Keeping Going in Choral Music

Since the beginning of this project, there are many things I have done and have been excited to do.

Not knowing particularly much about composition, I decided to just give it a whirl out of the blue. I sat down at my piano and just started creating some moving lines and sounds that I liked. I’ve been a part of various choirs for the better part of my life, so at least had an idea of what I was doing, yet the intricacies and subtleties of composition are still a bit beyond me. A link to the sound file can be found here (disclaimer, the recording is performed by highly trained robots, so the tone and sound is not nearly as good as if it were to be sung by humans). And a link to the score can be found here.

As you will notice from both the files, there are no words to the piece. The reason for this is because I wrote the piece without text in mind. My reasoning for this, is because I thought that for choral music, the words should compliment the music, not the other way around. However, I would soon come to realize that this might not be the way to go. Looking past the lack of words, I kind of like the song. Yes there are places in it where things could be changed, but in all, there are a lot of things that I like and I could change and will change if I so feel. It is slightly more homorhythmic (same-ness of rhythm in most parts) than I am used to writing, but it still was fun to do and sounds somewhat ok in some parts. For a first attempt; not bad.

Do not only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets – L. V. Beethoven

One of my main focuses for this project was to compose a piece for the VCC Young Composer’s competition, and I have begun work on this. Realizing the difficultly of doing music first as opposed to words, I have decided to pick the poetry that I will set music to first. I have narrowed it down to two poems: Said the West Wind by Canadian poet Isabella Crawford and Hecla, My Heart’s Home by my Grandpa.

At night I play amidst the silver mists,
And chase them on soft feet until they climb
And dance their gilded plumes against the stars;
At dawn the last round primrose star I hide
By wafting o’er her some small fleck of cloud,
And ere it passes comes the broad, bold Sun
And blots her from the azure of the sky,
As later, toward his noon, he blots a drop
Of pollen-gilded dew from violet cup
Set bluely in the mosses of the wood.
Lines 33 – 42 of Said the West Wind

Photo by Thomas Fricke. Church in Hecla, next to a cemetery.

The reason for these poems is that they both speak to me on different levels, as well both have some meaning that revolves around Canada. The Crawford poem about the nature and beauty of Canada, and my grandfather’s poem is about being a settler in Canada and living here.


To cap it off, I am in the process of writing another song that is more melodic, and I hope to be able to perform it before the end of this project.

As for my mentor meeting, I had an incredibly enjoyable and informative meeting with my mentor, Joel Tranquilla. He is the conductor of the Coastal Sound Youth Choir, which is how I knew of him. He is also the director of choral activities at Trinity Western University, associate conductor of the Canadian Chamber Choir, among many many other titles and roles in the Canadian choral world. At our meeting, we spent a lot of time looking at some scores, particularly looking at the music of Matthew Emery. We analyzed some of his music and let me borrow some to take back. Also studied were a bit of Bob Chilcott, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Ambrož Čopi. Looking at, listening to, and analyzing these scores have been really quite fun, but also incredibly helpful in writing more pieces.

I found myself intrigued and agreeing with what Joel had to say regarding choral music. It all made sense to me and it is clear how much experience and understanding he has on the topic. I went to the meeting to simply learn from him, as he is a true expert in the field of choral music, so what he said I often found made sense and seemed logical. I didn’t find myself to be in a position to disagree, as I was there to learn and I am in no position to have any other real opinion on choral music. As for differing, there was really no case for that, as he was showing me things that I now appreciate and enjoy, and I simply didn’t know existed before.

All in all, the time from my first blog post to now has been incredibly productive and I have really learned a lot. I am very excited to meet with Joel again and to continue my studies on my own. Things are really picking up and its becoming quite fun.