Listening Page #55: Deborah Monroe

May 20th, 2009

MAY 17, 2009

Deborah Monroe: “Where Morning Dawns and Evening Fades” performed by Dr. Stacy Maugans

Psalm 65:8 “Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.” (NIV)

What better instrument to call forth songs of joy than the alto saxophone? The processed sounds on the CD are derived from a recording of my saxophone duet, A Chase. The shape of the work is designed to evoke the dawning of a new day, the labor of the day and the quiet of the evening sunset. Dr. Stacy Maugans recorded this performance at the NASA Biennial Conference at the University of Iowa in 2006.

Jesus makes life worth living. Knowing that God made us for a reason and has a purpose for our lives is exciting. It’s like the creator of the universe picked me to be on the winning team. It motivates me to find out what my role is on the team and work at doing it. It keeps me focused on that purpose.

In love, He adopted me to be his daughter through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace . . . (Ephesians 1:5) In my particular case, that began for me at a very early age. My older brother came home from Sunday school and told me he was going to heaven and asked me if I wanted to go too. My parents gave me an education that “integrated faith and learning.” So, it is only natural that my musical creations are an integration of faith and learning.

To quote a favorite songwriter,
I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
– U2, Magnificent

Now that I have been made alive in Christ, the Spirit confirms that I am his workmanship, or masterpiece, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Deborah Monroe is a composer and church musician living in Dallas, Tx. She began her studies under Howard Whitaker at Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music and later received her Master of Music in Composition from the University of North Texas.

She has received recognition and had works performed throughout the United States and in Europe by various organizations including the International Alliance for Women in Music, the North American Saxophone Alliance, the International Computer Music Association and the 60×60 project.

Recently, Ms Monroe has focused on works for church choir and works for saxophone. Where Morning Dawns and Evening Fades for alto saxophone and CD was commissioned by Dr. Stacy Maugans in 2005 and later taken to the 14th World Saxophone Congress in 2006. The Breath of Life for alto saxophone and viola was commissioned by Dr. Maugans and will be premiered at the15th World Saxophone Congress in Thailand this July. For more information see

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Deborah directly at:
Visit Deborah’s website at:

If you are a member composer interested in submitting a composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page, please contact Bill Vollinger at:

Listening Page #54: Robert Denham

May 6th, 2009

APRIL 26, 2009

Robert Denham: Goldgräber, performed by Timothy Lees, violin


While “Goldgräber” does not employ any sort of extra-musical visual element, it is nevertheless a pictorial work in the sense that its structure represents a musical collage or, as it is traditionally classified, a form based on the principle of variation.  The concept is similar to that of a painter experimenting with colors and effects by “borrowing” a given subject and juxtaposing it with backgrounds that are foreign to the essence of the original material.  In this case, the “material” is represented by the first twelve measures of the Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra by E. W. Korngold. Though Korngold’s work is never overtly stated in “Goldgräber” and may even appear to be completely absent from the variations that supposedly rely on it, its influence is essential to the very inspiration of the latter.

I believe that a visual understanding of the musical structure of “Goldgräber” is essential to the listener’s comprehension of the work as a whole. The work is a set of variations where the “theme” is never actually stated, although the overall form can also be understood as an arch where the “keystone” or symmetrical axis occurs in the most romantically inclined variation, (and therefore that variation which I think most closely resembles Korngold’s style), No. 5.  There are a total of nine variations, each preceded by an interlude; and this complete set being preceded and succeeded by an introduction and finale.  The interludes work on an arch principle that is separate to themselves; a harmonic “wedge” that proceeds inward towards the keystone variation (5), and then another wedge that expands outward towards the finale.

This piece was written for and premiered by Timothy Lees, Concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; I am grateful to him for the generous time and effort he has put into its performance.


I was raised in a Christian home and came to believe in Jesus Christ when I was about four years old.  I understood that I was a sinner, that my sin separated me from God, and that God had given his Son as atonement for my sin.  As I grew older, my understanding of God’s word and its significance in my life also grew.  Even at a young age, I realized the truth that I am incapable of earning my salvation; it is a free gift of God, not of works, and not something that I can boast to have had a hand in (Eph. 2: 8-9).  I am often tempted to see my own testimony as being lackluster, since it does not involve a dramatic prodigal son type of experience, but I am always reminded that there is nothing commonplace about a sovereign God drawing a helpless sinner to Himself; whether He chooses to do so during the early, middle, or late stages of that sinner’s life.

I remember specific times where God challenged me in my faith and brought me closer to Himself. One of these was when I applied for admission into the 8th grade at a Christian school in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The application required me to provide a written testimony, something that I had never been asked to do.  As I pondered what it meant to be a Christian I was convicted that I really took much of my faith for granted; often trusting more in the stability of my family than in the inspired word of God for my hope and security.  Through writing my testimony I came to further understand the significance of what it means to be a believer in Jesus Christ; to be a follower of Him, to know that I am not my own but am a purchased possession, and to see my guilt as no longer belonging to me, but being transferred to the sacrificial lamb of God (Rom. 8: 1-4).  This was a real milestone for me, and it was at this point that I recommitted myself to follow after Jesus Christ with my whole heart, soul, and might. Soon after graduating from high school I transferred to Biola University where I was challenged to come to a more personal understanding of the scriptures.  By this I mean that I was encouraged to make a distinct break from simply trusting in a Christian academic atmosphere to tell me what I should believe, and to start searching and processing the scriptures as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11).  One class in particular, a course in Christian apologetics, was extremely helpful.  I remember Romans 1:20 as being a theme verse for the course: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhood, so that they are without excuse.”  To understand that God has revealed Himself in so many ways, and is not so “invisible” as we might at first imagine, was quite a revelation for me.  I am careful to remember that reason must never replace faith in Christ as our hope of salvation, but it is nevertheless comforting to know that the heavens do declare the glory of God (Psalm 19); that God does not leave us without references to Himself.  Of course, the most important of these references is not nature, but is the Word of God.

Looking back I am humbled to see the hand of God working in my life from the very beginning.  I believe that it was by no strength of my own that I came to Christ, but that God in His grace drew me to Himself (Eph. 1: 4-9).  I understand that Christians continue to struggle with sin, and I am no exception.  I take great encouragement from having an advocate with the Father (I John 2:1), and am committed to making every effort towalking in the spirit and not in the flesh (Eph. 4: 22-24).


A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Robert Denham holds a DMA in composition from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM) where he studied with Michael Fiday, Joel Hoffman, and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon. His other degrees are from UCLA (MA Composition) where he studied with Roger Bourland, Ian Krouse, and the late Jerry Goldsmith, and Biola University (BM, Trumpet Performance). Dr. Denham managed the annual new music festival MusicX for four years, and currently teaches Theory and Composition at Biola University in La Mirada California.

Denham’s music includes works of every genre and has been performed across the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia by such performers and ensembles as Timothy Lees (Concertmaster, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra), the CCM Philharmonia, the Los Angeles Flute Quartet, the Orion Saxophone Quartet, the CCM Chamber Players, and the Academia Musicale di San Casciano Orchestra e Coro di bambini (Florence, Italy). Performances of his music include such notable venues as the American-Bulgarian New Music Festival (Northern Kentucky University), the SCI National Conference, Composers Inc., Culver City Chamber Music Series, the Pacific Contemporary Music Center (Long Beach CA), and the Ernest Bloch Festival (Newport OR). He has won numerous competitions, including the Hvar International Composition Competition (Croatia), the CCM Philharmonia Composition Competition, the Gluck Brass Quintet Composition Competition, and was the 1998 recipient of the coveted Stanley Wilson Composer’s Award (UCLA).  He has received annual awards from ASCAP since 2005.

The composer’s recent projects include “Sutter Creek”, a cycle of 21 songs based on the Gold Rush town of Sutter Creek situated in California’s Mother Lode (premiered in Sutter Creek on August 31, 2008), “Three Attributive Psalms” for chorus (to be premiered by the Biola Conservatory Chorale in the Spring of 2009), and “Missing Missy” for english horn and orchestra (premiered by the Biola Conservatory Symphony Orchestra in the Fall of 2008).

A member of ASCAP, CFAMC, and SCI, Denham’s music is published by Falls House Press, GIA Publishing, Imagine Music Publishing, Pasquina Publishing Company, Pelican Music Publishing, and Tuba Euphonium Press.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Robert directly at:
Visit Robert’s blogspot at:
You can listen to some other of his compositions at:
If you are a member composer interested in submitting a composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page, please contact Bill Vollinger at:

Listening Page #53: Barbara Holm

March 25th, 2009

MARCH 22, 2009

Barbara Holm: Childhood performed by The Lake String Quartet: Carol Margolis, Nanette Scott Goldman – violins, Ingrid Koller – viola, Daryl Carlson – cello

Mvt. 1 Allegro (Child’s Play)
Mvt. 2 Lento (Daydreams)
Mvt. 3 Rondo (Growing Up)


“Childhood” is a piece in three movements, written for The Lake String Quartet of Minneapolis, Minnesota. After deciding what the three movements would be about, and working on it for a couple of months, what began to emerge was an experience that reminded me of childhood.

The first movement, Allegro, is about child’s play; not parentally organized activities, but play as children do it. Flowing from one activity to the next, perhaps pausing to wonder about something or maybe being interrupted by mom checking in, then back to the play; –this movement wanders. To express this, I used a cheerful interplay of folk-song type motives, harmonies, and tonalities.

The second movement, Lento, is about daydreams. Sometimes apprehensive about the future, sometimes filled with bold dreams and plans, –this is a reverie. I used a chromatic, meditative style to try to share this mood.

The last movement, a Rondo, is about growing up; how a child’s play and dreams develop into other experiences. New ideas are presented, and previous ideas appear in somewhat new forms, and these combine and mature.


I believe that Jesus is the son of God, that he was crucified and rose from the dead. I have committed my life to him. As a disciple of the living Christ, it is my desire to continue to grow in faith, and to express his truth and love in all I do.


Barbara Anne Koenen Holm has received a BA in Mathematics from the University of Minnesota in 1975, and a MM in Flute Performance from The Boston Conservatory in 1990.  She became interested in composition later in life, beginning studies in 1989 with Larry T. Bell of Boston. Her philosophy of music is that a composition should offer a meaningful experience to both the performer and listener.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Barbara directly at:
Visit Barbara’s website at:

If you are a member composer interested in submitting a composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page, please contact Bill Vollinger at:

Listening Page #52: Jesse Ayers

March 4th, 2009

FEBRUARY 22, 2009

Jesse Ayers, The Fire of the Living God performed by the Valparaiso University Chamber Concert Band Jeffrey Scott Doebler, conductor


“The Fire of the Living God” is the third and final movement of “…and they gathered on Mount Carmel”, a surround-sound work based on the great contest in ancient Israel between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal recorded in I Kings 18.   It was completed in 1995, 10 years before Jericho (the narration-audience participation piece appearing on my last listening page). This movement was performed in Slovenia in 2003 at the ISCM World Music Days festival.

The piece is scored for both band and orchestra, and both of these come in two versions each: an expanded instrumentation for surround-sound, and a reduced instrumentation that sacrifices the surround-sound in favor of smaller, and less expensive, performing forces, making a total of 4 versions for each movement. The other two movements are (I) The Incantations of the Prophets of Baal and (II) The Prayer of Elijah. The recording is of the band version, expanded instrumentation.

The brass are divided into two choirs on either side of the audience, usually playing in a standing position in the aisles.  There are also two alto saxes in the rear two corners of the hall, plus a number of extra people behind the audience twirling whistling tubes.

The current movement begins as God answers Elijah’s prayer by sending fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s sacrifice not to mention the very stones of the altar.  (I bet the crowd felt like they had been to church that day!)

If your wondering about the last section with all the repeating woodwind rhythms, it is a reprise of material from the first movement used to tie the piece together.

In the closing seconds of the piece, the two brass choirs play antiphonally (one note on the left, the next on the right) the last phrase of Luther’s Ein Feste Berg , which is quoted as a benediction to Elijah’s deliverance and vindication as he stands alone against a host of 450 adversaries.  (I’m sure I would likewise never cower before today’s cultural high priests, or do I?)


In the Old Testament, God ordained that every fiftieth year (after seven cycles of seven years) was to be a Year of Jubilee: all debt was cancelled, indentured slaves were set free, and inheritances (land) were restored.  It was to be a year of fresh starts and new beginnings.  Jesus affirmed that He was the permanent fulfillment of Jubilee in Luke 4 when he read the Scripture in the temple beginning with the words “The Spirit of the Lord in upon me,” and concluding with the words “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (a direct reference to the Year of Jubilee).

My experience has been that Jesus is still in the business of fresh starts and new beginnings. My debt to the enemy (Satan) was paid in full at the cross; I am in the process of being set free from slavery (slavery to sin, slavery to other’s opinions of me, slavery to the emotional baggage of old wounds); and my inheritance (the Father’s plan for my life) is being restored.  I am Ezekiel’s dry bones being breathed back to life — all because of the incomprehensible mercy and love of Jesus and His direct intervention in my life.


Jesse Ayers’ music has been performed in Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and over 85 U.S. cities, with a Beethoven-meets-Jerry-Lee-Lewis piano 8-hand work scheduled for the SCI national in Santa Fe in April. Ayers more important works explore the interaction between the spiritual and natural worlds and the redemptive intervention of God in the affairs of the human race.  He holds a BM and MM from the University of Tennessee and a DMA  from the University of Kentucky.  He currently teaches at Malone University in Canton, Ohio.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Jesse directly at: Visit Jesse’s website at

If you are a member composer interested in submitting a composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page, please contact Bill Vollinger at

Listening Page #50: William Vollinger

January 24th, 2009

DECEMBER 21, 2008

William Vollinger, Waddaya Want for Christmas? performed by The Gregg Smith Singers, Thomas Schmidt, conductor; William Vollinger, narrator; Julie Morgan, soprano; Walter Richardson, bass

“Waddaya Want for Christmas” is my most recent piece. It is written for narrator, SATB choir, and piano. As for the form: as in my next to last piece “Raspberry Man” (and more than likely in a few more to follow) it has an energetic rhythmically-notated narration duplicated in some of the accompaniment, and utilizes a very direct American (probably even NYC) vernacular, with music to match. In this piece the piano duplicates the spoken rhythms and adds a kind of separate but equal inflection, while the choir (the Gregg Smith Signers which I’ve been blessed to work with for 35 years now) does it’s own semi-Christmassy choir kind of thing.
As for the content: I’m not trying to put down people but to put down bad thoughts (thoughts that I have to deal with too), to generate a cynical view of cynicism itself. I’m speaking not so much to “believers”, but to potential “unbelievers”, (even when I’m the unbeliever). I wanted to create something different and direct from the usual Holiday fare, something that would require thought rather than just a pleasant emotion. (And I like pleasant emotions.)
A definition of materialism I like is “trying to meet spiritual needs with material things”. Materialism never works. The opposite of love isn’ t hate, but selfishness. I used to give my students in elementary school an assignment of doing a kind act and during the next class talking about how they felt about doing it. With the exception of one little girl (who got yelled at after breaking a dish while washing some for her mother), everyone else described how good they felt, sometimes quite profoundly. Then I’d imitate that ugly wrinkled-up scowl that little children make when they don’t want to share, i.e. “That’s MINE!”
Funny how when we act selfish it makes us unhappy, but happy when we do something kind. So why do we keep acting selfish? That is a profound mystery, as if we are imprisoned by a prevailing state of mind that isn’t really who we are or meant to be. Of course love is nice to talk about or write songs about, but to practice it, and CONSISTENTLY, that’s the hard thing. We need help, and to avail ourselves of the help, which I believe is the intent of Christmas.
As Jesus said: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  (Matthew 9:13)
“Waddaya Want for Christmas?” is also being broadcast today at 6 PM EST as part of a Gregg Smith Christmas Concert on New York’s classical radio station WQXR and can be heard streamed on the Internet by going to:

Waddaya want for Christmas? Digital camera? Cell phone? Combination of digital camera & cell phone? MP3 player? Combination of MP3 player & digital camera & cell phone? Jewelry? Chocolates & wine? Gift card? (So you can get what ya want instead of something ya don’t like & hafta act polite about.) “That’s so nice of you to give me that. I am going to put in a safe place I assure you.” Or maybe even a robot? Let’s sing something: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.”
Waddaya want for Christmas? Maybe world peace? Maybe that your boss gets fired? Maybe more appreciation for the ethnic group ya happen to be in? Or less appreciation for the ethnic group you’re not in? Or maybe even HELP FOR THE ECONOMY?! Lord have mercy. Maybe lower taxes? Or higher taxes? Or a combination of lower taxes & higher taxes? Or a combination of lower taxes & higher taxes and an MP3 player? Let’s sing something: “Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen.”
Waddaya want for Christmas? Ya wanna be bigger than somebody else? Ya wanna be richer than somebody else? Ya wanna better than somebody else? Ya wanna be a star? Or do you just wanna follow a star? Do you remember, back in the 60s, there were a lotta songs about luv? Yeah, then somebody got murdered at a Rolling Stones concert & that ended all that. Let’s sing something: “Sleep in heavenly peace.”
Waddaya want for Christmas? Waddaya want for Christmas? Waddaya want? (Waddaya want?) “love love love” Yeah right whateverrr. “love joy song” Make that 3 hard-boiled eggs. “faith hope love” After all ya gotta look out for numero uno. “love life hope” But what if numero uno isn’t you? “hope life song” What if Numero Uno comes down from the sky? “song life love” Here beneath the shadow of Citigroup. But if it’s no longer you that liveth, how then shall you liveth? Ya gotta ask. Let’s sing something: “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”
Waddaya want for Christmas?

I grew up in New Jersey, I am still growing up in New Jersey, and I am growing up in Christ. Jesus, the only complete grown-up I know, is still helping me to grow up too, and you as well, if we let him. As far as Christianity goes there are two heresies: (1) God does it for me or (2) I do it for God. Nor is it half one and half the other. God empowers each of us to grow in Him and Him in us. That’s what growing up in Christ means. Or another even better way to put it is “It’s no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). That old life, that old way of thinking has nothing to offer. The new way is infinite!
I like this analogy (maybe you’ve heard it?): A company manufactures weapons. They are bought out by a company that makes agricultural equipment. As soon as the papers are signed, the ownership has changed. But the machinery has to be retooled and the employees retrained. That is what the new birth is: our spirit is reborn at once. Our mind requires continual renewal. At least that was my experience when I accepted Jesus in 1974. Something inside me was different (my Spirit). But my mind is still being worked on. Now if you didn’t have a one day event that changed you, I recognize that FAITH in Jesus is what saves us, and whatever facilitates and increases that faith (including an altar call) is good, but is never the end, but the beginning. We are not superior or inferior, but equal in Jesus Christ, in His forgiveness, His love, and His potential to grow us up on all things into Christ.
We live in a challenging time. We live in the time we’re supposed to live in. In a world that needs hope and doesn’t find it, we need to be salt and light. In this time, for that effort, through His empowerment, may God bless each of us and make us a blessing.

William Vollinger writes mostly vocal music,  performed by the Gregg Smith Singers and NY Vocal Arts Ensemble. Their performance of “Three Songs About the Resurrection” won first prize at the Geneva International Competition. “Violinist in the Mall” won the 2005 Friends and Enemies of New Music competition. “Sound Portraits” is on Capstone Records. He has collaborated with poets Jenny Joseph and Richard Leach. Tennessee Technological University presented an entire concert of his works. His music has been performed and broadcast worldwide, published by Abingdon, API, Heritage, Lawson-Gould, and Laurendale. Five works have been editor’s choices in the J.W. Pepper Catalogue.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Bill directly at: Visit Bill’s website at:

If you are a member composer interested in submitting a composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page, please contact Bill Vollinger at:

Listening Page #49: Paul Ellsworth

January 24th, 2009

DECEMBER 21, 2008

Paul Ellsworth, Handbell Quartets for Christmas performed by The Master’s College Handbell Quartet

Sing We Now A’Wassailing
Three Kings and Three Ships

Both of these handbell quartets were written for Five Octave Frenzy at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA.  They were both performed and recorded in their respective years’ annual Come, ChristmasSing Christmas concerts at the school, as well as making it into several other handbell-related concerts on and off campus.  Both quartets make use of multiple bell ringing techniques, including malls, marts, a bell tree, shakes (normal and one starting from behind the table), and even a bell toss.  Musically, the works are not very complex, besides some rhythmic twists.  Because they were written for a specific audience (the Christmas concert audience), they were written to be “cloud pleasers,” but also had to be fun (and challenging) for the quartet to play.  There are also some hidden comical musical gestures.  The performers from left to right are Amanda Madrid, Leslie Ann Tulloch, Hannah Cooper, and Paul Ellsworth.

I was born into a Christian family and raised in a very solidly Biblical church.  I believe I was saved at age 6, but it was more from a fear of God’s wrath on my sin than from a love for Jesus Christ.  I was baptized at age 12 by immersion, in accordance with the Biblical command, but still did not think about the difference between loving Christ and “simply” fearing God – or rather, fearing what He could do.  I was homeschooled, but attended a junior college before attending The Master’s College.  While at the junior college, it became much clearer to me just how different a Christian’s life should be.  While I did not have many outward sins and could certainly act and talk like a Christian as well as anyone else, I still loved myself more than my God.  It was not until the latter several years at Master’s and more recently that I’ve been really coming to grips with what being a Christian truly/loving Christ above all else really means, and with what true humility is.  Humility hurts, because I’m such a prideful being.  I am still learning.

I was homeschooled through high school, and then attended a Gavilan College.  After taking about 50 units there, I transferred to The Master’s College.  I went there for four years and graduated with a B.M. in Theory and Composition and a B.S. in Computer Science.  While at Master’s, I wrote for a variety of groups and had a fair amount of performances, including those featured here.  My second (and most recent) composition teacher is also a member of CFAMC, Dr. Richard Pressley.  I also met my wife there (first day, in fact).  I am now empoyed by IBM as a software engineer doing software testing, and am very active in the music ministry (and everything else that a young “tech” guy is typically involved in) at Trinity Bible Church in Gilroy, CA, the church I grew up in and have gone to all my life, save while at Master’s.  At TBC, I am lead the choir and contemporary group, orchestrate/arrange/rehearse all the music for Sunday (unless I don’t have time and just use the Word Music hymn orchestrations), and am organizing and writing the music for a Christmas concert. In addition to the choir/contemporary group, our “orchestra” has trumpet, F. horn, tuba, non-pitched percussion, two clarinets, two saxes, two flutes/harps (both players play both), and piano and keyboard.  In addition to music, I enjoy doing website design/programming, biking, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, tennis (and most other sports), computer games, and reading.  I am an avid Tolkien fan, and also love George MacDonald, though we differ theologically in some significant areas.  My music website is currently undergoing reconstruction (functional but not much music is online at the moment). I also have some scores on and other recordings on youtube.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Paul directly at:
Visit Paul’s website at:

If you are a member composer interested in submitting a
composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page,
please contact Bill Vollinger at:

Listening Page #48: Ken Davies

December 3rd, 2008

NOVEMBER 16, 2008

Ken Davies: Sapphire Kaleidoscope for solo piano movements 1, 2 & 3 performed by Rebecca McNair, pianist

Sapphire =  a translucent or transparent variety of corundum, varying in color.
Kaleidoscope =  anything that constantly changes, as in color and pattern.
These three movements are each loosely based on a visual image I entertained of varying shades of colored “gem stones” (short motifs and pitch sets) in constantly changing patterns. Like the images of the tubular kaleidoscope, rotations may reveal an appearance of similar variations and then suddenly generate a distinctly different pattern from which there appear to be a variety of similar variations before generating yet another distinct pattern.

From my youth as a member of a small country Methodist church, I could have been described as a “teeth gritting believer” always searching for a little more evidence and verification of spiritual reality in much the same way many of us composers search for that slightly more convincing chord. I was a church hopper during college and young adult years. But it was during a particularly “difficult” time in life (“horrible” is more accurate) that that searched for verification came. My music work had disappeared in a recession and I was working as a carpenter attempting to maintain my few possessions and sense of identity. During one difficult day, my sarcastic but desperate prayer yielded that rare “cleansing touch of God” that so often gets called a “momentary psychological delusion” by some. Yet, the personal reality is clear, even if it does take several days to process it all. That was followed by a couple years of intense personal study of several Bible versions, a couple commentaries, Christian radio and TV playing in the background, and a friendly minister of whom I could ask the deepest questions. I became aware of how easily God had micro-managed the lives of Bible figures and that He could do the same for me. Of course, I still had difficulty learning where that fine line was between working desperately hard on the one hand and letting Jesus handle it on the other. And, of course, I naively expected that bad things would stop happening to me.
Fast forward through some more difficult times which somehow guided me back into school, in my late forties, completing the master’s degree that I once thought would be logistically impossible. It’s like Jesus said: “remember when you heard that Debussy piece in high school and ‘it’ told you that you were supposed to be a composer?”
“Well, get busy. You’ve already lost a lot of years.”
Fast forward one more time to one of my composition lessons where my professor questioned why I’m attempting this so late in life, coming from being ‘so far behind.’
“Well, it’s like this,” I said, finally getting down to the bottom line. “If there’s a music department in Heaven, I don’t want to fail the audition.”
He stared at me for an hour’s worth of thirty seconds while I pondered how such an absurd, anti-academic statement could slip out of my mouth without my stopping it. “That’s a good answer!” he said.
Since then, music and life has been seemingly slow but progressive. There have been enough awards, performances, credentials and contacts with other composers and performers to help me know that Jesus can manipulate the art music biz on my behalf. Though most of my work is secular, I occasionally get to also write some religious music and sometimes it gets performed. On my better days when I have my self-doubts under control, I know that not only will I have a place in Heaven, but that I’ll get to hang out with composers and musicians instead of having to work in the carpentry department.

A Wisconsin native, Ken Davies holds an M.A. in trombone from Middle Tennessee State University at Murfreesboro and an M.M. in composition from the University of Colorado at Boulder where he was an Effinger Fellowship composition student.  During the 1970s, he was a full-time trombonist with Gabriel’s Brass, a 12-piece jazz-rock show band based in Orlando, Florida, often appearing at Walt Disney World.  He has worked as a commercial arranger and session producer for nationally broadcast record and television projects. Since 2002, he has resided in south Mississippi where he teaches brass, composes, and runs his publishing company, Kenvad Music. His works include acoustic and electronic pieces that have been performed nationally at Society of Composers national and regional conferences, Southeastern Composers League, the International Trombone Festival, CFAMC, and several concerts. His electronic ambient CD, Floating Galaxy, is available at CD Baby and iTunes. Mp3s of his works may be heard via his website Honors include ASCAP awards and grants from National Endowment for the Arts and Mississippi Arts Commission, including the 2006-2007 Mississippi Performing Artist Fellowship in Composition, and he is listed on  Southern Arts Federation’s artist registry.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

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Listening Page #47: Austin Jaquith

November 22nd, 2008

OCTOBER 26, 2008

Austin Jaquith: Magnificat (a meditation) performed by Rachel Beetz, Flute; Ann Corrigan, Oboe; Marianne Shifrin, Clarinet; Selena Yamamoto, Bassoon; Eric Jackson, Horn; Max Tholenaar-Maples, Percussion; Nick Stone, Percussion; Ah-Rim Ahn, Harp; Thomas Rogers, Violin; Caleb Mossburg, Violin; Jane Jaquith, Viola; Linsey Rogers, Viola; Alice Corey, Cello; Sarah Kidd, Cello; Evan Spieker, Bass; Sally Freeland, Soprano; Austin Jaquith, Conductor

Listen to an mp3 recording of this work by clicking this link: Jaquith.mp3


The Magnificat text has inspired countless artists, and with this composition I contribute yet another work written under its influence.  In composing this work I tried to capture two elements of the text.  The first is its pure religious devotion.  I portrayed this with relatively simple, but free vocal lines which emphasized consonant intervals, and clear shape and phrasing.  Although the textures become quite complex at times, the foundational vocal material always emanates from an underlying gesture of simplicity.  The second element I tried to capture was the awe and wonder that comes across as Mary delivers this prayer of thanksgiving.  I tried to represent the emotional material not only with textures, gestures, harmonies, etc., but also with pacing. I allowed each line of text to unfold, unfettered as it where, by any other line.  Each line then is treated thoroughly. Every thought, expression, and impulse is captured from a different angle with each repetition.  Although a great deal of attention was paid to the development of each line, I also wanted the text’s unity to come across.  To this end, each textual and musical section, although being self contained, always intimates the necessity of the next section.  As the composition progresses, these links become stronger and stronger until the dramatic line “Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles” (“He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree”) is climactically stated.  For dramatic purposes, the remainder of the text winds down musically until the traditional statement of the lesser doxology, which is delivered in a chant-like manner with musical material reminiscent of the beginning.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.

He hath shewed strength with his arm.
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his seed forever.

My Christian faith was born at the age of five when I decided that I wanted to give my life to God and be forgiven of my sinful nature.  My conversion experience owes a lot to listening to the radio program “Unshackled,” which featured the conversion stories of various people that had found God at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago.  My understanding of my own faith has a number of dimensions, as I am sure it has for you, but I would like to mention two essentials.  First, I believe that Jesus Christ is responsible for my salvation, and my forgiveness comes from his self-sacrifice two thousand years ago.  I believe the Bible to the word of God, and that it is accurate and authoritative.  Simply put, these are my basic assumptions when I approach any matter of faith.

Austin Jaquith, a native Californian, began studying composition in High School with Jack Perla in Oakland, CA.  Collegiate studies began at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Dr. Margaret Brouwer, where he received a B.M. in composition.  In Cleveland his works were performed by the Biava Quartet, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, and the Parma Symphony.  In 2003, he was accepted as a M.M. candidate in Composition at the Moores School of Music, where he studied with Robert Smith.  While at the Moores School, he received the Seraphim composition prize, for his String Quartet No. 2, and participated in the Regional SCI conference in San Antonio in 2005.  In the fall of 2005, he began studies at Indiana University in the D.M. program at IU and has studied with David Dzubay, Chinary Ung, Richard Wernick, Claude Baker, and P.Q. Phan.  His String Quartet No. 3 won several honors including the IU Jacobs School of Music Kuttner String Quartet Competition in 2006, the AFMC Emil and Ruth Bayer Composition Competition in the chamber music category in 2007, and was also selected to be performed as part of the 2007 Midwest Composers Symposium.  In addition to composition, Austin enjoys playing the piano, cycling, and serving as the worship pastor at the Greene County Chapel in Indiana.

– – –  SOLI DEO GLORIA!  – – –

For comments, e-mail Austin directly at:

If you are a member composer interested in submitting a composition for an upcoming monthly CFAMC listening page, please contact Bill Vollinger at: