A choral cycle with piano duo and percussion, highlighting different eras of California's history
I have always been intrigued with the complex history of my state, California. Having grown up in the Bay Area, I’ve been forever surrounded by cities with Spanish names, e.g. San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara, given to them by the Spaniards that settled in California hundreds of years ago. I am also aware of California’s rich, natural environment that was valued deeply by the first people in our state, the Native Americans. For them, the arrival of the Spanish missionaries was catastrophic. It changed their customs and way of life forever. The second pivotal event that shaped California was the gold rush. San Francisco developed rapidly in the 1850’s as people from all countries and cultures flocked to seek their fortunes in the gold fields. This is one reason why our state is so ethnically diverse. The third game changer for California and the west was the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. People were finally able to travel by train from the East Coast to the West.
Folk music, the “music of the people” has survived for decades, centuries and even millennia. Folk songs are primary source documents that musically convey the stories and emotions of a particular time in history. My passion for folk music was reinforced when I was in the Kodály Music Education Master’s Degree program at Holy Names University. Eventually, a group of us formed Calicanto Associates to research the traditional music of California resulting in the publication of two books and five musical plays on the subject. Subsequently, several of us wrote a collection of choral arrangements based on these beautiful California folk songs.
In 2011, I had the idea to compose “California Collage” - a choral / two-piano cycle comprised of three sections. I wanted each part to highlight a significant era of California’s history and to feature two traditional songs as thematic material. The entire process took around four years to complete.
I have been fortunate to win awards for all movements of this work, and have had a number of performances as well.
I am thrilled that “California Collage” was performed by the East Bay Singers of California State University East Bay, Hayward, under the direction of Dr. Buddy James. This June 2nd event was personally significant to me because I received my BA in Music Composition from CSUEB many years ago. Dr. Frederic Fox and Dr. Robert Basart were my key mentors during that time. They gave me the skills to focus my fervor for writing music. Fittingly, the concert was entitled: “Made in Hayward,” and featured pieces written by several Cal State trained composers.
In my next post, I described “Origins,’ the first movement of “California Collage.”