for various voices and instruments (2015-2018)

Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis

Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis

World Premiere: Michael Jinsoo Lim, violin and voice; Melia Watras, viola and voice; Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello; Arturo Alto, Atar Arad, Catherine Connors and Vina Vu Valdés, recorded voices; April 17, 2019, Seattle, WA

Duration: 46:47

Program Notes:
I never heard a folk song I didn’t like. (Note to self: that might be a good lyric for a folk song...) Communicative and often spiritual, they have been agents for change and social justice. Folk songs connect us to a direct way of sharing; they invite us to be part of how people have been making music for centuries. 

In 2015, I wrote a piece in the style of a folk song called Berceuse with a Singer in London for voice and viola. Writing Berceuse struck a chord with me (no pun intended). I enjoyed the process and knew I wanted to do more, and so it became the genesis of my Folk Style Project.

With Folk Style Project, I set upon the task of writing music in a folk style; a collection of songs for various combinations of voice and instruments, each one inspired by some personal, artistic connection in my life. The idea was for me, as a composer, to create my own “folk” material, that I could develop, expand and quote in larger musical works.

Written from 2015-2018, Folk Style Project consists of 13 songs, meant to be performed on their own, in different combinations, or as a complete set. As one collective work, the order is based on each song’s pitch center, creating a descending chromatic scale, ending in Seeing Cypresses with Catherine C. which has no intended pitch center.

The order when done as a collective piece:
Mozart Doesn’t Live in Seattle for voice (2017)
Vetur öngum lánar lið for voice and cello (2016) (or violin and cello, or violin and viola) (2017) 
Berceuse with a Singer in London for voice and viola (or Berceuse for violin and viola) (2015)
The Lesson for recorded voice, violin and viola (2017)
Lament for viola solo (2016)
O. Reverie for narrator and violin (2018)
(one) for voice(s), viola and cello (2018)
William Wilson for voice and violin (2016)
Wise Tentacles for violin and cello (or violin and viola) (2017)
Lontano for violin and viola (2017) 
Viola for narrator and viola (2017)
Firefly for voices and cello (2018)
Seeing Cypresses with Catherine C. for recorded voice (2017)

—Melia Watras