with the English teacher to have students in 3rd through 5th grades write poetry on a number of themes. I then chose four of the best poems to set to music. The words to Believe were written by then-fourth-grader Samantha Slais.
Believe was performed by the combined middle school honor choir at the 2012 Wray Youth Choral Festival in Wray, Colorado.
The spring when I turned ten, my mom worked as a waitress at a retirement home close by. I used to go every night after the residents had finished dinner and change the menu board for the next day. In exchange the kitchen staff always gave me free dessert, and Mom and I would walk home together when she was done cleaning up.
There was a baby grand piano in the dining room of the retirement home that I loved to play when they'd let me. I'd never had piano lessons, but I had a keyboard at home. Mostly I played long arpeggios up and down the piano, back and forth, until someone told me to stop.
Most of the waiters and waitresses besides Mom were high school students. There was one waiter in particular, Bill Richards, who was a musician and composer. One night after the vacuuming was done, he sat down at the piano and played a piece he'd written. It was just about the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. I was completely mesmerized. When I got home, I went straight to the keyboard and tried to remember what Bill had played. The beginning was a simple pattern of upward-leading broken chords that sounded to me like the words "open up" being spoken. The piece was also in the key of C# major, which was a new challenge for me — I'd never tried playing in such an exotic key before. Eventually, as the days and weeks went by, I developed my own version of the piece, based on what Bill had played but adapted to my own ability and with some of my own material filling the gaps where I couldn't remember Bill's chord progressions.
Summer came and Bill went away to college. I never heard him play his unnamed piece again, although I played it endlessly over and over myself. I added violin, glockenspiel, and synthesizers, composed a melody to soar over its ostinato pattern, and made several recordings of it on cassette tape. Three years later, Bill came to town to visit, and I was excited to show him what I had done with his piece. For some reason, though, we never managed to get together. As time passed, I played the piece less and less, although its simple beauty had left a mark on my musical sensibilities.
Late one night over a decade later, in a music room up at the university, I played the piece on a real piano. It had been refined over the years; seasoned; re-adapted to a more mature style, but its freshness was still there. I decided to try to track Bill down on the internet.
It was then that I discovered that, after an amazingly successful career in computer programming, Bill had tragically drowned in a boating accident. He would never know the impact his song had had.
Later, I arranged "Bill's Song" for Frontier Academy charter school's elementary choir (see other listing for the piano-only arrangement). After realizing that there could be no appropriate words to fit the existing melody, I chose to use solfège syllables. The first four bars of the piano part have remained intact, a verbatim copy of Bill's original "open up" introduction from so long ago.
Bill's mother still lives in my town. I found her on the internet and brought her a recording of "Bill's Song," complete with the children's voices, one August afternoon. She recognized it right away, and showed me a picture of Bill from high school. After leaving town, he had gone on to travel the world, working odd jobs and playing music for people, before becoming a computer programmer and entrepreneur. His short life had been quite an adventure.
I hope this arrangement does justice to Bill, one of my greatest musical influences.
Happy or Sad World was composed in 2009 as part of a commission for Frontier Academy charter school in Greeley, Colorado. The school's music teacher worked with the English teacher to have students in 3rd through 5th grades write poetry on a number of themes. I then chose four of the best poems to set to music. The words to Happy or Sad World were written by Orrin Marcy.
Happy or Sad World is a simple, melancholy song with the occasional bright splash of hope in the piano harmony. The two vocal parts act nearly as a round and have the same tessitura.
Imagination is about the joys of dreaming about a bright and happy future. It may be performed with or without the string quartet, although I highly recommend using the strings if possible.
The first few bars of the piano motive for Imagination were composed one summer night in 2010, but it was over a year before I decided to turn it into a children's choir piece for Frontier Academy charter school.
Imagination was performed by the Greeley Children's Chorale at the 2013 Sing A Mile High International Children's Choral Festival in Denver, Colorado, USA.
Please note that the audio preview does not include the string quartet.
Audio preview graciously provided by Puresound LLC (www.puresoundcolorado.com).
In the Rain is an exciting song about the magic of summer rainstorms. It jumps back and forth between modes, time signatures, and tempos to achieve a truly exhilarating effect. It is scored for two sopranos and alto, with an optional divisi in the alto part.
Warm Hugs was composed in 2009 as part of a commission for Frontier Academy charter school in Greeley, Colorado. The school's music teacher worked with the English teacher to have students in 3rd through 5th grades write poetry on a number of themes. I then chose four of the best poems to set to music. The words to Warm Hugs were written by Nate Sereff.
Nate wrote the poem Warm Hugs about his mother's gift shop, which is also named Warm Hugs.
Warm Hugs was performed by the Greeley Children's Chorale during their 2010–2011 season.
White the Color of the Water is a short three-part piece for treble chorus. It is written in a brisk and galloping 9/8, with a Celtic or medieval feel. It was composed in 2013 as part of a commission for Frontier Academy charter school in Greeley, Colorado. It was performed by the Greeley Children's Chorale during their 2013–2014 season.