Filtering by Category: Vocal

The Knitting Club (2017)

The Knitting Club (2017)
a short scene
with text by Michael Park and Sue Hughson
duration: 10 minutes
written for Vancouver's Erato Ensemble:
4 singers (Soprano,  Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor, Baritone) and chamber ensemble (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Violin, Cello, Guitar, Piano)

As a long-standing member of Vancouver's Erato Ensemble, I wrote this piece specifically for their 10-year anniversary. Essentially a short scene from a not-yet-written opera, the piece puts every singer and instrumentalist in the role of knitting club member. Musicians use knitting needles and speech to set the scene, in which the piece explores many quotations and themes around the darker (and lighter) sides of knitting groups. 

Program Note:
It's rare to have an Erato Ensemble rehearsal where someone isn't knitting something during their downtime. Composer Michael Park (avid knitter and ensemble pianist) took it as a personal challenge to create a work that explores the tradition of knitting groups that is equal parts: fun, evocative, and ridiculous.
The audience is invited to knit along with the piece, or just click their needles along with the ensemble. At this knitting club, everyone's invited!

what happens now? (2016)

for SATB choir and alto flute
commissioned by Cor Flammae
text by Ray Hsu

When Cor Flammae commissioned me to write something for the 2016 theme of Refuge, it made me think of an experience many of my friends have experienced - applying for permanent residency in Canada. The piece embraces common sentiments shared by anyone who has immigrated (leaving a life behind, building a new life, risking everything in spite of crippling uncertainty), as well as tackles instances of institutional racism experienced by immigrants of colour. Through an interview with an immigrant from Mexico, Ray Hsu brings out the emotions, the frustration, and the beauty that are part of the process.

Writing for choir was the perfect medium for these themes. At times the choir assumes a mob mentality, shouting accusations; at other times the choir harmonizes, or brings all the voices together to colour the emotion of the text. The alto flute plays almost exclusively, fragments of the Canadian and Mexican national anthems, providing an ironic counterpoint to the sung text. I was thrilled at how Cor Flammae embraced my aesthetic; each singer taking their own emotional path through the piece, using my notes to truly connect with the text.

The following recording is from the world premiere performance of Cor Flammae and Mark McGregor (alto flute), conducted by Mark Reid.

But, Ma (2016)

for soprano and piano
text by Sajia Sultana
written for Art Song Lab 2016

The 6th instalment of Art Song Lab was a collaboration with Vancouver's Queer Arts Festival. Just weeks after the shootings in Orlando, it became evident during the week just how pertinent some of the pieces were to the queer community, especially those queer people of colour involved.

The text I worked with was by Sajia Sultana, exploring the process of coming out to Indian parents. While Canada is regarded as progressive country, queer people of colour often fear the loss of culture and community in addition to family concerns that are universal in the coming-out process.

One of the experiences Sajia and I shared was a sense of not being really heard within certain family dynamics, and so, miscommunication became a starting point for our collaboration.

Diagnosis: Diabetes (2015)

Diagnosis: Diabetes (2015)
An Interactive Chamber Opera in One Act

duration: 60 minutes, 7 scenes

for 5 singers (Soprano, 2 Mezzo-Sopranos, Tenor, Baritone) and small ensemble (Flute doubling alto, Clarinet doubling Bass, Violin, Cello, Piano)

After the idea for an interactive opera about diabetes was workshopped in 2011, the one-act opera later became my doctoral thesis project, completed in Spring of 2015. In Fall of 2015, the piece was premiered as an un-staged workshop performance by Vancouver's Erato Ensemble.

Much more information is available on the dedicated Diagnosis: Diabetes page.

 

Program Note:
This is the story of Charlie, a boy like any other. But this story is not an opera like any other.
As Charlie goes through life with diabetes, you too will experience the onslaught of information that comes with diagnosis, the sensation of low blood-sugar, facing your own mortality...
But don't worry. This is a fun opera. And you just might learn something too!

 

i wana cry with u (2014)


i wana cry with u (2014)

written for
Cor Flammae
with text by
Steve Roggenbuck

i wana cry with u
but we cant
because if we were together we
wouldn't be sad 

 

Initially, I interpreted the poem through the lens of queer love. While that worked well enough, it soon became clear that the scope of this poem's meaning couldn't be limited by one narrative. I opted for a format that allows each singer to discover their own interpretation as part of singing the piece.

A Spirit Alive in a Ready Body (2013)


A Spirit Alive in a Ready Body (2013)
for Mezzo-Soprano and Pianist
text by Ray Hsu
commissioned by Lynne McMurtry and Alison d'Amato

For the fourth year of Art Song Lab, Ray and I have stepped back from participation in order to focus on organization. However, a summer celebration of song would be incomplete without a new instalment from our unique collaboration.

One of the focuses in our partnership has been to explore the concept of Interview. This is a topic we first delved into with Compassion & Sacrifice, and continued to some extent in Art Song Lib. We began this piece by interviewing Lynne, and imagining how her responses change with context and the identity of the interviewer. As with much of my vocal writing, I've tried to bring out as many 'readings' of the poem as possible within the context of the performance.

This piece has a very special place in my heart because it involves all three of the Art Song Lab co-directors: Ray, Alison, and myself. Even though the piece isn't an official part of ASL 2013, it stands as a testament to the community of art song we've strived to create and have seen flourish in the last few years.


Stay tuned for score and recording after the June 24, 2013 premiere.

Art Song Lib (2012)

Art Song Lib

 (2012)

for Singer, Pianist, and Scribe

text by Ray Hsu

Written for and performed by Phoebe MacRae and Rachel Iwaasa as part of VISI Art Song Lab 2012.

I have collaborated with Ray Hsu on a number of projects, including the founding of Art Song Lab, an innovative program that teams composers with poets as part of the Vancouver International Song Institute's SONGFIRE festival in partnership with the Canadian Music Centre.

For those of you who don't know our work, it is an understatement to say that we skirt the status quo... We started this project in a café, Ray asking, 'what can we do that would be awesome?' Knowing that we were writing for soprano Phoebe MacRae (a goddess of musical comedy) and pianist Rachel Iwaasa (who can rise to any challenge), our answer was to turn the entire experience of a madlib into an art song. Integrating audience suggestions into the song, no two performances will be the same!

Click here for a PDF of the Score.

Well, Is It Just Me, Or Is Everything Getting Shittier? (2011)


Well, Is It Just Me, Or Is Everything Getting Shittier? (2011)
for Tenor and Piano


This song is a setting of the same-titled poem by Ontario poet, Shannon Duncan.  The song was written for tenor, Drake Dantzler and pianist, Erika Switzer for performance at the second annual Art Song Lab.  

Well, Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Getting Shittier? by michaeljpark
performers: Drake Dantzler, tenor; Erika Switzer, piano

Click here for a PDF of the Score.

Diabetes: Question Time (2011)

Diabetes: Question Time (2011)

chamber opera for six voices and piano

Commissioned by The University of Manitoba’s Contemporary Opera Lab, under the direction of Mel Braun, this 20-minute chamber opera explores internal conflicts and concerns relating to type-one diabetes.

Following the success of the COL commission, Diagnosis: Diabetes will be developed into a one-act opera which will serve as Michael’s doctoral thesis.  More information about that project can be found here.

Click here for a PDF of the Score.

More Than Containers (2010)

More Than Containers (2010)

for Baritone and Piano

 

A short song for baritone, setting a poem by Ray Hsu as a conversational dialogue between piano and voice.  This song was premiered by baritone, Michael Broder and pianist, Laura Lowen at the Vancouver International Song Institute as part of the inaugural Art-Song Lab

 

Click here for a PDF of the Score.

Gramps Ain't No Namby-Pamby (2010)

Gramps Ain't No Namby-Pamby (2010)

for Bassoon and Baritone

 

Using text written by the composer, this piece is a dialogue between a grandfather and grandson where the audience only ever hears half of the conversation.  By having the bassoonist perform their role, playing the rhythm and contour of the (un)spoken text, this piece explores the power of music to create syntactical meaning through the association of speech and musical gesture.

Commissioned by bassoonist, Susan Durnin, Gramps Ain’t No Namby-Pamby has also been performed by bassoonists Margaret Fay, and award winning soloist, Allen Harrington.

 

Click here for a PDF of the Score.