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Interview with Carey John Franklin, composer

audio Listen to the interview
audio Listen to How Excellent Is Thy Name

More interviews

document Interview with John Scott, organist
document Interview with Huw Williams, sub-organist
document Interview with Ian Kellam, composer

document About the concert
linked document Saint Paul's Cathedral, London

MICHAEL BARONE: Minnesota has an interesting track record in getting young composers works performed by important British choirs. Well how did this commission come about?

CAREY JOHN FRANKLIN: Well, it's Philip Brunelle. He's the one who made this happen. I'm the Meet the Composer, composer in residence at VocalEssence. And part of my work there is writing music for VocalEssence as well as three partner high schools that I work with in the program. Philip in looking for the season coming up, knew that he was bringing the cathedral choir of St. Paul's to town and like the great entrepreneur he is, he simply called up John Scott and said “You will be doing the world premiere of my composer in residence, Carey John Franklin.”

Not a question. A statement.

A statement. That's right.

And how did you determine what you would write for them.

Philip and I talked about it and also talked with John Scott and they would like something that was liturgical that they could use at other points during the church year. In fact, I think John said that they sang this piece at Evensong in September before they went on the road. And I happened just to be reading some psalm texts and I liked this particular psalm, psalm 8 and given it the title “How excellent is thy Name”. I sent an email to John saying that that would be ok with him and he was delighted.

Does it give you kind of a thrill to realize not only that the St. Paul's choir from London has premiered this piece in Minnesota but that it will likely have a life in their repertoire back home in London?

Well I think it's fantastic. I couldn't be more blessed by that fact and by the fact that they're doing it and once they learn it it's part of their repertoire and they're going to do it again.

Did you have their sound in mind when you wrote?

This is the first time I've actually ever written a piece that's just boys and men which was a little bit of a challenge and I guess as I writing the piece I was thinking more about the acoustics of both St. Paul's London, and the Cathedral here in St. Paul and that there was going to be a lot of reverberation and what I could play with with that reverberation in making this piece. You only learn by doing these things but when I finished this piece, I sent it off to John and he sent an email back saying, you know some of those alto lines are a little bit high for my countertenors. Well, duh, I hadn't even thought about countertenors singing the alto line. I thought it would be the boys singing both the soprano and alto line. John was very good and we worked together and we adjusted a few of the voice leadings just to make it work.

An interesting anecdote, John told me. At the end of the piece, I have the higher voices and the lower voices alternate and ones in A flat major and one's in B flat major and I like that bi-tonality kind of thing and the very last line of the piece, you sing “O Lord, Our Lord” and I had written “bell-like” above the score and it so happened at that evensong, the first time they sang it, there was a festival of bell choirs at the church that evening.

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