Monday, May 24, 2010

The Minstrel Boy

The Minstrel Boy, a piece I wrote nearly 25 years ago during graduate work in Computer Science at Cornell (with a minor in Music Composition), received its first public performance yesterday at the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock. I had shown the score to the music director there, Stephen Michael Smith, who has a track record of fostering new works and composers, and to my surprise and pleasure, he very quickly arranged for a group of singers—Leslie Craigie, Farah Chandu, Leslie Pirchinello, Chee Shun Tan, and Brace Negron—to perform it as part of the regular Sunday service. (Pianists Evan Solomon and Akira Eguchi assisted during rehearsals.)

The piece is a setting for SSATB (with solo sections) of Thomas Moore's poem of the same name. It's normally sung to the tune of "The Moreen", and I used that melody heavily in my setting. The composition teacher under whose supervision I wrote it, Steven Stucky, was not, I think, entirely on board with my wholesale appropriation of these existing materials—he might reasonably have felt that I should be producing my own music instead of rehashing others', at least on his watch—but I persisted anyway.

This was the second world premiere of my work in as many months: In April, TracyLynn Conner performed a song I wrote for her, as part of a American Cancer Society benefit concert.

Both of these events were big thrills for me. If you don't count my music for theater, arrangements, orchestrations, or works for personal occasions, the last time I had a world premiere was in ... 1984.