Artist Spotlight: Composer Nicholas Reeves

Composer Nicholas Reeves

Composer Nicholas Reeves

Verdigris singers are currently consumed with the rhythmic intricacies of Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields. We’ve left every rehearsal with our brains happily melted by the intense concentration her driving and unpredictable rhythms require. Next week though, we leave the coal mines for a few weeks to focus on the electronics-inspired world of Mass Transmission.

The February program opens with a WORLD PREMIER of a newly commissioned piece by Texas native composer Nicholas Reeves. Reeves’ piece sets text from Betty’s Notebook, a controversial and fascinating piece of evidence in the Amelia Earhart investigations.

Sam first met Reeves in 2012 when Reeves visited Williamson Voices at Westminster Choir College to work with the choir on an Arvo Pärt piece. Later, Sam was reminded of Reeves when he heard a choral composition of his on a recording by William Jewell College choirs, and he began talking with him about the possibility of doing more choral composition. Later, in the planning of the Mass Transmission concert, Sam realized a prime opportunity to feature Reeves’ unique choral sound with a commission to set text from Betty’s Notebook.

Sam and Nicholas have another connection in their shared alma mater of Westminster Choir College. What can we say? WCC people hang together.

Here are a few highlights from Reeves’ career thus far:

  • His work has been performed by The New York Virtuoso Singers and Canticum Novum Singers under the direction of Harold Rosenbaum, the Winds of Laesø Art Festival in Denmark, and in a masterclass with Pierre Boulez during the IRCAM residency at Manhattan School of Music.

  • Reeves is a first prize recipient of the New York Virtuoso Singer Competition for his composition In Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich. In March of 2015, the GKCAGO Schola Cantorum presented Reeves’ The Light of the World, a multi-media work for a chamber ensemble juxtaposing video testaments of survivors from the Pitești prison in Romania with a musical setting of The Sermon on the Mount.

  • Reeves is the co-founder of the Arvo Pärt Project (hence his workshopping Williamson Voices and bringing him across Sam’s path), a unique collaboration between Arvo Pärt and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary to further explain the spiritual content of Pärt’s music in concerts, lectures, and publications. Milestone events in the life of the project included sold out-concerts at the Kennedy Center, The Phillips Collection, Carnegie Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur.  

  • Reeves has studied at the Brevard Music Center and holds degrees in composition from Westminster Choir College and Manhattan School of Music, where he received a doctorate (DMA) in classical composition as a student of Richard Danielpour.  As a professor, he has lectured and instructed at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary as well as Rider University and is currently on faculty at Adelphi University.

Here’s what Nick says about his treatment of this fascinating artifact. “The distribution of parts are notated as four groups: SSSSAAAATTTTBBBB, Betty’s Voice, Betty’s Choir, and Betty’s Radio...Fragments of the interview, Brown’s own voice, have been manipulated to create a choral texture forming Betty’s Choir. As a recreation of the popular songs Betty would have heard on shows like “Your Hit Parade,” Betty’s Radio simulates a broadcast of pre-recorded choral arrangements utilized throughout as stream of different memories and temporalities. The human voice is the only instrument used in the entire work.”

This past Saturday, singers received the score to Betty’s Notebook. We can’t wait to bring this work to life. Reeves will be in town that weekend and will be joining us for a panel discussion at the concert on February 8th. That concert includes dinner and wine at a beautiful private residence on White Rock Lake. You don’t want to miss it.

Erinn Sensenig