Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Gilson Voth on her winning entry, “Above Gravity”!
It is representative of what we desired in a winning submission this year: a well-crafted piece of choral music reflective of the impact of COVID and political division in 2020. It is a beautiful choral work with sensitive vocal writing, word painting, and text setting. I know for certain that each singer in Camerata will enjoy rehearsing and performing “Above Gravity”, and that is the ultimate litmus test for me!Trevor Kroeger, Artistic Director, Cincinnati Camerata
Notes from the composer
In the winter of 2017, photographer Bob Gathany of the Huntsville (AL) Times captured footage of a dazzling effect called murmuration—a display of birds creating fluid formations in air, seeming to defy laws of nature. The effect shows how birds form synchronized waves which in turn allow them to better communicate food sources, and offer protection as they fly en masse.
See the video here on YouTube:
“Mesmerizing murmuration of blackbirds caught on camera“
Julie Cadwallader Staub’s poem “Blackbirds” captures this image in words—”the whole flock taking a long, wide turn, as if of one body and one mind.” What if nature were our teacher in this case? How do we rise above the gravity of self-absorption, of division? How would our current world be different if our first priority was not our own freedom or well-being, but the good of others? I am grateful to Julie for her permission to set her poem, and feel humbled and honored that the Cincinnati Camerata will first bring this piece to life.
A resident of West Hartford, CT, Dr. Ellen Gilson Voth is recognized for her work as a distinguished conductor and composer. She credits her years of teaching experience and her work as a keyboard artist as important influences on her approach to composition, and her passion for writing for the human voice.
Praised for music that is “superbly crafted”, Voth was a finalist in the 2020 ACDA Brock competition for professional composers, and the 2020 winner of the Michigan Choral Commission Consortium. Her works are published by ECS Publishing, Oxford University Press, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and Colla Voce, with new releases forthcoming from Graphite Publishing. Her recent commissions include works for CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists), Cantilena: a Women’s Chorale (Arlington, MA), Farmington Valley Chorale (Simsbury, CT), Handel and Haydn Society Youth Choirs (Boston, MA), Central Bucks West High School (Doylestown, PA), New Haven Chorale (New Haven, CT), Children’s Aid Society Chorus (New York, NY), Greater Middletown Chorale (Middletown, CT), Perkiomen Valley High School (Collegeville, PA), Ellington High School Choirs (Ellington, CT) and the Boston Children’s Chorus (Boston, MA). Other works have been premiered or performed by VOCE (Hartford, CT), Novi Cantori (Springfield, MA), The Choral Art Society (Portland, ME), and the Princeton Singers at the Lehigh University choral composers’ forum (Bethlehem, PA). Her opera, Owl Moon, based on Jane Yolen’s award-winning book, was premiered by Hartford Opera Theater and later featured at the national Music by Women festival (Columbus, MS) in 2018. Her wide-ranging interest in poetry is reflected in her art song settings championed by professional singers throughout New England, including a setting of Robert Browning on the album Every Tiny Thing, released by Albany Records.
Currently Voth serves as Artistic Director of the Farmington Valley Chorale based in Simsbury, CT, a symphonic chorale of 80-100 members. For seven years she served as Artistic Director of Novi Cantori, a professional chamber choir of greater Springfield, MA – known for its innovative programming and workshops for composers refining works-in-progress. She has taught on the music faculty at Western Connecticut State University (Danbury, CT); Westfield State University (Westfield, MA); Western New England University (Springfield, MA); Gordon College (Wenham, MA); and Ithaca College (Ithaca, NY). Active as a guest conductor and adjudicator, she performs regularly as a singer with CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists), and as a freelance pianist and organist.
Voth received her doctoral degree (DMA) from The Hartt School, University of Hartford, her Master of Music (MM) from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and her undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, from Wheaton College (IL). To learn more about her work, visit www.ellengilsonvoth.net.