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VARIATIONS (1974) Op.7

Opus number: 7

Title: Variations

Instrumentation: piano

Date written: 1974, Appalacian State University, Boone, North Carolina

Length: twelve minutes

Premiere performance:  Larry Bell, pianist, Appalachian State University Contemporary Music Festival, May 1974

Important subsequent performances: Larry Bell, May 1974, Boone, NC; May 1980, Paul Hall, Juilliard; March 31, 1983, American Academy in Rome; April 18, 1982, and February 29, 1984, at The Boston Conservatory

Recording: tapes at The Boston Conservatory library of Bell’s performances of 1982 and 1984

Program notes: “Variations” for piano was written for the composer to play and completed at Appalachian State University in the spring of 1974. Much of this work shows the influence of Dallapiccola’s “Quaderno Musicale di Anna Libera” in its preoccupation with contrapuntal techniques. Larry Bell first performed it at Appalachian’s Contemporary Music Festival in May 1974 and it won a BMI Student Composers Award that same season.

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Fancies (2012) op. 117

Opus number: op. 117

Title: Fancies, a cycle of five songs for Tenor and Piano

“Oft have I sigh’d for him”

“Turn back you wanton flyer”

“Come, O come, my life’s delight”

“The cypress curtain of the night”

“Beauty, since you so much desire”

Instrumentation: Tenor and piano

Text: Thomas Campion

Texts:  click here

Fancies, op. 117

Texts by Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

 

Oft have I sigh’d

Oft have I sigh’d for him that hears me not;

Who absent hath both love and me forgot.

O yet I languish still through his delay:

Days seem as years when wished friends break their day.

Had he but loved as common lovers use,

His faithless stay some kindness would excuse :

O yet I languish still, still constant mourn

For him that can break vows but not return.

 

Turn back, you wanton flyer

Turn back you wanton flyer,

And answer my desire

With mutual greeting,

Yet bend a little nearer,

True beauty still shines clearer

In closer meeting,

Hearts with hearts delighted

Should strive to be united,

Either other’s arms with arms enchaining,

Hearts with a thought, rosy lips

With a kiss still entertaining.

 

What harvest half so sweet is

As still so reap the kisses

Grown ripe in sowing,

And straight to be receiver,

Of that which thou art giver,

Rich in bestowing.

There’s no strict observing,

Of times, or seasons changing,

There is ever one fresh spring abiding,

Then what we sow with our lips

Let us reap love’s gains dividing.

 

Come, O come, my life’s delight

Come, O come, my life’s delight!

Let me not in languor pine:

Love loves no delay, thy sight

The more enjoyed, the more divine.

O come, and take from me

The pain of being deprived of thee.

 

Thou all sweetness dost enclose,

Like a little world of bliss:

Beauty guards thy looks: the rose

In them pure and eternal is.

Come then! and make thy flight

As swift to me as heavenly light!

 

The cypress curtain of the night

The cypress curtain of the night is spread,

And over all a silent dew is cast.

The weaker cares are conquered.

But I alone with hideous grief aghast

In spite of sleep’s charms a watch to keep

Over mine eyes to banish careless sleep.

 

Yet oft my trembling eyes through faintness close:

And then the map of Hell before me stands,

Which ghosts do see and I am one of those

Ordains to pine in sorrow’s endless bands,

Since from my wretched soul all hopes are reft,

And now no cause of life to me is left.

 

Grief , seize my soul for that will endure

When my crazed body is consumed and gone:

Bear it to thy black den, there keep it sure,

Where thou ten thousand souls dost tire upon:

Yet all do not afford such food as thee

All this poor one, the worser part of me.

 

Beauty, since you so much desire

Beauty, since you so much desire

To know the place of Cupid’s fire,

About you somewhere doth it rest,

Yet never harbor’d in your breast,

Nor gout-like in your heel or toe;

What fool would seek Love’s flame so low?

But a little higher, but a little higher,

But a little hight, but a little higher,

There, there, there,  oh there lies Cupid’s fire.

 

Think not, when Cupid must you scorn,

Men judge that you of Ice were born ;

For though you cast love at your heel,

His fury yet sometime you feel:

And whereabouts if you would know,

I tell you still not in your toe:

But a little higher, but a little higher,

But a little higher, but a little higher,

There, there, there, oh there lies Cupid’s fire.

 

Written for: Thomas Gregg

Date written: 2012

Length: eleven minutes

Premiere performance: September 17, 2012, Thomas Gregg, tenor, Larry Bell, pianist, David Friend Concert Hall, Berklee College of Music

Program notes: My friend Thomas Gregg first introduced me to the poetry of Thomas Campion in the fall of 2011. Tom had sung my Shakespeare Sonnets (the first performance for tenor voice) and he had recently heard my Revels, a song cycle based on the poems of Ben Jonson. Therefore, it seemed natural to continue working with Elizabethan texts. Campion was a distinguished composer as well as a writer of lyrics for his own songs. The fact that many of these poems were designed to be sung only encouraged me to see if I could write music to these lyrics in my own way. The title Fancies was a word that my composition teacher, Vincent Persichetti, would say, “Always leave room in your music for fancy.”

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REVELS (2011)  op. 114

Opus number: op. 114

Title: Revels, A cycle of ten songs for Baritone Voice and Piano, based on the poetry of Ben Jonson.
Revels
Song from the Silent Woman
Opening Doors
On My First Daughter
For a Girl in a Book
Of Life and Death
Love-All
Living by
The Short Fear
Begging Another

Instrumentation: Baritone and piano

Written for: Philip Lima

Text: Ben Jonson

Texts: click here [move these texts to a separate link]

Revels

O, that joy so soon should waste!
Or so sweet a bliss
As a kiss
Might not for ever last!
So sugared, so melting, so soft, so delicious,
The dew that lies on roses,
When the Morn herself discloses,
Is not so precious.
O, rather than I would it smother,
Were I to taste such another,
It should be my wishing
That I might die kissing.

Song from The Silent Woman

Still to be neat, still to be dressed,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, still perfumed:
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art’s hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace;
Robes loosely flowing, hair as free;
Such sweet neglect more taketh me
Than all th’ adulteries of art:
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.

Opening Doors

He smashed his hand
in opening a door for her,
and less pain than
embarrassment shrieked through him.
Concealing both,
grimacing as if theatrically,
he asked himself
who he thought he was to go
around opening
doors for anyone, much less for her.

On My First Daughter

Here lies, to each her parents’ ruth,
Mary, the daughter of their youth;
Yet all heaven’s gifts being heaven’s due,
It makes the father less to rue.
At six months’ end she parted hence
With safety of her innocence;
Whose soul heaven’s queen, whose name she bears,
In comfort of her mother’s tears,
Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:
Where, while that severed doth remain,
This grave partakes the fleshly birth;
Which cover lightly, gentle earth!

For a Girl in a Book

She, composite of all my loves,
less real than most, more real than all;
of my making, all the good and
some of the bad, yet of yourself;
sole, unique, strong, alone,
whole, independent, one: yet mine
in that you cannot be unfaithful.

Of Life And Death

The ports of death are sins; of life, good deeds:
Through which our merit leads us to our meeds.
How wilful blind is he, then, that would stray,
And hath it in his powers to make his way!
This world death’s region is, the other life’s:
And here it should be one of our first strifes,
So to front death, as men might judge us past it:
For good men but see death, the wicked taste it.

Love-All

The decorously informative church
Guide to Sex suggested that any urge
could well be controlled by playing tennis:
and the game provided also ‘many
harmless opportunities for healthy
social intercourse between the sexes.’
For weeks the drawings in the Guide misled
me as to what went where, but nonetheless
I booked the public courts and learnt the game
with other curious youths of my age:
and later joined a club, to lose six one,
six love, in the first round of the Open.
But the only girl I ever met had
her ‘energies channelled’ far too bloody
‘healthily,’ and very quickly let me
know that love was merely another means
of saying nil. It was not as though I
became any good at tennis; either.

Living by

Walking, snow falling, it is possible
to focus at various distances
in turn on separate flakes, sharply engage
the attention at several spatial points:
the nearer cold and more uncomfortable,
the farther distanced and almost pleasing.
Living, time passing, it is preferable
to focus the memory in turn upon
the more distant retrospects in order
that the present mind may retain its peace.
Yet knowing that seeing and remembering
Are both, of course, personal illusions.

The Short Fear

My awkward grossness grows: I go down, through
I maintain my self in the conviction
that I have as much to say as others
and more apposite ways of saying it
Certainly I feel it has all been said
The short fear is that even saying it
in my own way is equally pointless

Begging Another

For love’s sake, kiss me once again;
I long, and should not beg in vain,
Here’s none to spy or see;
Why do you doubt or stay?
I’ll taste as lightly as the bee
That doth but touch his flower and flies away.

Once more, and faith I will be gone;
Can he that loves ask less than one?
Nay, you may err in this
And all your bounty wrong;
This could be called but half a kiss,
What we’re but once to do, we should do long.

I will but mend the last, and tell
Where, how it should have relished well;
Join lip to lip, and try
Each suck other’s breath.
And whilst our tongues perplexed lie,
Let who will, think us dead or wish our death.
For love’s sake, kiss me once again.

 

Date written: 2011

Length: twenty-seven minutes

Premiere performance: September 15, 2011, Phil Lima and Larry Bell, David Friend Recital Hall, Berklee College of Music

Program notes: Revels, a set of ten songs, was written for and dedicated to my friend, baritone Philip Lima, during the summer of 2011. The texts were chosen from the poetry of Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s contemporary. Despite the four-hundred-year difference between the1600s and the 2000s, Jonson’s poetry attracted me because of its remarkable relevance to our time. Philip Lima and I gave the first performance of this cycle at the Berklee College of Music on September 15, 2011.

 

Reviews: (performance)“Revels was inspired by the songs and operas of Richard Strauss, especially the lighter comic moments of Der Rosenkavalier. Each song is tonal with remote modulations via chromatic third relationships, such as Eb major and f# minor. The florid piano writing acts as ironic and sometime reflective commentary on Jonson’s text while the vocal writing is particularly designed for the range, tessitura, and timbre of Philip Lima’s expressive baritone voice.

“There were moments of freshness in the tonal canvas Bell brought to his songs. His revivifying salon harmonies of yesteryear would come unexpectedly, fleetingly. Beneath his conservatism lies a welcome refreshing unpretentiousness.

“Gracefulness in power and a kind of purity marked Lima’s delivery that, in turn, was matched by Bell’s compelling incisiveness and vigor.”      –David Patterson, The Boston Musical Intelligencer

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Emersonia (2011) op. 113

Opus number: op. 113

Title: Emersonia

  1. The Rhodora
  2. Two Rivers
  3. Give All To Love
  4. Concord Hymn

Instrumentation: A capella chorus SATB

Commissioned: First Church Boston

Text: Ralph Waldo Emerson

Text: click here

Date written: 2011

Length: fifteen minutes

Premiere performance: June 10, 2012, First Church service. Also October 2, 2011. January 27, 2013, Collin Concert at the First Church Boston, Choir of First Church Boston

Program notes: For the texts of this piece I chose four poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was for a brief period a Unitarian minister in Boston. The four parts of this piece, “The Rhedora,” “Two Rivers,” “Give all to Love,” and “Concord Hymn,” are designed for an entire service: Prelude, Musical Interlude, Offertory, and Postlude respectively. “Concord Hymn” is best known for its line “and fired the shot heard round the world.” Emersonia is dedicated to Paul Cienniwa and the choir at First Church Boston who gave its premiere during the fall of 2011.

The music is largely tonal with frequent inflections of harmony drawn from the parallel minor, sometime known as modal interchange. Both the beginning and the end are mostly homophonic with the two interior sections being mostly polyphonic. “Two Rivers,” for example contains many examples of canonic imitation that reflect the textual idea of the two rivers. In all four sections appear many instances of text painting akin to those ofthe Renaissance madrigal.

 

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ECHOLOCATIONS OF CELLOS (2010)  op. 108

Opus number: op. 108

Title: The Echolocations of Cellos

Instrumentation: Tenor, Mezzo-Soprano, Baritone, and Soprano soloists, Harp, Piano, Harpsichord, and Guitar

Text: Elizabeth Kirschner

Texts: click here

THE ECHOLOCATIONS OF CELLOS

At the end of the seasons there comes
the timeliness of rain, its scented veil, a deluge

that casts about, assaults the earth with soft,
wet drops. The sea slides on its silks, the forests

tingle with the lamb’s wool tamped down inside roseate
mosses and the drops resound with the vibrations of

tubular bells. The coral mushrooms glow like Chinese lanterns
and the streams plait themselves into green gold braids

while red fish silently open their mouths like voluptuous
roses filled with the language of violins.

Enter the opulent banquet, glades like silhouettes of
a woman’s hips, twilights steeping in honeyed tea.

Let’s feast with blue deer in eel grass, be guided by
the velvet pearls inside stars that bird their way into

hearts that are suede pockets holding the minted riches
that come at the end of the seasons. Therein, a finale

of rain, its quiet gestures in the calm that is the soul’s
inmost climate. The birds, now silent, dip into watery

mirrors like tiny monks, drink in the crème de le crème
flowing in straws of music. Rising up, the Indian Pipe,

the mingling of misty breath in portly clouds. At the end
of the seasons, when the rains do come, the hemlocks,

statuesque and black, bend but do not break and out of
everywhere comes a slow descant, the echolocations of cellos,

a yielding to the hidden light in the ethereal throats of lilies.
There is a melancholy that mulls, like the spice titillating cider,

and it slowly pulls the salty wave upon the sugars of cinnamon
sandbars. Always the vocal slide, a marriage of lips to song,

even in the rain, the lowlife of harmonious rain, with the succulence
of ruddy pears and the gorgeous silence that follows, a still life
of a valley of silence, the sleep inside the wind and the never-ending
colorama of dreams sea swept into heaven’s weightless ballast.

Finally, the resurrection of singers responding to the echolocation of cellos,
the batons lifted like the featherbones in angelic wings, the whirring,

the swish of a hummingbird, its indelible voiceprint eternally aloft
at the end of the seasons when the rains do come, gently, gently.

And the waters are still. Then comes the ovation of birds.

Date written: 2010

Length: ten and a half minutes

Premiere performance: May 19, 2011, Brown Hall at New England Conservatory, Erin Holmes, soprano; Bethany Tammaro Condon, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Gregg, tenor; Philip Lima, baritone; John Muratore, guitarist, Maja Tremiszewska, pianist; Ina Zdorovetchi, harpist, Paul Cienniwa, harpsichordist, Larry Bell, conductor

Subsequent performances: January 16, 2012, First Church Boston. Erin Holmes, soprano; Bethany Tammaro Condon, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Gregg, tenor; Philip Lima, baritone; Daniel Ascadi, guitarist, Maja Tremiszewska, pianist; Ina Zdorovetchi, harpist, Paul Cienniwa, harpsichordist, Larry Bell, conductor

Program notes: These song cycles represent my four-part work called The Seasons, op. 101. Each of the four song cycles contains five songs and can be performed on its own. Fall: Autumnal Raptures, written in 2006 for tenor and harp, was especially conceived for Thomas Gregg and Emily Laurance. Winter: Exaltations of Snowy Stars is for mezzo-soprano and piano and was written for and first performed by D’Anna Fortunato and myself in January of 2008; here it is sung by Bethany Tammaro Condon. Spring: In a Garden of Dreamers, was written for Phillip Lima in the fall of 2009 and is scored for baritone and harpsichord. The final set Summer: The Fragrant Pathway of Eternity, is scored for soprano and guitar.

The most important element uniting these works is their common poet, Elizabeth Kirschner. Elizabeth’s poetry inspired each song in ways that I cannot consciously explain–nor would I wish to if I could. The poems are profoundly intimate, refreshingly free of pessimism, and vividly imagistic. Most importantly, perhaps, is that they clearly originate from a determining artistic personality that feels perfectly suited to my own.

Recording: Thomas Gregg, Ina Zdorovetchi, Bethany Tammaro Condon, Philip Lima, Paul Cienniwa, Erin Holmes, and John Muratore, Larry Bell, conductor. Larry Bell: In a Garden of Dreamers, Albany Records, 1308/09

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PSALM  150  (2010) op. 104

Opus number: op. 104

Title: Psalm 150  

Instrumentation:  SATB chorus and organ

Text: Psalm 150, King James Bible

Date written: 2010

Length: five minutes

Premiere performance: Not yet performed.

Program notes: Psalm 96, Op. 106; Psalm 1, Op. 103; Psalm 23, Op. 105; and Psalm 150, Op. 104, are four Psalm settings based on texts from the King James Bible written in the summer of 2010. Psalm 1 was written for Thomas Gregg and was first performed by Gregg, tenor, and Dana Whiteside, baritone, and Heinrich Christensen, organ at King’s Chapel in Boston in August of 2010. Psalm 96 for SATB chorus and Psalm 23 were first performed in 2011 by the First Church Boston choir conducted by Paul Cienniwa and by Christine Teeters and Paul Cienniwa, organ.

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PSALM 23 (2010)  op. 105

Opus number: op. 105

Title: Psalm 23

Instrumentation: Soprano Soloist and Organ

Date written: 2010

Length: six minutes

Premiere performance: June 5, 2011, Christine Teeters, First Church Boston.

Program notes: Psalm 96, Op. 106; Psalm 1, Op. 103; Psalm 23, Op. 105; and Psalm 150, Op. 104, are four Psalm settings based on texts from the King James Bible written in the summer of 2010. Psalm 1 was written for Thomas Gregg and was first performed by Gregg, tenor, and Dana Whiteside, baritone, and Heinrich Christensen, organ at King’s Chapel in Boston in August of 2010. Psalm 96 for SATB chorus and Psalm 23 were first performed in 2011 by the First Church Boston choir conducted by Paul Cienniwa and by Christine Teeters and Paul Cienniwa, organ.

 

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PSALM 96 (2010)  op. 106

Opus number: op. 106

Title: Psalm 96 

Instrumentation: SATB Chorus and Organ

Text: Psalm 96, the King James Bible

Date written: 2010

Length: five minutes

Premiere performance: June 5, 2011, First Church Chorus

Program notes: Psalm 96, Op. 106; Psalm 1, Op. 103; Psalm 23, Op. 105; and Psalm 150, Op. 104, are four Psalm settings based on texts from the King James Bible written in the summer of 2010. Psalm 1 was written for Thomas Gregg and was first performed by Gregg, tenor, and Dana Whiteside, baritone, and Heinrich Christensen, organ at King’s Chapel in Boston in August of 2010. Psalm 96 for SATB chorus and Psalm 23 were first performed in 2011 by the First Church Boston choir conducted by Paul Cienniwa and by Christine Teeters and Paul Cienniwa, organ.

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PSALM I (2010) op. 103

Opus number: op. 103

Title: Psalm I

Instrumentation: Tenor and Baritone soloists and Organ

Text: Psalm 1:1-6 King James Bible

Written for: Thomas Gregg 

Date written: 2010

Length: four mintues

Premiere performance: August 10, 2010, Noon Hour Recitals at King’s Chapel, Boston. Thomas Gregg, tenor; Dana Whiteside, baritone; Heinrich Christensen, organist.

 

Program notes: Psalm 96, Op. 106; Psalm 1, Op. 103; Psalm 23, Op. 105; and Psalm 150, Op. 104, are four Psalm settings based on texts from the King James Bible written in the summer of 2010. Psalm 1 was written for Thomas Gregg and was first performed by Gregg, tenor, and Dana Whiteside, baritone, and Heinrich Christensen, organ at King’s Chapel in Boston in August of 2010. Psalm 96 for SATB chorus and Psalm 23 were first performed in 2011 by the First Church Boston choir conducted by Paul Cienniwa and by Christine Teeters and Paul Cienniwa, organ.

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