Ruth Morris Gray
On April 5, 2013, Choirs of America premiered Ms. Gray's new composition, "Exsultate, Jubilate Deo" (Alfred Publishing) at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, CA. Ms. Gray led a mass chorus of four hundred singers in a rehearsal and recording of the piece.
Two of Ms. Gray's compositions, Over Hill, Over Dale (Alfred Publishing) and Okuyama Ni (Shawnee Press) were presented during the Junior High/Middle School Reading Session on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at the ACDA National Convention in Dallas, TX.
Ms. Gray's pieces, How Like a Winter, Evening, Rest, and Love is Enough, were presented during Alfred reading sessions at the ACDA National Convention in Dallas, TX, March 13-16, 2013.
Break, Break, Break (Alfred Publishing) was performed by the National Children's Chorus on Dec. 1, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA, directed by Dr. Pamela Blackstone.
On April 4, 2012, the Arroyo High School Choirs of El Monte, CA, along with Durfee, Frank Wright, Gidley, and Rio Hondo middle school choirs, premiered Ms. Gray's new commissioned work - Serenity of Your Peace. Serenity of Your Peace is a setting of the Prayer of Serenity and Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace, for SATB chorus, unison chorus, and piano in a partner song format.
On Friday, March 23, 2012, two of Ms. Gray's choirs from Rosemead High School premiered her new composition, "Don't Forget Me," published by Heritage Music Press, at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, CA at a Choirs of America event. The piece is dedicated to Rosemead High School's newly retired Drama teacher, .
Evening (Alfred/Lawson-Gould, pub. 2012) was presented by Mr. Craig Cannon in a reading session at the Pennsylvania ACDA convention in August 2011.
Sigh No More, Ladies (Heritage Music Press) was presented at the Colorado ACDA Summer Workshop in July 2011.
Ms. Gray's pieces on the 2011 Texas UIL list:
Domine Deus (Alfred) SAB, Level 2
Dream within a Dream (Alfred/Lawson-Gould) SSA, Level 3
Dindirin (Alfred/Lawson-Gould) SATB, Level 4 (This piece has also been placed on the Florida State List.)
Dream Within a Dream (Alfred/Lawson-Gould) was presented at the Four Corners Workshop at Northern in June 2011 by Dr. Sammy Brauer.
Recently I had a choral director ask me why I entitled my Lawson-Gould piece, "Evening," when Emily Dickinson's poem is titled, "She Sweeps With Many Colored Brooms". Here is my explanation below:
"She Sweeps With Many Coloured Brooms"
by Emily Dickinson
She sweeps with many-colored brooms,
And leaves the shreds behind;
Oh, housewife in the evening west,
Come back, and dust the pond!
You dropped a purple ravelling in,
You dropped an amber thread;
And now you've littered all the East
With duds of emerald!
And still she plies her spotted brooms,
And still the aprons fly,
Till brooms fade softly into stars --
And then I come away.
Comments on my interpretation of Emily Dickinson's poem as reflected in my piece,
“Evening” by Ruth Morris Gray
I entitled my piece “Evening,” because to me, this poem describes sunset. I believe that Emily used the analogy of an ordinary housewife (with her broom wearing an apron, sweeping and dusting, as well as sewing) to describe the extraordinary. Though cleaning is a menial task (but a very important job), the housewife gains the reader’s respect by using her broom as an artist would use a paint brush - to create a vibrant sunset. When I composed “Evening”, I was a musician, wife, and mother with three young children at home. I related to the housewife. Though I am not an artist, I view composing as a related creative process. Also, I was simply enchanted by Emily’s lyrical prose.
When setting a poem to music, I read the text aloud over and over. I try to get a feel for the natural rhythm of the text. Sometimes this process results in multi-meter pieces, while other times the meter is more straightforward, as the 4/4 in “Evening”. The opening melody and initial piano accompaniment came to me as I read the opening lines while improvising at the piano. I wanted the melody with its opening minor 7 jump and the flowing accompaniment to reflect the “sweeping” motion of the broom. I pictured this magical multi-colored broom as it swept across the sky, leaving pieces (shreds) of vibrant color behind. It was evident to me that the housewife had traveled west to where the sun was setting. Then at the end of the first stanza, the poet enlarges the picture, beckoning the woman to return home (east) to dust (paint) the pond with her colorful broom.
Photos by Jason Michael Hammond
When I went to set the second stanza to music, I decided to create a polyphonic layered section in the vocals. To me the words depicted a tapestry the housewife was creating with her threads of purple, amber, and green. I wanted the slowly building vocal layers to reflect the developing texture of the art the housewife was creating.
During the third stanza the poet returns to the ideas found in the first stanza. In my mind’s eye, I see the woman soaring through the air, her apron flying, with her broom making brush strokes of color against the sky. Then as the colors fade, the pieces of the broom become stars. What a beautiful metaphor! At the end of the poem, we discover that the poet is actually witnessing the entire scene unfold. I can envision Emily Dickinson, who was a very private person and spent much of her time alone, looking out her bedroom window and writing this poem as she watched the sun set.
Ruth Morris Gray