Sojourner’s Song (Mari Esabel Valverde, 2020)
Composer and singer Mari Esabel Valverde (b. 1987) has been commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), GALA Choruses, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and others. Her music has been featured at conventions and festivals such as Chorus America, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Association of British Choral Directors, and TMEA.
In 2016, she was a featured composer at GALA Choruses’ quadrennial festival, where her Our Phoenix was performed by a cluster of ten ensembles from the US, Canada, and Europe. Her works are published by earthsongs, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Walton Music, and self-published.
A translator, she is fluent in French and Spanish and progressing in Brazilian Portuguese and Swedish. She has translated Messiaen’s cantata La Mort du Nombre and Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, among other vocal works and documents, from French to English.
An educator, she taught voice at the high school level for four years in Texas, where she sang with the Dallas Symphony Chorus, the Dallas Chamber Choir, and Vox Humana. Her students, many of whom have participated in All-State Choirs and State Solo Competition, are represented in a dozen collegiate music programs in-state and beyond.
Ms. Valverde holds degrees from St. Olaf College, the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France, and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Her teachers include Tim Mahr, Justin Merritt, Philip Lasser, Narcis Bonet, David Conte, and David Garner. She is a member of ASCAP, ACDA, and the American Composers Forum.
The Tree House (Beth Denisch, 2017)
A commission happens in stages: bubbling up with general thoughts, fine tuning ideas, discovering inspired text and finding a talented and willing composer/partner, all resulting in a specific artistic creation that is rehearsed and loved and birthed. For the text for this commission, we turned to the poetry of Kathleen Jamie, one of Scotland’s most lauded contemporary poets. Ms. Jamie has been described as writing musical poems that attend to the intersection of landscape, history, gender, and language. Her work reflects the mystical connection between the natural world and the landscape of the human soul.
I have known Beth Denisch for a number of years and have had the privilege to conduct her music in the past. As a composer, Beth is thoughtful, brilliant and sure in her approach. She is also a dedicated and inspiring teacher at Berklee College of Music. Here, for us, she has created a work of nuance, delicacy, ferocity and utter beauty.
The Tree House is structurally a three-movement work, based on three of Jamie’s poems from her 2004 volume, The Tree House. In “Landfall,” the poet is walking, being attentive, and becomes off balance, a ‘single ragged swallow / veering towards the earth.’ Poetry of the ear becomes poetry of inner-ear imbalance, tilting towards the larger question, ‘can we allow ourselves to fail’? “The Orchard” is one complete sentence, broken down into five unrhymed tercets. Jamie delineates a netherworld where nothing is quite what it seems. In “Alder,” she proposes a way of living that recognizes the earth as home to many different states of awareness and means of engagement. The poet asks, ‘won’t you teach me / a way to live / on this damp ambiguous earth?’
Beth Denisch magically renders these alchemical texts; they are perfectly paced, lovely, radiant, challenging, and measured.
In May 2017, the Concord Women’s Chorus premiered The Tree House in Concord, Massachusetts. The following month, the chorus performed The Tree House at St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh with both composer and poet in the audience.
— Jane Ring Frank
Concord Fragments (Libby Larsen, 2010)
Libby Larsen (b. 1950) is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and 18 operas. Grammy Award winning and widely recorded, including over 50 CDs of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.
As a vigorous, articulate advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973 Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum , now the American Composer’s Forum, which has become an invaluable aid for composers in a transitional time for American arts. A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress and recipient of the Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Larsen has also held residencies with the California Institute of the Arts, the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, the Philadelphia School of the Arts, the Cincinnati Conservatory, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony and the Colorado Symphony.
About Concord Fragments
Description and review: “Concord Women’s Chorus Celebrates 50 Years with Regional Women Composers, Poets”, The Boston Musical Intelligencer (May 15, 2010)