What's New

Fiddler's Delight,
a Five-Month Residency in Philadelphia

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In a wonderful combination of teaching, creating, rehearsing and performing, Tina Davidson worked with the 60-member city and suburban musicians, ages 8 to 17, for over five months.

"I'm building ownership of music," said Davidson in a Philadelphia Inquirer article. "I want people to say, 'This is my art form. I can do this.' I want them to go into a music hall and say, 'I could write something like that.'"

In the first several months, Davidson worked with twenty-five kids in sessions aimed at giving them a general ease with creation of music in any guise. They built their own instruments with found materials—soda bottles, wastepaper baskets, "Anything they could lay their hands on," she says.

Putting music on paper involved graphic notation and invented notational symbols. "They had to create the language and listen to their sound and see what it might suggest, rather than learning something that's already been developed." A dozen students wanted to move to the next stage, so they wrote melodies that Davidson incorporated into two of the three new pieces on Saturday's program.

She feels no difference between her work with Musicopia and the piece she was writing for star violinist Hilary Hahn. "It's all the same. Whether it's an encore piece [for Hahn] or a piece for children—it's about something personal."

D A V I D   P A T R I C K   S T E A R N S,   P H I L A D E L P H I A   I N Q U I R E R


Notations 21

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Tina Davidson's piece, Never Love a Wild Thing, is featured in Notations 21, a modern compendium and anthology edited by Theresa Sauer. Inspired by John Cage's seminal work, Notations (2008), the new anthology features illustrated musical scores from more than 100 international composers, all of whom are making amazing breakthroughs in the art of notation. These spectacularly beautiful and fascinatingly creative visual pieces not only make for exciting music, but inspiring visual art as well. The scores are accompanied by written contributions from the artists that explore every facet of their creative processes, from inspiration to execution.

Davidson's Never Love a Wild Thing, written in 1986, is for non-specific instrumentation and open orchestration. The piece, full of a joyous energy, is a mild rebuke and warning to those tempted by wild things.


Children's Opera, World Premiere
Summer of the Swans

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Summer of the Swans, a new opera for family audiences, was premiered by Central Pennsylvania Youth Opera and Capitol Opera Harrisburg on April 23-24, 2009. At the heart of the story is the gaining of understanding and compassion for those who are different. Themes of love, family, forgiveness, and most importantly, diversity, weave their way throughout the story. Summer of the Swans "demonstrates both the hurdles of disability for a family - and the gifts that come of it" (The Sentinel, 2009).

The work, based on Betsy Byers Newbery-Award-winning novel for young people, was created by composer Tina Davidson, poet Eva Davidson, and adapter/director Ben Levit. Eva Davidson has an MFA from Warren Wilson Program for Writers, and won the Academy of American Poets College Prize while getting her degree at Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in upstate New York where she teaches creative writing at Hartwick College. Ben Levit's talent as a director and dramaturge is widely known. His work has garnered Joseph Jefferson and Obie Awards, and his world premiere production of The Hidden Sky was awarded the 2000 Barrymore Award for 'Outstanding Direction of a Musical.' This artistic team worked on Tina Davidson's highly acclaimed opera, Billy and Zelda, produced by OperaDelaware.

Summer of the Swans, scored for five voices (soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, tenor and boy soprano), children's chorus, clarinet, bassoon, string quartet, and percussion, is approximately one hour in length. The work was commissioned by The Carlsen Center (Overland Park, KS).

Outreach activities include an educational program storybook, consultations with siblings of children with disabilities, and post-performance audience conversation about issues raised in the opera and the book.

If you are interested in Summer of the Swans please contact Beyond the Blue Horizon Music, bbhm@tinadavidson.com

View interactive site for Summer of the Swans

(See Review)


Pearl, a new three-act opera
Work in progress

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Long Leaf Opera has commissioned composer Tina Davidson and poet Eva Davidson to create a new opera based on the novel, Pearl, by acclaimed author Mary Gordon.

At the heart of the story are themes of the roles of art, politics, religion, and love in our daily lives. Pearl takes us deep into the labyrinths of maternal love, religion's faith and Ireland's tragic history.

On Christmas night of 1998, Maria learns that her twenty-year-old daughter, Pearl, has chained herself outside the American embassy in Dublin, were she intends to starve herself to death. Although Maria was once a student radical and still proudly lives by her beliefs, Pearl has never been interested in politics - nor in Catholicism her mother rejected years before. What, then, is driving her to martyr herself?

Shaken by this mystery, Maria and her childhood friend (and Pearl's surrogate father), Joseph, both rush to Pearl's side. As Pearl, dehydrated and wanting to die, lies in a hospital bed, we witness as they come together, clash, and continue to love each other, both hopelessly and with hope.

By the end of Pearl, the three have been through the trial of their lives, and each emerges transformed, with a wider vision of their future, apart and together.

The work will be scored for eight voices (two sopranos, two mezzo-sopranos, two tenors, baritone and boy soprano), chorus, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, string quartet, percussion, and piano.

The creative team brings together the composer Tina Davidson, and her sister, poet Eva Davidson, for their third opera. They are joined by author, Mary Gordon, in shaping the libretto. Mary Gordon, one of America's most admired novelist, writes about women's choices and about moral and spiritual struggles in the context of strong family connections. She has received a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the 1997 O. Henry Award for best story.

Long Leaf Opera will produce the premier performances. The Frost Theater, University of Miami, under the direction of Alan Johnson, will join the team, and do readings of the opera as they are in development.

If you are interested in Pearl, please contact Beyond the Blue Horizon Music, bbhm@tinadavidson.com

View interactive site for Pearl


CD Release, Albany Records

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Tina Davidson's solo compact disc, It is My Heart Singing was released on Albany Records, and features expressive, vivid music for string quartet, masterfully performed by the Cassatt String Quartet. In a Philadelphia Inquirer review by David Patrick Stern, Davidson's CD was rated four stars out of four;

"... emotional generous, genuinely uplifting music. Those who know Terry Riley's post-minimalist string quartets will be particularly at home with Davidson. Her music is less trippy, and ostinato more vigorous and, in general, more concentrated with distinctly American syncopation and density of events. Davidson composes in discrete modules that are strung together with great intuition; she creates a continuous flow, which means the music feels less like a journey and more like a meditation.

Most fascinating is the triple string quartet, Paper, Glass, heard here in an overdubbed version by the excellent Cassatt Quartet: Davidson has a field day with the rich possibilities of texture. What all this has to do with paper, glass, string and wood of the title is beyond me. But I love the music too much to care."

P H I L A D E L P H I A   I N Q U I R E R


Recent Commissions

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Tina Davidson has been commissioned to write a new work for pianist Guy Livingston and his Sixty Seconds II project. Livingston, a classically-trained concert pianist who lives in Paris, began commissioning composers for 60 second piano works in 1996. The performances were ecstatically received by the European press. Now, ten years after the original project, Livingston has commissioned Davidson and fifty-nine new composers for his Sixty Seconds II project. In addition to concerts, he will present a DVD sequel to the original sixty seconds program directed by filmmaker Nelleke Koop. Davidson has composed a new piece called Bar None, which "uses the 'whole' piano - without exception."

Close to the Bone is the new work that the Attacca Percussion Group, a highly diverse ensemble, has commissioned Tina Davidson to write. This work, for three players on one marimba, will be premiered in 2010 along with another work of Davidson's, In That Early Light, which won first prize in Attacca's composition competition.


New Works for Chorus,
available now

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Tina Davidson has recently released several new sacred works for chorus. She was commissioned by the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church to write a work honoring the work of author, educator and missionary, Richard Shaull, who believed in the transformation of individuals and societies. On the Other Side of Change, for a cappella chorus, speaks to "this precious faith, which puts you in touch with a God, who is recreating human life and transforming the world."

Duan Nollaig, for chorus and chamber orchestra, uses five carols (Duan) from the Carmina Gadelica to celebrate the Christmas (Nollaig) season. Using texts from a collection of Celtic folk prayers, hymns, and blessings, Davidson's music beautifully brings to life "that night the star shone, was born the Shepherd of the Flock, of the Virgin of the hundred charms."

Tu Autem, for a cappella chorus, was commissioned by Foundation for Universal Sacred Music for their annual festival. The piece is based on the words of the great mystic, Teilhard de Chardin, and resounds with the joyous, "Lock me up, lock me up, Lord!"


River, a New Work for Orchestra

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River was commissioned for the Reading Symphony Orchestra by the Reading Public Museum in honor of its 100th anniversary. The work, hailed as a "triumph" by Susan Pena of the Reading Eagle,

"turned out to be stunning, as full of subtle surprises as a walk through a museum. Beginning softly, with murmuring discussion in the lower strings punctuated by hushed cymbals, the piece slowly gathered energy and substance, then came to a pensive conclusion. Along the way were passages of beautiful lyricism, interesting rhythms, a lovely French horn quartet, trumpets and trombones building to a climax over rushing strings - in short, an opulent piece with a spiritual quality."

R E A D I N G   E A G L E



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  • Commission 2009: Pearl, Long Leaf Opera for a new opera in three acts based on the novel by Mary Gordon, Raleigh, NC, 2009.
  • Commission 2008: Bar None, for piano solo, Guy Livingston and his Sixty Seconds II project.
  • Commission 2008: Close to the Bone, Attacca Percussion Group for a new work for three players on one.
  • Commission 2008: for chorus, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster.
  • Commission 2007: Within Circles, Marylin Beitel and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster for new work for SATB chorus in honor of her husband.
  • Commission, 2006: The Other Side of Change, the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church and Nancy Johns for a new work for SATB choir honoring Richard Schaull.
  • Commission, 2005: Summer of the Swans, The Carlsen Center for a new work for family audiences.
  • Commission, 2005: Tu Autem, Foundation for Universal Sacred Music for a new work for a cappella SATB.
  • Commission, 2004: River, The Reading Public Museum for a work for orchestra to commemorate their 100th anniversary.
  • Commission, 2004: A Bright Flash of Wings, Concertante chamber ensemble for string sextet.
  • Commission, 2003: Hymn of the Universe, VocalEssence ensemble for SATB choir, English horn, string quartet, and marimba.
  • Commission, 2003: \Cel"e*brate\, newEar Chamber Ensemble for alto saxophone, bass clarinet, piano, and percussion, in honor of their 10th anniversary.
  • Commission, 2002: Listening to the Earth, Mid-Atlantic "Artist as Catalyst" for adult and children's chorus.
  • Commission, 2002: Beyond the Blue Horizon, National Symphony Orchestra "Encore".
  • Commission, 2001: In the Garden We Gather for SATB chorus, City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program as part of the creation of a mural at a Latino facility for AIDS patients and their families.
  • Commission, 2001: Bodies in Motion, WHYY-TV for piano trio for their television documentary, "Thomas Eakins:Scenes from Modern Life."
  • Commission 2001: Walk in the Light, Singing City, for SATB chorus.
  • Commission 2000: Paper, Glass, String & Wood, Fleisher Art Memorial, for triple string quartet.
  • Commission 2000: In the Garden, Mural Arts, a new
    work for SATB chorus.
  • Commission 1999: The Delight of Angels, Fleisher Art Memorial, for the Cassatt String Quartet.



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  • Bar None for piano solo: Guy Livingstone, performances in Gouda, Zwolle, Leeuwarde, December 11-13, 2009.
  • Within Circles for SATB chorus: Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster, June 7, 2009.
  • Pearl an opera in three acts, setting of the Act 1: Long Leaf Opera, Raleigh, NC, June 14, 2009.
  • Summer of the Swans an opera for family audiences: Central Pennsylvania Youth Opera and Capitol Opera Harrisburg, April 24-25, 2009.
  • Pearl an opera in three acts, Songs 1-7: Frost Theater, University of Miami, April 22-23, 2009.
  • To Understand Weeping soprano: Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, April 18, 2009.
  • Hymn of the Universe for SATB chorus, string orchestra, English horn and marimba: Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Kraushaar Auditorium, Baltimore, MD, March 30, 2009.
  • Bar None for piano solo: Guy Livingstone, performances on tour, Verkadefabriek, in Den Bosch, Kunsthuis 13 in Velp, Het Bethanienklooster in Amsterdam and Theater Kikker in Utrecht, November 16-December 17, 2008.
  • /Cel"e*brate/ for alto saxophone, bass clarinet, piano and percussion: University of Texas Pan-American, November 1, 2008.
  • Paper, Glass, String & Wood string quartet and string orchestra: Kansas City String Program, Pembroke Hill, Kansas City August 23, 2008.
  • Fire on the Mountain for marimba, vibraphone and piano: University of Michigan, March 28, 2008.
  • Star Fire youth orchestra: Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony, Mary Sorles, conductor, Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, May 13, 2007.
  • Celestial Turnings string orchestra: Catskill Symphony Orchestra, Charles Schneider, conductor, Oneonta, NY, May 5, 2007.
  • 7 Macabre Songs for piano: performances at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, VA, April, 2007.
  • Listening To The Earth Temple University Choir and Temple Preparatory Children's Choir, Church of the Holy Trinity, Philadelphia, April 15, 2007.
  • Tu Autem SATB chorus: Musica Sacra, Mary Beekman, conductor, performances at First Church Congregational, Cambridge, MA and in Providence RI, March 31- April 1, 2007.
  • Delight of Angels for string quartet: Cassatt String Quartet, Music Naturally Festival, Lancaster, PA, June 29, 2006.
  • What We Need is Here for a cappella SATB chorus: premiered by the Unitarian Universalist Church, Lancaster, PA, April 9, 2006.
  • The Other Side of Change for a cappella SATB chorus: premiered by the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, PA, February 26, 2006.
  • Riverfor chamber orchestra: premiered by the Reading Symphony conducted by Benjamin Shwartz, Reading, PA, November 20, 2005.
  • Tu Autemfor a cappella SATB: premiered at the Foundation for Universal Sacred Music Festival, NYC, October 29, 2005.
  • Paper, String, Glass & Wood for triple string quartet: Cassatt Quartet, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, October 23, 2005.
  • Fire On The Mountain for marimba, vibraphone and piano: Zeitgeist, Minneapolis, MN in six performances, March 13-21, 2005.
  • Hymn of the Universe for SATB chorus and ensemble: premiered by VocalEssence in two performances, Philip Brunelle, conductor,March 13-14, 2004.
  • A Bright Flash of Wings for string sextet: premiered by Concertante, in three performances in Harrisburg, Baltimore and Merkin Concert Hall, NYC, February, 6, 7, and 10, 2004.
  • River of Love,River of Lightfor SATB and ensemble: performed by Voces Novae et Antique in Philadelphia, February 28, March 2, 2003.
  • \Cel"e*brate\ for ensemble: newEar Chamber Ensemble, Kansas City, May 10, 2003.
  • Celestial Turnings for string orchestra: performed by Orchestra 2001, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, January 25, 27, 2003.
  • I Hear the Mermaids Singing for ensemble: Brooklyn Museum, New York City, December 8, 2002.
  • Paper, String, Glass & Wood for triple string quartet: Peabody School of Music, November 24, 2002.
  • Listening to the Earth for children's & SATB chorus: Atkinson Memorial Park, June 9, 2002.
  • Come Walk in the Light for SATB chorus: Singing City Chorus, Philadelphia, February 23, 2002.
  • It is My Heart Singing for string quartet and piano: Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie, February 10, 2002.
  • Beyond the Blue Horizon for full orchestra: premiered by the National Symphony Orchestra, three performances at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Jan. 25-27, 2002.
  • The Selkie Boy for narrator and chamber orchestra: commissioned and premiered by St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minneapolis, two performances, December 1, 2001.
  • Delight of Angels for string quartet: Cassatt Quartet, Sacramento New Music Festival, November 14, 2001.
  • Antiphon for a Virgin for a cappella chorus: on tour in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, the Slovak Republic and France, the Plymouth Music Series, Ensemble Singers performs, June 30 -July 12, 2001.
  • Mango Songs; six pieces for piano: Jed Distler, piano New York City, March, 2001.
  • Paper, String, Glass & Wood for triple string quartet: in performance with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and two student quartets, Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, March 23, 25, 2001.
  • Antiphon for a Virgin for SATB: winner of ATHENA Festival Choral Competition, Murray, KY, February 28, 2001.
  • The Selkie Boy for narrator and orchestra: Philadelphia Orchestra in six performances that includes a dramatic presentation by the Mum Puppet Theater, February 29, March 1, 3, and 11, 2000, Academy of Music, Philadelphia.