The transition from summer into fall is probably my favorite time of year, and this year it was made even more special by my sister Lauren getting married to her fiancé Joe Celentino. While not the originally planned event, I'm very glad Lauren and Joe got to have a small and beautiful ceremony during a gorgeous autumn in New York. In commemoration of their engagement, I composed a Double Portrait for string quartet last summer, which, in retrospect, was the last recording project I was able to undertake with my amazing Baltimore colleagues. I can't wait to work with them again in a safe situation.
While COVID-19 safety meant that I wasn't able to attend Lauren and Joe's wedding, I was honored to write a piece that was to be the wedding's processional. Thanks to the ingenious musicianship and sound engineering of my friend, colleague, and professional collaborator Christopher Lowry, Lauren and Joe were able to use an acoustic recording of the Processional, played entirely by Chris on violins and violas (using the wonders of technology to transform a viola adaptation of the cello part into a cello-substitute). This is a feat of creativity and innovation that I may be tapping into again in the future, but for the moment I am just grateful for Chris's marvelous musicianship and his help in making sure my older sister had a special musical dimension to their wedding day. Congratulations to Lauren and Joe!
Further Music Updates
Progress has begun on the Persephone song cycle for luminous soprano Jessica Ng. It's lovely to be working with the delicate, multi-faceted accompanying ensemble of flute, viola, and harp, and one movement is already complete, setting yet another poem by Oscar Wilde. I have been delighted at how (generally) easy it has been to get copyright permission for the texts involved in this song cycle. I was delighted to learn that the poem I chose by Edna St. Vincent Millay was in the public domain (1921), but more importantly the society that controls Edna St. Vincent Millay's text copyrights was fast and responsive. I would highly recommend looking into Millay's poetry to set! I would also like to draw people's attention to the work of poet Rita Dove. A wonderful poet and U.S. Poet Laureate 1993-1995, I was deeply appreciative of how generous and responsive Dr. Dove was to my request for permission to use one of her poems and I recommend composers look to her poetry to set to music! I'm very excited to continue working on these, and hopefully I will have received permission for all of the poems by the time I have set the ones I currently have permission for!
Two weeks before November third and I don't know how the stakes could get clearer. As Donald Trump derisively claims that Joe Biden would be listening to scientists and trashes pandemic expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, he shows his priorities and character as plain as when the Access Hollywood tapes showed him bragging about sexually assaulting women. This is a man totally unfit to lead in any capacity, someone whose main concern right now seems to be his own boredom during the pandemic rather than leadership (or responsibility the 210,000+ Americans dead, with more than half that number being higher than projected thanks to his mismanagement). This election is a choice between life and needless death. Only someone who has no access to information beyond Fox News and Russian propaganda would have any doubt about the choice that America will be making in the coming days; any other reason beyond rank ignorance is bad-faith, greed, racism, sociopathy. As we see other countries manage the coronavirus with enviable effectiveness, it is hard not to be rueful about how Americans have empowered an entire party of anti-science dogmatics for decades, resulting in death, suffering, and poverty, all for the sake of wealth and power for a few. Biden is hardly the president I would have wanted out of the spread of possible candidates, but he is at least not so egomaniacal as to literally trade more than a hundred-thousand lives for his own male insecurity, political aspirations, and prolonged avoidance of criminal prosecution. If you haven't already voted, make the only sane choice.