Michael Davis: Peace In Your Heart

Publisher | choral music,christmas (secular),men's,mixed,uu,winter solstice | Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

peace
It’s the first full week of October! Most choruses have already started their fall rehearsal season, many in anticipation of an upcoming holiday concert this December. Some of those choruses may still be figuring out their program… and that’s where this blog tends to come in handy! 🙂

YRM put out holiday samplers earlier this summer featuring all of our newest publications. This blog can go even further, however, in giving you a little additional insight to some of those pieces.

To start… I’d like to introduce you to a new YRM writer, Michael Davis, and his recently published Peace In Your Heart (A Holiday Carol). This vibrant, up-tempo work has a touch of jazz attitude, and offers a positive message for the holiday season.

Michael shared the following thoughts about composing this piece:

I wrote Peace In Your Heart for the 2008 holiday carol competition sponsored by the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus. The theme was “peace” and I didn’t want to write the slow, pretty song with a flute solo that I imagined people would expect from me (I’m a flutist, LOL). I thought that there would already plenty of those kinds of songs on the program and that something with a little more attitude and bite would have a better chance of being selected.

My plan worked. It won, and they sang it more beautifully than I could ever imagine. Some people even told me it was their favorite song on the program (no small compliment with some of the master works the chorus sang on that concert).

I wanted to convey the message that embracing diversity could be a path to inner peace, but I didn’t want to preach. I think I achieved that by asking questions instead of issuing statements. Hopefully, I wasn’t too subtle. Above all I wanted to write a fun song. If it doesn’t make people move and smile, then I’d be very disappointed.

By the way, it looks a lot harder than it actually is because of the jazz/blues influence. One guy in the chorus told me it “scared” him when he first saw it, but the words flow with the music very well and when he figured it out it was a piece of cake.

I hope to see a video one day with lots of diversity and hilarious costumes.

Peace In Your Heart (A Holiday Carol) is available in both SATB and TTBB voicings (click on the links to check out the first and last few pages of each score as PDFs).

Listen to Michael DavisPeace In Your Heart (A Holiday Carol) as performed by the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus:
[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/davis.michael/peace.in.your.heart.mp3]

Randi Grundahl Rexroth: My True Love Hath My Heart

Publisher | a cappella,choral music,composers,famous poets,love,men's,secular,women's | Thursday, June 4th, 2009

randi-rexroth
When YRM’s submission review committee first looked at Randi Grundahl Rexroth‘s My True Love Hath My Heart… we knew we had to publish it! The piece is a lovely and playful madrigal (a cappella) with a charming text written by Sir Philip Sydney, one of the Elizabethan Age’s most prominent figures.

What makes the way that Rexroth adapted the text particularly special is its ability to accommodate a variety of gender references. My True Love Hath My Heart is composed for either women’s or men’s chorus (download the first three pages of each score as a PDF by clicking on the links), with each voicing able to use either “his” or “her” pronouns. This flexibility allows a chorus to express themselves precisely as they’d like!

Randi shares the following story about the inspiration for the piece:

“I needed to give my boyfriend a Christmas gift, but I was not able to buy him much. After speaking with my mother, who is a composer herself, she sent me the Philip Sydney text. She had tried to set herself, but had come up short. I remember her saying “I wanted to compose a contemporary madrigal, but I just couldn’t hear it”. As soon as I received the words I heard this piece.

I wrote the song as a solo and recorded it as my gift. A month later, I arranged the piece to be an SSAA arrangement that would be used in our wedding. The choir that sang My True Love Hath My Heart was made up of students from the schools where we teach and was touted as a highlight of the ceremony.”

Randi Grundahl Rexroth’s My True Love Hath My Heart:
[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/rexroth.randi/my-true-love-hath-my-heart.mp3]

Randi Driscoll: What Matters (2002)

Publisher | choral music,composers,gay & lesbian,men's,mixed,secular,Topics,women's | Monday, July 21st, 2008

Two performances of “What Matters” by Randi Driscoll: the first by the composer (YouTube video), the second by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (an audio file:click the play button).


“What Matters”
Words, music, and performance by Randi Driscoll

This is an arrangement by Kevin Robison available in three voicings sung here is the TTBB version.

[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/driscoll.randi/what.matters.ttbb.mp3]

What Matters (2002)
COMPOSER :: Randi Driscoll
ARRANGER :: Kevin Robison
INSTR :: chorus and piano
DURATION :: 04:00
YR2R11v1 Full score (TTBB) $1.85
YR2R11v2 Full score (SATB) $1.85
YR2R11v3 Full score (SSAA) $1.85

Lyrics

you were the brightest angel heaven had ever seen you walked in with a story to tell and ten thousand tongues to scream and you said doesn’t your heart beat the same as mine haven’t i told you a thousand times isn’t the air in my lungs the same air you breathe so who cares whose arms i’m all wrapped up in who cares whose eyes i see myself in who cares who i dream of who cares who i love heaven help me for i am lost what a price my love did cost but here i am standing strong and i am free and didn’t we share the same sunrise and sleep in the same moonlight isn’t the blood in my veins the same blood you bleed so when i die and they lay my body down the peace that i will find is the peace that brings you all around doesn’t my mother cry like everyone my father grieve for his lonely son isn’t my rainbow a little brighter because so who cares whose arms i’m all wrapped up in who cares whose eyes i see myself in who cares who i dream of no it doesn’t matter who i dream of ’cause in the end it only matters that i was loved and am loved love has no face

Copyright 2000 New Light Media

Notes by Randi Driscoll:

When I first heard the story of what happened to Matthew Shepard, I was saddened and outraged. I wanted to kick in my television, rip out my heart and cry all at the same time. I was horrified at what humans were capable of. However, I then remember seeing his parents, outside in the rain, shortly after his funeral. I was speechless and stricken by their sense of compassion and decency. I clearly remember the way the Shepards told us to pray for Matt and not harbor any feelings of hatred for his attackers. I also remember clearly how they described their son as a man who would not want us to hate…because Matthew loved and accepted everyone. Their grace moved me to tears.

So with that, I went into my bedroom and wrote a song about Matthew and the love he represents. I planned on sending a taped copy to his parents, as a form of my own personal condolences.

Later that month, however, I was playing a show at Borders Books and Music in San Diego. I was thinking of Matt a lot that day and for some reason, I chose to sing Matt’s song (which I hadn’t really even finished yet). What happened next was amazing. Men and women of all ages came up to me in tears and expressed how they had been so moved by what happened to Matthew. A mother of two small children reached for my hand and cried. A man came up to me and spoke through his tears. People clutched one another, crying. It was then that I realized how Matthew’s story had touched so many others

And then there was Dana. Dana LeeWood is another musician from San Diego. She was performing that evening as well. When Dana heard the song, she began to sob and immediately began to tell the audience how passionately she felt about this incident. It seemed Dana’s brother had taken his own life, due to the pressures he felt being a gay man in today’s world. Dana encouraged me to record the song. She pursued me for several weeks, bringing people to shows and talking about Matt’s story.

Finally in January, Dana amazed me by giving me some free studio time she had won at Studio West in San Diego. With the help of many musicians who shared their time and talents, and a small company in LA, we were able to record this song.

Dana hoped to share the song with many people by selling the CD single. We agreed that the only way to do this was to have all of the proceeds from the single go to anti-hate crime organizations: i.e.. The Matthew Shepard Foundation.

We decided to release only a limited pressing. We chose not to do a major media press release in hopes of maintaining the integrity of the project, but rather hold a small fund raiser at a local venue in town, Twiggs coffeehouse. Imagine our surprise when on March 5th, 1999, the intimate coffeehouse was packed to the gills with people. Local citizens and musicians came to help support the cause and to perform. A local publication, Slamm magazine, took out a full page ad on the benefit, and Tracy Page Presents donated prizes for a raffle. The evening was so beautiful. It brought me to tears to see the room packed with people who cared so very much.

That same evening we informed the audience about anti-hate crime organizations and made web site addresses available for them to take home. We were able to sell over over 200 CDs that evening alone. I can remember driving home with a feeling of hope that I hadn’t had in a while.

Through my contacts with anti-hate crime organizations, I was invited to meet with Judy Shepard on Easter Sunday in Laramie, Wyoming, to speak with her and share Matthew’s song. I sat next to a woman who had, only six months earlier, lost her son to a vicious hate crime. Yet, there was no hate that I could see. She spoke of her son with a warm smile….and with grace…always grace. She seemed determined to have his death not be in vain as she spoke about her hopes for a better tomorrow.

Along with Judy, there were many other angels that weekend in Laramie. Gathered outside of the courthouse in Laramie for a press conference in support of active measures against hate were members of GLSEN, Cathy Renna of GLAAD, Valerie Baker-Easley of LAMBDA , Marlene Hines of the North West Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, Jerry Switzer from the B.E.A.R. Foundation and many of Matthew’s friends. People standing together on common ground, grieving the loss of Matthew and praying for a better tomorrow. People breathing the same air…under the same Wyoming sky.

Since that time almost two years ago, I have traveled to over sixty cities in the USA and Canada performing the benefit single at charity events, pride festivals and concerts. I have traveled to several high schools and colleges with New Light Media as part of a program featuring the screening of the documentary Journey to a Hate- Free Millennium. I have also appeared as Judy Shepard’s guest in Oakland and the Millennium March on Washington.

I thank God for what this experience has taught me. I thank him for the numerous e-mails that I have received from people who have heard the song. People who have chosen to share their most intimate details with me. Stories of love, acceptance and hope. I also thank God for the people I’ve met at shows. I thank God for the woman who lost her friend to a suicide, for the man who received a copy of the song as an Easter gift and for the strangers who hug me with tears in their eyes and say thank you.

And I thank God for the Shepards. I have often said that this work is the most important work I have ever done….and this song, .the most important one I have ever written. I have seen angels, who believe as I do, that love is unconditional…that love has no face.

Rosenbaum: Flames So Bright at Chanukah

Publisher | a cappella,choral music,hanukkah,men's,mixed,women's | Saturday, October 13th, 2007

flame
Five years ago composer Dennis Rosenbaum was browsing through his published titles at YRM, and realized he hadn’t written any Hanukkah music. He decided to rectify the situation and Flames So Bright at Chanukah is the end result. Yelton Rhodes Music is pleased to bring this piece out this year!

Dennis wrote us about the process of composing this work:

I wanted to write something original, and realized that I needed to write my own text for it. Since I do write poetry, I was pretty sure that I could come up with suitable lyrics. I had the melody in mind, and came up with words to fit it that told the Hanukkah story. The end result is a piece with a Jewish flavor to the melody that tells the Hanukkah story in a very concise manner. It is short enough to allow for great versatility in programming for a wide variety of performances.

This piece is a straight-forward, melodic work intended to be sung a cappella. It is available for men’s chorus, mixed chorus and women’s chorus (just click on the links to view a partial score PDF of each voicing).

Flames So Bright at Chanukah (as performed by Madrigalia, Rochester’s Chamber Singers)

[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/rosenbaum.dennis/flames.so.bright.mp3]

Karlan Judd: What a Gay ‘Ol Christmas Tree

Publisher | choral music,christmas (secular),composers,gay & lesbian,humor,men's,mixed | Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

gay ol tree

For those who celebrate Christmas, there’s the fond memory of being kids and giving Santa a wish list of items they’d like to see under the tree come Christmas morning. But why should kids get all the fun? Why should this experience be relegated to our pre-pubescent years only?

Composer Karlan Judd and lyricist Joshua Ravetch had this idea in mind when asked to create a piece for the West Coast Singers, to be performed on their winter concert. Imagine being at an holiday party for adults and someone asks you to share your Christmas wish list. You do so with gleeful joy… just as if you were a kid. Now, imagine that party with a queer twist, and you have What a Gay ‘Ol Christmas Tree.

Adapted from a traditional melody, the mixed chorus version of this piece was new to the YRM catalog last year. But Karlan Judd recently created a version specifically adapted for men’s chorus as well. It’s “hot off the printing press” this week! You can peruse the first and last few pages (as downloadable PDFs) of both the men’s chorus and the mixed chorus versions by clicking on the links.

Karlan composed and arranged two other pieces for the same West Coast Singers concert which are published by Yelton Rhodes: This Time Next Year (based on Auld Lang Syne but with a contemporary text) and The Twelve Gays of Christmas (a traditional favorite also with a queer twist!).

What a Gay ‘Ol Christmas Tree (as performed by the West Coast Singers)

[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/judd.karlan/gay.ol.christmas.mp3]

Larry Moore: Likhtelekh (Light the Lamps)

Publisher | a cappella,choral music,hanukkah,men's,mixed | Monday, July 30th, 2007

hanukkah lamp

With an extensive ouevre of arrangements and orchestrations of Christmas music under his belt, Larry Moore decided to try his hand at Hanukkah music. He was asked by the Milken Archive to do an arrangement of Likhtelekh, a traditional Hanukkah melody, for mixed chorus. It was recorded with the original Yiddish text by the Coro Hebraeico. A few years later he decided to revisit the piece. Moore felt the text was fine, but wanted an English translation to make the piece accessible to a broader market. The trick was in finding a translation that he felt worked… and after two failed attempts he ultimately contacted Roger Bourland, publisher of Yelton Rhodes Music, who recommended Gary Bachlund, another accomplished writer and composer in the YRM “stable.”

Moore was delighted with Bachlund’s translation! Here are a few lines from the text:

Light the lamps and wonders tell. Light the lamps that hearts may swell, and dark days dispel.

Light the lamps of well-won peace. Light the lamps as battles cease. May this light increase.

Ah, Freedom won is worth such price, with God’s help which did suffice, worth each sacrifice.

Light these lamps that, as they burn, we may once again yet learn for liberty to yearn.

Moore also reworked the arrangement for men’s chorus. You can view a PDF of the first four pages of score for the SATB voicing and the TTBB voicing by clicking on the links.

Likhtelekh (Light the Lamps), as recorded by the Coro Hebraeico with the original Yiddish text.

[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/moore.larry/likhtelekh.mp3]

Paul Leavitt: Oseh Shalom

Publisher | choral music,composers,hanukkah,men's,mixed | Friday, July 13th, 2007

oseh shalom

The office at YRM has received several inquiries regarding our newest offerings of Hanukkah-appropriate music. So, in response to their requests, Paul Leavitt‘s Oseh Shalom has been selected for today’s blog entry (with more Hanukkah-related pieces to be featured in the near future).

Paul intended for this music to be a prayer to God to make peace for all of Israel and for all of us. Its message is one of increasing importance in the midst of escalating violence throughout the world. The composer himself tells how the piece came about:

When the director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, Jeff Buhrman, asked me to write a commission piece for their 2003 holiday concert, I was needless to say flattered. The stipulation was that the piece had to be in Hebrew, and needed to be written for men’s chorus and brass quintet. There is a dearth of men’s choral music in Hebrew with brass accompaniment, I’ll admit. As the US was gearing up for war in Iraq, Jeff suggested we go “the peace route”. “Any suggestions?” I asked. He said, “How about the text to ‘Oseh Shalom’?”. “I love the text, but that’s kind of like rewriting ‘Let it be’ by the Beattles with a brand new melody. It’s one of the most popular songs in Hebrew in the world”. I continued to ponder the idea as the piece started to assemble itself in my inner ear.

Oseh Shalom is available for men’s chorus and mixed chorus, and YRM offers piano-vocal scores in addition to the full scores for chorus and brass quintet (2 trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba). Click on the links to view the first six pages of the piano-vocal score for each voicing.

Oseh Shalom (as recorded by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC)

[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/leavitt.paul/oseh.shalom.mp3]

Steve Milloy: Children, Go Where I Send Thee

Publisher | choral music,christmas (sacred),composers,men's,mixed | Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

exeter

Steve Milloy is one of YRM’s most popular arrangers. It’s because he always brings a little something extra to everything he does… there’s typically some kind of twist that one may not expect. Children, Go Where I Send Thee is a perfect example of his exceptional talents as an arranger. A traditional African-American spiritual, this piece gives a count-down not unlike The Twelve Days of Christmas, where each number has a specific Biblical reference. It’s a piece meant for Christmas because the “one” is the “little bitty baby born in Bethlehem.”

Steve’s extremely clever arrangement was inspired by 40’s big band sounds, most notably Woody Herman’s Four Brothers in which a quartet is featured in front of the band. So, if you’ve think you’ve heard pretty much all the stylistic settings of African-American spirituals possible… you better hold on until you’ve heard this arrangement! It begins with a bang with a fast big band swing, and the energy is non-stop until the very end.

Children, Go Where I Send Thee is available for two voicings, one for TTBB quartet, men’s chorus and piano, and one for SATB quartet, mixed chorus and piano (click on the links to view the first six pages of score as a PDF).

And if you’re hungry for more, please check out Steve’s other unique settings of African-American spirituals, Mary Had a Baby and Behold that Star!

Children, Go Where I Send Thee (as recorded by the London Gay Men’s Chorus)

[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/milloy.steve/children.go.where.mp3]

David Frank Long: A New December

Publisher | choral music,composers,men's,mixed,winter season,winter solstice,women's | Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

for new december

Los Angeles is experiencing a heat-wave right now, and it seems odd to be writing a blog entry about a piece called A New December right before the Fourth of July! But seeing how the summer months are indeed the time when many choruses are planning ahead for their holiday concerts and making their programming decisions, it felt right to feature this particular work today.

With both original words and music by David Frank Long, this piece expresses many sentiments associated with the Winter Solstice. In particular, it addresses the subtle ironies of the season… that although it is a time when…

days are shorter now,

darker the sky,

colder blows the wind,

as nature sleeps all around us

… it’s the turning point of the year, marking a fresh start as the cycle of life begins again.

It also gives a nod to other holiday celebrations, noting that December is a time when people in general are celebrating light and beauty, providing a tie-in with both Christmas and Hanukkah festivities.

For it’s a new December!

And even though it’s winter,

There’s a brighter hope,

A deeper joy,

And a warmer love, love, love.

It almost seems like springtime!

The chorus sings in colorful, bold harmonies above a gentle, flowing piano accompaniment.

A New December is available for mixed chorus, women’s chorus and men’s chorus. Click on each voicing to view the first four pages of score as a PDF. The recording is of the voicing for TTB, featuring the Tenor & Bass sections of the West Coast Singers.
[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/long.david.f/a.new.december.mp3]

Neal Richardson: Santa, Won’t You Please Come Back

Publisher | choral music,christmas (secular),composers,humor,men's | Friday, June 29th, 2007

Santa cap

Santa has a big job ahead of him on Christmas Eve, what with all those toys to deliver. It must be a long night of anticipation for Mrs. Claus as well. But what if Santa didn’t come home the next morning? How would his wife feel… especially if she happened to be pining for a little attention from her man?

Neal Richardson‘s original composition, Santa, Won’t You Please Come Back, with lyrics by John Pingree, addresses that issue in a hilarious way! Written for soprano solo, men’s chorus and piano, this delightful piece proceeds almost as a call and response between the chorus and the soloist, whose lines are to be sung in a sexy, slow, bluesy style.

Santa, won’t you please come back!

You left a redhot mama in an igloo shack.

I sit here wondrin’ where the heck you’ve been.

I finished off the egg nog, started in on the gin.

The elves are bangin’ on my door each night.

They ain’t the Seven Dwarves, and I ain’t Snow White.

Without my sugar Santy, I shiver in our shanty.

Santa, won’t you please come back!

Mixed choruses shouldn’t count this one out… just have your men do a number on their own and spotlight one of your best sopranos. This piece offers a lot of opportunities to really ham up the performance and make your audience laugh!
View the first six pages of score here.

Santa, Won’t You Please Come Back (Gateway Men’s Chorus featuring Christine Brewer)

[audio:http://yrmusic.com/audio/richardson.neal/YR3R11.santa.mp3]
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