Fellow: Awarded 1989
Field of Study: Music Composition
Competition: US & Canada
American art song composer Juliana Hall (b. 1958) is a prolific and highly-regarded composer of vocal music, having written more than 50 song cycles and works of vocal chamber music. Her songs have been called “brilliant” (Washington Post), “beguiling” (Times of London), and “the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon” (Boston Globe).
The NATS Journal of Singing wrote that “Hall’s text setting is spot on and exquisite...as in all of Juliana Hall’s wonderful creations, the composer has sensitively allowed the text to dictate the tonal palette and direction...[they are] artful and adroit expressions of superb poetic and musical choices.”, and Voix des Arts noted that Hall’s songs are “wholly organic, never contrived, and the composer perpetuates the American Art Song tradition of Beach, Barber, and Bolcom with music of ingenuity and integrity.”
Upcoming projects include a collaboration with opera star Stephanie Blythe, on a new contralto song cycle based on 7 love poems by James Joyce called “Of That So Sweet Imprisonment”. Blythe has also invited Hall to be the Guest Composer at the next Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, at SUNY Potsdam, in May 2018.
Most recently Hall was chosen to receive the 2017 Sorel Commission from SongFest, America’s premier month-long art song training program, for her song cycle “When the South Wind Sings” (7 songs on poems by Carl Sandburg), with a premiere by soprano Tabitha Burchett and pianist Riley McKinch. She also composed “Christina’s World” (5 songs on poems by Christina Rossetti) for soprano Gwen Coleman Detwiler, who with pianist Marie-France Lefebvre, premiered the cycle on the Cincinnati Song Initiative Series this Spring. Hall is presently collaborating with Grammy-winning soprano, Molly Fillmore, on “Cameos” – a new cycle of 6 songs on poems of Fillmore’s creation about “unknown” women artists.
Prior to these projects, Hall collaborated with opera star countertenor Brian Asawa, in the composition of her largest song cycle “O Mistress Mine” (12 songs on texts from plays by William Shakespeare). Following Asawa’s untimely death just months before its scheduled premiere, “O Mistress Mine” was premiered in 2016 by countertenor Darryl Taylor, with Hall at the piano.
Taylor and Hall also recorded “O Mistress Mine” on her 2017 CD release “Love’s Signature” on the MSR Classics label. The CD also includes two other song cycles – “Propriety” and “Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush” – recorded by Grammy-winning soprano Susan Narucki with pianist Donald Berman. The recording has received wide critical acclaim; Gramophone Magazine wrote that “[Hall’s] sensitivity to words is on impressive display on ‘Love’s Signature’...these songs show Hall to be a composer who savours lyrical lines and harmonies peppered with gentle spices.”
Juliana Hall’s songs have not only been embraced by some of the world’s leading singers and collaborative pianists, but also by voice teachers at many universities and conservatories, as well as their students. “Naturally, it’s exciting when a great, world-class singer performs my songs, but there are also so many really wonderful singers at our music schools, both faculty and students. I particularly love when a student sings my songs,” says Hall. “To be a part of a young person’s life, to add another dimension to their understanding of their craft, to be a part of their artistic and personal development, is a deep honor for me.”
Over the past three decades, Hall’s music has been studied and performed at more than 80 leading musical institutions, including the Bard College Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music, Hartt School of Music, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Interlochen Arts Academy, Juilliard School, Longy School of Music, Peabody Institute, and Westminster Choir College, in America, as well as the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, Fontys Conservatorium in the Netherlands, and Conservatorio di Musica F. A. Bonporti in Italy.
Hall’s own musical education has an unusual history. Despite having begun formal study of composition at the relatively late age of 26 while she was in graduate school at the Yale School of Music, as a piano performance major, her composition teachers there – Martin Bresnick, Leon Kirchner, and Frederic Rzewski – all encouraged her to shift her focus from piano to composition, and in 1987 she was awarded a Master’s degree in Music Composition from Yale.
After Yale, Hall moved to Minneapolis to study with composer Dominick Argento, and in the Spring of 1987 she received her first commission, from the Schubert Club of Saint Paul, MN, for “Night Dances”, a song cycle for soprano Dawn Upshaw. A second Schubert Club commission came a few years later for “Winter Windows”, a song cycle for baritone David Malis. In 1989 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, and since that time her songs have been performed in 29 countries on six continents, and in more than 30 states across America.
Performances have taken place in major recital halls including the 92nd Street Y, Ambassador Auditorium, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Herbst Theatre, Library of Congress, Ordway Theater, Théâtre du Châtelet, Weill Recital Hall and Wigmore Hall; music festivals including the London Festival of American Music, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Ojai Music Festival, and Tanglewood Music Center; radio broadcasts on the BBC and NPR; and recordings on the Albany and Vienna Modern Masters record labels.
Presenters and ensembles programming Hall’s songs include ÆPEX Contemporary Performance, ANA Trio, Calliope’s Call, Capital Fringe, Casement Fund Song Series, CHAI Collaborative Ensemble, Cincinnati Song Initiative, Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project, Denver Art Song Project, Ensemble for These Times, Ensemble Lyrae, Feminine Musique, Fourth Coast Ensemble, Lynx Project, Lyric Fest, Mallarmé Chamber Players, Mirror Visions Ensemble, Project 142, Song Collaborators Consortia Art Song Festival, Song in the City, Voices of Change, and Zenith.
Special recital appearances include songs from Hall’s soprano song cycle “Night Dances” on Dawn Uphaw’s “First Songs” series at the Morgan Library and Museum, a performance of her mezzo soprano song cycle “Letters from Edna” on the 2016 Joy in Singing/Edward T. Cone Composers Concert at Lincoln Center, and a performance of her tenor song cycle “The Holy Sonnets of John Donne” in a Holy Week meditation service at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Hall’s compositions are published by E. C. Schirmer, Boosey & Hawkes, and Juliana Hall Music. Her works are distributed primarily through Classical Vocal Reprints and J.W. Pepper, Inc.
Photograph credit: Paul Cryan of Avon, CT.