Congratulations to the 2016 Camerata Composition Prize winner, C. G. (Sonny) Walden III from Georgia! We asked him for some background information regarding his winning submission below along with a short excerpt of the winning work…
Excerpt of winning composition
The excerpt recording choir is the University of North Texas Chamber Choir under the direction of Henry Gibbons.
Comments from the composer:
How would you characterize your composition style, and who do you consider major influences on your writing?
My compositional style varies dependent on the composition’s intent and usage. When writing choral music, most often the style is text driven. Motivic and thematic development is often primary and matters of balance and form draw heavily from traditional western art music forms and techniques. Besides my teachers, Merrill Ellis, Martin Mailman and Larry Austin, I have been highly influenced by the music of Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, Arvo Part.
What was your original inspiration for composing “Set Me as a Seal”?
The line of the text “Set me as a seal upon your arm” was pivotal. The female character in the poem is of a differing social class and race from her lover, the King. She asks not only for his love but for him to make it public. She is without power but wishes that he not hide her because of her race or position. She requires to be valued not just admired.
How does “Set Me as a Seal” compare to the larger body of your composition work?
It is typical of much of my choral writing. Certain features of the motivic development have been used in much of my choral music.
Do you have any current or future composition projects in the works? What is next for you?
I recently completed a piece that had as its inspiration the George Watts’ painting “Hope” with librettist Ben Kaye. The piece was performed at the Watts Gallery in front of the painting in celebration of Watts’ bicentennial. I am presently working on a Canticle based on a story from the Gospel of Thomas with writer Ann McCutchan.
C. G. (Sonny) Walden, III is an active conductor, teacher, singer and award-winning composer and published poet. His arrangement of “God of Grace” was named Best Arrangement of 1996 by the Composer’s Guild. He has also won the Texas Music Educators Association Composition Prize, The Arnold Salop Memorial Composition Prize and was first runner up in the Texas Choral Directors composition contest.
His setting of Walt Whitman’s “Come up from the Fields” was recently recorded by Chorosynthesis for release on Centaur recordings. His composition “Hope” was recently performed in front of the painting by the same name at the Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey, UK as a part of the bicentennial celebration of artist George Watts.
His graduate work in composition was done while on Fellowship at the University of North Texas and his teachers included Martin Mailman, Larry Austin and Merrill Ellis. He has been a member of the Robert Shaw Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall and was a frequent tenor soloist with the former Savannah Symphony.
He taught composition at Georgia Southern University and presently serves as an ordained Minister of Music at Dunwoody United Methodist Church. Choirs under Mr. Walden’s direction have appeared at Georgia ACDA and on Georgia Public Radio as well as many regional and national and international church events.
His music is published by Walden3Music, LudwigMasters Publishing, Kalmus, Abingdon Press and Hoyt Editions and is frequently performed in universities, churches, concert halls and schools throughout the United States. Reviews of his compositions have called them “profound and sensitive” “modern-but-accessible” and “accessible but not common.” His poetry has been published by PoetWorks Press, Kota blog and Sojourners online.