Justorum Animae

My latest composition, Justorum Animae, was used as a meditation for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during solemn vespers. The text is meant as the offertory antiphon for the feast of All Saints – but you will find it familiar – as it is often used as the first reading for funerals.

Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt,
et non tanget illos tormentum mortis.
Visi sunt oculis insipientium mori,
illi autem sunt in pace.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and the torment of death shall not touch them.
In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die;
but they are in peace.

We pray for our dead in the month of November, and so it was particularly moving to conduct this at Vespers on November 22nd for the feast of Christ the King – which also happens to be the feast of St. Cecilia – the patroness of the St. Cecilia Consort, the ensemble that performed this.

Sheet music available!

Gospel Acclamations for LENT

Please feel free to download and use these acclamations. Chanted verses with text from Missal 3rd ed. (NOT Grail Trans)

LENTEN GOSPEL ACCLAMATIONS, YEAR B (2012)

Ave again…

Here’s a brief article in the Fairfield County Catholic about the premiere of my newest arrangement of my Ave Maria.

http://www.bridgeportdiocese.com/index.php/fcc/article/concert_highlights_new_faith_center

piusBen

Back Home in Lourdes

I returned for my second pilgrimage to Lourdes, France this month as an Auxiliary member of the Order of Malta American Association . This time I was slightly more prepared, but still bowled over by the spirit of this place.

My job was to provide music for the various masses and services – a special job for sure. Parish music ministry is rewarding enough, but to minister in Lourdes is truly a blessing. I got to see, from a unique perspective, the desire of people to be with The Lord, and Our Lady. Many sought his or her own miracle, and I have to believe that many felt some sort of presence or touch- it seems to me impossible not to feel something there!

Last year, being my first visit, I felt I had to experience everything right away. This year, I was able to “soak it in” and not rush around. This time, I was able to sit and talk with some of the Malades (French for sick) and truly listen and experience their perspective. It was truly moving, and once again reminded me of how lucky and blessed I really am to have a beautiful, healthy family. These malades are so courageous, some facing life-threatening illness- and to hear their stories and witness their faith was truly inspiring.
Just as inspiring, was to watch so many give so willingly of their time, and put their faith into action to help others. This, above all else, is really the grace of Lourdes: to help your fellow brother or sister through the trials of life. I’m proud to serve the Order of Malta, which enables me to participate, in a small way, the call to help others. It really was a sort of catharsis from the stressful and fast-paced world in which I so easily find myself drowning.

In other matters, I got to play some fantastic instruments there!

This organ, at the church of Saint Savin (a very old Benedictine church), was constructed in 1537! It has some ballyhoo to boot. In front are three masks, the mouths of which, the organist can control with pedals. It also has birds that twirl around- and if the power goes out, you use the bellows!

I also got to play this organ in the upper basilica for the closing mass.

Then there is the underground basilica of St. Pius X. The international mass saw an attendance of roughly 25,000 – UNDERGROUND! Here is view looking left from the choir area in the center.

One other interesting fact- in no other place is it so commonplace to celebrate mass with a Cardinal, Archbishop, or bishop, and not blink an eye. The focus is squarely on the pilgrimage and service, not on the ceremony so often accompanied by high-ranking clergy. It was so personal and intimate- very nice.

Every night, after some fellowship at the Jeanne d’Arc (local bar), many would walk down to the grotto and pray the rosary. So quiet and peaceful- nobody there, and all you hear is the burning candles and the River Gave. A truly remarkable experience- and very moving to bring the malades there and witness their emotions as we prayed right in front if the place that the blessed mother appeared to Bernadette.

After, many would walk just up the way and light a candle. (Was beautiful to see the Sandy Hook candle burning there with the names inscribed on it- they burn one year-round).

I love this place, the people, and the reason. I long to return again.

A Reflection on Lourdes

The world premiere of my Ave Maria in Lourdes, France – the Grotto.

As a composer, I have learned that there are good days and bad days as it relates to “feeling the creative” and hearing the music. Indeed, most days I sit with pencil in hand and realize that today is not the day for that great piece of music to be created.

However, one regular day in October of 2011, the notes came flowing like water. Immediately, I had a text in mind- the melody was perfectly suited to Ave Maria. The piece literally wrote itself, and to quote myself from a previous post, I felt like I was connected to that larger musical (and apparently spiritual) conscience.

Then, as if it were scripted, I received an email a few days later from a now dear friend inviting me on the Malta pilgrimage to Lourdes, France to help with the music. Of course, the thematic connection was obvious, but I didn’t give it too much thought.

Months later, while rehearsing with the music director, Lia Carter, I mentioned that I had written an Ave Maria. We ran it quickly, and she was nice enough to want to include it in the program. Just before I left, she mentioned to me something along the lines of “by the way, did you know the title of the pilgrimage this year is ‘Ave Maria?’ ” My hair stands on end.

Just before we leave, the issue of where to place it within the various masses gets answered- at the Grotto, right where Bernadette had her visions.

Yikes! – the circumstances surrounding this composition just kept getting stranger and stranger – or as I came to realize, more and more special.

I arrive at Lourdes and quickly start participating with the music (The whole experience was really mind-blowing- I highly recommend a visit, no matter your faith or creed). This picture on the right is me cantoring at the Rosary Basilica – read into, or don’t, but all the “coincidences” seem to be directed by someone, or something – and this picture really sums up the idea. Is she saying “about time you got here?!”

A few days later, it was time for the mass at the grotto – where we would first play my Ave Maria. Its is a humble place, void of gilded decorations, just the rock cave. For me, I found it much nicer to do it here, then inside a huge church or basilica. I try to be a humble person, and this place just fit my persona.

I had to play it on a rickety old organ, but I must say – playing it THERE, was something special. Again – read into it or don’t, but it was a sunny day when we arrived at the grotto – but the clouds started to fill the sky – and the very moment (and I mean with my downbeat) we started, it began to lightly rain. The moment we finished, the rain stopped and the sun came back out. – Another moment.

When all is said and done, from a composer’s standpoint, it was the most unique premiere of a composition – made all the more memorable by all of the so called “circumstances.” Many people might write-off those weird moments as nothing special and just a coincidence – and it doesn’t bother me in the least. But, as a person of faith (well, someone who tries to be – I’m fail miserably most days) – it was mind-blowing – all the things that happened. I’ll never forget that day in the grotto.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am really back to reality – and have to go change a diaper.

Sacred Musings

Over the course of a few weeks, I’ve introduced my new mass setting called Mass of the Assumption (yes, left it ambiguous as to which one) to the parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption . It has been so much more rewarding teaching the congregation something that I wrote – and honestly something I wrote because I wasn’t blown away by any of the new settings released over the past year.

[If you feel out of the loop- here’s the background: Pope JPII ordered a new translation of the Roman Missal in 2000. The translation is more accurate- and arguably more poetic – as it is now faithful to the original Latin. The 3rd Ed. was released last year and will be fully implemented in the U.S. the first Sunday of Advent.]

For a long time I’ve felt a little trapped by the particular genre of contemporary Catholic music- for sure some nice music out there, just as I love the old hymns and chants. But I guess I have a different take on contemporary- which is why I wrote my own mass. It was pretty fun to do- and made me really consider the text I was setting- something most people (including me!) tend to take for granted and just recite or sing like an automaton.

I think I may have found a new source for text- sacred. Some of it is just exquisite poetry. I’ve submitted the mass for publishing- once I find out either way- ill share more details.

(I’d be happy to send to any organists/music directors- just email me. It is suited for both organ or piano.)

Officially Published!

Not sure what that really means, except that I wait with baited breath to see if my online store suddenly starts making millions of dollars… ahem.

It has been an interesting process – from improvising, reading poetry, writing out ideas, writing the songs out on manuscript, engraving in Finale, finding artwork, becoming a publisher with ASCAP… I never realized how many steps accompany the creative process. It was a great learning experience – and it continues. Now its time to give the music to friends, colleagues, teachers to get it out there – maybe on a recital program. And then there is the recording – which means I’ll have to actually practice what I wrote! If you’re interested at a look-see – you can download a watermarked version here, and if you really love it – you can buy it in my StudioStore!

On to the next page…

Pacem.

A Picture for the Cover

I just received the artwork for the Dickinson set. It was done by a very talented artist, Mary Treschitta. This is an original piece designed specifically for this work. I’m so excited to have such a beautiful cover that really captures the essence of the poems and music.

Next Project

Well, it didn’t take too long.  My next project is scoring a short film entitled “Old Days” by Costas Costanta.  If you can, please help support this project by donating to the Kickstarter page.

On to new things

Had a blast watching a movie on a big screen, and hearing my music – it was cool.  Sure we will have more showings at film festivals in the future.

[cincopa A8EAlnKbetF4]

But while that works itself out – time to move on to the next project – again, from a former student.  This is a short – last I saw it was about 12min or so. Heavy drama – so it will test my skills for sure.  Looking forward to it.  Oh, and a nice order from EastWest  – new samples arriving soon!

 

 

A first…

…for my film music aspirations.

I am going to the Bergenfield Film Festival tonight to see the screening of Honorable Retribution at the Clearview Cinema 5 theater. I am excited to see the film on a big screen, and hopefully hear a convincing soundtrack! I am also looking forward to hearing what other fellow composers are doing and make some meaningful contacts.

Here is a link to the festival website: http://www.bergenfieldfilmfestival.org/

And the schedule (HR is showing in Theater 5): For A PDF Schedule To This Year’s Festival

If you want to know a little more about the movie, its creator, and general information, check out the website: http://www.ejesusnieves.com/honorable-retribution.html

And the IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1690969/fullcredits#writers

I’ll post some pictures and twitter updates while I’m there. Here goes nothing.

 

20110505-084412.jpg

Film Festival Debut

I just learned that the movie Honorable Retribution, for which I composed the soundtrack, has been accepted to the Bergenfield Film Festival in Bergenfield, NJ. This would be my first “sound appearance” in a film festival.  Wishing all involved with the film the best of luck. Here is the website for the festival being held on Thursday, May 5th at 7pm – at the Clearview Cinema.

http://www.bergenfieldfilmfestival.org/

I hope to get down and see/hear the movie on the big screen – very cool.

Moving Forward

I’ve just added the online store – have 2 albums up, and two manuscripts ready.  It helps to have them done – makes room in my head for the next project. Finish the Emily Dickinson – and then the next film score. Good times.

Emily Dickinson Set

The first round of editing is finished – this just highlighted several more corrections that need to be addressed. Once finished – trying to figure out how to self-publish the set.  I’m registered as a composer and publisher with ASCAP – still need to do some research on how this all works. Here are a few of the first pages.
[cincopa AIDA6jaJ8-Wi]

Genesis

No, not a post about the first book of the Bible, or a throw-back to an 80’s rock group. I am speaking about the moment of creation – the initial spark of consciousness. As a composer, I have been grappling with this idea of genesis: Where do my ideas come from?

Did I create the music? I am beginning to feel that I am part of a greater consciousness, or stream of thought of which I am a small part. I am learning to listen to what seems to already be there, to already exist. No, I am not simply writing down what I hear, but describing it through music – and that is the magical part. Of course the interpretation of this, the infinite amount of variables among composers, allow for such a diversity of output. My training, musical taste, life experiences, etc, all effect how I listen to the world, interpret what I hear, and contribute back to the greater consciousness through my music.

The act of contributing back is not possible without performance – and there is an interesting dialogue that occurs here.  A composer interprets the musical soul through writing it down, and the performer is the one who further interprets the idea – This contribution back to the collective musical soul thus alters it by its mere presence. here I speak of influences.

It is easy for me to trace my influences.  While I love music from many composers, I have to say the composer that speaks the most to me, or whom, in my opinion, best communicated the abstract to me, is Ravel. Of course, I have been ‘influenced’ by many composers and styles of music, but the most influential to me would be the ’sound’ that most stirs my soul – and to me, Ravel captures something in his music that speaks to me as clear as day.  I don’t try to understand the abstract part of it, I just listen and enjoy it. Study and analysis certainly help shed light on the music – but usually only formally quantify that which I already felt in the musical soul.

To me, music always has an image associated with it.  In a sort of contrived ‘genesis,’ I decided to set a poem to music in order to get my creative juices flowing.  I picked up a collection of Emily Dickinson, and immediately settled on this one.

 

Will there really be a “Morning”?

Is there such a thing as “Day”?

Could I see it from the mountains

If I were as tall as they?

 

Has it feet like Water lilies?

Has it feathers like a Bird?

Is it brought from famous countries

Of which I have never heard?

 

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!

Oh some Wise Men from the skies!

Please to tell a little Pilgrim

Where the place called “Morning” lies!

 

The irony does not escape me. The search for the ethereal morning (which is an entirely different discussion about the search for heaven in my opinion) is very similar to my longing to learn how to listen to the musical soul. As a student of music, I hope that I can better understand and grasp the process by which the great composers have created such masterpieces. I just need to keep listening – both inward and out – and hopefully that spark, or moment of creation will reveal to me something more – something unknown, yet intimately familiar.