Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Consortium Commissioning: Jocelyn Hagen's Song Cycle Kiss

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Consortium Commissioning: Jocelyn Hagen's Song Cycle Kiss

Article excerpt

The newest song cycle by composer Jocelyn Hagen is entitled Kiss, and the four songs that comprise the work are lushly romantic settings of poet Julia Klatt Singer, set for soprano and piano. The work originated through an unusual collaborative commission by a consortium of twenty sopranos. For a nominal cost, each member of the consortium received the right to give a regional premiere of the cycle and the joy of knowing she was part of a collective engaged in fostering the creation of a new art song.

The idea of a consortium commission project began with the composer, Jocelyn Hagen (b. 1980), a native of Valley City, North Dakota.1 Hagen began piano lessons at age three, and by the age of fifteen she was working as a professional accompanist, including an extensive stint as a collaborative artist with soprano Jennifer Kult as the Linden Duo. She holds degrees in theory, composition, and vocal music education from St. Olaf College and a masters degree in composition from the University of Minnesota. The majority of her compositional output is for voice, ranging from intimate solo and chamber works to large-scale choral pieces such as her recent Sorrel Organization commission, the oratorio amass for Kent Title and Música Sacra. Her affinity for vocal writing is also well evidenced in her 2014 release of Tfie Art Songs of Jocelyn Hagen (funded by a Next Step Grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council).

Hagen was receiving lucrative commissions for larger-scale works such as amass, but longed to create a framework that provided a funding mechanism to allow her to continue to write songs. She hoped that, working collaboratively with others, she might create a model to facilitate the commissioning of new work by singers. Hagen's first forays into composition (from her musical start as a pianist) were via songwriting, so this initiative held special importance to her and she started to seek out existing models. The most-listened-to classical-music radio station in the USA, New York City's WQXR notes,

In an age of decreased funding for new music, consortiums are becoming an increasingly common way of funding new works. Consortiums seek to address two basic problems of commissioning new music: cost and repeat performances. The more funders who split the cost of a work, the cheaper the fee is for each member. If a work is heard by more people, and performed more times, it theoretically has a greater chance of entering the repertoire.2

Indeed, more well established commissioning consortiums now include the Henry Fogel Commissioning Consortium (Ovaldo Golijov), The West Texas A&M University Song Collaborators Consortia, and the League of American Orchestras and Meet the Composer joint commissioning consortium, Ford Made in America (Joan Tower and Joseph Schwantner).3

Inspired by these various commissioning models, Hagen began conversations with singers wanting to commission songs by her, approaching them with the idea of a consortium arrangement. As a core of supporters emerged and grew, she issued contracts to individual members and identified suitable poetry. As each singer/ collaborative artist team was confirmed, Hagen issued a contract for review, execution, and payment.

The composer selected four poems from Julia Klatt Singer's book of poetry, In the Dreamed of Places, for her song cycle. Ms. Singer has an undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College, where she began to write both poems and short stories, and a M.A. in Creative Writing from Hamline University. Her poems are inspired by her life in Minneapolis with her husband and two boys, and by her work as visiting writer in schools through Compas, a statewide arts organization. Her works have been published in more than sixty journals and anthologies, and her lyric narrative poetry easily lends itself to being set to music.

The four poems selected by Hagen all center around a kiss, ranging from the flirtatious to the unspoken, to the seductive, and to the reckless. …

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