14Jan

Music for Lent and Easter

 

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope that 2017 has started off wonderfully, and that the year is full of many beautiful and spiritually moving musical experiences.

In preparation for your Lenten and Easter services, I wanted to make you aware of several pieces that I think you would find wonderful additions to your musical offerings.

 

1. Ego Sum Panis     
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: anyone who eats of this bread, shall live forever.  This a simple, a cappella homophonic setting which finds beauty in its’ simplicity.

 

2. Ubi Caritas     
Where charity and love are, God is there. This is a wonderful piece for Maundy Thursday services. It starts off with a single voice and then adds a second. The middle section provides a rich harmonic contrast. A canon of the original theme returns at the end.

 

3. The Lord Bless You and Keep     
4. You     
. This a lovely setting of a very simple, yet powerful text, appropriate as a benediction or offertory anthem.

 

5. Calvary     
– Perfect for Palm Sunday. Let the power of the text help create a moving and stirring moment in your service helping transition from the triumph of the Entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem to his arrest and ultimate crucifixion.

 Now is the Triumph – a wonderful boisterous and celebratory anthem perfect for Easter Vigil or Easter morning. There are sections that divide SSAATTBB, but in a very limited way; still very accessible.

All titles are available from www.jwpepper.com
About DJL… Dr. Darin Lewis, is a composer, conductor and educator residing in Emmaus. Pennsylvania. He is on the faculty of Lafayette College and is the Music Director of Trinity Lutheran Church in Robesonia, PA.  Mr. Lewis’ works are available through his website: www.darinjohnlewis.com and through J.W. Pepper.
11Sep

Remembering 9/11/01

Remembering today…

It was a beautiful day in New York. Crisp, and sunny, and students had just started back at school. It turned out to be a surreal day…

Ultimately, in response to the tragedies that occurred, I was moved to write two pieces, each reflecting how I felt about the terrible loss we all shared.  In November of 2002, at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, the Horace Mann Chamber Orchestra premiered The Answer. Subsequently I have had the good fortune to perform it throughout Europe and the U.S. I am so happy that it seems to touch the hearts of so many people and that players, both student and professionals enjoy performing it.

For the fourth anniversary, I was music director at Christ Church Riverdale and I was inspired to set the text, attributed to St. Francis: Lord Make Us Servants of Your Peace. It became a piece we would perform a lot, and when I moved to be Minister of Music at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford, Ct., we performed it there as well. I am happy that when I talked to my good friend Richard Weidlich yesterday, he said that they would be singing it to commemorate the day.

I have attached links to both pieces on Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy them.

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10Sep

Consortium Commissioning Projects Arrive!

So the fall school year is in full swing, and to go along with this, I am announcing a new initiative on my website:

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Basically, a consortium commission allows people to share the costs of commissioning new pieces.

There are a number of advantages of consortium commissioning including:

Making commissioning new music more affordable, making sure the piece has the opportunity to be performed a number of times, introducing the composer’s work to a larger audience and ultimately building long-term relationships between commissioners and composers.

The cost of these commission projects is very affordable, between $100 and $150. Each commissioner will receive a PDF of the work, and a license to print as many copies as they need to perform it. For a choir of 60, this would be the same cost as buying a an already written piece of music from a publisher. Thus, joining in on a consortium commission would have the added benefits of presenting a new work on a concert that is dedicated to your specific group.

There are opportunities to commission new works for Christmas, For general use,

and even in preparation for REFORMATION 500!

There are also several instrumental commissioning projects, including a new work

for flute and string orchestra.

On my website, the different projects are listed, with descriptions of how I envision the pieces to develop, along with the costs, deadlines for signing-up and audio clips of similar types of compositions I have written.

Click Here

I am very excited about the possibilities. I hope that if you read this, you might consider joining one of the projects, and/or, send this to a friend whom you think might be interested.

It continues to prove challenging to get the word out about my compositions. I meet a lot of people and those who hear my music are very supportive, however I am constantly striving to share my compositions with a larger and larger audience. To be successful at that, I need the help and support of all of you.

I thank you in advance for your support!

Musically,

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Darin

17Aug

It’s a most exciting time of the year…

 

It iIMG_3751s a busy time of year, as we all prepare to return to school and the start-up of the church program year.

I am excited to be returning to Lafayette College for my fifth year leading the Chamber Orchestra. They are a great group of students and we have really made a lot of progress over the past few years. In addition, I will continue to be the staff accompanist, accompanying juries and recitals, and new this year, I will be accompanying the Concert and Chamber Choirs. It looks to be an exciting time.

I am also preparing to begin the church program year in my new position as Director of Music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Robesonia, Pennsylvania. It is a thriving community with so many things going on. I have been getting acclimated these past four months, and am really excited to dive into the program year. I have laid out an assortment of anthems I know and love, and have carefully culled the 800+ titles in the library to resurrect some choir favorites that are new to me. Stay tuned for updates!

On the composing front, look for an announcement of a new commissioning project I will be launching – Consortium commissioning opportunities, allowing ensembles and individuals to help create new works, without bearing the financial burden alone. I am very excited about this project and hope to launch it in the next few weeks.

In addition to writing several new works, I am readying several pieces for publication, including an a cappella setting of Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis, and Sevenfold Amen, which I wrote for my last Sunday at St. Francis Church in Stamford, CT.

This fall I will be making a major push to try and reach out to choir directors and band directors across the country, introducing my music and myself. It will be an enormous undertaking and I ask all of you to help me. Don’t hesitate to tell your friends and colleagues. I know that I have gifts to offer; I just need to spread the word!

I will also be launching a blog series focusing on choral works, where I talk about the pieces, provide some analysis and critiques, as well as some rehearsal suggestions. I am very excited to share, not only works of mine, but also works I have had success with, and that audiences have responded well to.

As always, Musically yours

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djl

09Mar

Small World…

SO…

 

I was watching THE VOICE and the last person on show tonight was this tall guy, with a really cool voice… remember that…

 

A good friend of mine is doing a recital in May and wrote me to help him with a piece. Adam Guettel’s Hero and Leander. It’s a great song, but the tessitura is a little too high for him – (where the majority of the notes lie). He asked me if I could transpose it for it and put it in a key that would fit his voice better; of course I said yes!

 

He sent me a copy of the song to use as a guide. So… I went on YouTube to hear the piece and the first version that came up was a guy from SUNY-Oneonta. – Ryan Quinn. He had a really beautiful voice and his version of the song is amazing – it’s linked below…

 

I listened to a few versions, but really liked his best. Those of you who know me, know I am rather… particular about voices… but I liked it so much that a few days later, I actually played it for my wife – I really wanted her to hear it. She agreed…”it’s a cool, beautiful voice.”

 

Flash forward… That guy who sang last on the voice tonight, is the SAME guy – Ryan Quinn. He has a great story – teaches music to kids with traumatic injuries – and has been battling Lyme disease. He chose Adam Levine as his coach, and I hope he goes very far – I think he is really talented, and to me he reads as a very authentic person. What an extraordinary coincidence that this singer I found out of thousands singing an obscure Broadway song on Youtube is the same guy I see on the voice not even a week later…

25Jan

The Power of Music

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So the past two days, being stuck inside and dealing with 28+ inches of snow, I had the opportunity to indulge myself by watching the U.S. Figure Skating championships. I loved watching figure skating growing up – In elementary school I had a crush on a girl what was a figure skater, and we even went and saw Dorothy Hamill on her national tour celebrating her Olympic win. Nancy Kerrigan, Kristy Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Michelle Kwan – I followed all of them, and watching the figure skaters at the winter Olympics with my wife and kids is always great family fun.

Of course, like with movies, TV shows, anything with music, I can’t help but go into analytic mode – I am always evaluating, judging… – Those who know me are smirking right now, because they know much a part of my personality that is. I can’t help myself – I am always considering if the music is supporting the moment – it’s trying to manipulate me, why is it working, why are all the people around me crying…

I know the power music has to manipulate – said in a nicer way – to enhance and connect with the listener to heighten their experience. Just thinking about the latest Star Wars movie and the incredible effect John William’s score has on the viewer’s experience of the film is undeniable and worthy of a blog post unto itself – note to self…

Back to the figure skating – over these past two days, I was acutely aware of the power the music did or did not have on the audience, and I was frankly excited to hear the commentators talk about and recognize what an influential part of the performance the choice, and pacing of the music was in the success of the overall performance, and how the audience responded – falls or not.

There were some really beautiful and technically impressive performances. Those skaters/athletes/artists make it look so easy – I am in awe of what they do, for I can hardly even stand up on skates, let alone spin, jump or do a double combination triple lutz, triple toe-loop!

Music arouses emotions, feelings, and is more powerful that any language. Music is integral to every culture and is transcendent. Whether a solo voice or a full orchestra, music can be evocative, comforting, joyful, and overwhelming – “music stands halfway between thought and phenomenon (Heinrich Heine)

So how does it work? Daniel Levitin, in his book This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession sums up music’s power this way:

“Composers imbue music with emotion by knowing what our expectations are and then very deliberately controlling when those expectations will be met, and when they won’t. The thrills, the chills, and tears we experience from music are the result of having our expectations artfully manipulated by a skilled composer and the musicians who interpret that music” (pg. 111).

Bette Davis, in addition to being a tremendous actress, was acutely aware of the power of music. In the 1939 melodrama – Dark Victory, she played the part of a young, wealthy party girl, who dies of a brain tumor. At the climax of the movie, she ascends a staircase, to retire and ultimately die. – She knows it and the audience knows it. Bette Davis knew that this moment in the film would provide her the opportunity to be noticed for an Academy Award; it was her moment. She asked the director who would be scoring the movie. The answer came back – the great film score composer, Max Steiner – who, in 1933 changed movies forever by scoring King Kong, providing the first original full length score, and creating the opportunity for the audience empathize with the fate of a giant mechanical gorilla. She understood the power and value of a musical score, but feared its ability to outshine a performance.

“Well,” she declared, “either I am going up those stairs or Max Steiner is going up those stairs, but not the two of us together.”

Davis’ opinion was ignored… Ultimately, two Oscar nominations were earned in that scene – One for her and one for Steiner.

Such an outcome demonstrates the importance of music in film, and the power a soundtrack can have over audiences. I would take that farther and simply declare: the power of music to effect people’s emotions is incomparable.

Music is especially powerful when the audience experiencing it, WANTS to be moved. The audience at skating finals and watching them on television wants to connect – wants to be moved – and is thus willing, expecting, hoping to be manipulated.

Several of the skater’s musical choices were incredibly effective; some skated beautifully, but if the pacing and choices of music didn’t have an arch, a trajectory that connected with the audience, then the response to those performances was not as vigorous as those whose musical choices connected more effectively with the audience.

I know the power of music and as a composer, conductor and performer, I am always conscious about the arch and structure of every piece I compose, conduct or perform. I know how important this can be towards a successful connection with the audience. Some of the skaters, who have worked so hard to refine their skills and craft, should do the same – for all their hard work, supported by well chosen, paced and performed music could mean the different between silver or gold.

In the end, my son summed it all up in a simple question today – he asked, “Dad – why do they use so much music from Les Mis?!”

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djl

18Aug

Lewis at the Boston Pops!

Well, though I wasn’t able to attend – I was sent the following link of part of the performance of “Song of Solomon” that the Needham High Choirs did with the Boston Pops in June.

I was so proud to see the performance and I want to thank everyone in Needham for putting so much time and effort into learning and performing the piece so well – you did a super job!

I would love to know what you all think – let me know!

Peace,
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24Mar

Boston Pops!!!

This past fall I was commissioned to write a piece for the 300th anniversary of the town of Needham. It turned out quite well and the performance was great. Turns out that the Boston Pops is sponsoring a “Needham Night at the Pops” in June. They were at the concert and expressed an interest performing parts of the piece on the concert — I was just informed today that they have decided to feature three of the movements on the concert — the Needham high school choir will sing and the Boston Pops will accompany. It is great opportunity for the kids and I am so happy for them – they were so great to work with. I wish I could be at the concert – but I will be on tour with the HM Orchestra in Italy — 🙂 – Feeling good — hoping to post some clips soon – I think it turned out well…

21Mar

A lot of composing going on…

So – right now I have three pieces that are all due to people in the next 2 weeks — 1st – an electronic piece that will be used for a dance concert. It is about 5 minutes and is a change for me – It will be completely created and performed with midi tracks — the piece is designed to mimic robots and represent soldiers who are incapable of functioning with an emotion – they merely do what the are told – they too are robots…

The 2nd piece is a being choreographed by a great dancer, Alison Kolinski – she is SO talented. She asked if I would write a piece that she could set in the style of Irish step dancing — so, I am writing an American version of Irish-step dancing — a little hoe-down, a little Lord of the Dance and a pinch of several authentic irish fiddle tunes — It will be for solo violin and cello… because…

3rd – I have two great young girls who are graduating this June and they are both very talented. Usually I feature seniors who have put in their dues and are very advanced, by having them play a concerto with the orchestra at school. They asked that they play something together and they hoped I would write something for them. I have decided to continue the Irish-step theme and write a concerto I am calling the Gaelic Concerto – which will be a multi-movement work that will pay homage to the wonderful and vast collection of music that is Scottish, Irish, Celtic, etc. – The third movement of the piece will be the Irish-step piece from the dance concert — sometimes it is useful to be economical…

By the way — I just posted a new youtube clip of a piece that I did earlier this month in NYC — It is the 3rd movement from a piece called “LUX” – for soprano soloist, choir and small orchestra – the soloist in this performance was Ellen Zimmer Lewis – she did an amazing job — she’s my wife, maybe I am prejudice!! Enjoy!

08Jul

Touring Argentina and Uruguay

From June 10-18 I was on tour in Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Uruguay (Montevideo). We had a great time. You know that they don’t eat a lot of vegetables or fruits — it is all about meat – beef! — I love beef, but this Californian-grown boy loves fruits and vegetables — but found a few good markets and had some wonderful pears…

The concerts were great — the people were so excited to hear classical music and to hear it performed by young people. We were touring with with our choir and our orchestra. Several of the concerts were with other schools – or professional choirs – there is some singing a-goin-on in South America, however, not a lot of orchestra playing. The group I had with me was a solid bunch of students and they really played well — highlights for me were our performance of Tchaikovsky’s String Serenade — it kicked!! Also, we offered several rousing performances of Copland’s Hoe-Down — people love that piece and the reaction was always very exciting to receive.

We also performed a new piece of mine, written for viola solo and small orchestra. Entitled “Arioso” it is a slow, melancholy piece where the melody is present by the viola and is passed around the orchestra. People seemed to really relate to it and that was very gratifying.

The people were always very appreciative and supportive of our efforts. It was a wonderful experience as musical ambassadors. It is a long way from NYC and the flight was not that comfortable; I don’t know when I will be returning, however I am very glad that we had such a wonderful experience. I will try to post some pics soon…