I am looking forward to making a very snowy road trip out to Houghton, MI with Thomas LaVoy for concerts on 19 and 20 January, for Music from the Northwoods: A Festival of Music by composers inspired by or from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My piece ‘Godspeed the Day’ for solo viola will be performed by Ria Hodgson from the Superior String Alliance String Quartet on Sunday the 20th, 3 pm in the McArdle Theater. This is one of two concerts – the other is on the 19th at 7 pm at the Rosza Center. Having only lived on the UP for about a month and a half so far, I’m lucky to be included! There is an exciting amount of variety on the program, including string quartets, choral works and all sorts of other things by composers including Thomas LaVoy, Abbie Betinis and Griffin Candey.
Happy to hear that Owain Park and friends are at it again – catch performances of my piece ‘My heart is like a singing bird’ with this renowned vocal consort on a number of concerts over the next few weeks:
The Berliner Philharmoniker Chamber Music Hall, Berlin, 16 January at 8 pm
“Rising Stars” concert series at St John’s Church, Taunton, 26 January at 5 pm
The Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall in Leeds, 15 February at 1:05 pm
St James Sussex Gardens, London (Paddington), 17 February at 8 pm
Trinity College Cambridge, 18 February at 8 pm
Boxgrove Priory in Sussex, 19 February at 8 pm
For tickets and more information, see their website.
With the PhD over, I’m very much looking forward to getting on to some new projects in 2019. To that end, Thomas LaVoy and I are excited to announce our first joint venture - a consortium of ensembles to commission two new SATB works from us on poems by Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and poet laureate of California. I’ve set Dana’s poetry before, and he’s a formidable poet and collaborator whom we are thrilled to have onboard with the project.
The deadline to sign up is the end of June 2019, and pieces will be delivered later in the summer. For more information and to express your interest, see my dedicated page (or see Tom’s website as well).
I am very proud to say that as of last Wednesday the 14th, I have passed my PhD viva with quite minor corrections! I’ll be submitting the final document for approval shortly, before I leave Aberdeen, and the degree will be officially conferred in June 2019.
My internal examiner was Prof Pete Stollery and my external examiner was Prof Francis Pott, and it was an honor to get such extensive feedback from them on my work. I am a huge fan of Francis Pott’s choral music in particular, which has been performed extensively throughout the UK and elsewhere.
I forgot to take any photos whatsoever of that day, so here’s a photo of me and my supervisor Phillip Cooke taking a walk, in an attempt to stop my nerves. I’ll miss Phil very much!
I have neglected this page a bit, with my PhD defense (or “viva voce” on this side of the pond) coming up on 14 November, and serious (and seriously rewarding!) teaching load during my last term in Aberdeen. However, I have a number of performances coming up this season:
The Harmonium Choral Society and conductor Dr. Anne Matlack will be performing my ‘Mater Dei’ as part of their ‘Navidad Nuestra’ concerts on Saturday, December 8, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 9, 2018 at 3 p.m. at Morristown United Methodist Church in New Jersey. They will also be performing my Dylan Thomas setting ‘We walked through the trees’ in March 2019, which will be the American premiere of the piece. Both of these works feature texts that I absolutely fell in love with before and during the composing process, and I hope Harmonium enjoys them as much as I do!
Also on Saturday 8 December, the choir of the Oratory Church of St Chad in Manchester and their conductor Rory Johnston will be giving the UK premiere of my ‘Ave Rosa, Sine Spinis’ at their mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On Sunday 18 November, the Chamber Choir of Christopher Newport University in Virginia will perform my spectral-inspired ‘Shenandoah,’ conducted by Jacquelyn Shilling. Also in Virginia, the choir of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Richmond and their director Ryan Tibbetts will be performing my ‘Hodie’ in their Christmas Eve service.
On 1 December, the Groton-Dunstable High School Chamber Chorus will perform my ‘O God, Thy sea is so great…’ on their fall semester concert in Groton, MA. Quite a feat for a high school ensemble, but their recordings are absolutely top-notch and I’m certain they’ll do an excellent job!
Last but not least, I have a couple of remaining performances with my ‘home choir’ of the University of Aberdeen Chapel Choir in the last bit of my time here. The choir will be premiering my setting of Micheal O'Siadhail’s poem Motet, commissioned by the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance, at the University’s afternoon graduation ceremony on Friday 23 November. Micheal will be receiving an honorary Doctor of Literature at the ceremony. The choir will also be performing my arrangement of ‘Shall we gather at the river?’ at the UK Consulate House for the British ambassador to the United States while on their tour to New York City, on Monday 26 November.
Having just submitted my PhD, I am immensely excited to be returning home to Seattle for The Esoterics’ concerts as part of their POLYPHONOS competition. My new commission is being performed on their “Consolo: The Reimagined Requiem” concerts the weekend of October 5th.
Appropriately, this has become a very close-to-home musical project. From 1942 to 1945, 120,000 people in the western United States were forcibly incarcerated for no reason other than their Japanese ancestry. This happened within living memory. The Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional. Those who were living on Bainbridge Island were the first to be taken away. This summer I was fortunate enough to speak with Kay Sakai Nakao and Lilly Kodama, who were imprisoned at Manzanar and Minidoka “relocation centers” during these years, and I’ve set their words in my piece, “Uprooted”. Kay, Lilly and countless others have in fact shared their story many times, in hopes that nothing like this may happen again.
Working on this commission has been an extremely meaningful experience to me, and there are other wonderful works by living composers on the program as well including fellow winners Ily Matthew Maniano and Anna-Karin Klockar, and Dale Trumbore. Concerts are in Seattle on October 5th, West Seattle on the 6th, and Tacoma on the 7th: http://www.theesoterics.org/concerts/season-2018/consolo
I am beyond delighted that Pro Coro Canada will be performing my 'O God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small..." at their 100th anniversary tribute to Leonard Bernstein on 16 September: https://procoro.ca/ALivingSoul Pro Coro is one of if not the top professional choir in Canada, and I have no doubt that they will do this rather ambitious piece more than justice.
In the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, we were extremely lucky to have their music director Michael Zaugg with us last year as guest for the performance of Thomas LaVoy's Endless, and Michael received a much-deserved honorary DMus from the University this spring. I wish I could be there to see him bring this piece to life, but alas I will still be deep in PhD completion in Aberdeen.
I was thrilled to write for the Ligeti Quartet a second time this summer, following up from my participation in last year's Composer Academy with a commission from the Cheltenham Music Festival this year. My piece Le Dian ("with intensity" in Gaelic) is a bit of a follow up to last year's piece, using lots of vocally-reminiscent sounds, but this time with more of a sense of urgency. The programme also features works by Michael Zev Gordon, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Bethan Morgan-Williams, and Christian Mason, and we will also be having a panel discussion on diversity in music.
My Evening Canticles (so far my first and only set of canticles) will be read at the American Guild of Organists convention on Friday the 6th, as part of MusicSpoke's AGO Anthem Anthology, curated by Charles Bruffy and appearing on his sacred music series on MusicSpoke. You can read about the anthology here, as well as see previews of all of the works included. The full anthology is also available on Amazon.
If you're in the New York area, join Amuse Singers for their "Music in 3D" concert on June 13th at Rutgers Presbyterian Church (73rd and Broadway) at 7:30 pm, which will includes the premiere of my new work "All Beautiful".
I wish I could be there for this one - these lovely ladies expertly perform loads of contemporary repertoire including this companion piece to Byrd's "O Gloriosa Domina" which they premiered last year. Their president Lee Ryder was kind enough to commission me again, and I've written them a piece that combines the prayer 'Tota Pulchra Es' with Rilke's short epitaph on a rose, which stars small and blooms around the ensemble.
You can hear a recording of my last commission for Amuse here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7-vEpMcZP8
I was very happy indeed to make the journey down to Manchester again over the weekend of - a choir as good as Kantos is worth the coach journey! I met Kantos and conductor Ellie Slorach through their recording and subsequent performance of my 'Brightest and Best' for The Silver Stars at Play CD of contemporary carols. They gave a stunning performance of American (+ Tippett) choral works including Copland's In the Beginning, Whitacre's When David Heard, songs by William Billings, and two works by me. With soloist Sarah Keirle they performed my arrangement of Oh Shenandoah, and also premiered a new setting of Rough Country, with words by California poet laureate Dana Gioia.
Rough Country is the third of a set of three settings of Gioia's stunning poems, which I'm looking forward to making fully available for purchase soon. I have set his work before but not since my University of Southern California days, so it's been a very enjoyable homecoming working with his texts again. You can hear the piece here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLlGTecQBfI
The University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir are going on tour to Warsaw, Poland as the ensemble-in-residence for the Polish Choral Conductors Conference. They'll be singing two concerts: one on Friday, 20 April at St John's Archcathedral at 8 pm, and an encore performance outside the city on Saturday, 21 April at 7pm at Garwolin Church. The programme includes my arrangement of 'Shall we gather at the River', which I am very much looking forward to conducting myself.
See a video of the Garwolin performance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ve3zTF7LoLE
The Gesualdo Six are giving repeat performances of my piece 'My heart is like a singing bird' as part of their spring tour, on their programmes at Clodock, Bristol, Colyton and Winchester. Full details about the performances can be found on Classical Events. They are touring in promotion of their 'English Motets' CD, which debuted at no. 1 on the classical charts in the United Kingdom.
G6 first performed this piece at St John Smith's Square in June 2016, and I've been honoured that they've toured it around the UK and Europe since then.
The SATB version of my 'O Vos Omnes' is being performed by the Festival Choir of Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church and their conductor, Brett Strader.
*Update: see a live stream of the service here, with 'O Vos' beginning at around 53:00. Artist Daniel Panasiuk created a painting of one of the thieves crucified alongside Jesus, beginning during the choir's performance. Daniel frequently creates pieces of art as part of worship.
In a funny twist of fate, I've found myself conducting a performance of Mozart's Requiem with the St Andrews Cathedral Choir on Sunday, 18 March! I have been enjoying diving into the inner workings of this masterpiece immensely and the performers are doing a top-notch job. Choral scholars Mhairi Sharp, Jennifer Taylor, David Walsh and Ross Cumming will be performing the solos, and Prof Andrew Morrisson will be playing the organ.
My 30-minute work for choir and percussion, entitled 'Babylon', will be performed by the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir and Percussion Ensemble, under the direction of conductor Michael Bawtree. The piece brings together texts from various American folk sources (notably from recordings made by Alan Lomax) alongside sacred texts, all on themes of journeying and solitude. This is the final piece for my PhD portfolio and promises to be one of my more dramatic works.
*Update: despite the "Beast from the East" snowstorm, my family all made it in and out of Aberdeen safely and the performance was a great success thanks to the passionate performance and technical skill of all of the musicians involved, especially the choir. A full recording of the work can be found here (all movements are available in the playlist) and the score is available for perusal.
I was honored to be asked to write a setting of Psalm 96 for the Consecration of Canon Anne Dyer as Bishop of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, first female bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Photos from the event along with a video and orders of service can be found here (though I was in fact in the congregation with my mom and not singing in the choir).
The piece is for upper voices (SSA) + organ, and as with most psalm settings it revolves around a couple of chord progressions - in this instance, inspired by different fiddle tunings used in Orcadian, Shetlandic, and Nordic fiddle traditions.
The SATB version of my 'O Vos Omnes' will receive a significant performance run this Lenten season with performances in England and the United States. The University of Kent Chamber Choir will perform the piece twice on 23 February, at lunchtime at Studio 3 Gallery and 19.30 at St Michael's Church, and in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral at 19.30 on 2 March. Read about the work and their performances on the University's choral blog, Cantus Firmus: http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/cantusfirmus/2018/02/05/between-two-worlds-o-vos-omnes-by-sarah-rimkus/
The City of Canterbury Chamber Choir and fellow Aberdeen PhD student Edward-Rhys Harry will also perform the piece at 18.30 pm at St Peter's Methodist Church on 18 March, alongside works by Whitacre, Lauridsen, and my + Edward's advisor, Phillip Cooke.
The piece will also be performed in East Bay, California by the Festival Choir of Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church and conductor Brett Strader, as part of their Good Friday service on 30 March. They will be joined by an artist who will create an original painting over the course of the service.
The University of Aberdeen Percussion Ensemble will premiere Sarah's 'Blackbird' for marimba and vibraphone at Butchart Centre, University of Aberdeen at 7:30 pm, on their concert concluding their days of workshopping with English percussion duo Maraca2. They will be giving a repeat performance at the Percussion Ensemble's final concert of the semester on 28 March.
See the performance from 28 March here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUF31ox_47A
'Tis the season for loads of choral music, including contemporary Christmas carols: The Silver Stars at Play, a new collection of all contemporary Christmas carols will be released just in time for the Christmas festivities. The CD has been produced by Mark Hewitt, expertly performed by Manchester-based Kantos Chamber Choir, and features works by a wide range of contemporary composers including Cheryl Francis-Hoad, David Fawcett, and my lovely PhD advisor Phillip Cooke.
Additionally, there will be a CD launch performance featuring many of the works (including mine) at St Ann's Church on Saturday the 16th, which I'm looking forward to attending, along with many of the other composers.
Join Con Anima Chamber Choir at St Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen at 19.30 for an evening of including Byrd, Matthias, Poulenc, Maxwell Davies, and a world premiere of a new commission by myself, conducted by Dr Roger B Williams. Tickets are £10, £5 concession.
My new piece 'Hodie' is a snappy, joyful setting of the traditional text 'Hodie, Christus natus est' that uses pentatonic melodies and clusters along with hocket rhythms to make a piece that captures some of the joy of the season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N7TIwRGY_A
A group of us including some singers from the Cathedral Choir got together and gave an encore recital-style performance of my St Andrew's Mass for choir and semi-chorus at St Andrew's Cathedral's lunchtime recital series. Kathleen Cronie, Sarah LeBrocq, Sam Paul and Ross Cumming reprised their solos, and I was thrilled to conduct the group. Also on the program were two premieres of my new arrangements of American folk tunes that are very dear to my heart. You can hear my 'Wayfaring Stranger' here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sD1Sn3fbNJA I'm very thankful to all the volunteer singers for giving such an excellent performance! I consider myself lucky to live in a place where putting together these kinds of concerts is so readily within our grasp.
From Alan Cooper's review of the concert: "As I wrote in my review of the BBC Singers on Thursday, in my student days and beyond, the commonly held view was that tonal composition was a busted flush. Everything had been done already and probably better. Now composers like Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre and as we heard on Thursday in Aberdeen, Paul Mealor and Phillip Cooke are proving that there are still so many new ways of composing tonally. I think we should add the name of Sarah Rimkus to that list... Her music was original, fresh, fascinating and above all, attractive."
I was honored to win the National Composer award as part of Seattle-based choir The Esoterics' annual POLYPHONOS competition. I will be receiving a commission to write a new work to be premiered in October 2018, and will be traveling to the performances to work with the choir and their director Eric Banks, and speak about my work. The Esoterics have been dedicated to high-quality performances of contemporary works since their inception; this is their 25th anniversary season.
I've had many opportunities to live and work in a wide variety of places in recent years, but I haven't been able to do much musical work in my beautiful home territory of Washington state. I can't begin to express how happy I am to not only get to work with musicians of The Esoterics' and Eric's caliber, but do it so close to my home which I miss.
My commission for Amuse Singers in New York City was premiered at Rutgers Presbyterian Church (73rd and Broadway) on 18 October at 7:30 pm, with a subsequent performance at the Cathedral of St John the Divine (112th and Amsterdam) on 22 October at 4:45 pm. I was happy to attend the first performance and hear the hard work of Amuse Singers and their director Colin Britt in person in their performance of a challenging program of Renaissance works alongside contemporary reflections. My piece 'Above the Stars' pairs with Byrd's 'O Gloriosa Domina' and uses whole tone scales to inflect a number of cross relations into the work, just as Byrd was famous for.
Hear a recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7-vEpMcZP8
It's a busy season for me, with a wide range of things going on. Upcoming performances on the North American side of the world include performances of my arrangements of 'Oh Shenandoah' and 'Amazing Grace' by Cantabile Chamber Singers in Toronto, 'Charlie is my Darling' by the mixed varsity chorale of Taylor High School in Katy, TX (my first performance by a high school ensemble) and the premiere of my 'Ave Rosa, Sine Spinis' by Nova Vocal Ensemble in Glendale, California.
I've also got two new recordings in the queue for release - my Christmas carol 'Brightest and Best' was recently recorded by Manchester-based ensemble Kantos and conductor Ellie Slorach, to be released in December on Prima Facie's new record 'The Silver Stars at Play', including carols by a wide variety of other distinguished living composers. The record will be officially released in concert in Manchester on 16 December. Additionally, production is beginning on the Cambridge Chorale's album of Marian works, including my commission 'Mater Dei', among works by Pawel Lukaszewski, Owain Park and others.
'Brightest and Best' has additionally been accepted for publication by GIA Publications and editor Dr. James Jordan of Westminster Choir College, which will be my first professional publication.
I was thrilled to win the Cantus Ensemble's composition prize for my new Magnificat. Each of the four finalists for the prize had a new Magnificat premiered, all designed to be paired with Arvo Pärt's beautiful Nunc Dimittis. My piece used aleatoric arpeggios to take the tintinnabulation in the Pärt one step further. The Cantus Ensemble and director Dominic Brennan performed the works alongside Parry's 'Songs of Farewell' at St Gabriel's, Warwick Square for their final concert of the season. Aberdeen was well represented, with my fellow PhD student Alison Willis also winning the audience choice award for her piece.
24 June 2017: The cathedral choir of St Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen will be premiering my St Andrew's Mass for two choirs, joined by music director Prof Andrew Morrisson and soloists Ross Cumming, Sam Paul, Sarah LeBrocq and Kathleen Cronie, a fellow PhD student at Aberdeen University who speaks fluent Gaelic. I am extremely grateful to all of the performers for volunteering their time towards the performance of a work which has, in a way, summed up the first half of my PhD in composition.
This performance is part of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney's annual Gaelic Eucharist, celebrated by Dean Emsley Nimmo, one of the few major Gaelic language events in the Northeast. You can read all about it in the Press and Journal here.
*Update: read an interview I gave about the work here: http://pisky.scot/2017/07/the-st-andrews-mass-interview-with-sarah-rimkus-composer/
April/May 2017: The St. Ambrose University Chamber Singers, directed by Dr. Nathan Windt, will be performing my "Shenandoah" alongside works by American, Austrian and Italian composers in Davenport, Iowa at Christ the King Chapel on Thursday 27 April at 7 pm, then taking their program on a European Tour of Milan, Venice and Vienna. As a quirky arrangement of one of the great American tunes that I first drafted in the Frankfurt airport, I have a huge soft spot for this piece and I am excited that it will be reaching a wider audience! You can hear a recording from last year here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjUmaLRrBr0
On 25 March the Cambridge Chorale, directed by Owain Park, will premiere my new work 'Mater Dei', commissioned for this concert entitled Hymns to the Mother of Christ, 7:30 pm at Trinity College Chapel, Cambridge. This will be my first time in Cambridge, and I'm looking forward to working more directly with Owain, whose consort group The Gesualdo Six has performed my 'My Heart is like a Singing Bird' a number of times.
Dulciana women's choir, directed by Eoghan Desmond, will be performing my 'O vos omnes' at Kaleidoscope Night's International Women's Day concert on 8 March at Bello Bar in Dublin. They will be giving a repeat performance at their concert on 3 April at 8 pm at Freemason's Hall, Dublin. I am looking forward to attending the April concert, my first time in Ireland.
I was delighted to have my new anthem 'Lead me, Lord' premiered at evensong by the Choir of King's College, Aberdeen under the direction of Westminster Abbey organist James O'Donnell, who expertly brought the piece to life. You can listen to a recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV_Bu2LiBFk