The earliest point to which I can trace my fervent choral nerdiness is my freshman year at Marquette Senior High School, when I entered the Redmen Chorale as a relatively clueless baritone in 2003.
That year we sang Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium and I was immediately hooked. The following year we sang Eric Whitacre’s Sleep and I became even more hooked. It was in my junior year that I had my first real go at composing for choirs. Those early works (A Wind Beneath the Door, The Silver Swan, The Call, even White Stones to some extent) were largely attempts at emulating the music of my two favorite composers at the time, Lauridsen and Whitacre. Dense sonorities, unprepared dissonances, massive divisi – aspects of my music that still exist in my recent works, but employed in a much more primal and, dare I say, primordial way at that time. Jan Brodersen, my earliest mentor and conductor, was so patient and helpful – I never would have achieved what I have without her support.
As I progressed through my undergraduate degree at Westminster Choir College and my PhD at the University of Aberdeen, these aspects changed, became more focused and more my own. I discovered the seemingly impossible brilliance of Bach, the deep humanity of Brahms, the stark darkness of Lang, the holy simplicity of Tavener, the weird and wonderful British passion of Howells (Col Reg, anyone?) – even the beauty and lyricism of Mealor. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of composers who have influenced my own writing in the past decade of study and practice.
At the beginning of my PhD in 2014, Paul told me I needed to be able to explain the “LaVoy” style by the end of my three years in Scotland. In all honesty I don’t think I ever came to a solid conclusion on the matter during my time there. I wrote about specific aspects of my music in my thesis certainly, but it always felt as though the work that I was describing was, in some strange way, not really my own. Putting the core of one’s own work into words is daunting, especially when one does not truly understand what that core contains.
And so, I’m launching a new venture that will hopefully help me to better understand the core of my own style while simultaneously producing a number of new works with a wide appeal. From now until the end of October I will be offering SATB or SAT/SAB commissions at a substantial discount, over 50% off my usual quoted rate. The intent is for these pieces to be simple and performable, with a lean and efficient approach to the setting of short texts and poems. The scores will be produced by Hewitt Hill Music and available for purchase after the premieres of the works by the commissioning choirs.
What would happen if I were to strip my own music down the bare essentials? What would happen if I were to go back to basics and limit myself to three or four-part writing? That is exactly what I intend to find out. If you are interested in joining me in this venture, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Spots are limited and it’s first come first serve, so be in touch! The goal is to have these ready for performance during the Spring concert cycle, so it will be a quick turn-around.
One last thing, on a personal note… Life is funny and often comes full circle when we least expect it. I greatly admired the work of Morten Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre when I was in high school – I still do after all this time, as a matter of fact. Last year, Sarah and I were fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time with Morten when he came to work with the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir in Scotland, and now, in a week’s time, two of my works will be performed at a concert in Chicago in which Whitacre will be conducting a program of his own works.
Very cool that I get to meet them both in the space of a year.