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The Psirens

The Psirens

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Select the music note next to each song biography below to hear a short audio clip from Vocalnetics ©.  Try the sample below.

Psiren Psalm II

Track #7 - Psiren Psalm

Psiren Psalm II

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German Love Song #1

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German Love Song #2

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German Love Song #3

Three German Love Songs

 #3

Music by Brian Conn - Words by Eighteenth Century Poets - Composed 1996
Soprano: Marta Phillips; Violin: Thomas Yang; Cello I: Peter Szczepanek; Cello II: Steven Hauser

Composed in  September of 1995, this work was written especially for Marta Phillips.  The second movement was actually written first; the undulating cello line being the initial spark that created the piece.  I didn’t realize at first that the work would be in German.  When I first started to write the melody, I kept starting over and over, trying to create lyrics in English.  Suddenly, I realized the reason I couldn’t move forward with the piece was that the melody in my head was being sung in German not English.  I frantically called Marta and asked for any sort of German text she may have. I eventually chose various lyrics from Richard Strauss’ love songs.  The other two love songs I wrote seemed to fit nicely around the second movement, creating a structural balance, not only musically, but texturally.  The first and third pieces focusing on love for another person and the second movement being love for one’s own soul or being.

Steadfast The Hand That Will Hold Mine
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Steadfast The Hand That Will Hold Mine

Words and Music by Brian Conn - Composed 1996
Mezzo-soprano: Kristi McGonagle; Trumpet: Phil Feo; Horn in F: Erich Peterson; Trombone: Chris Scotti; Tuba: John McAllister

Composed in February of 1996, this work was conceived specifically for Kristi McGonagle’s voice.  I had heard and seen Kristi performing a piece of music in my head.  I could sense the mood of the piece and the instrumentation but wasn’t sure of a text for the work.  I went back through my files of various poems I had written and came across two separate poems that seemed to fit together, seamlessly.  One was a sort of poem of love and strength.  The other was a poem of strength born from my personal struggles.  What excited me was that the poems existed in the same file but I hadn’t thought of combining them or using them till that moment. Once I had the words, the work almost wrote itself.  I knew Kristi’s vocal capabilities and deliberately pushed her to the top of her range to create an intense, in-your-face sound to reinforce the lyric.  The brass drops out as the last note is sung to allow the very being of the piece, love, be the final focal point.

Gott Ist Mein Licht

Gott Ist Mein Licht

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Music by Brian Conn - Text adapted from Bach cantatas - Composed 1992
Soprano I: Mary Colleen Seip; Soprano II: Marta Phillips; Violin I: Thomas Yang; Violin II: Sarah Briggs-Cornelius; Cello: Steven Houser

Composed in the Summer of 1992, this work was written for the Arlington Heights Library Music Series.  I was asked to give a concert that fall and I wanted to create a duet for Mary Seip and Marta Phillips.  I knew that I was already going to have a cello, violin, and flute at the concert for another work of mine that was being performed, so that became the instrumentation.  I wrote this piece to have a definite Baroque feel.  I took excerpts from a Bach cantata for the text.  When we recorded it for the CD, I changed the instrumentation to two violins and cello.  This seemed to give the voices more of a foundation and added even more of a Baroque feel.  Marta originally performed this piece while nine months pregnant.  A week after the concert, her daughter Madeleine was born.

Vite Pandit Ostium
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Vite Pandit Ostium

Music by Brian Conn - Text: Gregorian Chant - Composed 1996
Sopranos: Marta Phillips, Marcelle Lynn Selvaggio; Altos: Kristi McGonagle, Clare Marvin; Tenors: Tim Bergman, Ken Denson, Jim Hinton, Mark Plante; Violins: Thomas Yang, Jerri-Lou Zick; Viola: Terri Van Valkinburgh; Cello: Peter Szczepanek; Double Bass: Tim Shaffer

Composed in January of 1996, this work was written for a contest sponsored by the Elgin Choral Union.  They wanted a Christmas piece of approximately eight to ten minutes.  I think perhaps, they were looking for a “lighter” work along the lines of Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.  I started to write this piece  with every intent of writing the lyrics myself.  Once again, I tried to move forward with the piece but kept hitting a stumbling block; the language.  I couldn’t come up with lyrics of my own because the melody I heard in my head was being sung in Latin.  I went through my Norton Samplers from college and came across Gregorian chant studies.  I dissected the text from four different pieces and reassembled them for this work.  Once again, I was drawn to the Baroque/Renaissance sound to allow the text to be emphasized more dramatically.

Psiren Psalm II

Psiren Psalm II

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Music by Brian Conn - Composed 1997
A performance piece for three vocalists, string quintet, six Irish Drums, three ribbon dancers and moderator.

Soprano I: Mary Colleen Seip; Soprano II: Marta Phillips; Mezzo-soprano: Kristi McGonagle
Violin I: Thomas Yang; Violin II: Sarah Briggs-Cornelius; Viola: Terri Van Valkinburgh; Cello: Peter Szczepanek; Double Bass: John Floeter; Drums: John Towner Towner

Composed in the Spring of 1997, this piece  was an answer to  Psiren Psalm I.  Psiren Psalm I is a vocalise for two sopranos and handbells.  Psiren Psalm II is also a vocalise that incorporates some minimalism but is based in tonality as opposed to its predecessor.  This piece had been mulling around in my head since 1994 and I finally decided to sit down and write it out last spring.  This is another work that had been performed in my head.  I knew the structure, length and the instrumentation I was going to use.  The work is a performance piece for three vocalists, string quintet, six Irish drummers, ribbon dancers and a moderator.   Mary’s, Marta’s and Kristi’s voices were the blend I was envisioning, plus they’d be willing to let me dress them up in Greek goddess outfits.  All  these vocalists have made the mistake of letting me know what their upper most range is.  In this piece, though not deliberately, I pushed Mary into her stratosphere.  At the end of the work, she is required repeatedly, to sing a high “C”.  How else could you drive men to crash their boats upon the rocks?

Lullaby for Madeleine
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Lullaby for Madeleine

Words and Music by Brian Conn - Composed 1996
Soprano: Marta Phillips; Violin: Thomas Yang; Viola I: Terri Van Valkinburgh; Viola II: Liz Holzman; Cello I: Peter Szczepanek; Cello II: Steven Houser

Composed in December of 1996, this work was written for Mary to sing to Marta’s daughter Madeleine.  I wrote the words while sitting in the doctor’s office during an extended visit.  I had come unprepared and had to ask the nurse for some paper.  The muse knows no time or reason.  I came home and shortly thereafter wrote the Lullaby in almost one sitting.  I deliberately wrote the instrumentation for lower instruments to give the piece a warmer, soothing, “bedtime” feel.  The wave pattern in the cellos is suppose to mimic the rocking motion of a mothers arms.

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All songs © 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2004 Classical Angst Publishing. (A.S.C.A.P)  All rights reserved.  Unauthorized duplication and distribution is prohibited by law and is subject to prosecution.

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