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Opus in Progressionem

Updates on music composition projects by Debra J. Lynn

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Current Projects

Final Summer Recording Session: Completed!

Our final two recording sessions for the summer occurred on Monday evening (Aug 14). First up was “Upon Thy Heart” featuring Emily Lynn (soprano), Clayton Marcum (tenor), Robert Lynn (cello) and Pamela Haynes (piano).

Second: Kira Lace Hawkins (mezzo-soprano), and Pamela Haynes (piano) recorded my song cycle “Three Days.”  It is a setting of three poems by Madeleine L’Engle from the perspective of Mary, the Mother of Jesus during each of the three days from the crucifixion to the resurrection of Christ.

What a lovely experience this has been.  So many wonderful musicians took part in this process. Every single one of them brought their own unique tone, technique, and interpretation to the studio — and it was a beautiful thing to witness.  I hope they all enjoyed it as much as I did.  I am humbled and honored by their hard work and dedication.

I didn’t get photos of the first recording session, but Clayton Marcum kindly took some for me during the second one.  Click images below to enlarge and see captions for each. Enjoy!  Recordings will be posted soon, so stay tuned!

Almost Done!

I haven’t created any blog posts for awhile, because I was “unplugged” driving through Illinois, Kansas, Utah, and Colorado, or up in the Rocky Mountains.  It was great to take a little break with family before the academic year kicks into gear full time.

Just before I left town, our wonderful recording chorus met one last time to record “The Wise Men,” an SSAATBB piece featuring a men’s trio.  It was definitely the most complex of my choral compositions we’ve recorded this summer.  These folks did an amazing job preparing and recording it, though.  I am so proud of them all!

Now, only two more sessions to go on Monday, and then Danny Belcher will record my Keats Cycle in October!  We are very close to completing the recording phase of this project. Haley is already working diligently on phase 2, which is editing, mixing, and producing the recordings, which we will post as they are completed! Stay tuned!

Here is a photo of the wonderful singers who have been in on most of the choral recordings this summer.  The only people not pictured are Lila and Steve Hammer, who could not attend this particular session.  Also not pictured are Kira Hawkins and Thomas Hall, who served as soloists for our recording of “I Got Shoes.” Everyone else was present for this session so I just had to get a photo before we all went our separate ways!

Row 4 (L to R): Kenzie Hare, Freddie Lapierre, Andrew Haff, and Paul Fry-Miller.  Row 3 (L to R): Debbie Chinworth, Michael Rueff, Tony Zinich, Clayton Marcum, and Katherine Haff.  Row 2 (L to R): Pamela Haynes (pianist), Judy Myers-Walls, Kathy Fry-Miller, Jake Svay, Sandy Funk, Laura Stone, and Julie Garber. Row 1 (L to R): Angelina Jung, Eric Reichenbach (soloist), Grant Ebert (soloist), Matt Grothouse (soloist), Mykayla Neilson, and Haley Neilson (singer and recording engineer).

Summer 2017 Recording Chorus
Our wonderful chorus for the Summer 2017 Recording Sessions! I am so full of gratitude when I look at these beautiful faces.
Summer 2017 Recording Chorus (silly shot)
It’s a rule: You cannot take a “serious” choir photo without also taking a “silly shot.” This is our silly shot — and I usually like these better than the just plain smiley ones.

Recording Sessions 8-10 Complete!

This past week, Robert Lynn recorded the 2nd and 3rd movements of “Proxemics,” my fiendishly difficult piece for unaccompanied cello.  Lila Hammer and Pamela Haynes also recorded all of “Manchester Sonata” for clarinet and piano.

All of the pieces slated for the final 9 or 10 recording sessions require pretty advanced-level musicians.  One of the reasons these sessions were scheduled later in the summer, was to allow extra time for these performers to prepare.  I am pleased with the results so far.  This has been quite an exciting journey, and I am humbled again and again by the dedication of these musicians who bring such personal integrity to the process.  It would be so much easier to invest less of themselves. I’m a far cry from Beethoven or Mozart, after all.  But, their hours of rehearsal and close attention to detail prove the high priority they have placed on this project, and I am deeply moved.

Haley (my student assistant and recording engineer), who is a composition major herself, asked me “Is it hard for you to listen to people play your music? Do you ever dislike their interpretation?”  I thought that was an excellent question.  My response wasn’t very profound in the moment, but upon further reflection — this is what I have to say (hopefully Haley will see this): I love writing for people I know, because I can imagine with a fair amount of accuracy how they will interpret a particular phrase or musical gesture. I make every effort to write music that will cater to their individual strengths (pyro-technics, tone quality, expression, articulation, range, tessitura, etc.) while also writing pieces they will appreciate and enjoy learning and performing.  If I stick to that formula, I am seldom disappointed.  My next job is to be sure I notate the music in such a way that parameters are clear without stifling the passion, enthusiasm, and interpretation of whoever endeavors to perform it.  Creating music is only half of the composer’s job.  The other half (sometimes more than half) is notating what you hear in a way that draws out the performance you want, and yet prevents the performance you don’t want.

I feel very honored to know people who inspire me to create music especially for them. Photos of some of those special people are below.

Lila Hammer records Manchester Sonata
Lila says of my work, “There’s always that one measure, that’s just a little tougher than everything else.” I think she was looking at one of those measures when I snapped this picture!
Haley Neilson, my hard-working recording engineer
This gal put has put in some long hours! I’ve been very impressed with Haley’s work this summer.
Recording Session #9
Recording sessions can be really stressful, so it’s important to take some laughing breaks now and then.
Recording Session #9
Lila Hammer recording Manchester Sonata

Manchester Sonata

I love hearing Dr. Pamela Haynes practice my compositions. She is a consummate artist, who leaves no detail unattended while layering in her own musical expression and interpretation. The best performers become part of the creative process and lift the composer’s notes off the page with sensitivity and integrity. Mere compositions are nothing unless human musicians breathe life into them.

Lila Hammer records Manchester Sonata
Lila says of my work, “There’s always that one measure, that’s just a little tougher than everything else.” I think she was looking at one of those measures when I snapped this picture!
Recording Session #9
Lila Hammer and Pamela Haynes, recording Manchester Sonata
Recording Session #9
Recording sessions can be really stressful, so it’s important to take some laughing breaks now and then.
Recording Session #9
Lila Hammer recording Manchester Sonata

7 Recording Sessions Down, 8 to Go!

We’re basically halfway finished with our recording sessions! We’ve recorded 8 out of 9 choral pieces, 2 handbell arrangements, 1 flute solo (3 movements), and the first movement of “Proxemics” for cello.  Pictured above is Robert Lynn, the Shoeless Joe of cellists, in one of last week’s recording sessions.

This week’s schedule includes movement 2 of “Proxemics” for cello, and Manchester Sonata for clarinet and piano, featuring Lila Hammer and Pamela Haynes.

All that remains is one more choral piece, a trumpet sonata, the finale to “Proxemics,” a three-movement song cycle for voice and piano, and a chamber piece for soprano, tenor, cello, and piano.  Our final recording session is slated for August 14 — so the end is near!

Haley should have some completed recordings for me to post soon, so stay tuned!

 

Flutes and Handbells!

Recording Session Three is now complete! We had a wonderful recording session with our 11-member ad hoc handbell ensemble (Debra’s Ding-A-Lings) and 2 flutists.

The session began with Ann Donner playing “Italian Dance Suite,” a three-movement piece for unaccompanied flute.  Afterwards, Haley (recording engineer) scooped up all her equipment and we headed over to Manchester Church of the Brethren to record two handbell arrangements: “Wondrous Love” (with flutist Kathy Davis), and “Ride On, King Jesus.” We finished up 30 minutes ahead of schedule, which is never a bad thing.  You can see the concentration on everyone’s faces in the pics below.  Recording can be nerve-wracking and difficult, but everyone did great! I am so thankful to each of these people for their hard work and generosity.  I’ve mentioned our flutists, Ann and Kathy, but I want to be sure to acknowledge these terrific bell ringers: Audri Fuentes, Julie Garber, Katherine Haff, Lila Hammer, Kenzie Hare, Jeff Hunn, Robert Lynn, Michael Rueff, Laura Stone, Jake Svay, and Becky Unger.  (see photos below — click on specific images to make them larger)

Next up is my insanely difficult unaccompanied cello solo entitled “Proxemics” and two choral pieces: “Prayer for Renewal” and “Three Responsories for Tenebrae.”  Stay tuned for further updates!

Two Choral Recording Sessions Finished!

I am very pleased to report that our choral recording sessions have been going very well. A huge thank you to Haley Neilson, Tim Reed, and Grant Ebert for help with the first two sessions. We have been able to complete our work well within the allotted time frame (Time = $), and our musicians are really bringing their A-game!  With only two rehearsals they were able to perfect four choral works and make significant headway on three others.  Our amazing summer choir is made up of the following people:

  • Sopranos: Debbie Chinworth, Kathy Fry-Miller, Lila Hammer, Kenzie Hare, Angelina Jung, and Judy Myers-Walls
  • Altos: Sandy Funk, Julie Garber, Katherine Haff, Haley Neilson, Mykayla Neilson, and Laura Stone
  • Tenors: Paul Fry-Miller, Steve Hammer, Clayton Marcum, Jake Svay, and Jeremy Williams
  • Basses: Grant Ebert, Matt Grothouse, Andrew Haff, Michael Rueff, and Orion Toepfer

Special Thanks to Dr. Pamela Haynes (piano), Thomas Hall (baritone solo), Kira Lace Hawkins (alto solo), and Mykayla Neilson (trumpet) for their diligent preparation, artistry, and pyro-technic virtuosity!

Additionally — the Il Quattro Men’s quartet (Matt, Clayton, Jake, and Michael — all noted above) did a wonderful job with my “Star-Spangled Banner” arrangement, and “Thomas: after seeing the wounds” featuring George Donner on oboe.

Up next (July 7): “Italian Dance Suite” (flute solo), and two handbell arrangements “Ride On, King Jesus” and “Wondrous Love” (with flute obbligato).  Stay tuned for further updates and postings of our recordings, coming soon!

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