News from October

The Giver , by Lois Lowry – soon to be an opera near you.
Minnesota Opera and Lyric Opera of Kansas City have commissioned me to write libretto and score for a 75 minute opera adaptation of this blockbuster children’s/young adult book. There is already terrific excitement in both cities for the premiers in 2012, and interest from other opera companies for further productions. The Giver, Ms. Lowry’s first Newbury Medal novel, is read by nearly every middle schooler in the country and tells the story of a utopian community that turns out not to be so utopian. Ask any kid 26 or younger about The Giver and you’ll get a strong response. The opera will have a chamber orchestra of 10 players and feature video projections. Both companies hope to have the funding to do workshops prior to its premier, which would be really wonderful and very unusual in the opera world.

The News from Poems – an opera about William Carlos Williams
I have had to interrupt work on this project to write The Giver, but the libretto is complete (with thanks to the MacDowell Colony) and I have begun work on the score. The wonderful director Leon Major has been helpful and encouraging, and as soon as time permits I will be back to work on the music. The fiftieth anniversary of WCW’s death will be in 2013; I don’t think I’ll be finished by then, but it’s a good target and something to hang my hat on. The work has three principals, an ensemble that sings chorus as well as lots of small roles and cameos, and a medium-size orchestra.

Double Reed Double-Fun
David Sogg, co-principal Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, premiered “his” piece The Lunch Counter in February 2010 at the Warhol Museum which his usual wit and graceful, character-ful bassoon playing. His delightful “warm-up” performance at Pittsburgh’s famous Waffle Shop was streamed live and you can see a heavily condensed version at, click on “PSO Bassoonist.” Postcards from America for oboe and piano has now been performed in England, France and America by commissioners Michele Fiala and Donald Speer. I’m very happy to report Postcards will be the title work on the duo’s new compact disc; recording will take place in December. It’s due out next summer. Stay tuned.

Five Movements for my Father at Wolf Trap
I am extremely pleased to tell you that Keith Phares’ performance in January 2009 at The Barns at Wolf Trap, with Kim Witman and ensemble, was featured by radio host Bill Mclaughlin on his “Live from Wolf Trap” syndicated broadcast series. Very cool!!

One False Move
This opera that deconstructs bullying by girls continues to be programmed around the country. Very often the producing organization, whether an opera company or a school, has a professional psych-or-social worker lead and manage discussion with the audience after each performance. In the current toxic world of bullying both on and off the internet, I am proud to have contributed a useful tool in bringing the mechanics of girls’ aggression into the light. This winter Lyric Opera of Kansas City will produce it for the 7th time, and Fargo-Moorhead Opera will do its second production.

I’m happy to invite you all – no matter where in the world you are – to the performance of a brand new piece of mine: “The Lunch Counter” for solo bassoon, will be video streamed live this coming Sunday at This is a neighborhood joint in Pittsburgh that does regular live streams of events in their waffle house. The performance starts Sunday 11/29 at 11:00 a.m. EST. Go to the website and click on “Live Feed.”

The Lunch Counter is 25 minutes long and was commissioned by Joyce Sogg for her son, David Sogg, associate principal bassoon of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, to celebrate a big round birthday. It is subtitled “A musical play in seven movements.” It takes place at – yes – a lunch counter, and the movements portray the varied customers – from age 3 to no-one- knows – sitting at the lunch counter; the seventh movement portrays the waitress, Lorraine, who “hears everything, both spoken and unspoken.” The player speaks a sentence or two about each character just before playing that movement, bringing us into their specific moment. Two of the movements are dialogues between two characters. Maybe I should call it Dramatical Chamber Music or something like that. The best part is that David is going to be sitting at the counter at the Waffle Shop in Pittsburgh, playing these characterizations while brunching people are eating their waffles in the Waffle Shop. (Well, the actual best part is David is a magnificent musician and it isn’t every day that you get a good close-up dose of solo bassoon doing pretty much everything a bassoon CAN do played by the likes of him.)

David calls this performance a “workshop” of the piece, which he will officially premier on February 15 in a concert at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The Waffle Shop does regular live streams, so I imagine the feed will be fine and clear. You can get an idea of the piece and hear excerpts played by David Sogg on here on the site by clicking on “Works” and then “The Lunch Counter”. Should be fun!