RICHARD ALSTON & BENJAMIN BRITTEN
During the last week of October 2014, several performances of “Great Britten” – a production of the Richard Alston Dance Company from London – took place at Montclair State University. I accompanied the 24-voice Vocal Accord in the performance of Rejoice in the Lamb by Benjamin Britten. This was my first such collaboration with a dance company. The choreography was absolutely stunning and brought an entirely fresh perspective to this English choral standard. Read the full review from The New York Times here. On Monday January 26 and Tuesday January 27, 2015, we had the awesome honor to perform the Britten at the iconic Saddler’s Wells in London. More can be found at www.richardalstondance.com.
The Fall of 2016 brought about yet another performance of the Britten in the prestigious Fall for Dance Festival at City Center in New York City. Robert Gottlieb of the Observer said “Rejoice in the Lamb was beauty and a balm” and that the performance was “best by far” of the festival. The full review can be read here.
THE HOUSE OF MURGATROYD
I was very proud to serve as musical director for “The House of Murgatroyd” – a delightful reworking of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic RUDDIGORE. This adaptation featured a 7-person cast of mainly New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) who brought the production to the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Harrogate, England in the summer of 2014. More information and a video of the performance may be obtained here.
Associate Organist & Choirmaster
Cathedral of the Incarnation (Garden City, New York)
I have recently become the Associate Organist & Choirmaster at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, mother church for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. This venerable music program, under the direction of canon musician Lawrence Tremsky, has long established itself as a musical and cultural force on Long Island and in the greater New York metropolitan area. More information about this charming cathedral and her ambitious music program can be found here.
European Sabbatical 2013
During the Summer of 2013, I held a one-month residency studying at the Schola Cantorum de Paris. The European American Musical Alliance (EAMA) conducts an intensive summer program in the great tradition of renowned French musical pedagogue Nadia Boulanger:
Many of the greatest American composers and musicians (Copland, Bernstein, Piston, etc.) pursued lengthy study with this woman, either in her apartment in Paris or at the famed American Conservatory at Fontainebleau. She offered instruction in composition, interpretation, harmony, counterpoint and solfege among other topics. Some of her last students continue her legacy and pass on the torch every July at the Schola Cantorum on Rue St. Jacques.
My journey began, like most wonderful things, with a mishap. Flight cancelled, which turned out to be a blessing because it resulted in a severely discounted direct flight to Paris. After the orientation at the Schola, one of the first items on the agenda was to take our comprehensive placement exams. EAMA does a wonderful job at placing every student into the appropriate classes and every single subject area has about 5 different levels of difficulty. Here are some pictures of the charming school building, which is a historic landmark as the wrought iron handrail on the main staircase is the longest in all of Europe.
Work and student life could not have been better. Students spanned generations and came from far and wide (Mexico, Canada, US, UK, Sweden, Australia, etc.) We were warned that the classes would be intense and that was no exaggeration. Part of the nature of study at EAMA is that a large bit of your work happens outside of class. You leave class blown away by a new concept or assignment and then you go home to pick up the pieces. The faculty is always around to answer individual questions. Class times are scattered as well so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and can tackle individual projects with a dedicated effort. My classes were Keyboard Harmony, Invertible Counterpoint, Canon & Fugue, Score Reading, Analysis, Choral music, Composition and Chorale. In addition to the classes and my private lessons with American composer David Conte, we were treated to almost 20 masterclasses and concerts featuring a plethora of new repertoire. Below are some pics of student life.
Of course, perhaps one of the greatest inspirations was being in the stunning city of Paris. Many people have asked me about Paris and my impressions. I think the best way to describe Paris is as a beautiful set or stage; there is beauty everywhere you look . But whatever drama you hope to occur on that stage will only happen with your effort and work. Paris doesn’t do the work for you. Parisians are complicated, hard to break through and certainly the way they behave is very different from an American perspective. Still, there is no place like Paris.
Some of my favorite things. Stimulating conversations with colleagues along the Seine river at night with wine and hors d’ oeuvres. Correcting and revising compositions at Académie de la bière in between lessons and classes. Composing counterpoint on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. People mistaking you as French because your French pronunciation has gotten quite good by the end. Those are some of the memories of that “drama” I get to take with me. Not to mention the wonderful connections and friends-for-life. Below are some pictures from my personal Parisian experience.
These photos and this blog only really scratch the surface of all that was accomplished in Paris. Unlike most continuing education experiences I’ve had, EAMA challenged me to continue this work AFTER the summer session and to incorporate these concepts into my academic and professional life. This whole trip reawakened a fondness for great graffiti. The Paris graffiti was much more orderly than the Berlin graffiti but all fabulous nonetheless.
Following the awarding of my diploma, I headed to Lille in Flanders, where I performed a solo concert of American organ music to a very appreciative audience. Lille is an enchanting city just a short distance from Paris and the perfect transition from study to an invigorating vacation in Berlin. I had the opportunity to reunite with several friends and experience the AMAZING city of Berlin for ten days. Some photos from that leg of the tour:
And some more…
And still some more…
One of the things I didn’t mention so far was the pending birth of my first niece/nephew during my entire trip. The due date was around July 20th and I assumed that the baby would be born while I was in Paris and I would meet her/him when I returned to the United States. Because I felt very distant, I decided to compose a choral piece for the new baby based on the Ann Taylor poem “The Baby’s Dance.” This piece was produced in addition to two other compositions, a revision of my “Ave Verum Corpus” and a brand new piano suite for my students. Paris passed and no baby. Lille passed and no baby. Berlin passed and no baby. My whole family was saying that the baby was waiting for me and told me to hurry home. They were right. Not a few hours after I touched down on American soil, my sister went into labor. Several hours later a beautiful boy, Arjun Vincent Ravi Jarecha, was welcomed into the world. Never in my life had I experienced such a day filled with emotion. He was worth all the wait. The summer of 2013 will prove to be one of the most unforgettable. Thanks for joining me on this journey.