GRAMMY Award-nominated vocal ensemble Skylark gave absolutely stunning premiere performances of my work Transform the World with Beauty, which they commissioned for their Spring 2019 program “Masterpiece” featuring musical reflections of visual art. They recorded my piece during their tour’s culminating concert on the Georgetown Concert Series in Washington, D.C.
In the following video, I’ve paired the ensemble’s recording with texts and images from the Victorian artists and poets—Julia Margaret Cameron, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Morris—who inspired my composition.
Watch below (or on YouTube here), and continue reading for my notes about this work.
Performed by Skylark Vocal Ensemble (Matthew Guard, Artistic Director). Audio Recording by Dan Shores. Video Editing by Nell Shaw Cohen.
ABOUT THE Work
Transform the World with Beauty, an 11-minute work for SATB vocal ensemble in three movements, is inspired by the flowering of visual art and poetry in Victorian Britain during the 1840s-1870s.
The first movement, “My First Camera,” celebrates avant-garde photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron. In my adaptation of an excerpt from Cameron’s autobiography, this pioneering artist describes the power of her creative impulse when she first took up the camera as a 48-year-old wife and mother. (Image: Julia Margaret Cameron, “Pomona,” 1872.)
“In an Artist’s Studio” is a setting of a poem by Christina Rossetti. She offers an incisive, feminist critique of her brother, Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his obsessive depictions of an idealized woman. (Image: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “The Annunciation” (detail), 1849.)
The final, title movement is inspired by the work and ideas of William Morris. The botanical and mythological titles of Morris’ sensuous textiles and wallpaper designs are juxtaposed with lofty sentiments from his philosophical lectures and essays. These two strands of Morris’ world, disparate at first, come together into a hopeful vision of society “transformed” through the beauty of nature and art. (Image: William Morris, “Strawberry Thief” wallpaper design, 1883.)