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Mouthful of Forevers

Mouthful of Forevers

Mouthful of Forevers

3-movement suite for string orchestra

Commissioned by Town Hall Seattle

Premiere: June 21, 2017 by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Joshua Roman at Town Hall Seattle

Joshua Roman and I have premiered two of my pieces together (A Fevered Dream, and The Tell-Tale Heart), and we recently recorded an album of my chamber music. He brings the perfect blend of soaring lyricism and heart-pounding drive to every phrase, and he really gets my music - the language, the rhythm, the feel. I was thrilled and honored when Joshua asked me to compose a piece for the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra to premiere at Town Hall Seattle, and I wanted to write something both lithe and lush - evocative vignettes with the grooving rhythms and shifting moods that Joshua navigates so beautifully. I'm so grateful to Joshua for believing in my music - he's a great champion and a great friend.

"Mouthful of Forevers" is an exquisite/heartbreaking/perfect poem by Clementine Von Radics that slays me every time I read it.

Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

5-movement suite for piano and string quartet

Commissioned by the Classical Recording Foundation and funded by a gift from Linda and Stuart Nelson

Premiered June 5th, 2017 by Gregg Kallor and the Attacca Quartet at The Sheen Center in NYC

 

A tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every year on Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, I spend some time with his speeches. Dr. King's birthday is a few days before mine, and this year I turned 39 - the same age that Dr. King was when he was assassinated. It made me wonder what further words of conscience he might have offered had he lived longer - and what I would leave for the world if I were to die so young.

I've never felt more fear or uncertainty about the way we communicate with each other and what that means for our future than I have these past few months, and I find myself increasingly drawn to Dr. King's message of compassion, and inclusiveness, and social and economic equality for everyone. His words have been a great comfort to me during this unsettling period, and my new composition for piano and string quartet is inspired by Dr. King's singular faith in our capacity to love, and to do better.

The title of the suite, Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow, comes from a passage in Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, which he wrote during a period of solitary confinement in the Alabama prison. The letter is an exquisite statement about the dire urgency of achieving social and economic justice, and about the moral and practical implications of nonviolence as the means of getting there. It's also a searing indictment of those who advocated for the status quo in the face of horrible injustice. And it's a moving plea for understanding, and mutual respect.

I hope the music conveys the profound impact his words have had on me.

 

1. The Fierce Urgency of Now

"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

-from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech

delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

2. The Road Ahead

"And I must confess, my friends, that the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. And there will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again, with tear-drenched eyes, have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. But difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future."

-from Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

published in 1967

3. Into the Hearts of Humanity

"And here was a man of nonviolence [Gandhi], falling at the hand of a man of violence. Here was a man of love falling at the hands of a man of hate. This seems the way of history... And the man who shot Gandhi only shot him into the hearts of humanity. And just as when Abraham Lincoln was shot - mark you, for the same reason that Mahatma Gandhi was shot, that is, the attempt to heal the wounds of a divided nation - when the great leader Abraham Lincoln was shot, Secretary Stanton stood by the body of this leader and said, "Now he belongs to the ages." And that same thing can be said about Mahatma Gandhi now. He belongs to the ages, and he belongs especially to this age, an age drifting once more to its doom. And he has revealed to us that we must learn to go another way."

-from MLK's Palm Sunday sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi

delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama on March 22, 1959

4. Only When It Is Dark Enough, Can You See the Stars

"The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around... But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars."

-from MLK's "I've Been To The Mountaintop" speech

delivered April 3, 1968 at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple Church in Memphis, TN

5. Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow

"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."

-from Letter From Birmingham Jail

published in Why We Can't Wait in 1963


"I Have A Dream"

delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"I've Been To The Mountaintop"

delivered April 3, 1968 in Memphis, TN

Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech

delivered December 10, 1964 in Oslo, Norway


"Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow... incorporates modern melodic and jazz ideas in a flawless fusion of sounds, reflecting the tension, unease and tragedy of Dr. King's too-brief life.

The work uses piano and string quartet in effective tandem, generating fresh voicings as the instruments are sounded, combined and recombined. The five movements are pure music, with some room for Mr. Kallor's piano to improvise against the ensemble. There is a stunning fast movement where fast pizzicato work dives and leaps over a keening violin and Mr. Kallor's steady pianism.

The slow final movement was the best of all. Here, slow, hypnotic chords and gentle string melodies forged a gentle, hopeful cloak of sound, a light and transparent comfort in these dark times."

-Paul J. Pelkonen


"[Kallor] is preternaturally comfortable in both the jazz and classical idioms. This gives his music a wonderful, off-kilter beat and also provides the satisfaction of the demands of classical rigor. That this convergence works is a tribute to this highly gifted contemporary composer...

We heard Kallor's Halloween classic, The Tell-Tale Heart, at a Crypt event around All Hollow's Eve as it unfolded into an instant classic. It is easy to see a piece like Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow being performed in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre at the Museum of African American History on the Washington Mall. It is both an unusual and a monumental tribute to a leader who died as he was beginning to push for economic justice in America.

Cutting edge music is carving out all kinds of new edges with composers like Gregg Kallor. Despite dire predictions about the death of classical, its liveliness is erupting all around us."

-Susan Hall

FANTASY OVERTURE

FANTASY OVERTURE

FANTASY OVERTURE (2008) 
for orchestra
(3, 3, 3, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 1 - timp., 3 perc. - strings) 
8 minutes

Commissioned by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra
Edward Cumming, Musical Director

 

premiere: February 14th, 2009 by The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marc Kaplan

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra commissioned me to compose a piece for their family concert series and my good friend, Marc Kaplan, conducted the premiere. Very special homecoming.

FOUND

FOUND

FOUND (2011) 
for orchestra
(3, 3, 3, 2 - 4, 3, 3, 1 - timp., 3 perc. - solo string quartet + full string section) 
10 minutes

 

Found is the fifth movement of my piano suite, A SINGLE NOON. It's the Central Park of the suite - an oasis amidst the dizzying pace of the city, where time almost stands still. There's a feeling of contentment; of fulfillment. Of belonging.

Even as I composed Found for the piano, I wrote it with the orchestra in mind - the slow sustained chords and floating melodies seemed to call for the resonance of strings and winds and brass - and I've been itching to hear this orchestral version of the piece (it's never been performed).

Here's a performance of the original version.

A SINGLE NOON

A SINGLE NOON

A SINGLE NOON 
for cello and piano
3 minutes

The opening of movement of my NYC-inspired piano suite, A Single Noon, is the sort of thing you might hum to yourself while taking a walk. The sighing theme - sweet, faintly nostalgic - feels just right for the rich timbre of the cello.

A FEVERED DREAM

A FEVERED DREAM

A Fevered Dream

 

5-movement suite for violin, cello, and piano

Commissioned by SubCulture Arts Underground, New York

Premiered June 11th, 2015 by Miranda Cuckson (violin), Joshua Roman (cello), and Gregg Kallor (piano) at SubCulture NYC

  1. Dirty Little Secret
  2. Blink
  3. Things Unsaid
  4. Whispers
  5. Afterwards

The title of this piece comes from Edgar Lee Masters' breathless poem, "Love is a madness," and the five movements weave through the intoxication of falling in love and the searing pain of love crumbling. Masters tells us, "The beginning and the end are devoid of speech." But not of music.

SHORT STORIES

SHORT STORIES

SHORT STORIES (2012) 
for violin and piano
3 movements, approx. 13 minutes

1. Faces and Names
2. A Kept Promise
3. Sticks and Stones

My maternal grandmother was a talented violinist, but she stopped playing after her mother died. By the time I was alive, her arthritis prevented her from holding the violin. Her parents bought her a baby grand piano for her sixteenth birthday so that she and her sister, a cellist, could invite friends over to play chamber music. That was the instrument on which I learned to play.

I grew up six blocks from my grandparents and saw them most days of the week. We were very close. They came to every concert I gave and always sat right in front (arriving super early to ensure snagging that prime real estate). They never got to hear this music, but I feel their presence very strongly when I play it.

I wrote Short Stories imagining my grandmother playing it, and my grandfather listening to it. She was a gentle, quiet soul he was the strongest man I've ever known. Both had a touch of mischief. They were deeply in love for nearly 63 years.

UNDERCURRENT

UNDERCURRENT

UNDERCURRENT (2013) 
for cello and piano
3 movements, approx. 15 minutes

Sometimes there's a disconnect between the things we feel and the things we say; Undercurrent explores where the two meet. The simmering line that the cello and piano pass back and forth is always churning away just under the surface, like the fraught subtext that sometimes attends our most intimate conversations - until it bubbles up and explodes. (Some relationships are, um... dynamic.) The middle movement evokes that fragile place of unspoken intimacy - where a glance, a gesture, a touch can mean everything.

THE TELL-TALE HEART

THE TELL-TALE HEART

A Musical Ghost Story
music by Gregg Kallor / text adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's short story

Composer-pianist Gregg Kallor unveiled his setting of Edgar Allan Poe's terrifying short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, in a 100-year old vaulted crypt beneath the Church of the Intercession in New York City in October 2016 - just before Halloween.

Kallor premiered the creepy tale with mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Pojanowski and cellist Joshua Roman in a semi-staging by Sarah Meyers (Metropolitan Opera), with a lighting design by Shawn Kaufman. The two sold-out performances were presented by The Crypt Sessions in collaboration with On Site Opera.

Following on the heels of the acclaimed premiere, Kallor reprised the piece with soprano Melody Moore and Joshua Roman in a late-night performance at SubCulture NY in January 2017 (video excerpt shown above).

A PRAYER

A PRAYER

A PRAYER (2016) 
for voice and piano
poem by Clementine Von Radics

premiere: May 25th, 2016 at Carnegie Hall, NYC by Melody Moore (soprano) and Robert Mollicone (piano)

I'm so honored that Melody Moore asked me to compose a song for her Carnegie Hall debut, and I'm grateful to her for introducing me to Clementine Von Radics' writing. This poem, A Prayer, gave me chills the first time I read it - and every time since. Ditto: Melody's singing. I wanted to write something that would let the fragile tenderness of the poem do the talking, and give Melody room to do what she does so, so beautifully.

BUT NOT TO ME

BUT NOT TO ME

BUT NOT TO ME (2015) 
for voice and piano
poem by Sara Teasdale

premiere: April 28th, 2015 at SubCulture New York by Adriana Zabala (mezzo-soprano) and Gregg Kallor

poem: 
The April night is still and sweet
With flowers on every tree; 
Peace comes to them on quiet feet, 
But not to me.

My peace is hidden in his breast
Where I shall never be; 
Love comes to-night to all the rest, 
But not to me.

CRANE SONGS

CRANE SONGS

CRANE SONGS (2015) 
four songs for voice and piano
poems by Stephen Crane

premiere: April 28th, 2015 at SubCulture New York by Matthew Worth (baritone), Adriana Zabala (mezzo-soprano), and Gregg Kallor

  1. In the desert
  2. I saw a man pursuing the horizon
  3. "Think as I think," said a man
  4. A Man Said to the Universe (duet)

Notes From Underground

Notes From Underground

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND  
3 movements

Commissioned by SubCulture Arts Underground, New York

premiere: September 16th, 2014 at SubCulture NYC by Gregg Kallor

  1. Where You Are
  2. Ballerina Gone Bad
  3. The Waiting
  4. The Good Kind of Crazy

This suite was commissioned by SubCulture, the gorgeous underground NYC venue where I've had the honor of being Composer-In-Residence. This is the first of three pieces that I composed for my residency, and I premiered it on the night of the first anniversary of SubCulture's opening. (I added a movement - "The Waiting" - later, and premiered it at SubCulture on January 7th, 2016.)

You know that great feeling of being invited into someone's living room where your super gracious hosts make everything warm and comfortable and welcoming? That's how I feel every time I walk into SubCulture. I love that place, and the fantastic people who work there. 

A Single Noon

A Single Noon

A SINGLE NOON (2010)
suite for solo piano
approx. 45 minutes

premiere: April 20th, 2011 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City by Gregg Kallor

  1. A Single Noon
  2. Broken Sentences - watch the music video
  3. Night
  4. Straphanger's Lurch
  5. Found - watch a live performance
  6. Espresso Nirvana - watch the music video
  7. Giants
  8. Things to Come
  9. Here Now

 

A SINGLE NOON is a tableau of life in New York City told through a combination of composed music and improvisation. The nine movements are meant to be evocative snapshots - moments of caffeinated bliss, embarrassing subway mishaps, the buzzing energy of a city driven by dynamic, thoughtful, talented, and slightly crazy people.

Now available on Amazon and iTunes!

A DRUNKEN MAN'S PRAISE OF SOBRIETY

A DRUNKEN MAN'S PRAISE OF SOBRIETY

A DRUNKEN MAN'S PRAISE OF SOBRIETY (2012) 
for violin and piano
5 minutes

William Butler Yeats' raucous poem, A Drunken Man's Praise of Sobriety, ends a set of songs I wrote several years ago (always best to close with a drinking song), and I thought it would make a fun romp for violin and piano.

EXHILARATION - Emily Dickinson songs

EXHILARATION - Emily Dickinson songs

EXHILARATION - Emily Dickinson songs (2006) 
nine songs for voice and piano
poems by Emily Dickinson
20 minutes

premiere: March 20th, 2007 at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City by
Adriana Zabala (mezzo-soprano) and Gregg Kallor

  1. Exhilaration is the Breeze
  2. It bloomed and dropt, a Single Noon -
  3. Bee! I'm expecting you!
  4. We Cover Thee - Sweet Face -
  5. Wild Nights - Wild Nights!
  6. What Inn is this
  7. I should not dare to leave my friend
  8. Still own thee - still thou art -
  9. Exhilaration - is within -

MY BUSINESS IS TO SING! Emily Dickinson once wrote; what she sings of is the exhilaration of being alive.

In It bloomed and dropt, Dickinson mourns the loss of a single "noon," a metaphor for "the instantaneous, arrested present... when all accident, or 'grossness,' is discarded and there is nothing but essence." It isn't the passage of time that she regrets, but the lost opportunity to inhale more deeply the intoxicating ether of experience. For the poet who "would eat evanescence slowly," the moment is everything.

And it is the moment to which she so compellingly calls our attention - the rapture of those first precious moments of spring, the frenzied urge of sexual yearning, the anguish of watching a beloved die. She illuminates these fleeting sensations with exquisite nuance, urging us to savor them before they vanish forever.

"Let Emily sing for you because she cannot pray," she wrote to her grieving cousins after their father died. A poem, for her, was no mere abstraction, but a vital force - a prayer, a comfort, an inspiration. She felt impelled to let others hear the "noiseless noise in the Orchard" and her poems incite us to seek that noise - that essence - ourselves. "Exhilaration," she tells us, "is within."

I AM

I AM

I AM (2015) 
for voice and piano
poem by John Clare

premiere: April 28th, 2015 at SubCulture New York by Matthew Worth (baritone) and Gregg Kallor

poem: 
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows; 
My friends forsake me like a memory lost; 
I am the self-consumer of my woes - 
They rise and vanish in oblivion's host, 
Like shadows in love, frenzied, stifled throes: - 
And yet I am, and live - like vapours tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, 
Into the living sea of waking dreams, 
Where there is neither sense of life or joys, 
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems; 
Even the dearest, that I love the best
Are strange - nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes, where man hath never trod, 
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator God, 
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept, 
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie, 
The grass below, above, the vaulted sky.

LITTLE ELEGY

LITTLE ELEGY

LITTLE ELEGY (2015) 
for voice and piano
poem by Elinor Wylie

premiere: April 28th, 2015 at SubCulture New York by Adriana Zabala (mezzo-soprano) and Gregg Kallor

poem: 
Without you
No rose can grow; 
No leaf be green
If never seen
Your sweetest face; 
No bird have grace
Or power to sing; 
Or anything
Be kind, or fair, 
And you nowhere.

LULLABY

LULLABY

LULLABY (2005) 
for voice and piano
lyrics by Herschel Garfein
3 minutes

Available on Amazon and iTunes!

ONE CHILD

ONE CHILD

ONE CHILD (2014) 
for voice and piano
lyrics by Sara Cooper
3:30

I'm deeply honored to have been invited to compose this song for An AIDS QUILT Songbook: Sing for Hope. The album features new songs by American composers, performed by an all-star cast of musicians - including Joyce DiDonato, Anthony Dean Griffey, Isabel Leonard, Susanna Phillips, Matthew Polenzani, and many more. It was a privilege to record "One Child" with soprano Melody Moore, and to be a part of this extraordinary project. All profits from the sale of this album will go to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research.

"Among the brand new songs created expressly for this recording is "One Child," featuring beautiful lyrics by Sara Cooper that point to the promising possibility of a child surviving AIDS and ushering in a new era of health and well-being where once there was so much death and suffering. The poet asks "Is this the moment? Is this the time? Is this when we leave it all behind us? When soon only whispers will remind us of those awful scorching decades that took so many lives." Gregg Kallor has set these lyrics with utmost care, with gentle dissonance that perfectly captures the longing of the text. Soprano Melody Moore's singing is exemplary for its beauty and clarity."

Journal of Singing