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Songs of ascents : a collaboration of singer, composer and ancient text Harris, Raymond Stanley

Abstract

Interaction of composer, text and performer is a significant and fertile facet of Western music. From the Troubadour poet-composer through the composer-singer teams of Jacopo Peri and Vittoria Archilei, Mozart and Catarina Cavalieri to the twentieth century's Britten and Pears, singers and composers have often demonstrated a significant collaborative relationship. The goal of this paper (lecture-recital) is to introduce the newly composed song-cycle Songs of Ascents as contemporary fruit of the collaboration between composer Larry Nickel and tenor, Ray Harris. The first chapter will survey the working relationships of two twentieth-century composer-tenor teams: Roger Quilter (1877-1953) and Gervase Elwes (1866-1921) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) and Peter Pears (1910-1986). These collaborative models will provide context for issues relating to text selection and setting, performance considerations and ultimately their contribution to the repertoire. Chapter two will discuss the work of Larry Nickel, placing this song cycle within the context of his development as a composer, particularly with respect to his vocal music. The author's work as tenor soloist, including previous work with Nickel will also be briefly presented. Chapter three constitutes the main body of this paper and analyzes the Psalm texts and Nickel's musical setting of eight of the fifteen Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134). The paper concludes with suggestions for this cycle's future performance potential and encouragement for others to pursue such collaborative ventures.

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