Imagine that five people walk into a room and sit around a circular table expectantly. One by one they begin to speak, not with their voices, but with the instruments each person has brought with them. First the clarinet is heard, then the flute followed by the horn, then the oboe and finally the bassoon. They each vie for attention, seemingly attempting to agree on how they are to proceed. Finally they decide that each performer will tell a story with the others commenting or embellishing or even taking over the story. This is the dream that I had which inspired Short Stories.
Commissioned by The Aspen Wind Quintet and funded by Chamber Music America with funds from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Short Stories was written in 1994 and subsequently premiered that summer by The Aspen Wind Quintet at the Chautauqua Institute in New York.
The work is comprised of six movements with movements four, five and six played attacca. Each movement has an evocative title which hints at the story being told or at the storytellers themselves. Wildly divergent, Short Stories moves from mysterious to boisterous, from playful to painful, and climaxes with a vibrant, joyous dance.


Concerto for Oboe and String Orchestra began with the creation of the second movement first. This is not unusual for me or other composers who often write movements and even sections of the same movement “out of order”. Sometimes the shape of the whole piece just doesn’t present itself until a considerable amount of it has been written. Then, usually in a flash of insight, the work reveals its form. Three years ago, the second movement, originally titled “Tenebrae”, was first performed at Brookside Community Church with English horn and string quartet. Last year after attending a Colonial Symphony concert at Delbarton where “The Seasons” by Vivaldi was performed, the entire concerto revealed itself using “Tenebrae” as the second movement, performed either on English horn or oboe, and adding two faster outer movements to balance the middle. I also decided to mimic Baroque contrapuntal techniques but maintained 21st-century harmony and rhythm.


The Figured Wheel is a cycle of four songs for soprano, oboe/English horn, bassoon and piano written in 1987-88 for the Fiati Chamber Players. The title alludes to the ancient “wheel of fate” and more specifically to the inexorable passage of time. The work begins with a poem by Pablo Neruda titled “Slow Lament” which deals with the death of a friend. Notice the line, “The thick wheel of the earth its tire moist with oblivion spins, cutting time into inaccessible halves.” The next poem, “How Gently You Rock My Child To Sleep” by Pedro Salinas, is a tender, spiritual lullaby that expresses the deep desire of most of us to create and protect life. The third poem is “The Birthday” by Philip Dacey. Here we have a young woman celebrating her thirtieth birthday with her husband and son, as she contemplates past dreams, present reality and future “wishes”. The last poem is “Nocturne” by Eugenio Florit and is a poignant portrait of one poet’s imagined death. We end the cycle as we began with a solo voice, this time the poet’s own.


THE BIRTHDAY for soprano, oboe, cello and harp was written in 1981 for Carolann Page and members of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The text by Philip Dacey is a poignant portrayal of a woman reaching her thirtieth birthday and examining where her life has been and where she sees it taking her. She senses a deep change growing within her. But, instead of fear, she longs to experience what the “dark stranger” or the future has prepared for her. It is so new that words often elude her and as she struggles, wishes that she could at least express to her husband what she is going through. It is all a wonderfully mysterious sensual metamorphosis.