The Carmina Burana Choral Project: Gabe Smallwood, Composer
This year, Carnegie Hall presents its fourth annual Creative Learning Project, centered around a performance of Orff's Carmina Burana on February 5, 2012.
The concert will feature pieces for orchestra and choir written by top
high school composers from around the country. Over the summer, these
talented students are composing their pieces and attending various
programs for music learning. One of them, 14-year-old Gabe Smallwood
from South Carolina, discusses selecting the text he'll use for his composition.
In June 2011, I was able to go to New York and participate in The Carmina Burana Choral Project workshop along with the other two incredibly talented and inspired composers, Thomas and Anthony. Meeting them and the people behind the project was a very memorable experience.
The text I chose for my composition is the sequence from the Requiem Mass, also known as the Dies Irae, a 13th century Latin poem written by Thomas of Celano. I have been drawn to this text ever since I heard Mozart’s setting of the Dies Irae when I was 12 years old. At first, I was attracted to the music instead of the words.
Mozart's Dies Irae.
Then I started researching the text and found other settings of the poem in the works of Verdi and Faure. Since then, I’ve found favor with this text and its rich themes. The Carmina Burana Choral Project explores similar themes, such as fame and fortune and the nature of human existence, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to set the Dies Irae to music myself.
Dies Irae has seeped into popular culture. Notable street painter Kurt Wenner depicted its themes in this famous 2007 work of the same name.
Thanks to Carnegie Hall and the Weill Music Institute, I believe that this will be my greatest composition yet, and I am very fortunate and thankful to be a part of this project.
Gabe Smallwood is a pianist, horn player, and organist that has been composing for almost four years. His compositions include masses, cantatas, and chorale preludes to concertos, partitas, and sonatas. He is currently a freshman and a member of the International Baccalaureate program at Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina. Gabe has played French horn with the Florence Youth Symphony Orchestra for the past two years. He has served as the organist at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church since August 2010, and is an active member of the American Guild of Organists. This past summer, Gabe had the privilege of attending the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities Discovery Program where he studied piano with Dr. Stephen Taylor for two weeks.