From: Kent Larsen, Mormon News, Fri, 15 Mar 2002
Musical Compositions by LDS Composers
in New York City Library Collections
Mormon Musical Catalog Is Making Noise
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- A recent publication listing hundreds of
heretofore unknown concert musical works by LDS composers has
admirers of Mormon music applauding. The catalog, "Musical
Compositions by LDS Composers in New York City Library Collections,"
created by Mormon Artists Group in New York City, details works of
solo music, chamber, orchestral, art song, choral, and theater
genres. The 50-page volume lists each of the compositions, its
composer, describes the works and provides historical and technical
information, including where the scores or recordings can be located
in the libraries.
"The response to this publication has been incredible," says the
instigator of the project, Glen Nelson. "We thought it might serve
the purpose of guiding young LDS performers to repertoire that they
didn't know existed, but this is becoming something bigger."
Prominent composers like Crawford Gates and performers like Grant
Johannesen have echoed praise for the effort. Johannesen, the
legendary concert pianist, voiced support for the volume, "It is a
unique and valuable tool in the quest for discovery and preservation
and indeed in encouraging performance of our own superb indigenous
Nelson says there is some urgency to the cause of neglected LDS
concert works. "I had an experience recently that underscored, as it
were, the need to get busy preserving and encouraging our composers.
A young pianist came to me and asked whether I knew some LDS piano
music she could program in upcoming recitals and piano competitions.
I sent her to Grant Johannesen. Apparently, he told her about all of
this great music by Shepherd and Robertson, and she asked where she
could buy the score. 'Oh, they've never been published,' he said,
'I've been playing from the original manuscripts for years.' So she
asks him how she can listen to recordings, and he says to her, 'I'm
sorry. They've never been recorded.' And I've been hearing the same
story over and over. There's no repository for this stuff. And even
if it gets published, it's quickly out of print. How is a young
performer or composer or music fan supposed to learn about our own
music? And here's the scary part, as soon as these composers and
performers with direct ties to the music disappear, the music could
As an introduction to the volume, Johannesen tells the story of his
own composition's journey into print, "It was at a 1962 recital in
Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) in New York City that I
felt inspired to perform as an encore, my own improvisation on 'Come,
Come Ye Saints.' British composer William Walton happened to be at
the recital as a guest of the publisher of Oxford University Press.
Walton proclaimed the piece 'pure gold' and thus my little
improvisation found its way into print. I am aware that many worthier
pieces have not had such good fortune and painfully aware that the
music of even the most prominent LDS composers, Leroy Robertson, his
students, Crawford Gates and Robert Cundick and the nationally better
known Arthur Shepherd is under-recorded and under-performed. Without
performers to champion these and other fine LDS composers, powerful
and important music will descend from its current obscure position
Forty-seven composers appear in the catalog. Some of them are known
to most LDS listeners: Cundick, Stephens, Gates, Robertson. Emerging
composers and the neglected works of well-known composers offer more
surprises: Manookin, Bradshaw, Taylor, Boren, Gawthrop, DeSpain,
Coleman, Jones, Palmer, Wolford, to name a few. Their works include
symphonies, operas, violin and piano concertos, solos for various
instruments, string quartets, secular and religious art songs,
ballet, musicals, and many choral works.
Musical Compositions by LDS Composers in New York City Library
Collections was published and sent to 200 LDS composers, performers,
educators, critics, conductors and church librarians free of charge.
"That was definitely something we decided from the beginning," Nelson
says, "It is not for sale. The goal was to expose influential
musicians and potential audiences to this music. We plan to make the
entire catalog available on the web, and we'll send an electronic
version of the book to anyone who requests it. What all of us want
are opportunities to hear this music."
For now, it appears to be satisfying enough that people are curious.
"Look," Nelson replies, "Let's face it. Somewhere out there, people
are in positions to champion LDS music. They can afford to commission
it, they can conduct it, produce it, teach it, perform it, review it,
collect it and maintain it." Why is it slow to happen? "I believe
there are two erroneous ideas: one, that there is not LDS concert
music of quality; and two, that there's not an audience to listen to
it." "Well," he continues, "To those of you who have influence and
still believe those two things, I've heard these works now, and I can
tell you something, you're dead wrong."
Information about this publication can be obtained via email to:
MGKNelson@aol.com or to magpr@MormonsToday.com.
Mormon Musical Catalog Is Making Noise
Mormon Artists Group Press Release 6Mar02 A2