Entries tagged “Personal effluvia”



It’s the eightieth birthday of the Welsh composer William Mathias, who died in 1992. His most famous composition, the anthem “Let the people praise thee, o God”, was commissioned for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di in 1981. Eight or nine years later, I must have heard it somewhere and had my adolescent mind blown, because when I found out the adult choir at church was going to be singing it in fall 1990, I made up my mind to join, and all the rest followed from there.

We don’t always stay in love with our musical first crushes, but I’m not ashamed of this one holds up well. The “funky” harmonic progressions that I found so difficult at fourteen sound routine now, maybe even a little cliché-Anglican. And yes, the sophisticated rap on Mathias, I guess, is that he kept going back to the same small bag of tricks-but all the same I’m a sucker for the result.

I rarely run into William Mathias’s work outside of church, but he wrote a lot of it. (An opera, The Servants, had a libretto by no less than Iris Murdoch.) Here’s his flute sonatina.

Diolch yn fawr!


Won't be worried long

“I would say every artist is, in effect, trying to figure how the human race can be saved from itself. So in those days when we sang for the union workers, and today when I go around and sing on a picket line, I’m not really being all that different. Artists who say ’We’re only interested in art for art’s sake’ are fooling themselves, I think.” – Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

A couple of his records were among the first my parents used to play for me. Just a couple seconds of that voice and I’m spellbound.

(I need to learn more, I realize, about Pete’s stepmother Ruth Crawford Seeger, who traveled back and forth between the worlds of folk music and serialist high modernism. I finally listened to the famous string quartet. Haunting and funny by turns. You should check it out.)


Did that just happen?

Trouble in Tahiti was over way too quickly. Thanks to Evan Solomon, Tim McLoraine, and Richard Scerbo at Inscape for making it happen, and my fellow cast members (Tanya Ruth, David Dickey, Brendan Kennedy, and Brittany Baratz) for making it so much fun.

Without any gigs planned for the summer, I thought I’d be able spend a couple of months at my own pace: give one or two auditions, learn some new repertoire, try some different things technically, do some promotional recordings. But last week a call came in, and now instead of taking it easy I’ll be playing my third consecutive Capital Fringe.

This weekend, though, I’ll be unwinding from Tahiti on a long bike ride with friends in a lovely part of West Virginia. I got into biking after leaving grad school and coming back to Washington in my mid-twenties: it seemed like just a practical way to get around and get some exercise at the same time. But I soon discovered that being a bicyclist entails a particular mixture of obsessive tinkering, sheer physical effort, and the occasional ecstatic rush that reminded me a whole lot of singing. I’ve been hooked ever since.


About the blogger

The official artist’s bio.

When I’m not being a soloist on the stage, you can find me writing software code1, singing in the choir at the Church of the Epiphany in downtown Washington, bicycling around greater Washington, cooking or baking in the kitchen, working in our vegetable garden, or collecting odd facts about random stuff.

Leonore the cat is kind enough to share her house with my wife Rachel Barham and me.

1 The main reason it took me so long to get my own website up is that it became a point of professional pride to roll my own.