Saturday, March 31, 2018

David Rain, Composer in Training

David,tenor, relaxes his eyes and mind before a concert performance
A fledgling composer gets to hear his pieces performed

Never in a thousand years did I think this would happen. I’m in a state of total shock; here’s my story.

In 2015, at the young age of 63, I first got the urge to write a piece of music for a cappella choir - a "Missa Brevis".

In 2016, I first experienced that unique thrill of hearing one of my pieces performed in public, the “Rideau Carol”, written specially for and dedicated to my choir the Stairwell Carollers.
In 2017, led masterfully by our choir director Pierre Massie, the Carollers performed my second piece in public, a challenging arrangement of the German classic, “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen”.

And this spring in 2018, I will get to hear a third piece performed by the Carollers, another challenging arrangement, this time of the medieval song, “In natali Domini.”

Throughout all of this, I have been mentored by Pierre, a composer hims, who has taken huge amounts of his precious time to listen to my new works, review them, make comments and suggestions, push me this way, pull me that way, and generally challenge me to make each piece the best that it can be. I owe him a huge debt, thanks Pierre!
Martha, former alto, David and Pierre leave Parliament Hill after enjoying a Carillon concert of Pierre's music.
Well, I’ve been totally bitten by this “composing bug” and have now written 17 (!) pieces for mixed a cappella choir. It’s way too much for one choir to digest, so I’ve naturally been looking for ways to speed up the process of hearing what each piece actually sounds like, sung by real singers, and not by the artificial sounds of a computer program. (I should mention that I don’t play the piano well enough to hear most of my pieces on a piano even.)

One initiative of mine has worked out quite nicely. A few current and former Carollers have formed a small singing ensemble that we call the “Ad hoc Chorale.” It started out as an invitation to come test out and “workshop” some of my new pieces. The first session went well and the second is coming up soon, and there is even interest to widen the net a bit, as some of our “Ad hoc” members are also choral composers, so I’m really looking forward to hearing their pieces workshopped too!

The other idea I had was to enter various choral composition contests. Not with the main aim of winning, as that might not be realistic, but with the hopes that somehow somewhere someone on the jury panels might actually like one of my pieces and who knows, might program it in future years. Did I mention that I’m now 66, unknown as a composer, and I’m not sure how many years I have left to explore this new passion of mine.
Still running marathons!
Anyways, fast forward to a few days ago, when to my total shock, I got an email from Jon Washburn, the director of one of Canada’s top choirs, the Vancouver Chamber Choir. Jon informed me that my application to the VCC’s “Interplay” composer workshop had been accepted!

On April 4, some of my choral works along with 2 other Vancouver composers will be sung by the VCC choir led by Jon and I will receive their comments and critiques on my pieces.

Yikes, did that thought make me nervous! But then I thought, this is a professional choir, one of the very best in Canada, and all I have to do is show up, sit back, listen, and learn. How tough could that be?

Sincere thanks to Jon and the Vancouver Chamber Choir for offering me this unique opportunity to learn and grow as a composer, and a special shout out to the SOCAN Foundation  for making this “Interplay” workshop with Jon and the VCC possible.
So that’s my “composer story”, up until now.

If I survive the April 4 workshop in one piece, I may share a few more thoughts, but for now, I’m just trying to make sure that the choral parts for the choir are legible, and that the hyphens are all in the right place!

Stay tuned….

David Rain, the fledgling composer, has sung tenor with the Stairwell Carollers for 25 years.

About The Stairwell Carollers:

Pierre Massie began our a cappella choir way back in 1977 while studying music at Ottawa U. The Stairwell Carollers are ranked with the best of Ontario choirs, winning both the 2010 and 2013 Ontario Music Festival Association competitions. 

A registered Canadian charity, we also help local charities with our concert, CD and cookbook sales
Net proceeds benefit charity.

Please DONATE to support our 40th year workshops! 

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You can also email your questions to me - info (at) stairwellcarollers (dot) com.
Holly :)

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