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How does a new piece of choral music come to be commissioned, conceived, created, and performed?

On Sunday, November 10, the GMChorale will present the second performance of New Every Morning, a major new choral work by award-winning Connecticut composer Peter Niedmann.

We talked with Peter Niedmann and Joseph D’Eugenio about how this new music was conceived and created, and in the process, learned a little about how the commission process works.
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To provide some context for the conversation that follows, here are a few notes from the composer:

The work’s title "New Every Morning," and the first movement text, are drawn from from "Hues of the Rich Unfolding Morn," a poem by British churchman John Keble (1792-1866). 

The second movement, "Glorious Things," uses Psalm 87, with its references to singers and instrumentalists. A soprano soloist alternates with the chorus, until the final section, when they combine with a final affirmation. 

George Herbert (1593-1633), the outstanding Welsh-born poet and Anglican priest, wrote a poignant musing on death and resurrection, called "Virtue." This is the third movement’s text, sung a capella, with brief instrumental interludes. 

In the fourth movement, "Hear My Cry," the chorus speaks an anguished text (verses from Psalms 61, 63, 64, 66) over an instrumental accompaniment. 


The piece concludes joyfully with "Let the People Sing," using verses from Psalm 67.

 
New Every Morning

Sunday
November 10, 2019
4:00PM

Doors open at 3:00pm

Pre-concert talk by composer Sarah Meneely-Kyder at 3:15pm

Middletown High School

Santo Fragilio
Performing Arts Center

200 La Rosa Lane
Middletown, CT


Tickets on sale now:
$9-$40 in advance
$10-$45 at the door

Click HERE for tickets to this concert. 

Scroll down for more ticket information and ordering options. 
See seating chart and photo below.
The music of award-winning composer and Connecticut native Peter Niedmann is widely performed throughout the United States and has garnered critical acclaim. His choral music has been sung at The White House and at a Papal Mass for Pope John Paul II. In the Ending of the Year, for chorus and orchestra, was singled out by American Record Guide magazine as the best new piece on Harvard University Choir’s CD, Carols from the Yard. The American Organist magazine has praised his music as “thoughtful, well-wrought, and appealing.” In 2019, Peter Niedmann won the Fyfe Prize—an international competition—for his anthem, Praise Ye the Lord. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Connecticut, he also studied at the Hartt School of Music and served its faculty. Mr. Niedmann has been Organist & Director of Music at Church of Christ, Congregational (UCC) in Newington, Connecticut for 26 years.  More information is at peterniedmann.com.

GMChorale: Before we talk about the music, how does the commission process work? How does it get started?

Peter Niedmann: Joe has been a wonderful supporter of my music. He asked me if I'd be interested in writing a big piece and I said, "of course.” 

Joseph D’Eugenio: After the historic Aeolian-Skinner organ in Cheshire was renovated three years ago, many generous people made donations toward a fund so that we could honor and commemorate this beautiful instrument with a new commission. The church’s Board of Music and the Chancel Choir approached Peter Niedmann to commission a five-movement work for chorus, soprano soloist, and organ. We are delighted that he has created this marvelous music.

GMChorale: Joe, what draws you, your singers, and your listeners to Peter’s music? 

Joseph D’Eugenio: As a composer, Peter is a wonderful tunesmith, writing striking harmonies that are simple to the ear but interestingly nuanced for the singer. It is not easy to write melody, but Peter is a master of doing so. Singers leave rehearsals humming the tunes. His vibrant compositional style is appealing in worship and in the concert hall, and I’ve conducted his music with many ensembles. The Chancel Choir at First Congregational Church in Cheshire (where I've been Director of Music since 2003) and the GMChorale have both performed many of Peter’s works, including “In the ending of the year” and “Lullee, Lullay.” The GMChorale has sung “Let us sound with melody” many times, including for six concerts during two European tours. 

GMChorale: Peter, though you created this music for a specific ensemble, you will have it published with the hope that many other choirs will sing it, too, and of course the GMChorale will give the second performance on November 10. When you're composing on commision for a specific choir, how do you balance writing for that choir with preparing a piece that will appeal to other choirs -- and other congregations -- as well?

Peter Niedmann: My music, for the most part, is accessible to the majority of amateur singers. 

Joseph D’Eugenio: And that is a particular gift, especially in today’s world where many composers write music that is not particular singable or musically accessible. Like Brahms, Mozart, or any great composer, it is the sum of the parts that makes the work a masterpiece. Great composers write music that can be sung by most singers, and that has always been an important factor when I choose music for the choirs I lead.

GMChorale: The five texts of “New Every Morning” include verses by John Keble (1792-1866) and George Herbert (1593-1633), along with excerpts from several Psalms. These texts combine to create an overall sense of joy and re-creation. Who chose these texts, and why?

Peter Niedmann: I chose the texts with final approval from Joe. Early in the process, I sent him several ideas, some of which he preferred over others. That process went on for a few weeks, until we agreed on all the texts. Much later, after I had already begun composing, I added the spoken Psalm verses. 

Joseph D’Eugenio: And the interweaving of poetry and scripture is what makes the work unique, as it is not a particularly liturgical work, but in fact was intended to have appeal beyond being sung in during worship.

GMChorale: Choral music is as much about text as it is about the music. When choosing texts, Peter, do you consider what it will be like to sing the particular words, or is that something that works itself out in the process of composition? For example, taking care not to ask the sopranos to sing "eeeee" on a high B-flat! 

Peter Niedmann: I look at many poems in the early stages, and some are too verbose or abstruse, and wouldn't sing well, to my mind. When I'm finally writing the music, I sing it and can sense how it will sound ultimately. 

GMChorale: In choosing "Virtue" by the great George Herbert for the third movement, you are in very good company with the many great composers before you who have set his verses, most notably Ralph Vaugh Williams and Thomas Tallis. Were you familiar with this poem before this commission project came along?

Peter Niedmann: I love Herbert's poetry. I was first exposed to it singing Vaughan Williams's Five Mystical Songs as a young chorister. I had read this poem years before writing this piece, but happened upon it again in an anthology while looking for possible texts for this piece. 

Joseph D’Eugenio: It was our intention to choose poems that were not too obscure in meaning or affect. Herbert’s poem models this. 

GMChorale: Peter, your homophonic setting captures the simple austerity of Herbert’s verse. The music seems so natural for these words; was the composition process here as naturally flowing as the result seems to indicate?

Peter Niedmann: This movement was written very quickly. It took very little time to find a musical approach to the poem. It has a very satisfying structure, with references in each stanza to elements of the prior stanzas.

GMChorale: The fourth movement, "Hear my cry," calls for some unexpected effects from the chorus as the piano or organ offers up what feels almost like a dirge. Tell us how this remarkable movement evolved, and why you chose speaking rather than singing here.

Peter Niedmann: That movement began as an instrumental introduction to the final movement. But the music seemed to strongly evoke the Psalm verses I ultimately laid over it. I chose speaking rather than singing for a change in mood and a more human, natural, direct approach to the words. 

Joseph D’Eugenio: In rehearsals, we have been working with the words by chanting some of them as though the choir is a congregation, while others are spoken at random. It creates quite an effect and transitions beautifully into the final fifth movement. 

GMChorale: Indeed, the final movement lifts us quickly from somber contemplation to joyous song and brings the whole thing to a bright and optimistic close. It must have been great fun to compose this!

Peter Niedmann: It was. Because I choose texts that inspire me, setting the words to music is often not much of a struggle. Early in my career, I accepted a few commissions where the words were given to me by the commissioner. It was not the best way to work, because I wasn't necessarily excited by the text. Now, I only set texts of my own choosing, with approval from the commissioner. That way, we're both happy!

Joseph D’Eugenio: Indeed!! And, I am so grateful that Peter is collaborative and responsive as a composer and human being. All of that is imbued within the work. 
 
What does Artistic Director  D'Eugenio say about "New Every Morning"?
“Peter Niedmann’s setting of joyful texts by two great English churchmen-poets and from several favorite Psalms is a rich musical tapestry that is by turns comforting, celebratory, and uplifting. The music dances with pronounced rhythmic underpinnings and shifting meters, sublime harmonies and a cappella sections, and a virtuosic accompaniment that sparkles and enlivens the choral writing. Come to hear it! We can't wait to sing it for you."
What else is on the program?
The November 10 program also includes evocative choral music written in past fifty years by John Rutter, David Conte, and Dan Forrest, composers whose works are already admired as contemporary classics.
Click here for tickets to NEW EVERY MORNING
Your GMChorale Concert Ticket Guide

Enjoy the best prices on single tickets by ordering now. 
  
   Premium Seating: $40 in advance, $45 at the door

   General admission: $30 in advance, $35 at the door
   Seniors: $25 in advance, $30 at the door
   Students: $9 in advance, $10 at the door
   Groups: $23 when purchased in groups of 8 or more (advance sales only)

Click HERE for tickets for the November 10 Concert "New Every Morning"

Click HERE for tickets for the April 26 concert "With Joy of Heart and Gladness"
  

The GMChorale now offers premium tickets for the "best seats in the house." No, they're not down front in the first rows; instead, we've set aside the seats with the best view of the raised stage and, more importantly, the best blended sound. Take a look at the seating chart shown below. 

Coming with a group of 8 or more adults? Purchase 8 or more tickets together with the group rate and get the best bargain of all - just $23 each for general admission ticket (adults of all ages). Group rates do not apply to premium or student tickets. Advance sales only. 


Not sure about ordering tickets online? It's quick, easy, and secure, and your tickets arrive in minutes. When you order tickets at our secure online store, your tickets will arrive via email as PDFs. You may print these and bring the paper copies to the concert, or you may use your mobile device to show the email that has your e-tickets.

Prefer to order by mail? Easy! Click HERE to open a printable PDF order form at the GMChorale website or clip the form from the GMChorale's 2019-2020 brochure, arriving soon. Mail your completed form to the GMChorale office with your payment and receive your tickets by return postal mail or by email, or choose that they be left at Will Call for you or your friends. 

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Tickets will also be on sale at the door for the GMChorale concerts on November 10 and April 26 beginning at 3:00pm. If you plan to attend the pre-concert talk at 3:15pm, we recommend purchasing tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line.


For more information, visit the Ticket page at the GMChorale website.

Questions? Need assistance? Reply to this email, write to gmcmedia@gmchorale.org, or call 860-316-4854.
There's a seat waiting for you here in the spacious, comfortable auditorium at the Santo Fragilio Performing Arts Center in Middletown, where the GMChorale performs. The site is fully accessible, with ample free parking in the adjacent lot.
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The GMChorale is partially funded by generous grants from the following: the Middletown Commission On The Arts; The Marjorie Jolidon Fund of the Greater Hartford Chapter, American Guild of Organists; and Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
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