“Retrace” reprised, a new opera, & CD release!

Juventas Plays Retrace This Saturday

Saturday, 11/11 at 8:00pm ET
East Cambridge, MA
& Streaming Live on YouTube

Juventas New Music Ensemble presents encore performances of audience favorites from their recent seasons—including my piece Retrace!

Get tickets, read the program, and watch the livestream here.


New Opera in Workshop Staging: The Fire Tower

A black and white photo taken at the base of a staircase, looking up at a fire tower atop a mountain summitFriday, 11/17 at 7:30pm
Sunday, 11/19 at 3:00pm
San Antonio, TX

The University of Texas at San Antonio presents a fully-staged workshop production of my new short opera, The Fire Tower, on their program “Epigrams”! Directed by Jourdan Laine Howell. Tickets are available here and at the UTSA Recital Hall.

Set against a backdrop of climate crisis in the American West, this 24-minute opera for soprano, mezzo-soprano, and piano is an intimate portrait of two intrepid women who develop a bond of friendship during a trek deep into the wilderness. Learn more about The Fire Tower.


Sauntering Songs Now Available on CD

Album cover for "Sauntering Songs"My album Sauntering Songs is now available on physical CD from Skylark Vocal Ensemble! Please consider supporting my wonderful collaborators by purchasing a copy.

The album is also available on all streaming music platforms.

Extended liner notes for Sauntering Songs are available here.


Autumn Art Prints Added to Shop

This Fall I released giclée prints of two new watercolor paintings depicting autumn foliage and rock cliffs here in the Shawangunk Mountains. Check them out, along with my Spring/Summer series, at my Etsy shop!

“Sauntering Songs” Album Released by Skylark Vocal Ensemble

Album cover for "Sauntering Songs"

Sauntering Songs
Skylark Vocal Ensemble | Matthew Guard
Juventas New Music Ensemble | James Moore

Watch the trailer:

I’m thrilled to share that the first full-length album of my concert music was released today by three-time GRAMMY nominee Skylark Vocal Ensemble!

Sauntering Songs is available now on all major streaming music platforms (including Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, and Tidal). The CD will be available in October, and may be pre-ordered from Skylark. Visit my website for digital liner notes with essays and lyrics.

Skylark’s 75-minute live album features the title work—a concert-length cantata with guest performances by Juventas New Music Ensemble and guitarist James Moore—alongside choral cycle Transform the World with Beauty. Both were commissioned by Skylark and recorded live in concert.

Sauntering Songs (tracks 1-17) is my love letter to wanderlust: weaving together art songs, choral music, and literature into an expansive cantata on the theme of walking. From Walt Whitman to the present day, Sauntering Songs celebrates diverse characters who search for freedom and fulfillment through subversive journeys on foot. Transform the World with Beauty (tracks 18-20) was inspired by the flowering of visual art and poetry in Victorian Britain.

I’m incredibly honored to have participated in this stunning recording that Skylark and our collaborators have created, and now to be able to share our work with you. I sincerely hope you enjoy Sauntering Songs!

—Nell

The scores of Sauntering Songs and Transform the World with Beauty are both available for performance, in full or excerpts. Please contact me for purchasing information.

“Woman Walking” on Laura Strickling’s Album 40@40

Album cover for Laura Strickling's "40@40"

Visionary soprano and new music advocate Laura Strickling commissioned 40 composers (and almost as many poets and lyricists) to write art songs for her 40@40 Project. The first volume in this collection, recorded with fabulous pianist Daniel Schlosberg, has been released on Bright Shiny Things records and is available on all streaming platforms (Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music) and for purchase (Bright Shiny Things).

My song Woman Walking with lyrics by Megan Cohen appears on this album (track 10), alongside works by a formidable array of excellent composers and lyricists.

This wonderful release hit #1 on Billboard for Traditional Classical Albums for the week of September 2! Incredible work by Laura, Daniel, and the team at Bright Shiny Things.

Live Recordings from Juventas at The Clark

Nell with Juventas New Music Ensemble (Oliver Caplan, Artistic Director; Nicholas Southwick, flute; Matthew Smith, cello; and Ryan Shannon, violin) at The Clark.

Earlier this summer, Juventas New Music Ensemble gave brilliant renditions of my works for flute, violin, and cello at The Clark Art Institute‘s Community Day. Live recordings from these performances are now available to stream!

Visit my Soundcloud playlist to hear all of these pieces, and click the titles below to read my program notes and peruse the scores:

SUNBEAMS (2023) – World Premiere
A miniature inspired by Edvard Munch’s 1912 painting “The Sun.”

RETRACE (2018)
This work evokes juxtapositions of past and present in California along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

HORIZON (2013)
A cello solo reflecting landscapes of the East End of Long Island.

LAMENT FOR THE LAND (2023) – World Premiere
A lament expressing grief for humanity’s broken relationship with our environment, and hopeful yearning for a healed Earth.

WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM (2016/arr. 2023)
This selection from my wildlife conservation suite Refuge dramatizes the story of the American Bison in Yellowstone National Park.

All of these works are available for performance. Please contact me for purchasing information.

New scores, concerts, and album release this summer!

Photograph of turtleSummer has arrived!

Here in the Hudson Valley, fragrant milkweed are blooming. Fireflies are flashing. And turtles are digging their nests (a favorite, the endangered wood turtle, pictured here).

And with the season, a few fun announcements from my composing activities—including free outdoor performances, a new album featuring my music, and the release of 10 (!) new works of my vocal music. Read on for more!

Juventas Performs Nell’s Music in July

Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA (July 16)
Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, MA (July 23)
Edvard Munch's painting "The Sun"
Edvard Munch, The Sun (1912). Munchmuseet, Oslo, Norway.

My perennial collaboration with Boston’s wonderful Juventas New Music Ensemble continues with these free, outdoor performances in July:

On Sunday, July 16, as part of their Community Day, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA presents Juventas in two performances (11:00am and 2:00pm) of a full 45-minute program of my music!

This program will include FOUR World Premiere works and arrangements, exploring themes represented in the Clark’s special exhibitions: landscapes, ecology, and visual art. Highlights will include my miniature inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Sun (on exhibit at The Clark). Featuring Nick Southwick, flute; Ryan Shannon, violin; and Matthew Smith, cello. More information here.

A week later, Juventas will reprise their performance of my work Retrace in a performance at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site on Sunday, July 23 at 2:00pm in Brookline, MA, also featuring music by Christina Rusnak, Oliver Caplan, Gwenyth Walker, and Stacey Garrop. More information here.

Woman Walking on Laura Strickling’s Upcoming Album

Album cover for Laura Strickling's "40@40"

I am thrilled for phenomenal GRAMMY-nominated soprano Laura Strickling‘s upcoming album of 20 World Premiere art songs, which she has commissioned and recorded with pianist Daniel Schlosberg—including my song Woman Walking with lyrics by Megan Cohen!

40@40 will be released by the Bright Shiny Things label on August 18. Pre-order here before August 17th with code LAURA20 for 20% off.

Selections from Sauntering Songs

Cover of the score of "Street Haunting" for choir

Looking for new music for choir or solo voice to perform? I’ve just released the scores of 10 (!) selections from my cantata Sauntering Songs, which may be programmed as standalone pieces.

Each song explores themes of walking and wanderlust, celebrating diverse characters who search for freedom and fulfillment through subversive journeys on foot.

Explore these titles and view free perusal scores on my website:

Interesting in performing any of this music? Please contact me for purchasing information.

 

Greet the Winter Solstice with choral music!

Listen to Boston Choral Ensemble’s NEW live recording of Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight, my choral setting of three poems for the winter season, from their holiday concert on December 11, 2021 (Klo Garoute, conductor).

Commissioned and premiered by Boston Choral Ensemble in 2019 through their 12th Annual Commission Competition, “Blue Shadows, Silver Sunlight” features settings of three poems on the theme of winter: “Winter Branches” by Margaret Widdemer, “A Winter Blue Jay” by Sara Teasdale, and “A Winter Ride” by Amy Lowell, all written in the early 20th century by American women. Each of these poets used vivid descriptions of winter phenomena to convey moments of profound connection to the natural world.

Any of the three movements may be programmed separately as standalone works for performance. Read the program note and view the perusal score here.

Skylark Receives GRAMMY Award Nomination for “It’s a Long Way”

List of Nominees for Best Choral Performance, including "It's a Long Way" by Skylark Vocal Ensemble
Skylark Vocal Ensemble’s It’s a Long Way has received a 2022 GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Choral Performance!

I’m continually grateful and honored that Skylark featured this piece I wrote for them as the title track of their beautiful album, which gives expression to experiences of the pandemic through a musical program of courageous stylistic and emotional range.

The album is available for listening on all major streaming platforms and can be ordered directly from the ensemble here.

Skylark Releases Album “It’s a Long Way”

Album cover with black and white photograph of feather, by recording artist Skylark Vocal Ensemble, album title It's a Long Way
I’m deeply honored that one of my dearest collaborators, multiple GRAMMY-nominated vocal ensemble Skylark, is featuring my choral work It’s a Long Way as the title track of their new album! The album includes a varied selection of contemporary and historical music exploring Skylark’s collective experience of living through the 19 months since their last concert.

The album was released today, September 24, 2021 and is available for purchase directly from Skylark and streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

Commissioned by Skylark and originally recorded by a virtual quartet for educational use, my piece has been given further life in this stunning new studio recording by the full Skylark chamber choir.

It’s a Long Way will also be featured on Skylark’s album release tour next month in Massachusetts! Concert dates include Friday, October 8, 7:00pm @ the Simon Center for the Arts at Falmouth Academy, Falmouth MA; Saturday, October 9, 7:00pm @ Belleville Church, Newburyport, MA;  and Sunday, October 10, 3:00pm @ First Parish Church in Weston, Weston, MA. Subscribe to Skylark’s season to purchase tickets.

About the Music
“William Stanley Braithwaite’s poem “It’s a Long Way,” although published in 1904, speaks powerfully to me in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic…I’ve sought to honor Braithwaite’s bittersweet words of hope and determination with a choral setting for all of us striving to safely arrive at our journeys’ shore.” Continue reading & peruse the score.

Virtual Choir Performance of “It’s a Long Way” by SEMMEA Festival Choir

It’s rare privilege to receive a commission and premiere performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even rarer: receiving  two performances of a new work within a short time!

I was deeply moved by the virtual choir performance of my choral score, It’s a Long Way, given by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Southeastern District (SEMMEA) Senior Festival Choir.

In early January 2021, nearly 200 high school students remotely rehearsed and recorded their parts with guidance from conductor Dr. Christopher Jackson. Their individual performances were then assembled into this beautiful performance documentation.

I also had the pleasure of participating in a virtual visit with the choir and a Q&A led by Dr. Felicia Barber, alongside fellow composer Joel Thompson.

Commissioned by Skylark Vocal Ensemble for their New Voices for Education project, this work was composed primarily for study by high school and college choirs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The score and a professional recording of this work may be found on Skylark’s website.

World Premiere Recording of “It’s a Long Way” by Skylark Vocal Ensemble

Painting of ocean, sky, and horizon with bright, pale light
“Seascape” (1901), watercolor, William Trost Richards (1833”“1905). Public domain.

The World Premiere recording of my newest choral work, It’s a Long Way, commissioned by GRAMMY-nominated vocal ensemble Skylark, has just been released!

Check out Skylark’s website for free access to the recording, score, and oodles of supplementary videos and study materials that their team of artist-educators has put together to make my score visible, accessible, and approachable for high school and college-level virtual choirs.

I’m honored to be featured in this project alongside Jonathan Woody, whose new work I Conquer the World with Words is a gorgeous and dynamic expression of the impact of language.

I applaud Skylark’s support of us living composers and encouragement of young singers’ engagement with new music, as well as providing students and educators with world-class choral study materials.