Ray and I went to hear the Georgia Young Composers Festival concert by the DeKalb Choral Guild last night.  There were six finalists this year, and six good new choral works.  My favorite was Silent Night? by Uzbekistan-born Liliya Ugay, who is working on a piano performance degree at Columbus State.  She won the undergraduate prize.  All of the works had very nice choral parts, but hers also had an accompaniment that would require a pianist with skills.  It was both beautiful and interesting in how she handled the very familiar text with a different slant.  Rather than a very sweet lullaby, she saw the text in terms of the rest of Jesus' not always sweet or peaceful life.

The three guys who did not get a prize or honorable mention wrote some very nice music.  Of those three my favorite was Nicholas Weaver's Magnificat.  This young man from Stone Mountain just graduated from Columbus State and is teaching elementary school music up in Alpharetta.  He said that he would never have made it through school without the support of the Episcopal church in Columbus, and he wrote this piece as a thank you for them.  It is a wonderful Anglican anthem with organ that any church choir would like to sing.  I hope that a lot of them do so!

Jonathan Gilmer, a sophomore from LaGrange College (Go Panthers!), also wrote a really nice church anthem.  I think it was a little conservative for the judges, and I really thought it deserved more praise than they gave it, but after all it was his first choral attempt ever.  I hope he's back next year.  Dylan Banks from Georgia State, too, had a really nice piece on a mostly Buddhist text.  He had put the soprano part a bit high, and the tendency of the DCG sopranos to sharp was magnified so that his tone clusters did not do all that he meant for them to do.  It was still an interesting work.

The graduate prize went to Chicagoan Sonny (Salvatore A.) Lo Cascio, a masters student at Georgia State, who did a really nice piece on the Ego sum pastor bonum text from the Gospel of John.  This was a complex piece that had really lovely melodic ideas and some very cool compositional gestures.  I liked it, too, although the same sharping issues kind of messed with its effect. 

The honorable mention was given to the Agnus Dei from his Requiem Mass, Op. 3, by 16-year-old Westminster Schools student Robert Cushing.  It, too, had very nice melodic ideas, but an extremely boring accompaniment, which is the next level he needs to think about.  Even as it is, it's the kind of piece that would work well for choirs.  The choral parts were quite lovely.  I do hope that this young man keeps on working and thinking big.

It's really nice to know that all these young people are writing music that people will want to sing, in church or in community choirs.  Yes they had to meet the requirements of the competition, but I think that some of them are proof that music of complex beauty is not, as some would have us think, just walking around dead.