Friday, August 28, 2009

Blogging for the MCE, and quiz with reward

The first blog. I. Have. Ever. Written.

Please read and leave comments about carol texts! :-)

So Tom and Dave and I head to the one diner in all of Manhattan that plays no background music (Morning Star, on 9th, not far from Columbus Circle; I give thanks for their existence at least once a week b/c silence on this island is usually a nonstarter) and we talk about how better to make this commission (a piece for the Manhattan Choral Ensemble's winter/holiday/it's-got-plenty-of-Xmas-music-on-it concert) more interactive. Other composers who've worked with the MCE have done many creative things, such as writing music based on members' answers to questions like "What's on your iPod?" I'm not sure I can reconcile the breadth of answers I would get if I did that—this is a ridiculously smart and curious group of singers, after all—with writing what will be, in the end, a fresh set of carols, compatible with holiday concert programming.

So I am really really really relieved when Tom and Dave tell me that what they would really like me to do is start a blog.

Well, what they said is that they would like me to share the process of composing with the group, and since I'd rather write than be interviewed for a podcast, with all the ums and ahs and ohs that might entail, a blog's definitely the way to go.

Sooooooo ...

To complete this project, I need to do a bunch of things, not necessarily in the following order:

-select texts

-think of thematic links

-make sure that texts provide variety in the types of music they generate (i.e., we don't want 5 uptempo numbers OR 5 slow but exquisite ones)

-decide whether I am still writing this for harp and chorus, or for some other instrument and chorus, or a cappella

-make up some melodies that go with some of the texts (by randomly singing, or by imagining notes in my head, or by sketching out twelve-tone rows while riding the A train)

-make up some evocative chord progressions (usually done at the piano, she confesses with a tinge of guilt)

That's enough to start with. Hmm. I should of course also post a few of the texts I am considering, for your consideration too! Do write back and let me know what you think. I will buy a beer for the first person who correctly tells me the thematic link among the following texts:

Text #1

Omnes gentes plaudite,

I saw many birds sitting on a tree;

They took their flight and flew away,

With, Ego dixi, have good day!

Many white feathers hath the pie --

I may no more sing, my lips are so dry.

Many white feathers hath the swan --

The more that I drink, the less I can.

Lay sticks on the fire, well may it burn;1

Give us once to drink ere away we turn.2


1. Text: wyl mot is brenne.

2. Text: ere we gon henne.

Rickert gives the following translations:

Omnes gentes plaudite is translated as "All ye nations, rejoice."

Ego dixi is translated as "I have said."

Text #2

Bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale;

For our Blessed Lady's sake, bring us in good ale.

1. Bring us in no brown bread, for that is made of bran,

Nor bring us in no white bread, there therein is no game;

But bring us in good ale.

2. Bring us in no beef, for there is many bones,

But bring us in good ale, for that goes down at once;

And bring us in good ale.

3. Bring us in no bacon, for that is passing fat,

But bring us in good ale, and give us enough of that;

And bring us in good ale.

4. Bring us in no mutton, for that is often lean,

Nor bring us in no tripes, for they be seldom clean;

And bring us in good ale.

5. Bring us in no eggs, for there are many shells,

But bring us in good ale, and give us nothing else;

And bring us in good ale.

6. Bring us in no butter, for therein are many hairs;

Nor bring us in no pig's flesh, for that will make us boars;

And bring us in good ale.

7. Bring us in no puddings, for therein is all God's good;

Nor bring us in no venison, for that is not for our blood;

And bring us in good ale.

8. Bring us in no capon's flesh, for that is often dear;

Nor bring us in no duck's flesh, for they slobber in the mere;

And bring us in good ale.

Text #3:

Wassail, wassail, wassail, sing we

In worship of Christ’s nativity.

1. Now joy be to the Trinity,

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

That one God is in Trinity,

Father of heaven, of mightes most.

2. And joy to the Virgin pure

That ever kept her undefiled

Grounded in grace, in heart full sure,

And bare a child as maiden mild.

3. Bethlehem and the star so shen,

That shone three kinges for to guide,

Bear witness of this maiden clean;

The kinges three offered that tide.

4. And shepherds heard, as written is,

The joyful song that there was sung:


With angel’s voice it was out rung.

5. Now joy be to the blessful child,

And joy be to his mother dear;

Joy we all of that maiden mild,

And joy have they that make good cheer.

Wassail, wassail, wassail, sing we

In worship of Christ’s nativity.

That's all for tonight! Have fun; I look forward to seeing you again soon.

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