Huw Morgan writes:
Part of our creed at Firehead is not just to create new music, but to be advocates for new music through our performances during the liturgy and in concerts and recitals. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts as I prepare for a recital on 31 March at St Peter’s Cathedral in Hamilton, New Zealand.
For this concert, being as it is in the season of Lent I have selected three works from the Firehead Lent Anthology – Frederick Frahm’s Seelenbraütigam (page 34), Michael Bonaventure’s Interlude V (p. 28), and my own Hymn Prelude on “Herzliebster Jesu” (p.21). You may see preview scores of each work via the link to the anthology above, on the pages indicated. A recording of Michael’s work is available here, and a recording of my own is here.
Frederick Frahm writes:
In the late spring of 2016, I was visiting the UK for a series of concerts and events that were part of the Firehead Editions Summer Festival. I was most fortunate to be hosted by Robin and Alison Walker for the first part of my stay. They offered me the comforts of home and friendship, great food as always, they helped me cope with an awful bout of jetlag (it does not get easier as you get older…), and best of all were gracious to include me on various road-trips to lovely and meaningful and non tourist-y places. I enjoyed that so very much as the English countryside around Cambridge and the seaside around Suffolk were places I had yet to see.
Andrea della Robbia, tondo con l’Agnus Dei dell’Arte della Lana, c.1487 Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Firenze
Frederick Frahm writes:
In early 2017, I was commissioned to write a concert aria on the Agnus Dei text from the Mass. The project came from the Festa della Cultura-San Giovanni Battista in Florence, Italy, which annually commemorates the feast of John the Baptist (the patron saint of Florence). Through a series of encounters with art, music, sculpture, and lectures, festival participants engage with Italian and Anglo-Florentine artists to gain a deeper understanding of the synchronicity between creativity and spirituality.
The choice of text for the commission is significant for several reasons. First, Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi… (Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world) comes from the Gospel of John at the point where the Baptist encounters the Christ who has come to be baptized (John 1:29). So, obviously a pivotal point in the gospel, and one where ‘the Great Forerunner’ is most prominently featured.
Composed for and named after the Bosque School in Albuquerque, NM, Frederick Frahm’s Bosque Songs are collected into three books of new choral works for school choirs. The project became a collaborative effort in the Fall of 2016 between composer and conductor Joanna Carlson Hart in the creation of new repertoire for young singers.
Specific parameters for the project included: a focus on settings of texts by American women poets (you can read all of the poems here), music intended for a variety of ensembles with a careful attention to the range and tessitura available to early teenage choristers, and expanded accompaniments for some of the settings that would feature parts for string players in order to engage the fine young orchestral performers studying at the school. The first and second books include setting that run 2 to 3 minutes in duration. In book 3, the settings tend to run 6 minutes each. The set as a whole has a performance duration of over 30 minutes. Read more
“As the conditions of life become more and more hard, mechanical and impersonal, music must bring ceaselessly to those who love it its spiritual violence and its courageous reactions. With our music we share the common desire to be satisfied with nothing less than sincerity, generosity, and good faith. We aim to promote a living music.”
La Jeune France: Messiaen, Lesur, Baudrier, and Jolivet (1936)
Organ music forms a major portion of the catalog at Firehead Editions. At this point (February of 2017), in the midst of our humble beginnings as a collective of professional composers choosing to market our works together, we have posted more than 40 new works for organ.
A significant range of output exists between Huw Morgan, Frederick Frahm, and Michael Bonaventure. There are works that are somewhat conservative to markedly expressionist, from architecturally rigid to minimally serene, and works that feature registration palettes from the exotic and colorful use of mutations to the austere and plaintive song of a vocal 8’ Principale.
Each of our composers has contributed concert works, chorale preludes, music for liturgy, partitas, fantasies, etc. and much of this music has been composed in just the last few years. These works are written by organists for organists with a keen sense of what’s possible in terms of registration, articulation, choreography, and all this in the context of a given acoustic in which the instrument stands.
Consider just a few works from the catalog: Read more
Susan and I arrived early for Mass. both being professional church musicians, we knew to anticipate the morning liturgy by getting to a seat in time to hear the prelude, and also to watch the altar staff do their thing in making ready for all. The nave was already filling with incense so the rather high and lofty clerestory windows had a haze about them like a veil that offered us a little distance from the world outside.
12 pieces of paper (small, but not too small, perhaps 2″ square)
1 pencil, sharpened
1 sheet of staff paper (10 stave is good)
Patience and fortitude
Frederick Frahm’s Winter-moon is a concert work for organ that was first inspired by a brief poem from the Beloved Stranger (1919) by Southwest American poet Witter Bynner:
From behind the black hill of night…
And soon it was silver forever
And there was no change…
Until its time came…
And its setting was as white as a corpse,
Among the flowers of dawn.
The composer writes: Bynner lived in Santa Fe for many years and knew, as I have come to learn since moving to New Mexico, that the moon in the desert sky is magnificent to behold. Its entrancing appearance varies greatly by season and the manner in which it can transform the landscape is a source of perpetual wonder. I wanted to portray the moon’s play of light which enchants those surreal nights (especially in the cold months) when the desert is anything but dormant. There is much in this music about dance and motion, and the occasional outburst keeps the music a bit on edge. Over time even the outbursts come to be expected. I found myself deeply inspired by this piece as it was taking shape. I loved the form, and the juxtaposition of contraries (very much a mode of writing for me…). When it came time for the piece to be more or less vetted (I had to see if it worked for real), I found that I would need to create a new context for the work in order for it to have the most impact.