Spaces of Night
The Albuquerque Chapter of the American Guild of Organists has commissioned Spaces of Night, an 18 minute song cycle in 7 parts for mezzo-soprano, strings, and organ. Originally, the Chapter Program Committee and I had discussed my writing an organ concerto. I was a little hesitant with this idea as I had just completed my first organ concerto, and had already sent to the score on to my publisher.
But as talks progressed, the idea of song cycle presented itself. This really seemed perfect. I love setting poetry, and as larger pieces for voice, organ, and strings, where the organ part is more than just continuo are not exactly numerous, I felt this would be a challenge worth pursuing. I settled on a selection from the works of American poet Stephen Crane (of the Red Badge of Courage Fame)… yes, he wrote some amazing poems.
The libretto works through what can be seen as an exasperation with the institutional church, which is a familiar theme in Crane's poetic writing. He asks some hard and relevant questions the answers to which can be found with equal measure either within or without the church. I continue to be surprised with how poignant his reflections are a 100 years later.
A voice and organ only version is planned so that the work can be performed without an orchestra. The piece in general is a fusion of sorts between an organ concerto and a song cycle. In a way, it could be considered a double concerto as the vocal soloist and the organist are featured prominently and at times equally.
The first performance of this music was on March 17th, 2012 in Keller Hall on the campus of the University of New Mexico. The premiere was performed by the Chatter 20/21 Ensemble with David Felberg, conducting. Kathleen Clawson was the mezzo soprano soloist and Frederick Frahm was the organ soloist. A video recording of this performance has been posted to YouTube. Click on the link below to view!