Getting Into Treble: Composer Sally Lamb McCune

This post features composer Sally Lamb McCune, who is becoming one of the leading composers of choral music, and is conveniently in very close proximity to me! I first met Sally last year when I was asked to prepare an alumni treble chorus for a concert featuring Ithaca composers. She has won many awards, including a Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Whitaker New Reading Session from the American Composers Orchestra, grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, New York State Fund Creation Grant, Meet the Composer, ASCAP, and the Aaron Copland Recording fund. She has received commissions from the New York State Music Teachers Association, Society for New Music, Cornell University Chorus, University of Georgia Wind Ensemble, Ensemble X, and Melodia Choir of NYC. She is currently on the faculty at Ithaca College.

Getting Into Treble: Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar

Happy New Year, treble choir enthusiasts! Have you ever programmed a concert around the texts of a single poet? Today’s post is centered around some treble choir settings of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was an American writer. He was one of the first influential Black poets in American literature and to gain international recognition. His first poems were published in a Dayton newspaper when he was only sixteen years old. He wrote poems, short stories, novels, and the lyrics for the first all African American musical on Broadway, In Dahomey, with music by Will Marion Cook. Dunbar used both dialect and standard English in writing his poems. In his short life, he published a dozen poetry books. 

Getting Into Treble: Reasons to Sing Hildegard with Your Treble Ensemble

Today’s post was written in collaboration with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Katie Gardiner, the Interim Director of Choirs at the College of the Holy Cross, a Hildegard scholar, and self-described “Hildegard big time super fan.”

When you think of pieces for treble choir, the monophonic works of Hildegard von Bingen might not be on the top of your list, but they should be! Her music way to introduce medieval music to your ensembles and audiences with pieces accessible to high school, church, community, and collegiate treble choirs. She’s not only a super awesome female composer to share with your choir, but she was at times subversive and a leader in a time when there were serious limitations on how women could participate in any sort of leadership role.

Getting Into Treble: A Conversation with Alison Wahl

Today’s post is a follow-up to my last post about Spes by Mia Makaroff, a piece that incorporates both bel canto style and a vernacular style, borrowed from joik, a form of song in Sámi music. As someone who is more well-versed in the bel canto style than folk styles, I turned to my colleague, Dr. Alison Wahl, to come and workshop Spes with the Ithaca College Treble Chorale during our class time.

Getting Into Treble: Spes by Mia Makaroff

In a recent email exchange, composer Mia Makaroff expressed to me that her piece, Spes, published in 2020, has been “more political than [she] expected.” In the work, she sets Latin text from Ecclesiastes and Sámi text from Finnish Sámi writer Nils Aslak Valkeapää. Makaroff, who is not Sámi herself, has done her research. She requested and was granted permission from the Lásságámmi Foundation to use Valkeapää’s texts. They also assisted her with the language and pronunciation. She understood that as someone who is not Sámi, she could not compose or use yoik (also spelled joik, a form of song in Sámi music). Instead, she composed entirely new material inspired by the sound world.  

Getting Into Treble: First Post

Since starting my work at Ithaca College, I have been immersed in the world of treble choir music. A few years ago, if you had told me that my primary focus today would be SSAA ensembles and music, I would have looked at you as if you had sprouted wings. Prior to being at Ithaca, my only experience singing in a treble choir was one year (weekend, really) in the Maryland All State Treble Chorus. I had managed this feat by being a late bloomer into choral ensembles: my identity was as a pianist and a band kid first and foremost.