Welcome, music lovers, to my website, Words and Music.
My career as a musician has been inspired by and dedicated to the setting and performance of Words and Music. For more than 50 years, from composing the BMI-Award Winning Columbia Varsity Show, The Bawd’s Opera, to my most recent songs and arrangements, I have been composing and conducting works with texts that are engaging to the audience and gratifying for the performer.
To that end, I have created this site with you in mind: you church and school choir musicians, you solo singers, and you conductors who give life to this music.
My music is gathered together here for your enjoyment and consideration. All of it was written for you, and for those artists and performers who first performed it.
HOW TO USE THIS WEBSITE
There is a lot of music here, organized by genre and voicing.
If the music is published and is still in print, order copies from the publisher. If not, download a printable pdf and mp3. Take time to peruse and review the work. And if you choose to perform it, please let me know - when, where and who is performing it.
CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSING
Please note that all of my works are protected by Creative Commons licensing: Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND LEVEL LICENSE. For any of my works with text by Jason Charnesky: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA LEVEL LICENSE
A TIP TO READING AND LISTENING to Words and Music If you want to look at a score and listen at the same time, open this website in two windows, and use one to view the score and the second to listen to the audio.
A NOTE ABOUT Words and Music
In recent years, I have become adamant that the names of the poets and writers be included in the printed programs of song recitals and choral concerts. So if you perform any of this music, please include in the program or bulletin the names and dates of the poets and authors. They made this music possible.
Below you will find listings of recent and upcoming performances, and new music and CDs. This information is here – rather than spread out over the website – because I hope you will scroll down, and when you see something interesting, take the time to explore the links to scores, texts, and video and audio recordings. I am sure there will be something to pique your interest.
Yours, in Words and Music,
Two Invocations: Kyrie and Agnus Dei for SATB and keyboard or chamber orchestra.
The Youtube video of the performance of Two Invocations is from Lviv, Ukraine and I now dedicate it to the people of Ukraine who are suffering so much.
In 2017 I was fortunate to have my Two Invocations for choir and orchestra accepted for the Sacrarium workshop in Lviv, Ukraine with culminating performances by the Lemburg Chamber Orchestra and the Lviv Chamber Choir, professional organizations that gave stellar performances of my two sacred works in the historic Jesuit Church. It was thrilling to be in Lviv (motto: Live it up in Lviv) then, especially as the first flush of independence was still inspiring and exciting the people of Ukraine. So now, like most of the world, I am appalled by the invasion by Putin and his armies. I dedicate the video to the people of Ukraine. May this wonderful country and its beautiful and talented musicians continue as independent and free.
View SATB and keyboard score. View orchestra score.
Listen and watch the live performance in Lviv.
NEWEST: The World Premiere of Tennessee Williams Songs, settings of 10 poems by Williams for voice and string quartet took place on December 3, 2021. The concert featured faculty from the Penn State School of Music and School of Theatre: soprano Rachel Copeland and baritone Raymond Sage, readers Helen Manfull and Charles Dumas; and a “Stella(r)!” string quartet: James Lyon and Joanne Feldman, violins; Timothy Deighton, viola; and Carol Lyon, cello. The performance was directed by Richard Roland. Lighting and projections were designed by Andrew Haag.
OLDEST: Trinkley’s distinguished folk anthem Harvest Due was revived by the Penn State Glee Club in November 2020. The classic work was the centerpiece of the 1976 Bicentennial Wagon Train Show which traveled cross country and racked up more than 2000 performances during the Bicentennial celebrations. Roger Cornish’s lyrics are as meaningful today as they were some half-century ago. View TTBB score. View SATB score.
HARVEST DUE from The Bicentennial Wagon Train Show (1976) Lyrics by Roger Cornish and Don Tucker
My father planted justice, wrote law in lines of gold
hat said all men are equal and no man shall be sold.
But he never lived to see his harvest fully grown,
So we must bend our shoulders to bring his harvest home.
My mother planted courage and watered it with tears.
She willed it to her children to nurture through the years.
On a wagon rolling west she gave her children birth,
So we must match her spirit to deserve our mothers' earth.
Blow wind and shake the trees.
Come down, sweet summer rain.
Blow wind, sweep cross the plain,
There's a harvest coming due.
Our parents planted freedom and worked to make it green.
They tried to give us something the world had never seen.
But they're not here anymore. We're standing all alone.
Courage, justice, freedom, we must harvest on our own.
Robert Lima in memoriam (1935-2022). We sadly mourn the loss of dear friend, distinguished Penn State faculty member, and fine local poet, Robert Lima on February 8, 2022. Read the obituary. I set two of Robert’s poems in Mountain Laurels, (Lute Song and Indian Summer) and just recently set his holiday lyrics in versions for solo voice, TTBB chorus, and SATB chorus, all with piano. The Villanova Singers, a group which Bob founded in 1951, gave the premiere of Take Time Out for Christmas and Remember Christmas in the new performing arts center at Villanova on December 4, 2021, conducted by Ted Latham.
Take Time Out: Click here for text and score to TTBB version. Click here for SATB.
Remember Christmas: Click here for text and score to TTBB version. Click here for SATB.
Lute Song will be performed by the State College Area High School Concert Choir Master Singers in the spring and by the State College Choral Society on May 3, 2022.
View TTBB score. View SATB score.
Joy is in the making
of instruments that bring elation
of music that the fingers sing
Joy is in the leaping
through time, geography and lore
through planes of magnitude and depth
Joy is in the sensing
oneness with the master hand
oneness with the inner ear
Lynn Drafall in memoriam (1955-2021). Lynn and Bruce often collaborated on choral projects and performances with the Oriana Singers and the Penn State Glee Club. Lynn conducted the World Premiere of Bruce and Jason’s One Life: The Rachel Carson Project in 2000 commissioned by the HUB Gallery and performed by the Oriana Singers and women vocal soloists and women instrumentalists from the School of Music. To honor the memory of his brilliant and beloved colleague, Bruce composed the SSA version of The Gift To Sing, setting a beautiful inspiring text by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1937). The Oriana Singers, which Lynn founded in 1992, will perform the work, conducted by Kathryn Hylton on Sunday, April 20, 2022 at 7:30 p.m.at Penn State. The adaptation for women’s voices is from Bruce’s original composition for mixed voices, which was premiered by Essence of Joy, with Tony Leach conducting and accompanying in Recital Hall in April 2020.
View SSA score. View SATB score. View TTBB score.
Read Lynn's obituary.
Sing a Song with Me arranged for SSA and piano to celebrate the wedding of Janice Mianulli and Steven Overdorf, February 19, 2022 in Bellefonte, PA. Janice lent her dark vibrant contralto voice in premiering One Life: The Rachel Carson Project and playing the role of Flora, Vergil’s ever-helpful servant and muse in the opera Dido Decides.
Wally Harper, Barbara Cook’s longtime pianist, wrote the song for her and they frequently performed the song, most memorably at her Carnegie Hall concert in 1975.
CHICKEN LITTLE: A Fable for Wise Children, a music theatre piece for young audiences, will be directed and produced by Susan Boardman in the summer of 2022 for the Stone Arch Players in Lewistown, PA. Watch this space for audition and performance details. Jason and I wrote the piece at the request of many stage directors in NOA who wanted a piece for their young singers, at all levels of expertise. I wrote the piece at Hospitalfield, an artist colony in Arbroath, Scotland. The many shorebirds on the North Sea coast were always an inspiration. Today Chicken Little’s warning that “The sky is falling, the sky is falling” is being heard in many quarters.
aMUSEment: Play in the Workshop September 2-4, 2022. Anyone who has ever attended the Centre County Grange Fair or has ridden the Garbrick Brothers Ferris Wheel will want to attend this 60-minute historical, visionary and multimedia oratorio celebrating the creativity of Vernon Garbrick (1907-1987) to be performed inside the Garbrick workshop just below the runaway truck ramp in Centre Hall, PA. The workshop now serves as the studio for James Kalsbeek of the School of Visual Arts who is designing the production. Julia Kasdorf, poet, has written the lyrics to my five songs which will be performed by a vocal quartet from the PSU School of Music (Jennifer Trost, soprano; Amanda Silliker, mezzo-soprano; Richard Kennedy, tenor; Carter Houston, baritone; and an instrumental trio from Kevin Sims’ Open Music.
The Garbrick brothers Vernon, Lewis, and Lester, grew up on a farm in central Pennsylvania, each having been blessed with mechanical genius. This book focuses on Vernon, an innovator and builder of amusement rides; but includes the productivity of his brothers, as well. Vernon Garbrick patented 18 inventions, the most famous of which was the folding Ferris wheel; and his legacy lives on in the carnival business to this very day.
NEW PUBLICATION: Two Latin American Folksongs, arranged for TB Voices with piano (and also available for SA voices) has just been published by Carl Fischer CM9044. This continues a long line of Bruce’s arrangements of Latin American folksongs for various voicings. Mr. Fischer tells us: The first two of a set of five popular folk songs from Latin America, this choral includes a song from Mexico (Mi mamá aconsejaba) and a Portuguese folk song from Brazil (Nesta rua). The music is expertly adapted for young male voices accompanied by a beautifully designed keyboard part. This is wonderful material for the gentlemen in the choir.
NEW RELEASE: Songs of Two Bellevilles CD recording is now available with all proceeds benefitting UNICEF. The CD features two song cycles, inspired by Bellevilles in northeastern Paris and central Pennsylvania. The poems by Emily Grosholz were written in Paris, and those by Julia Kasdorf were inspired by the Mennonite community of Belleville in central PA. The performers are all cherished longtime collaborators: Emily Grosholz Songs is performed by Amanda Silliker, mezzo-soprano, and Svetlana Rodionova; Mennonite Songs, settings of poems by Julia Kasdorf, is performed by Richard Kennedy, tenor, and Steven Smith, piano. The original choral version of Mennonite Songs performed on November 17, 2017 by the Goshen College Chamber Choir, directed by Scott Hochstetler, with Bruce and Julia introducing the performance.
One Life: The Rachel Carson Project: This adaptation of movements from the cantata by Jason and me is the culminating work on Disc 2 (5-10) on the new CD, Portraits of Women for the famed Due Soprani, an innovative vocal duet with Lisa Dawson and Tammie Huntington. The CD is available for streaming, mp3 files, or Audio CD from Amazon: This version, like the full cantata, honors the life and writings of Rachel Carson, the Pennsylvania marine scientist who started the ecological movement in the US with her 1962 book Silent Spring.
WATER WHIMSY! Water Music: Marine Meditations Inspired by Rachel Carson and Raymond Carver is now available from the composer to men’s and mixed choirs throughout the world. The composer is happy to adjust the title to include the waterway nearest your chorus: the Hudson, the Nile, the Tasmanian Sea, etc. The trilogy is comprised of the noble and inspiring The Elements of Life and the gossamer The Airy Sea, with texts by Jason Charnesky and both from the cantata One Life: the Rachel Carson Project. My Boat, set to a humorous text by the great American short story writer Raymond Carver, concludes the set with a paean to conviviality, art and love of the sea.
NEW PUBLICATION: Modern Music for New Singers: 21st Century American Art Songs
North Star Music, In its inaugural series, delivers a wide-ranging blend of the newest composers and many of today’s most important living voices of American art song. Caveat: the site is a bit difficult to negotiate.
Dinner in the Courtyard Mezzo-soprano: Volume 2
Poem by Emily Grosholz
When summer tears the maple leaves
to lace, and blue shows through the green
like those imagined distances,
weaving through all things close at hand,
then sunset looms for hours upon
the scarlet tenements of day,
unraveling curtains, windowpanes ablaze.
The house is close, I say,
and move the table underneath
the arches of the maple tree.
Not even the curious neighbors know
if I am host or stranger here,
nor if this roof of leaf and air
the little courtyard of the world, is home.
The Gift To Sing Tenor: Volume 1
Poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)
Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day –
I softly sing.
And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow's somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.
I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.
The Lee-Rigg Baritone: Volume 1
Poem by Robert Fergusson (1750-1774)
Will ye gang owr the lee-rigg, My ain kind deary O!
And cuddle there sae kindly Wi' me, my kind deary O?
At thorniedike and birkentree We'll daff, and ne'er be weary O;
They'll scug ill een frae you and me, Mine ain kind deary O.
Nae herds wi kent or colly there, Shall e'er come to fear ye O;
But lav'rocks, whistling in the air, Shall woo, like me, their deary O!
While others herd their lambs and ewes, And toil for warld's gear, my jo,
Upon the lee my pleasure grows, Wi' you, my kind deary O!
Dinosaurs’ Dance I recently had another world premiere: a piece that I wrote specifically for young audiences - and for dinosaur lovers of all ages, Dinosaurs’ Dance. The premiere of the orchestral version in February 2020 featured the Nittany Valley Children’s Choir with the Nittany Valley Symphony conducted by distinguished maestro Michael Jinbo. The original version of the piece for solo voice and piano was choreographed by Patricia Heigel-Tanner. Pat based her choreography on the children’s book, Dinosaurs’ Dance by Frank Fisler with line drawings by J. Bruce Jones illustrating the story. For the most recent performance, the drawings were projected to give the children an extra degree of identification with the dancing dinosaurs. Alas, I hope our species does not go the way of the dinosaurs so many, many years ago.
The Diamond Child: A Fable for the Future. Click here to watch the video. The one-act musical was written to mark the day the United Nations designated as when the population of the earth would exceed 6 billion: October 12, 1999. It was produced by the Penn State School of Music and the School of Forest Resources in Eisenhower Auditorium, and featured in the finale The Nittany Valley Children’s Choir. As Jason said in an interview, "The real question is, what can we do now to make the world better for our children?" Admission was free but those in attendance were asked to bring non-perishable food items for donation to local food banks.
Click here for the synopsis. Click here for more info: The Day of Six Billion. The Day of Seven Billion. EarthSky.
View SATB-SA and piano score. View SA and piano score, View TB and piano score. The piece concludes at 1:11:50 with Jason’s powerful lyrics, sung by the cast, the children, and finally the entire audience. A theatre piece that in 2022 has even greater impact than in 1999.
By the dreams that we decide billions will abide
in the world we try to build.
O dear Mother Earth, O dear Mother Earth,
how spacious your girth that shelters
the children that dance into birth!
O parents so true, be sure that you choose
the future that is best for your children to use.
We learn and we play. And wait for the day
that we too are grown ups and help to choose the way.
Our future is shared, six billion to spare.
Our world is decided by what we do here.
The future is now. You must teach us how
the family of man can be true to this vow:
Love to learn. Learn to share.
Share to live and live to care.