Page 73 Summer Yale Residency with playwright Mashuq Mushtaq Deen

Posted in Uncategorized on August 16th, 2017 by Nell

Page 73 Summer Residency group. Photo by Page 73.

I recently had the honor of participating as a guest artist in Page 73‘s week-long Summer Residency on the Yale campus in New Haven, CT, workshopping a wonderful new play by Mashuq Mushtaq Deen with the all-star team of director Jessi Hill and actors Moe Angelos, Isabel Arraiza, Maya Sharpe, and Jade Wu. We lived and worked alongside artists developing three other projects, sharing readings of new work and exchanging ideas over daily group dinners.

Mashuq Mushtaq Deen invited me to collaborate on his play THE BETTERMENT SOCIETY after we’d worked together in New Dramatists’ Composer-Librettist Studio last winter. We’ve written a song for voice and guitar that is threaded throughout the structure of the play and creates a musical-dramatic arc for one the three women at the center of Deen’s narrative. The song was previously workshopped as part of a reading with director Jessi Hill at New Dramatists, and will receive further development on another reading in New York City this fall. I look forward to seeing where this project leads!

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“Mabel’s Call” at University of New Mexico in 2018

Posted in Mabel's Call, performances, Uncategorized on June 21st, 2017 by Nell

The University of New Mexico Logo

I’m very honored to announce that the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque will be presenting a full-length workshop of my opera Mabel’s Call—with the full score for six soloists, chorus, and seven-piece chamber ensemble—as UNM Opera Theatre’s Fall 2018 semester production! I can’t wait to work with stage director Leslie Umphrey, music director Kristin Ditlow, and their talented students, as UNM Opera Theatre Composer-in-Residence. Performance dates TBA.

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Featured by Francesca’s for International Women’s Day

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8th, 2016 by Nell

Nell at Francesca's

National clothing boutique Francesca’s included an interview and photo shoot with me and three other women in a feature on their blog and newsletter highlighting “inspiring women” in celebration of International Women’s Day.

Reflections on an Inspiration: The Hilliard Ensemble

Posted in Uncategorized on December 20th, 2014 by Nell
The Hilliard Ensemble

The Hilliard Ensemble

As I write, The Hilliard Ensemble – the English male vocal quartet that has produced countless wonderful recordings of Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and contemporary Music – is onstage at Wigmore Hall, where they are celebrating a 40-year career and singing their final concert.

Much has been said about the Hilliard’s music and enormous legacy, but the ending of this group has caused me to reflect on what their influence has personally meant to me as a composer.

It was my encounter with the Hilliards’ recordings of new music around eight years ago that was perhaps the single biggest epiphany leading me to pursue classical training in composition and to channel my artistic efforts into concert music.

At around age 18, I found myself at a crossroads. Having independently released my one-woman-band progressive rock opus Tempus, my next steps were unclear for reasons both practical and creative. I felt that my current approach was no longer fulfilling my artistic inclinations and professional ambitions.

Although I first began listening to The Hilliard Ensemble because of my long-standing love of Early Music, it was their recordings of contemporary music that showed to me that the kinds of artistic expression I’d been seeking through other genres and methods of music making could be realized through “classical” performance practices, aesthetics, and venues. The album A Hilliard Songbook, in particular, opened up a world of possibilities to me.

The new music The Hilliard Ensemble recorded was unlike anything I’d heard. And, unlike the broad gloss of choral music, or the 19th century-derived aesthetic of modern operatic singing (both of which I have come to appreciate in their own right), there was an intense, jewel-like delicacy in the Hilliards’ singing. In one of my old favorites among their interpretations of newly-composed music, Stephen Hartke’s Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain, every note, rhythm, and gesture emerges in sharp relief; every opportunity for expression is captured and realized, born out of a tremendous sensitivity to text, line, and harmony.

Their performances were immaculate yet intimate; technical, yet seemingly effortless; overwhelmingly beautiful but, above all, utterly human. They blended their voices in a way that was both balanced yet individualistic, taking full advantage of the inherent transparency of the small ensemble sound. Whenever I have listened to this group, I hear not only “The Hilliard Ensemble” but the perfectly allied voices of David James, Rogers Covey-Crump, Steven Harrold (or John Potter), and Gordon Jones, plus the ineffable ambience that the combination of those voices produces.

Although I had certainly experienced classical music before hearing The Hilliard Ensemble, through their recordings I began to realize that contemporary concert music might be “my” music.

It was with all of this ringing in my ears that in 2007 I wrote a 12-minute setting of Saint Augustine for solo soprano, countertenor, tenor, and bass, titled Memory (listen to an excerpt). This was my first completed composition that was 1) fully notated, 2) envisioned for classically trained performers, and which 3) didn’t involve drum set and/or guitar! I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to record this work with top-notch singers in NYC (members of Lionheart, et al).

This recording went into my artistic portfolio and helped me to secure spots and scholarships in several composition programs (including New England Conservatory, where I went on to pursue my Bachelor of Music). Now, seven years later, I’ve completed a Master of Music at New York University and produced compositions and performances for chamber ensembles, orchestra, multimedia, and voice, including a staged one-act monodrama for tenor, The Coming of Spring, .

As The Hilliard Ensemble ends its long career this evening, I’m faced with the knowledge that I’ll never have the opportunity of fulfilling my “bucket list” dream of composing a work to be performed by this group. However, while contemplating the pivotal influence that the Hilliards had on my path, I renew my hope that I might someday have an opportunity to revisit writing for small vocal ensemble and continue following the inspiration of this group in future, unforeseen ways.

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Recording of “Symphony No. 1”

Posted in Uncategorized on January 4th, 2013 by Nell

I was honored to be selected for the New York University Orchestra composer reading and recording session on November 19. The student orchestra had a brief rehearsal and run-through of the second movement of my Symphony No. 1, led by David Rosenmeyer, conductor.

You can listen to the recording on my website, alongside the reading of the first movement of the symphony from last spring by the New England Conservatory Philharmonia.

Listen to Symphony No. 1, first and second movements

Two more movements of this four-movement symphony have not yet been recorded.

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Going to NYU Steinhardt for my Master of Music!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25th, 2012 by Nell

I am very happy to announce that, with funding from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (see this post), this fall I will begin a two-year Master of Music in Music Composition program at NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions located in the heart of New York City. NYU Steinhardt offers a hybrid conservatory and university setting where performers and researchers work alongside each other and composers are encouraged to develop interdisciplinary collaborations with choreographers, visual artists, writers, filmmakers, and scholars in other departments at NYU. In addition to the concert music composition program, directed by the wonderful composer Julia Wolfe (founding member of the legendary Bang On a Can collective), Steinhardt offers high-caliber study in composition for film and multimedia.

The composition faculty includes Julia Wolfe, Ron Sadoff, David Spear, Ira Newborn, Michael Gordon, Justin Dello Joio, and Herschel Garfein, among many others. As a first-year graduate student, I will receive a performance of a new string quartet by the internationally renowned JACK Quartet in a public New York City venue, in addition to opportunities for student performances. I am thrilled to be able to take advantage of the many opportunities that NYU will provide, not least of which will be getting a head start in developing ties within the music and arts community in New York.