» Chamber/Solo Pieces

Choral/Vocal

You Dream in Beauty (2018)

text by Fraser Nixon

mezzo-soprano, tenor, acoustic guitar, piano, violin, cello

6 min.

You Dream in Beauty was selected as the winning proposal for a new piece, in a composition contest sponsored by Erato Ensemble, a Vancouver-based art song/chamber music ensemble. The piece was conceived as a modern reinterpretation of Luys de Narváez’s Cancion del Emperador, originally written for vihuela, in 1538. Its melodic material is reworked and reimagined here with an expanded instrumentation (two voices, guitar, piano, violin, and cello), and set to a poem written in villanelle form—the villanelle form being something that originated roughly around the same time as the Cancion del Emperador was composed. The poem was written specifically as text for this new piece, by Vancouver-based author Fraser Nixon.

You Dream in Beauty received its premiere by Erato Ensemble, at the Orpheum Annex, Vancouver, Canada, on May 26th, 2018.

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You dream in beauty
on the western shore
knitting labyrinths
of raveled sleep
I pass in silence through
A stranger’s door

& when you rise, my love
(whom I adore)
what music will you bring
from rivers deep?
You dream in beauty
on the western shore

Here, at harvest, when
what’s sown must reap
the rich man eats his own poor brother
for god is good
& life is cheap
I pass in silence through
a stranger’s door

They who only want to take
will be forever taking more
But love is free to give
& forever ours to keep
You dream in beauty
on the western shore

Where were you—walking slipshod
on some farther western shore?
Your footsteps disappearing
in retreating oceansweep
I pass in silence
through a stranger’s door

Red suns leap over mountaintops
bright as wild lion’s roar
rains fall upon us all
darkened seas
beneath dead moons
who never weep

We dream in beauty on a stranger shore
We pass in silence through the western door

Fraser Nixon (1976- )

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Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://musiccentre.ca/node/152283

 

Watch a video of the premiere performance here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or, listen on Soundcloud here:

P’tites chansons d’amour (2014)

mezzo-soprano, bass clarinet, violin, cello, harp

8 min.

song cycle

I. L’on revient toujours (text: Charles-Guillaume Étienne)
II. Maîtresse, embrasse-moi (text: Pierre de Ronsard)
III. Rossignol du vert bocage (text: trad. French-Canadian)

 

P’tites chansons d’amour is a miniature song cycle, conceived as something simple, pure, and folk-like. The three songs are loosely bound together by the common theme of love— which is of course anything but pure or simple. The text was taken from three different French authors: Charles-Guillaume Étienne (1778-1845), Pierre de Ronsard (1524-85), and the third by an unknown early French Canadian. The text follows the remembrance of a first love, the passion of lovers, and eventually the bittersweetness of leaving a lover.

This work received its premiere on March 24, 2011 (in a previous version, before a violin part was added), at the Sonic Boom Festival in Vancouver, Canada.

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/122196

 

From the Ninth Elegy (2008)

SSSAAATTTBBB (12-part chamber choir)

5 min. 30 sec.

text by Rainer Maria Rilke; translated by Graham Good

 

The inspiration for this piece came in equal parts from the 1987 Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire (Der Himmel Über Berlin), and from my maternal grandmother, Gudrun Joensen, who passed away in 2006. Wings of Desire appealed to me in its imagery and thematic use of angels existing alongside “earthly” beings; the film is based on the writings of poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). The text of my piece is taken from Rilke’s Ninth Duino Elegy, which speaks of the transience of being “earthly”, and yet that the fact of having existed once on this earth is irrevocable. Ever since my grandmother passed away, I had been looking for an opportunity to incorporate her essence somehow into one of my compositions. She was a very gentle person, hence the whispered, hushed quality of the beginning of the piece. The very end of the piece uses a quotation of a Danish lullaby she used to sing. From the Ninth Elegy was written specifically for musica intima (12-voice conductorless chamber choir), and given its premiere on March 21st, 2009, as part of Vancouver Pro Musica’s Sonic Boom Festival, at the Western Front, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.  It was also performed by DaCapo Chamber Choir, in Kitchener, ON, on February 27th, 2010, and by the Vancouver Chamber Choir (with guest conductor Michael Zaugg), on April 20th, 2018.

 

But because being here means so much, and because
all of the transient things that are here
seem to need us…
They need us- us, the most transient.Once
for each thing, just once. Once and no more.
Just once for us too… But having been
earthly just this once, even though
it was only once, seems irrevocable.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), translated by Graham Good

 

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/32602

In the Grass (2005)

SSSAAA women's choir

6 min. 30 sec.

Face downward on the grass in reverie
I found how cool and sweet
Are the green blooms that often thoughtlessly
I tread beneath my feet.

In this strange mimic wood where grasses lean–
Elf trees untouched of bark–
I heard the hum of insects, saw the sheen
Of sunlight framing dark,

And felt with thoughts I cannot understand
And know not how to speak,
A daisy reaching up its little hand
To lay it on my cheek.

Ethelwyn Wetherald (1857-1940)

 

La banqueroute (2005)

TTBB men's choir, plus two tenor soloists

7 min.

text- traditional French-Canadian

 

A Light exists in Spring (2004)

SSAATTBB mixed choir

6 min.

This piece takes its text from a poem of the same name by 19th century American poet, Emily Dickinson. It draws upon the ideas of prismic light and colour– light waves, as well as the idea of sound waves, in the form of bell-sounds created by the human voice.

“At a suitable distance, church bells could be powerfully evocative, for the strident noises of their clappers are lost and they are given a legato phrasing which wind currents or water will modulate dynamically… Perhaps no sound benefits more from distance and atmosphere.” -Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, from his book, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1977).

 

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period–
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the formula of sound
It passes and we stay–

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

 

Premiered by Phoenix Chamber Choir (directed by Ramona Luengen), at Queens Avenue United Church, New Westminster, B.C., Canada, on April 16, 2005.

 

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/32147

 

A Vagabond Song (2003)

SATB mixed choir

This piece was based upon a poem of the same name by Canadian maritime poet, Bliss Carman. It is a celebration of the vibrant colours and free-spirited feeling that the autumn season can evoke:

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood.
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir:
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill aflame
She calls each vagabond by name.

Bliss Carman (1861-1929)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sheet music is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/34109

 

Acquainted With the Night (2003)

TTBB men's choir

3 min. 45 sec.

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

 

 

The Brain (2002)

tenor voice, bass clarinet, piano

6 min. 40 sec.

‘The Brain’ was written for tenor voice, bass clarinet, and piano, with text based on a poem of the same name, by American poet, Emily Dickinson. It was premiered at Simon Fraser University Theatre (Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada), in March 2003.

“The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—

The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
As Sponges—Buckets—do—

The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—”

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Sheet music for this piece is available through the Canadian Music Centre:

http://www.musiccentre.ca/node/146770