Having begun her musical career as a pianist, Juliana Hall began study of composition at age 26 while she was in graduate school at the Yale School of Music. Her first teacher was Frederic Rzewski, who encouraged her to shift her focus from piano to composition. Study with Martin Bresnick and Leon Kirchner followed; both encouraged her to make a career in composition as well, and in 1987 she was awarded a Master’s degree in Music Composition from Yale.
After Yale, Hall moved to Minneapolis to study with composer Dominick Argento, and in the Spring of 1987 she received her first commission, from the Schubert Club of Saint Paul, MN, for a song cycle (NIGHT DANCES) for soprano Dawn Upshaw.
In 1989 Hall received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, and since that time she has become a prolific and highly-regarded composer of American art song and vocal chamber music. She was recently honored to receive the 2017 Sorel Commission to write a new song cycle for SongFest, which will be premiered on June 24, 2017 in Los Angeles.
JULIANA HALL: THE FULL STORY
American art song composer Juliana Hall has composed over 50 song cycles and works of vocal chamber music, which have been described as “brilliant” (Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post) and “the most genuinely moving music of the afternoon” (Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe), and her songs have been regarded as “legitimate modern heirs to the great tradition of German lieder” (Philip Greene, New Haven Register).
“The tonal language is adventurous, and Hall’s text setting is spot on and exquisite, even when she elevates the text to the vocal stratosphere”
and notes, further, that they are
“artful and adroit expressions of superb poetic and musical choices.”
Hall’s music has been heard in 28 countries on six continents, in venues including the 92nd Street Y, Bruno Walter Auditorium, Morgan Library & Museum, National Opera Center, Spectrum, Trinity Church Wall Street, and Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall) in New York; Ambassador Auditorium in Los Angeles; Herbst Theatre in San Francisco; the French Library and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; the Kemper Art Museum in Saint Louis; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford; Strathmore Hall Arts Center in Bethesda; the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst; the Museum of Art in San Diego; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, and Singapore Embassy in Washington, DC; the McKnight and Ordway Theaters in St. Paul; Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris; and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Wigmore Hall, and The Warehouse (Waterloo) in London.
Hall’s songs have also been presented at music festivals and intensive art song training programs, including the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, London Festival of American Music, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Ojai Music Festival, Schubert Club Song Festival, Song Collaborators Consortium Art Song Festival, SongFest, and Tanglewood Music Center.
Radio broadcasts of Hall’s works have been heard on the BBC and NPR radio networks, stations in Canada, England, France, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and South Africa, and many throughout the U.S. as well, including Boston’s WGBH and New York’s WQXR.
In addition to concert performances and radio broadcasts, Hall’s vocal compositions have been recorded on the Albany and Vienna Modern Masters record labels. Her newest CD, “Love’s Signature” (MSR Classics, MS1603), was made possible by a Recording Grant from the Sorel Organization in 2015; “Love’s Signature” was issued in 2017, and presents three complete song cycles — her countertenor cycle O Mistress Mine (countertenor Darryl Taylor with Hall at the piano), and two soprano cycles, Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush and Propriety (Grammy-winning soprano Susan Narucki and pianist Donald Berman).
Hall has received a number of commissions, and has composed song cycles and vocal chamber music for singers and organizations including baritone David Malis, countertenor Brian Asawa, sopranos Gwen Coleman Detwiler, Steffi Fischer, Martha Guth, Amy Petrongelli, Pamela Jordan Schiffer, and Dawn Upshaw; tenor Joel Burcham; Feminine Musique (the vocal duo of soprano Korliss Uecker and mezzo soprano Tammy Hensrud); Los Angeles’ SongFest; New York’s Mirror Visions Ensemble; Philadelphia’s Lyric Fest; and Baltimore’s Women Composers Orchestra.
Ensembles programming Hall’s work include groups such as the 016 New Music Ensemble, ANA Trio, Calliope’s Call, CHAI Collaborative Ensemble, Ensemble for These Times, Ensemble Lyrae, Fourth Coast Ensemble, Lynx Project, Mallarmé Chamber Players, Voices of Change, and Zenith Ensemble.
Presenters of Hall’s music include organizations such as Capital Fringe, Casement Fund Song Series/Sparks & Wiry Cries, Cincinnati Song Initiative, Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project, Denver Art Song Project, Joy in Singing, Project 142, and Song in the City.
Special performances include selections from Hall’s song cycle Night Dances on Dawn Upshaw’s First Songs project at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York in 2013 and a performance of her tenor song cycle The Holy Sonnets of John Donne at a Holy Week meditation service in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 2015.
Special projects include a commission by the Lynx Project for its 2017 Autism Advocacy Project, for which she composed the song cycle Great Camelot to the words of Sameer Dahar, a gifted teenager with autism.
Highlights of the 2016-2017 season include a number of world premiere performances:
O Mistress Mine (12 songs for countertenor and piano on texts from plays of William Shakespeare) on August 5, 2016 at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, by countertenor Darryl Taylor with Hall at the piano
Upon This Summer’s Day (8 songs for soprano and piano on poems by Emily Dickinson) on November 10, 2016 at the London Festival of American Music, by soprano Nadine Benjamin and pianist Susanna Stranders
A World Turned Upside Down (7 songs on entries from “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank) on March 10, 2017 at the Song Collaborators Consortium Art Song Festival, by soprano Kathleen Roland Silverstein and pianist Lisa Sylvester.
The Bells (song setting for soprano and piano of the poem by Edgar Allan Poe) on March 25, 2017 on the Contemporary Undercurrent of Song Project’s “Juliana Hall Composer Portrait” concert, by soprano Alexandra Porter and pianist Brent Funderburk
Christina’s World (5 songs for soprano and piano on poems by Christina Rossetti) on April 8, 2017 at the Cincinnati Song Initiative, by soprano Gwen Coleman Detwiler and pianist Marie-France Lefebvre
When the South Wind Sings (7 songs for soprano and piano on poems by Carl Sandburg) on June 24, 2017 at SongFest, by soprano Tabitha Burchett and pianist Riley McKinch.
Other recent highlights include:
Propriety (5 songs for soprano and piano on poems by Marianne Moore), Music like a Curve of Gold (2 songs for soprano, mezzo soprano and piano on poems by Sara Teasdale), and Dreams in War Time (7 songs for mezzo soprano and piano on poems by Amy Lowell) on the Casement Fund Song Series/Sparks & Wiry Cries concert entitled “Celestial Refrains: Songs of Juliana Hall” at the National Opera Center in New York, by soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon, mezzo soprano Hai-Ting Chinn, and pianist Ryan MacEvoy McCullough
Night Dances (6 songs for soprano and piano on poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay) at the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, by soprano Amy Petrongelli and pianist Bridget Hough
Letters from Edna (8 songs for mezzo soprano and piano on letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay) on the Joy in Singing’s annual “Edward T. Cone Foundation Composers Concert” in Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, by mezzo soprano Abigail Levis and pianist Miriam Leskis
Julie-Jane (5 songs for baritone and piano on poems by Thomas Hardy) on the Zenith Ensemble series in Melbourne, Australia, by baritone Michael Lampard and pianist Rhodri Clarke
Night Dances (6 songs for soprano and piano on poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay) and I sing to use the Waiting (song for soprano and piano from the cycle “Paradise“) on the Calliope’s Call art song series in Boston, by soprano Maggie Finnegan, soprano Sonja Tengblad, and pianist Clare Longendyke
Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush (7 songs for soprano and piano on letters of Emily Dickinson) at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA, by soprano Molly Fillmore and pianist Elvia Puccinelli
Hall’s songs have been taught in song repertoire classes and student composer seminars at numerous academic institutions, some of which include the Bard College Conservatory of Music, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, the Hartt School of Music, the Juilliard School, and Westminster Choir College, in addition to the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar, SongFest, and the Tanglewood Music Center summer programs.
Hall’s compositions have been studied academically by a number of university students and college professors who have made presentations about her work and a few who have written their Masters theses or Doctoral dissertations on them (both in the U.S. and the U.K.) Conference presentations about Hall’s songs have been made at the Athena Festival in Kentucky, the Women Composers Festival of Hartford, meetings of the College Music Society, and the “Conference in Music Performance Studies” in Portugal.
Interviews of Hall and articles about her work have appeared in the Journal of Singing (National Association of Teachers of Singing), the Journal of the IAWM (International Alliance for Women in Music), and the online journals Art Song Magazine (Sparks & Wiry Cries) and Musica Kaleidoskopea.
Juliana Hall began her musical career as a pianist, studying with Boris Berman, Jeanne Kirstein, Seymour Lipkin, and Lee Luvisi. She became a composition major at the Yale School of Music, where she earned her Master’s degree in Composition studying with Martin Bresnick, Leon Kirchner, and Frederic Rzewski, and she completed her formal composition studies with composer Dominick Argento in Minneapolis. In 1989 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition.