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2021 - 2022 Commissions and Premieres
Coventry Carol - Commissioned by the Phoenix Boys Choir
Conducted by Herbert Washington
This 15th Century Carol is reimagined with Kira Zeeman Rugen's playful ideas. Each voice presents a rhythmic line with a fresh new perspective on this age-old carol. Enjoy multi-generational version with the young voices of the Phoenix Boys Choir combined with the Masters Men's Choir from the same organization.
Out of the Ash - Commissioned by the Phoenix Chorale
A poem written by Phoenix Laureate Rosemarie Dombrowski and set to music composed by Kira Zeeman Rugen.
The original premiere date was canceled due to the pandemic (April 2020) but is now set for March 18, 19, and 20, 2022.
An epic sonic poem about mythological tales of the shape-shifting bird known as the Phoenix and its rebirth.
Originally the piece was representative of the city and people of Phoenix, a multicultural metropolis with a vast population stemming from many cultures. The flora, fauna, topography, and climate of the Sonoran Desert are omnipresent as well. However, the overall scope of the piece has taken on new and deeper meaning since its inception. With a global pandemic still impacting our daily lives, as well as ongoing threats to our safety and security, we, the creators, believe this piece represents all of us—the global community, humankind. Perhaps now, more than ever, these words resonate with all of us: Renew us, make us anew.
To the Wonder
Poetry, Nicht Müde Werden by Hilde Domin
Commissioned by the Northwestern Oklahoma State University Singers conducted by Dr. Karsten R. Longhurst
Premiered in January 2022 for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association Conference
In the poem Nicht Müde Werden (To the Wonder) Hilde Domin describes how the search for beauty, but ultimately also life itself, scoffs at any need for predictable security, as these are often thwarted by the twists and turns of life. Instead, the stanzas speak of turning away from sorrow and optimistically stretching ones hand towards a miracle that has not yet occurred. In unwavering trust, the miracle might perch upon the hand like a bird in fragility, vulnerability, and a poignant hope.
The Eternal Spark - text by Charles Anthony Silvestri
Commissioned by The Choral Project (Daniel Hughes, Artistic Director) for their 25th Anniversary Season
I commissioned this poetry by Tony Silvestri originally titled Into the Morning for an art song that Ola Gjeilo composed for me in 2010. At that point, I felt the text described an individual person's journey from darkness to light. However, poetry in its transitory beauty morphs meaning depending on the interpretation. After the trials humanity has gone through since 2020, to me this text now symbolizes humanity mired in darkness, and the journey many souls are taking into the light. Both those who have passed on, and those left behind. I have focused heavily on the portion of the text with states “The spark within, remains eternal true.” To me, those lines essentially represent our souls that flicker in brightness but eventually stay lighted. Those ideas' are symbolized by water glasses representing the soul (or spark within).
Nearer my God to Thee - arranged by Kira Rugen
Pinnacle Presbyterian Church's Chancel Choir, under the direction of Ilona Kubiaczyk-Adler will premiere this work on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022.
Nearer my God to Thee has always been one of my favorite hymns. I have found that its timeless melody and encouraging text, filled with promise, represent a beacon of hope in a world that isn’t always so uplifting. This newly imagined, melodic, and harmonically modal approach to this beloved hymn paints the text as a human outcry, pleading for God’s understanding and love. Listeners will hear the traditional melody interwoven into a pastiche of unconventional, yet plaintive harmony. The answers that we seek from God in the first verses are fulfilled in the fourth verse, which springs off the page in joyful praise showing musically that we have now found God's light, His angels beckoning us forth, and the peace that comes with that reunion.
Hold On - Text by Nancy Wood
Commissioned by the Carolyn Eynon Singers and performed with the Phoenix Boys Choir directed by Herbert Washington
Premiered at Scottsdale Center for the Arts in November 2021
Nancy Wood is a prolific and spiritual poet who lived in Taos New Mexico. To learn more about her incredible poetry, please visit her website
The text inspires us all to hold on to the precious moments in life even in the midst of strife, as there is always beauty and joy to look forward to.
Voyage Prayer - Ave Maria
Originally commissioned by Catholic Phoenix in Arizona, this recording is sung by the University of Colorado's Chamber Singers in Boulder, Colorado under the direction of Dr. Gregory Gentry. At the heart of this motet, “Voyage Prayer,” is a humble plea for assistance during our living journey. On our earthly voyage, we encounter heavenly vistas, diverse ideas, and deep hope. However, we also face tempests, storms, and unseen dangers. Our human experience is filled with love and joy, but also pain and suffering. Ave Maria is the prayer for our human voyage through life: a humble plea to God during an hour of need.
Desert Sky Songs - Text by Rumi
Commissioned by Vox Musica in Sacramento California, Daniel Paulson, director. Premiered as part of their Evening with Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī/ This piece won Third Place in The American Prize 2021, short choral works category. Sneak Peek video plays the fourth movement entitled Mirrored
Earth Teach Me - Text by Nancy Wood
Commissioned by the Master Chorale of Flagstaff, Tom Peterson, director. Premiered as part of their Festival of Women Composers. Semi-Finalist for the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for choral composition. The text “Earth Teach Me” comes from New Mexico poet, Nancy Wood. Inspired by Nancy Wood’s deep spiritual connection to nature, Kira Rugen composed this piece which paints the beauty of Kira Rugen’s childhood home, the Rocky Mountains of Utah, as well as gorgeous scenes Kira Rugen has visited around the world. The melodies and harmonies Kira sets reflect the story that Nancy evokes in her poem, but also an element of Mother Earth’s awe and wonder in the dialogue of harmony, melody, and text.
St Brieuc Magnificat
Commissioned by The Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Brieuc Cathédrale directed by Goulven Airault. Premiere occurred in St. Breiuc France (Brittany) for the Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Brieuc Cathédrale on their annual St. Cecilia's Day celebration on November 26, 2017. It's also been performed in église Saint-Malo de Dinan, église Sainte-Croix de Saint Malo, and église Saint-Martin de Janze. In the summer of 2018 it will be performed in Barcelona for the Congrès de Barcelone 2018 - Pueri Cantores. Written in three movements, the video on the left comes from Movement 2.
Silent Night, Stille Nacht was commissioned by the Phoenix Chorale, then under the direction of Charles Bruffy conductor, and premiered on their 2016 program
“A Chorale Christmas: Silent Night."
Kira Zeeman Rugen roots her adaptation of Silent Night on the earliest version of the famous carol. The composition honors the original melody and harmony in the upper voices, paired against figures in the lower voices which are meant to mimic the pluck of a guitar. As the text alternates between German and English, we hear the poetry about Mary in the words, “round yon virgin, mother and child." Each verse demonstrates familiar versions of the melody which are then answered by a haunting soprano melody. Throughout the piece, Kira Rugen’s musical expression conveys a sense of longing and nostalgia, closing with a simple soprano duet.
Love's Living Flame - Text by St. John of the Cross
Commissioned by the Catholic Phoenix and performed by Solis - Choir of the Sun.
In this composition, I chose to set the text “Love’s Living Flame” (Poetry title: Living Flame of Love), which comes from St. John of the Cross’ imprisonment and his intimate struggle to find the light. He emerges from the “Dark Night of the Soul,” where he experienced the absence of love and joy. He now feels of the divine, but it is not yet a complete reunion. St. John finds that reuniting with light can be more painful than it is peaceful. Instead of exaltation, he perceives the bright light pain as he takes a deeper look at himself and his own nature. As humans, in order to find light, we often must put aside ego, earthly titles, and materials and seek that which is good through humility and grace.
Far, Far Away - Text by Lord Alfred Tennison
Commissioned by Tom Peterson for Inspirare Nova's concert
One of the most well known 19th Century English poets, Lord Alfred Tennyson, was poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during the reign of Queen Victoria, and was buried within the chapels in Westminster Abbey. Although George Lucas made the phrase "Far-Far-Away" famous in his movie Star Wars, Lord Tennyson actually first penned the words in his poem of the same name. Tennyson said of the text, "The words 'far, far away' had always a strange charm for me." This poem sketches visions of nature, and ethereal beauties that one cannot fully possess but only vaguely hears and feel. The poem also exhibits an out-of-reach atmospheric effect reminiscent of bygone years, deep felt sorrow and the realm beyond the death's door. The musical qualities of the poem are not in a regular meter, but rather in a syllabic chant that falls into a natural spoken rhythm. In an effort to encapsulate these notions within her composition, Kira Rugen wrote melodies and harmonies that flow with the natural cadence of the strands, but not measured or cyclical. Neither meter nor melody stays consistent, yet there is a sense of an omnipresent atmospheric and harmonic language. The return to the text "Far-Far-Away" symbolizes the vague sense of recalling a joy, a pain, or beauty, but like a dream at first awakening, slipping away and becoming intangible.
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