Unpublished Texts with Choral Settings
These are poems which have been set by various composers, but for whatever reason were never published. Many of these texts appear in the anthology A Silver Thread.
BIG SKY (2013) for Ola Gjeilo
I conceived of this as the lyric to a Country song. The big sky reminds the speaker of a love now lost.
BLESSED ARE (2018) for James Eakin III
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." This blessing of Jesus is as challenging today as it was in the 1st c. and so I wrote a litany for all the many ways in which a person today can be a peacemaker.
CALLED TO REJOICE (2018) for David Dickau
A celebration of the inspirational power of music, written to honor a career of service by the composer David Dickau.
FAITH, LOVE, BEAUTY, HOPE (2011) for Tobias Forster
This poem was commissioned by the German ensemble Kammerchor I Vocalisti for the composer Tobias Forster. It was Tobias’ intent to compose a Concerto for Chorus and Jazz Piano. Naturally, acting as the orchestra, the chorus needed some text, built into the three-movement concerto form. The work was premiered in September 2011 at the amazing chor.com Messe, Kongress, Festival Forum der Chormusik in Dortmund, Germany.
THE HALLSTATT SUMMER CAROL (2018) setting by Charles Anthony Silvestri
This text and the music I composed to accompany it were conceived as a companion piece for Eric Whitacre's "The Chelsea Carol," which celebrates the Queen of Winter. In this macaronic text in German and Latin, pagan villagers welcome the forest god of high Summer. My choral setting of this carol was premiered in the village square of Hallstatt, a 7000 year old village in the Tyrolian Alps which is thought by many to be one of the oldest Celtic settlements in Europe.
HAROMANNUM (2014) for Dan Forrest
A text in a made-up language, reminiscent of Elvish, in which a lover sings a lullaby to his beloved.
HOSHANA! (2018) for Connor Koppin
A poignant text shedding light on the plight of immigrants or refugees crossing great distances to seek safety in the United States. The journey is more difficult than it seemed...
INTO THE MORNING (2010) for Ola Gjeilo
This little poem was commissioned by soprano Kira Rugen for an artsong by composer Ola Gjeilo. This was a difficult piece to write for me. I was going through some tough times personally, and I just wasn’t feeling the redemptive themes she and Ola wanted. I went through many dreary drafts. Then I remembered a passage from a gospel tune (based on Psalm 30) my late wife listened to for inspiration during her battle with cancer-”Don’t be discouraged:/ Joy comes in the morning!”. That phrase, joy comes in the morning, was inscribed on a ring my wife gave me, a gift that I did not receive until after she had died. It’s a powerful reminder of a greater purpose at work in our lives, and once again it gave me the inspiration to get through a difficult time in my life. And enabled me to write this poem.
I RISE! (2010) for Ola Gjeilo
This poem was commissioned for the Carthage College Women’s Ensemble. In this text I chose to explore different archetypes that make up a person. We are all forms of hero. Here I try to channel my inner Aragorn.
NEW YEARS CAROL (2014) for Ola Gjeilo
This text was commissioned by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus under the direction of Tim Seelig. It evokes those moments AFTER the presents are opened, after the cookies are gobbled up, as you try and put away the lights until next year. The holiday season is a wonderful time, but it is also overwhelming, over-commercialized, cold, fraught with emotional danger and unfulfilled expectations. But the wheel of the year keeps turning, returning, and we may use the opening of a New Year as an epiphany--to hold on to the things that matter, and let go of the rest.
NORTHWOODS (2016) for Ola Gjeilo
A text describing the forests of the north as they awaken in spring, written for the World Choral Fest 2016 in Kansas City.
OVER THE RIDGE (2016) for Eric Barnum
Written to commemorate the retirement of a beloved administrator of Marist College, this poem takes the long view down the Hudson Valley from the Marist campus and imagines the changing centuries and seasons of that beautiful and unique landscape.
THE PACIFIC (2006) for Costas Dafnis
This is a set of poems I composed in the Winter of 2005-2006, while on a personal retreat in San Clemente, California. I was staying on the beach for a few days by myself, just eight months after my wife died. I took out my journal and began to write, using some older material as a starting point. I found myself thinking a great deal on that trip about the possibility of moving on through grief to a new phase of my life, and the poems therefore have a melancholy quality, but also a sense of vague hope or possibility. THE PACIFIC has been set by the award-winning young composer Costas Dafnis for mixed chorus. The World Premiere of “I. Sunrise” for womens’ chorus occurred on January 25, 2008, by the Michigan State Honor Choir in Grand Rapids. For more info on Costas and/or his setting of The Pacific, click here: Costas Dafnis
THE PASTRY PRINCE (2014) and THE PUFFED-UP PRIMADONNA (2015) an opera for children for Mark Buller
This matched set of one-act operettas was commissioned by the Petrello Foundation for HGOco OperaToGo!, the educational outreach mission of the Houston Grand Opera. My task was to create an Italian folktale opera to be performed for elementary-aged children. In total, these operas had over 150 performances before perhaps 50,000 children! The Pastry Prince is a pasticcio of elements from several different traditional Italian stories, with a lot of ingredients of my own. The Puffed-Up Primadonna follows the characters of the first opera into a new adventure. I was lucky to be able to write with the gifted composer Dr. Mark Buller.
PSALM 42 (2018) for Jonathan Young
A poetic reworking of Psalm 42.
PSALM 91 (2003) for Dale Jergenson
A poetic reworking of Psalm 91.
ROSA MORIENDA (2007) set by various composers
This is a short Latin poem I wrote as a grief exercise. It speaks of my late wife and her early death. This poem is an example of the kind of creative box I like to put myself in. I like constraints of form to unlock my creative flow. So I set out to write a poem that expressed my grief, but in a highly structured, contained and subtle way. What could be more containing than using an antiquated metrical structure in a foreign language!!
ROW, RED'S MEN, ROW! (2018) for Connor Koppin
Imagine Vikings. Imagine Vikings led by Erik the Red. Imagine these Vikings leaving on a rugged longboat for the long journey to Vinland. Now imagine the sea shanty they sing while rowing... Got it? That's this piece.
THE SACRED VEIL (2019) for Eric Whitacre
A series of poems written about my relationship with my late wife Julie, her battle with ovarian cancer, and the grief I experienced as a result of her passing in 2005. This is the most intensely personal poetry I have ever written, and it evoked exquisite and heart-breaking music from composer Eric Whitacre. A recording of this work is planned for 2020. People's World magazine wrote, “The Sacred Veil may be the single most important musical contribution in our time, perhaps in any time, to a non-religious, as well as non-political—perhaps we might say non-teleological understanding of death and loss. Its length and difficulty may preclude it from inclusion in your average funeral, but to experience it in performance with 40 singers, or perhaps in recorded form, may be transformative for those whose grief, recent or deep-seated, has never completely found closure.” —People’s World
SANCTUARY (2016) for Ola Gjeilo
This poem evokes the peace one can find in the midst of a large and bustling city by stepping into the park.
THE SEASONS OF MY HEART (2011)
This text passes through the four seasons with evocative imagery, ending with a reflection on love which lasts perennially. The Korean composer Hyun Kook created a setting of this poem in 2019.
SO BRIGHT THE STAR (2017) for Ola Gjeilo
SOLI DEO GLORIA (2014) for Ols Gjeilo
STAND UP! (2018) for Gerald Gurss
A powerful social justice anthem with a Gospel flavor.
STARS WITHOUT NUMBER (2018) for Julian Bryson
THE PEACEMAKER: COLT .45 (2017) setting by Charles Anthony Silvestri
Written for the Turtle Creek Chorale, this parody of a cowboy song has a bitter anti-gun message.
REQUIEM RESPONSES (2018) for Mårten Jansson
A series of poems in response to each of the movements in the traditional Requem Mass, but from the perspective of the deceased.
TILL DEATH US DO PART (2018) for Kim Andre Arnesen
This poem is a reflection on the traditional marriage vows, but from the perspective of a spouse left behind after the death of their beloved partner.
TO SING! (2012) for Tom Vignieri
This sonnet was commissioned by the good folks at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI, to celebrate the long and fruitful career of their retiring President, F. Gregory Campbell. Working with composer Tom Vignieri, I read through many of President Campbell’s writings and addresses to the students at Carthage over the years. I came to know him as a gentle spirit and a wise mentor with great words to share. I tried to incorporate many of his wonderful images and words of wisdom into my text, as a tribute to him, and as enduring advice for those who sing them.
TUVAYHUN: BEATITUDES FOR A WOUNDED WORLD (2017) for Kim Andre Arnesen
Each of Jesus' Beatitudes from Matthew 5 is given an accompanying text--illustrating, contextualizing or personalizing it for a contemporary perspective.
TWO PINES (2015) for John Muehleisen
This poem was written for a performance in South Korea by a combined American and Korean choir. It speaks of the two Koreas in a subtle, mystical way, and expresses the hope for reconciliation and peace.
UTRUMNE EST ORNATUM (2011) for Mark Gotham and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge
This text was commissioned by the choir of Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge, as the required text for the Pritchard Kennedy Choral Composition Award, 2011 Competition. I had recently traveled to Cambridge, and had the honor of attending and participating in several chapel services. I have always loved the Anglican services, especially Evensong, and being able to experience them singing in situ was one of the greatest thrills of my life. But it occurred to me that as fancy, or as complicated our worship services may become, the spirit of God is still there, underneath all the polyphony, stained glass, exquisite carving, etc. The winner of the competition was composer Mark Gotham. His setting was performed and recorded by Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King's College, Cambridge as part of the King's 500 celebrations, 2015. Wow!
A WANDERER, I WANDER (2017) for Susan LaBarr
This poem is an English rendering of my Latin text, "Peregrinus, Peregrinor" which I wrote for Susan LaBarr. It speaks of a wanderer, and the wisdom he gains along the way.
THE WANDERING SAILOR or THE RAKE (2012) for John Armstrong
This text was commissioned by the Drake University choral program for composer John Armstrong. He sent the music already completed, a jaunty jazz waltz, and the music spoke to me right away. One line kept singing to me... “and he sailed away; he promised he would stay” which suggested a lass on the shore abandoned by a rakish sailor who promised he’d return. Did he?
WAS IT WORTH IT? (2017) setting by Charles Anthony Silvestri
Immigrating to the United States has always been difficult, no matter your origin or era of arrival. This song is from the perspective of an Irish immigrant following the Great Famine of the 1840s, trying to make a new home in this land of liberty and hardship.
WHAT IS THIS LIGHT? (2015) for Eric Barnum
A poem for the Christmas season--what is the light that lightens the darkness? The miracle of the Nativity is one of the most ineffable of mysteries.
WHEN WE LOVE (2018) for Elaine Hagenberg
This poem was written to commemorate 30 years of dedication and service to Drake University by the inimitable Aimee Beckman Collier.