This is my first post since the pandemic. Like many of us, I did not quite know what to do when it all came down. Over a hundred of my scheduled performances were canceled and I was left home wondering where it was all heading.
Thankfully, it was not long before colleagues started reaching out for some composing projects. I did a short film, an online theater experiment, a composition for four basses to be performed outside, and had an outside, socially-distanced visit with pianist friend Lars Potteiger, and Tammy Black, artistic director of Berks Opera Company. This meeting led to a commission which has kept me busy throughout the pandemic. The new opera “These Valleys and Mountains: Berks Legends” will be performed on Friday, June 17, 2022 at the Miller Center for the Arts in Reading, Pennsylvania.
These Valleys and Mountains
Mountain Mary left a legacy of loving spirituality and profound healing. Matthias Schaumbacher left the opposite: a legend of greed and violence. How have the seeds planted in the stories of these two people, who lived such different lives, grown in this place we call home?
I will skip most of the obvious rehashing of this bizarre year and get to my personal highlights.
I started the year with my usual trip to Florida for some gigs and some comraderie with the Alex Meixner Band. One more short tour, then home for my favorite theater event of the year: Reading Theater Projects 5-minute Fringe Festival. After that, everything changed.
One-by-one, all my gigs disappeared. My calendar went from well over one hundred performances to single digits.
Almost immediately, I received a call from a music publisher who needed thirty concert band arrangements edited in Sibelius (a task for which I am well-suited). It was over a month of work at a time when every phone call or email was a cancellation.
Another commission which came in during a busy touring time for me was for Berks Sinfonietta, a wonderful professional orchestra whose imaginative programming compliments its great performances. They asked me to adapt a piece I had written for piano and voice (soprano) to an arrangement for choir and piano. The piece is set to a poem by Louise Bogan. My schedule now allowed me to finish this piece and now eagerly await a time when choirs may resume performing.
During that time, I was fortunate enough to receive another call to compose a jingle for Berks Arts, a local nonprofit which presents the world famous Berks Jazz Fest (which, of course was postponed for at least a year). I was flattered to be asked and grateful both for the work and that they hired locally. We really do have a rich arts community here.
Then, in late November, I received word that a grant proposal submitted by Berks Opera Company for my to compose several short operas on the subject of local historical figures was granted.
A few weeks ago, musical colleague Dave Pedrick invited me to be on his Working Musician Podcast. I was a little concerned because 1) I don’t talk very much and 2) when I do, I don’t really like talking about myself. Well, Dave really does a great job with his podcast and he really got me talking.
Dave made me remember some really great things from my life in music….teachers, students, bands, concerts, and more. It made me realize I have done a lot of different things in music and have had many great experiences and met so many great and interesting people. Maybe I will start writing more about these things before I forget them.
Working Musician Podcast; Episode 066 Chris Heslop
It’s been about a year since it started. Filmmakers Sue Lange and Andrew Pochan asked me to compose music for a short opera-on-film set in a traffic jam. I composed the music last winter, we recorded the soundtrack in the spring and filmed in July. Finishing touches are still being put on the sound track and then it will sent out to the the world’s film festivals.