for voice and piano, or voice and string quartet; 3′ (2003)
text: William Henry Channing
(commissioned by Tamara Norden Brognano)
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My friend Tamara Brognano commissioned me to set William Henry Channing’s “My Symphony” in 2003, to be sung as a featured part of services at the First Unitarian Society of Madison. I love the way that text proclaims itself as a foundational, important text for Unitarianism (“This is to be my Symphony”) but uses that platform to extol the virtues of humility, smallness, and simplicity. So this text setting keeps things simple, allowing the performers to express the text and music in a straightforward way. The vocalist mostly sings in the lower part of their range. The accompaniment texture never gets too thick, staying in the background while remaining interesting. The melody is lovely but understated, allowing the text to come to the forefront. In this way, the song seeks to endear itself to the listener not through big dramatic gestures, but through quiet & patient development of musical material, and through personal connection with the performers and the text.