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04 Feb 2016

David Solomons: From Singing to Composing

David has been part of MusicaNeo community for as long as 5 years, since 2011. During this time our sheet music archive has been enriched with hundreds of works by David, both original vocal and instrumental pieces as well as arrangements of classical and folk music works.

David Solomons, UK singer, composer, arranger, one-man choir and guitarist

David did not start his musical career at an early age like many artists do. It happened relatively late for a musician: he took up violin at 14 and guitar at 17. His further music activities did not progress in an ordinary way either. In fact, David is self-taught and has always learnt things by doing and experimenting.

As an alto-range singer, David has performed in and composed for churches in Oxford, London and Manchester. At that time music, however, was not his main occupation – David worked with languages: first teaching, and later in translation for the Civil Service, which was the cause of his moving across the country.

As composer, David Solomons actively started to write own music in 1969. His compositional style was formed under the influence of the numerous music collaborations. Some of them took place at the time when David sang in church while others became possible with the advent of the World Wide Web. Thus, David could find pen-pals in Germany and France and create first music trios (violin-trumpet-piano). His composing skills progressed with every opportunity given:

“It was a very gradual process: in the first 30 decades or so my music existed only as handwritten manuscripts in my home, rarely reached any other musicians and was performed almost exclusively by me and a few close friends at home or in University. As time progressed, I joined various composer associations and found that my music could be heard by a relatively wider audience. The Internet was the big eye-opener, however, and, from the 1990s onwards an ever larger number of musicians throughout the world began adding my music to their repertoire. This was not sufficient to make composition a career, however, and I continued to earn my living as a government translator, and composing and singing only in the evenings. Once I had reached the age of 54, I decided that the time had come to retire from the daily job, take the pension they provided (small though it was), and concentrate on music. I suppose I would say, therefore, that 54 was the turning point and it has been an excellent decision.”

In composing, David has focused mostly on tonal music and experimented with Dorian and Octatonic modes. At the very start of his career he went to the local music shop and inquired whether they had any music for alto/baritone voice. Having received the negative response, he immediately started filling that gap on the music market.

A good part of composer’s inspiration came from poetry. Perhaps this is the reason why many of David’s works are very lyrical, intimate and memorable. Another source was folk music:

“Initially my inspiration came from poetry - specifically the rhythms of poems and the melodies that arose from them in my mind. The poems of authors as wide apart as Jacques Prévert and Gavin Ewart, Du Bellay and David Andrew, Mark Haviland and Marie Keyser are particularly worthy of mention. Other inspirations come from folk dances, folk tunes and occasionally unusual techniques that I have come to know about, such as beatboxing on the flute, multiphonics on the tuba and artificial harmonics on the guitar. It is difficult to identify individual composers who may have influenced my style. It is sui generis, but the styles of Purcell, Bach, Walton and Howard Goodall and some anonymous Chinese, Japanese and Jewish (Klezmer) writers have all had their say in the overall mix.”

Any performer can find something to play in David’s music collection that has expanded tangibly throughout the years. Amateur performers would find a wide range of both choral and instrumental pieces. The pro performers, too, will have a chance to pick a virtuoso piece a two to play on their violin, flute or saxophone, for example.

Here are a few recommendations from David himself:

“Some of my favourites date from the first few years of composing, especially Japanese Song for solo guitar which I wrote for a fellow student at Oxford University in the 1970s and Virgo and Taurus for cello and guitar which I wrote after a very intense weekend in Leicester with a cellist during my postgrad days. The melodies and harmonies in Virgo and Taurus have always remained with me and I have re-used them in several songs and instrumental piece afterwards: always a bitter-sweet and ambiguous feeling.

From more recent times I have a special love for my choral works, some of which I have sung with the choirs for whom they were written, such as the three Manchester Cathedral choirs and the Lutheran Singkreis in Stretford; of these I would mention especially the Mass for men's voices and organ (which has also recently been recorded in an expanded version for choir and orchestra).

However, the one piece that excels for me outside of emotional considerations is the String Quartet, because it is one of my most inventive and original pieces, written in the Octatonic mode (including a movement of polymodality - in which the viola plays in Dorian mode while the other instruments stay in Octatonic). It was beautifully performed a couple of times in the late 1990s but I would love to hear some more recent performances in due course.

On a lighter side, I also compose many quirky and humorous pieces, of which my favourite is "The 12 days of Christmas, a conductor's nightmare" in which all sorts of things go wrong as the choir processes during the season of merriment.”

The sheet music to all of the compositions mentioned above can be easily found via MusicaNeo search facility and directly at the personal site of David W Solomons on MusicaNeo.

As it always takes much effort and determination to achieve a result in any profession, we asked David about the difficulties he came across on his path, about the composing-related ‘dark side’ of the things:

“The only dark side for me is writer's block, as must be the case for many writers and composers (I even wrote a piece all about writer's block, which is somewhat counterintuitive, I suppose!). On the whole I have come to realize that if "it" doesn't come, then "it" is not ready and if I have to force "it", "it" doesn't work. I also found that, if I write a piece especially for the person with whom I have been having a relationship, that usually signals the end of the relationship. I have therefore never written a piece specially for my current significant other, and that current relationship has been happy for over 25 years!”

Music publishers, churches and online organizations have always been very supportive of David’s creative work, which allowed his music being heard in many countries. Many renowned musicians performed David’s pieces – in his personal site’s gallery he publishes the pictures of some of the professional performers he had a chance to work with. His music is performed at concerts in both hemispheres, from UK and France to US, Canada, Australia and Japan, among other countries.

Being a professional singer, David has also recorded an impressive collection of multitrack choral pieces performed by himself under the name “dwsChorale”. Though consisting of just one person, this is in fact an entire choir that sings and records music works by other composers in various styles (12-21st centuries), as well as David’s own works.

“I cannot guess what the future holds: sudden ideas from friends push me in unexpected directions, many of which prove fruitful. However, despite the fact that I am currently writing ever larger scale works, even including an opera for some Austrian authors, I think that small instrumental and vocal ensembles will continue to predominate. I will probably also write more arrangements of well-known pieces, since they seem to be popular, and who am I to go against the flow - oh wait! Going against the flow is what we do ;-)”

David W Solomons is widely represented in MusicaNeo sheet music catalogue (the number of scores currently published approaches 2K), and we are waiting for more of his music to come. You are welcome to get acquainted with the original music works by David as well as his most popular arrangements. Moreover, David is always open to interaction – you can contact him directly any time!

25 Jan 2016

Vladimir Sterzer: Music of the Soul

Vladimir Sterzer was born in Siberia, Russia but has been living in Germany since the age of 14 when he moved there with the family. Already as a young boy, he showed great interest in music. Moreover, that interest was backed by exceptional talent that got disclosed during the first piano lessons at the music school. Soon piano contests and first prizes followed, next – the studies at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, and today Vladimir is fully submerged in music.

Vladimir Sterzer

Vladimir Sterzer, Russia-born composer, arranger, pianist, guitarist, teacher and music producer living in Germany

Very often musicians start composing after a certain period of being an active performer. Vladimir’s composing career began at the age of 17:

“I composed my first rock ballad for guitar at the age of 17. At that time I played guitar and sang to it. This was the way I started composing.”

He studied Classical, Jazz and Pop music, which certainly reflects in his own music. However, the range of styles expanded over the years and today, besides the above mentioned genres, Vladimir Sterzer also composes New Age, Contemporary Pop, Ambient and Electronica. Music for commercials, films, games and podcasts is part of the composer’s portfolio.

“My music is my life, it is what I feel, what I see, what I experience. I developed my music style myself, it is the expression of my soul. I studied music, majoring in piano and minoring in guitar and jazz & pop music. Nevertheless, I have never compared myself to anybody, nor have I ever copied anyone. I play what is in me and what shall be revealed.”

Vladimir Sterzer has released a few solo albums; those are “MUNDUS MEUS”, “PHANTASIA MEA” and “CHRISTMAS IN” that consist of piano pieces mainly in a mix of Classical and Contemporary Pop styles. He also performs in two bands: the pop-rock band Stressed Out and jazz band Rising Moon Quintet. Besides composing and playing, Vladimir teaches piano, guitar and keyboard. But it’s not all that cloudless in today’s music world, according to the artist:

“I certainly want to achieve a lot with my music. And God knows, I try everything to offer something to mankind. And I have a lot of ideas on how to do it. Unfortunately, today the large production companies have ruined music and only make money out of it. And I am really sorry to say that they don’t know what the soul is.”

We asked Vladimir whether he listens to his own music and if there are any works that stand out in his music collection for one reason or another:

“Yes, of course I listen to my own music from time to time. And yes, I have a few favorites. I can name you one of them: "Remote Light in the Darkness". The reason I sometimes listen to this piece is that I heal my soul with it when I feel bad deep inside. A distant light that I see reaches me and I feel much better. I have received a lot of letters from people who thank me and say they cried and then felt much better.”

As a person of art, Vladimir does not stop where he’s at on his creative music way. He keeps experimenting with style, keeps making plans for his music to be heard by more and more people. We sincerely hope that all of Vladimir’s ideas will be successful in time and that his soul, so beautifully expressed through music, will be open to more listeners.

“I do have plans, I try to find people or organizations that will arrange my concerts, and I want my music to be featured in films as it is very emotional. I want to achieve something great and honestly I have a whole lot of ideas here. I try everything to make my music public and I hope that I will achieve something truly wonderful one day.”

MusicaNeo stores a big sheet music collection of the most popular compositions by Vladimir Sterzer and invites you to discover the emotional music of this artist.

18 Jan 2016

Michael Silverman and His Piano

Michael has already been featured in our Spotlight before as one of the most noticeable composers of MusicaNeo community. But today we would like to introduce you better to his creative work and explain why he is among world’s most downloaded pianists, with at least a million of streams and downloads daily.

Michael Silverman

Michael Silverman, American composer, arranger,
pianist and keyboard player, as well as teacher
and specialist in music therapy.

Taking into account the highly competitive sphere music industry has always been, it is always curious why people still choose to professionally connect their life with music. The question is even more pending when it comes to a composer’s career. So we asked Michael about the very start of his musical life path:

“I always played piano for as long as I can remember, but like most kids, it was just for fun and I never imagined it would be my profession. I began teaching piano at 17, mainly because it paid better than flipping burgers like my friends. But musical opportunities just kept coming, and no other line of work called to me like music, and here I am!”

Michael’s music varies in style, but the four main genres are Classical, Jazz, New Age and World Music. The band “Bach to the Future” where Michael is both composer and performer has already toured across the Unites States, performing the popular classical pieces, fugues and symphonies – by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven – in a curious mix of styles from jazz to rock, with folk motives admixed. The unique rendition of the famous classics paired with Michael’s original pieces and distinctive delivery style made this music attractive to a wide audience, to everyone, in fact.

Video: Bach to the Future: Minuet/Little Fugue

Where might this mix come from? What inspired the birth of such a music style? We are addressing Michael again:

“I grew up as the son of two classical musicians, and my father listened almost exclusively to orchestral music and chamber music, but my mother liked everything. She loved George Winston's album "December" when I was about 12 years old, and I never got that sound out of my head. I discovered the music of Chick Corea when I was about 17, and I still think of those two pianists as my pillars of piano playing, and reflect two very different sides of this versatile instrument.”

Michael’s also known for composing music for TV, films and radio. His music appears in “The Good Wife”, “Two and a Half Men”, “American Horror Story” and hundreds of other productions of the kind. But there are always difficulties in any activity, even in the one that makes one’s life passion. Michael speaks of the obstacles on his way as composer:

“My main obstacle to enjoying composing in the past was as a jingle writer. I enjoyed writing any style of music for TV commercials and films, but never liked the revision process that inevitably followed. The creative part was always a much smaller portion of the project, as producers and clients required so many changes. These days, when my music is included in a film or TV show, they place it as it is, so I never have to worry about revisions. It's much better this way!”

Every composer has a piece or a few that are especially important in his or her career for one reason or another. For Michael, that ‘special’ music work is “The Rain Variations” that was released by his own record label “Autumn Hill Records” (Michael is the co-founder) in 2015:

The Rain Variations

“I'm particularly happy with my latest collection of pieces, called "The Rain Variations". It is some of the simplest music I've ever written, but I think it has a timeless quality. I have been striving to find the simplest essence of what the piano can do, and this is the closest I've come to that goal.”

And of course, Michael Silverman is full of plans and ideas. Currently he lives in St. Louis, Missouri and works on a number of projects. We asked him to shade some light on the on-going work:

“Strange is this might sound, I'm working on a version of Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" which will be arranged for my group "Bach to the Future." The album will feature a lot of great artists, including Dweezil Zappa, Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson), John Patitucci, Steve Smith (Journey), Jeff Lobber, David Benoit, Eric Marienthal and many others. It will be a really exciting album!”

We are thankful to Michael for sharing some of his thoughts with us. MusicaNeo wishes him best of luck in all the endeavors and endless inspiration for bringing great music into this world!

Video: Bella’s Lullaby by Michael Silverman, solo piano

23 Nov 2015

Christmas Sheet Music: Special Selection 2015

For many people the time of preparation for Christmas is enveloped by a special family atmosphere. The streets and houses are beautifully transformed, the lights and garlands shine everywhere. Here and there, one may hear “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night”, the melodies cherished since childhood.

Musicians enter into a rush season of numerous concerts. Orchestras and choirs prepare holiday programs. Students and teachers at music schools and universities demonstrate their best music works. Popular groups and famous artists take part in the preparation of special Christmas concerts.

As for composers, they are one of those for whom the shift of time does not exist. Yes! We can tell it for sure. Throughout the entire year, composers at MusicaNeo keep creating and publishing new music dedicated to Christmas, hoping that their compositions will sound at Christmas concerts in various countries of the world.

MusicaNeo catalogue stores over 1450 Christmas compositions. It would be impossible to enumerate all of them in this article. But we hope that this little overview will trigger in the reader the craving of a treasure seeker. And the music treasures in our catalogue have become so numerous during these years!

Choral Christmas music by contemporary composers is widely represented in our catalogue. It includes David Solomons’ “Ding Dong Merrily on High” for male choir, Colin Bayliss’ “Christmas Lullaby” for SATB, Philip Martin’s “Christmas Carol” for piano and SATB, music compositions by Joan Yakkey, Santino Cara and many other modern composers.

“Julen är här” translated from Swedish means “Christmas is here”. The joy of the holiday celebrated within a circle of friends is in every note of this piece for mixed choir or vocal group. Just listen to it performed by The Real Group (directed by the author Anders Edenroth), and also have a look at the creative weekdays of the famous group.

Another Anders Edenroth’s composition “The World For Christmas” delivers a special message in defense of the beauty and ecology of our planet. There is no doubt that these and other compositions by Anders Edenroth will sound more and more often at the best concert venues of the world.

Those who prefer mixed genres would love Christmas musicals by Stephen DeCesare. A lot of his music scores, including sheet music to his musical “A Christmas Carol” after the same-named novella by Dickens, are published at MusicaNeo together with a backing track.

From olden times greatest composers dedicated their creative work to Virgin Mary. Bach, Schubert, Caccini, Gounod, Liszt, Brahms, Massenet, Mozart, Palestrina, Fauré, Franck, Demersseman, Cherubini, Bruckner, Verdi, Saint-Saëns – this is only a part of the list of those who wrote their own song for the Blessed Virgin. Over 420 music versions of “Ave Maria” by various composers available in our catalogue provide an opportunity to choose a version for any taste, instrumentation and choir. Contemporary composers – Bill Monaghan, Michael Cooney, Alexey Kurbanov, Nikolaus Pfefferkorn, Joan Yakkey, Cody Weinmann, Andrew Moore, Giedrius Kuprevičius, Hirwa Florent, Bruno Vlahek, Bernd Gehring and others – offer to look at this well-known composition from a different perspective.

A lot of Christmas compositions have been written for wind instruments. For the opening of the holiday, Annie Helman’s “Christmas Fanfare” would be a good choice. Victor Dick’s arrangement of “Oh How Joyfully, O How Blessedly” and “Joy to The World” for various instruments, including winds – flute, tuba, trombone, saxophone, clarinet and organ – would become a lovely ornament of a Christmas concert. For those who are looking for sheet music to Christmas pieces for organ solo, we recommend to visit the sites of Roman Jungegger and Paul Weckhoven.

“A Christmas Acronym” is the title of the set of original music pieces for voice and piano by Joy Slade. At the heart of each of the ten little songs there is some bright Christmas image or situation – Santa with a bag of gifts, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas tree, dances, snowflakes. The customers have an opportunity to get an instrumental backing track by contacting the author. Thanks to the performing simplicity in combination with the bright imagery, these compositions would be loved by the beginning musicians. Another song cycle by Joy Slade that adds to the Christmas theme is called “Rock Nativity (2nd edition)”.

In conclusion of our review, just a few words about Christmas music for piano solo. Among this year’s novelties, we’d like to highlight the “Sounds Of Years Gone By” by Vladimir Sterzer and “The Wexford Carol” by Jeremiah Oliver. Other interesting Christmas compositions that were published earlier in the catalogue – Andrian Webster’s “This Is The Life” and Eugen Doga’s “Christmas Song” – are also available at MusicaNeo.

In order to proceed to the music scores of the original pieces and arrangements of popular Christmas sheet music mentioned in this overview, type the title of the needed composition or composer’s name in the search field at the top of the page.