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You're here at the page of Evan Ingalls, composer, musician, and part-time marmot wrangler! Make yourself at home. :)

You have a variety of options: you can investigate my music—be it classical or folk or otherwise. You can find out how to support the creation of new music from my very own pen, buy existing sheet music, or hire me for a number of music-related endeavors. Right here on this page you can see if I'll be doing anything interesting anytime soon! And of course, you can always contact me with any questions, concerns, greetings, or requests for advice on marmot-wrangling. It's a tricky subject.

Musi(c)ngs - A Weblog

NEW RELEASE: "Bee! I'm expecting you!" 

NEW RELEASE: 

“Bee! I’m expecting you!” for 2-part treble voices

You can buy this piece HERE

I’m excited to release my first piece written for children’s choir! I love the medium, and I’ve been conducting choirs over the past year, so it was time for me to write for them. I wrote this for one of my choirs in spring, and we performed it at our concert in June. It’s set to a lively and descriptive (but concise) poem by Emily Dickinson, and I tried to reflect the attributes of the poem in my music. 

In that spirit of conciseness (and learnability with very limited rehearsal time), I attempted to make a musically interesting piece using a fairly small amount of material. The very beginning of the piece is the most difficult section—a few bars worth of the two parts tossing a phrase back and forth holds plenty of rhythmic and part-independence challenges. The first verse is unison, consisting of two staccato phrases and two legato phrases. When it splits, one part takes the melody verbatim again, while the other develops the phrase from the intro, then sings harmony to the legato phrases. The last few lines of the piece are a variant of the legato phrases. So there’s really only three distinct “chunks” of material in the piece, and it makes it pretty simple to learn, despite the fact that some of the phrases have some less-than-simple changes in tonality within them! 

I think this would be suitable for pretty much any upper-el or middle-school choir. The amount of rehearsal time it would take would depend on the skill level of the choir. The subject is most suitable for a springtime concert. Happy singing!

You can buy this piece (or request a perusal copy) HERE.

***** 

Bee! I'm expecting you! 
Was saying Yesterday 
To Somebody you know 
That you were due — 

The Frogs got Home last Week — 
Are settled, and at work — 
Birds, mostly back — 
The Clover warm and thick — 

You'll get my Letter by 
The seventeenth; Reply 
Or better, be with me — 
Yours, Fly. 

Emily Dickinson 

 

Fresh eyes on "Ophelia Songs" 

This Saturday, the Western Washington University Concert Choir will perform my “Ophelia Songs” as part of their program for the NW division conference of the American Choral Directors Association. I figure this is a good opportunity to go into a bit more depth about the background of the piece and my process in writing it. 

First, a synopsis more-or-less copied from my original program notes: 

The "songs" of Ophelia Songs are taken from among Ophelia’s lines in Act IV of Hamlet. This odd assortment of verses are ostensibly real folk-songs, that Shakespeare has given Ophelia to sing as she goes mad. Just prior to this, Hamlet, violently moody title character and lover of Ophelia, has both killed Ophelia’s father (perhaps in a fit of madness, himself) and departed Denmark for England. When Ophelia enters in Act IV, she has noticeably begun to lose touch with reality—instead of conversing with the King and Queen she sings snippets of folk-songs and spouts nonsensical utterances. Her grasp slips further as time goes on, especially as her brother enters and she does not recognize him. After a particularly touching scene where she hands out imaginary flowers to the characters present, she sings the last two stanzas below, and leaves. The next we hear about her—not even a scene later—is that she has drowned in the brook, after making herself “fantastick garlands...Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples”.

Here are the song texts, in the order they’re sung: 

How should I your true love know
From another one?
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon.

He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone.

They bore him barefac'd on the bier;
And on his grave rain many a tear,—

Fare you well, my dove!

You must sing, Down-a-down, call him a-down-a.

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I, a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine!

And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
He never will come again.

His beard was white as snow,
All flaxen was his poll:
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan:
Heaven 'a mercy on his soul!

To me, these verses were immediately touching. This is a woman (girl, really) who has lost all the things she cares most about. She has no anchor to the world anymore. This being the case, she let's go of reality. As she sings, we are left to wonder whether she is singing about her experiences, or whether the words are simply bubbling up from her past—when she sings “He is gone”, is she talking about her father? Or is this song just floating from her subconscious through her lips? Perhaps somewhere in between. 

In addition to this mysterious and almost spooky otherworldliness, the lines also have an inherent musicality. Whether these were existing folk songs that Shakespeare would have known, or lines he made up to fit the genre, I don't know. They certainly have the right feel! I find endless fascination in folk traditions the world over—be they in India, in Russia, right here in America, or, in this case, in England. While Hamlet is set in Denmark, Shakespeare was decidedly English, and his characters seem to be English too, no matter where the plays were set. With how well Ophelia’s lines and couplets fit into the general nature of the English folk repertoire, it was fairly easy for me to dream up melodies that could have fit with them as a song in Shakespeare’s time. Perhaps they would have been sung by a passing farmer on his way from the fields, as Ophelia sat by the brook weaving flowers together. Before everything fell apart... 

The first two stanzas come in the dorian mode, and in 6/8 time—a slow lilt as sounds from Ophelia’s past begin to come out of the mist. The third melody, also in dorian, is a meterless flowing chant, moving into a still-flowing choral texture. After this is where, in my mind, Ophelia departs from simple out-of-touch-ness to violent mood swings. The line “You must sing down-a-down” comes in an oddly angry canonic texture, with no particular key or direction. Following is a sullenly depressed piano interlude, then, as Ophelia has another memory, a sprightly Valentine’s song—happy, albeit in several keys at once (interesting to note that St. Valentine’s Day was already celebrated in the 1600’s! This song gets increasingly “inappropriate” in the verses I left out). 

At this point, I envision a change within Ophelia. Having been through this much torment, all within her own mind, she gives up. There’s nothing in the play to say as much, but somewhere between her days as the young girl she was and her death in the river at her own hands, there must have come the decision that she no longer wanted to inhabit this earth. Her ascent to the breaking point is played out in the piano. The chorus, which has been articulating the more conscious of her thoughts, has nothing left to add to the whirlwind of a shattering Ophelia. By the time the dust settles, we are left with a character who is more dead than alive, and has only a few parting words to say before she removes herself from the stage.

ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards 

I am incredibly honored to be able to announce that I am one of the winners of the ASCAP Foundation's 2015 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards! I've received this recognition for my "Sandburg Poems" for folksinger and chamber orchestra.

If you would like to hear the piece, you can do so and read program notes here.

I am utterly bewildered by the flurry of commotion and congratulation that has come along with the naming of this award. I feel so amazed, humbled, and loved! I want to extend my congratulations to the other 27 winners of the award, who I hope to meet in May. I also wish to extend much encouragement and goodwill to those who weren't recognized, and those who will enter in future years.

Thanks especially to Bruce Hamilton, my composition professor last year, and Tristan Roush, conductor of the premiere of this work. Without either of them, this piece would never have come near being the piece it is today.

And the greatest thanks for this award go to the ASCAP Foundation, who have created and sustained this opportunity to provide encouragement to composers in the beginnings of their careers. I will take this as a great vote of confidence for creating more work in the future. :)

The official ASCAP press release:
http://www.ascap.com/press/2015/03-27-ascap-foundation-names-martin%20gould-recipients.aspx

NewMusicBox article with links to the composers' websites:
http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/ascap-announces-2015-morton-gould-young-composer-award-winners/
 

A Culture of Positivity (BAAY's Jungle Book) 

For the past two months, I’ve been working with Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth on their show “The Jungle Book”. BAAY (www.baay.org) is a modestly-proportioned children’s theatre. It’s wedged in the corner of a downtown building that I had never thought to enter before. Inside, it is a whirlwind. At any given time, something different might be happening in each room—from dance company rehearsals to three different shows at once to choir to preschool to arts classes—all taking place amid the posters of old shows, piles of cardboard props and set pieces, walls full of past BAAY cast members’ reminiscences, and a darling friendly dog named Simba.

But all this is not the most astonishing part of BAAY. The most incredible part took me two months to fully comprehend, even though I now see I had a sense of it even on the first day. It’s the culture of positivity that David, Lisa, and all the rest of the staff have fostered. It’s the little miracles that happen every day between people.

I’ll illustrate:

During auditions, an auditionee raised her hand. Instead of asking a question, she proceeded to tell the group how auditioning was not something to be scared of, how the directors and other kids were not there to judge you, and how even if something went wrong it was not the end of the world! I’ve since heard many kids chime in with what they’ve learned from past shows—be it how to overcome stage fright, how to behave backstage, how to take notes from the director, or what to say if you’re asked to change something in rehearsal (“OK, Lisa!!!”).

Everyone is eager to help and do. All a staff member has to do is say “Who wants to...” and about 10 hands go up in the air. (“...take out the garbage?!?”) The kids came in the first week already working on their lyrics. Some took the time to map out where the breaks were in their song, or analyze how the original performer had sung it. I discussed with one cast member how it would be funny to have velcro bananas as props, and by the end of rehearsal found out that she and her dad were now planning to make a full banana tree! And when I sat down with my troupe of vultures (you’ve seen the Jungle Book, right?), ALL they could talk about was “Do we get to have British accents? I thought Lisa said we can do British accents! Evan, can we say our lines in a British accent???” (All this is said in their adorably quirky Austro-British-German-Southern accent mash).

I’ve seen more encouragement per capita at BAAY than I saw anywhere growing up! (I'm honestly quite sad it wasn't around when I was that age.) The first time I worked with the vultures, one of them said “But there’s just one problem...I can’t sing!” I barely had a chance to tell her that I was sure that wasn’t true; everyone could sing. Instead, I was drowned out by seven other kids telling her that she could; it wasn’t true; everyone could sing! (Which they then boisterously demonstrated.) There was no room for anything but the belief that she COULD sing, and now here it is tech week, and...she’s doing it! That kind of support for those in doubt, and comfort for those feeling down is commonplace.

Occasionally, I’ve heard conversations start up that sounded like gossip. Never anything terrible, but sometimes an offhand comment about another cast member who’s not present, or something that went badly in rehearsal. And every time, I've seen other cast members shut it down—with “That’s not very nice” or “Hey, no, it was fine!” or a quick change of subject. And those are the people who are listened to, because they are the leaders at BAAY, who have the courage to speak their mind.

The kids at BAAY are clearly courageous, and unafraid to tell you what they think, and to throw themselves into what they do. Yes, this can be frustrating sometimes, when everyone is so passionate about the show in so many different ways that we can’t focus on getting a single task accomplished. But...when it comes down to it, that seems like a good problem to have. I’d rather a group of kids who care too much than a group of kids who don’t care.

And boy, do they care! I have just been overwhelmed with love. One boy, starting from the first rehearsal (maybe it was even auditions!), took to coming up and thanking me whenever I worked with the group. As I got to know the cast, they started yelling my name when they saw me, and yelling goodbye as I left—I think this is a sign of approval among kids. They tell me random stories and minor events of their lives (“I colored this goldfish with strawberry marker, and now it smells like coconut oil!”); they complement me (“Pssst! Evan! I like your haircut!”)—recently I was forbidden from going up the stairs without a hug! Children may have inhibitions that they grow out of as they progress toward adulthood, but I think there are a good many more inhibitions that we grow *in*to. There are so many wonderful, zany, idealistic, enthusiastic, fabulous things I’ve seen among the kids at BAAY that I would never see in the adult world. And I’m more than a bit sad about this. We box ourselves in. Places like BAAY try to create future adults who won’t let themselves be contained.

I'll let you in on a secret: I think they're succeeding. I've known a few BAAY grads, just far enough younger than me to get in on what I was too old to participate in. They're some of the most effective, responsible, go-getting people I know! I can't wait to see what this generation of BAAY kids does with the gifts they've been given. They have no idea what they are receiving within these autographed, whirlwind walls. I hope they carry their culture of positivity out into the world.


If you’d like to see the show, we have one more weekend. We’ll be performing on Fri the 27th at 7, Sat the 28th at 2 and 7, and Sun the 29th at 2. You can buy tickets at the door or at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1387888.

Birth of a Website 

Well, it's up and running!
Building a website is exciting work, and a task I've been meaning to tackle for a while. But it's also daunting. Certainly, the feelings of legitimacy come in waves—every time a new, professional-looking feature comes before your eyes—but there's fear in legitimacy, too. It brings with it questions: Do I deserve this? Am I good enough? Am I faking it? I'm told that one never stops feeling these things. The pestering idea that it was some kind of strange luck that has allowed you to do what you've done, instead of whatever was supposed to get you to this place in your life.
There's a good deal of negative self-talk that comes with art, or even any endeavor where you strive to be as "good" as possible. We doubt constantly that we are there, or even that we can be. It's a good deal of negative self-talk that does us no good. Alejandro González Iñárritu, taking the stage at the Academy Awards last night to receive his Oscar for Best Director (one of many times he was up there for "Birdman") said "...true art, true individual expression...can't be compared, can't be labeled, can't be defeat, because they exist, and our work only will be judged, as always, by time." I loved that speech. What more gracious a way to accept an award than to recognize the artistic integrity of those beside you. And he talked of "that little prick called 'ego'". Ego is what allows us to bask in the glow of a spiffy new website. But ego is what drives us to compare ourselves to others; it is what depresses us when we worry that we are not living up to our ambitions.
If we can ignore the ego and ignore the pestering questions, we can focus on making art and doing what we do in the world. Now to just figure out how to do that...
Suggestions are welcome.

You can join my mailing list!

I don't always send out e-mails,
but when I do they usually include
small, furry mammals.
(And information about new pieces, upcoming performances, etc...)

Previous events

ACDA 2015 National Conference

 —  —

Salt Lake City, UT

Attending the national conference of the American Choral Directors Association in Salt Lake City, with the WWU contingent. All choral music, all the time!

Dec22

Old Carols and Wassailing Bowls @ Irish Night

The Star Club, 311 E. Holly St., Bellingham, WA 98225

As the featured performer at Irish Night at the Star Club, I will be honoring this Christmas-tide appearance with a good number of very old carols! And some other things thrown in.

Jan and Peadar will open for me.

No cover Age limit: 21+

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