Skylark Lullaby (2014) for saxophone choir

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The Eastman Saxophone Project (ESP) premiered Skylark Lullaby at the NASA Conference March 2014 at the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign, and also performed it at the Eastman School of Music in April 2014. Chien-Kwan Lin asked me to compose a piece for ESP last August, and I was extremely excited for the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group!
 

 
The main material of Skylark Lullaby came from a melody at the beginning of my opera Duffy’s Cut. I often like to create different versions of a piece, since I usually it in different ways. While I was writing the opera, I knew I wanted to reuse some of this material to create a new piece for saxophone choir.
 
For more information on purchasing the score and parts, please contact me.
 
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Electric Vortex (2013) for wind ensemble featuring jazz band

This is a live recording of my composition Electric Vortex performed by the Eastman Wind Orchestra, December 13, 2013, under the direction of Jared Chase, featuring the jazz band “Bending and Breaking” based in Rochester, NY:

Wills McKenna, tenor saxophone
Wendy Eisenberg, electric guitar
Matt Krols, electric bass
Aaron Staebell, drums

I enjoy writing music for both jazz and classical musicians, and many of my compositions over the last three years have showcased these musicians performing together. When conductor Jared Chase approached me over the summer about writing a piece for both the Eastman Wind Orchestra and the Nazareth Wind Symphony to perform, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to write a piece for wind ensemble featuring the local jazz band, Bending and Breaking led by drummer Aaron Staebell. I envisioned writing a wind ensemble piece featuring Aaron’s band ever since he premiered my composition Uprising (2012) with the Eastman Wind Ensemble.

I wrote Electric Vortex to showcase this collaboration. I was inspired by powerful images I found online of an electric vortex, and envisioned the improvisation group to be the ‘eye’ in this powerful whirlwind.

Electric Vortex was written for a consortium of 10 ensembles, and was premiered by the Nazareth Wind Symphony under the direction of Jared Chase. For the premiere at Nazareth, I created a special version of the piece, where I wrote specific parts for students in the wind symphony who also played jazz: Jake Wark, tenor sax; Matt Bevan-Perkins, vibraphone; Tori Valente, congas.

Bending and Breaking at Rochester Fringe Festival 2013

Jennifer Bellor and Aaron Staebell present Bending and Breaking: A Collaboration between Composers, Performers, and Dancers. Aaron Staebell’s band Bending and Breaking performs new works by Jennifer Bellor, Dave Chisholm, Colin Gordon, and Staebell. Joining Bending and Breaking are dancers from Rochester City Ballet, Eastman, and Nazareth College.

Tickets are $10 and are available via www.rochesterfringe.com, and at the door.
See the facebook event page for more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/521736207895035/

Bending and Breaking
Colin Gordon, saxophone
Dave Chisholm, trumpet
Wendy Eisenberg, guitar
Matt Krol, bass
Aaron Staebell, drums

Program:

A View from Above by Colin Gordon
Chris Collins and Megan Kalmer, dancers from the Rochester City Ballet

Circles by Jennifer Bellor
Dancers from Eastman School of Music:
Keenan McKoy – Senior (Saxophone Performance)
Ainsley Kilgo – Junior (Saxophone Performance)

Strange Loop by Aaron Staebell
#ProjectMovement dance company, Nazareth College
Angelo Jasa – Senior (Marketing major)
Hillary Faulkner – Alumni Class of 2013 (Psychology)
Jaynie Ventura – Senior (Education major)
Kristina Jewell – Sophomore (Music Therapy major)

Cloud City by Dave Chisholm
Rheah, choreographer
Brette Benedict and Elisabeth Martin, dancers from the Rochester City Ballet

Interlude – free improvisation
Gloria Gambino, choreographer

Peace Bridge by Aaron Staebell
Brette Benedict, choreographer
dancers from the the Rochester City Ballet

Serpentine by Dave Chisholm
Dancers from Eastman School of Music:
Keenan McKoy – Senior (Saxophone Performance)
Ainsley Kilgo – Junior (Saxophone Performance)

Open Water by Colin Gordon
Dancers:
#ProjectMovement dance company, Nazareth College
Angelo Jasa – Senior (Marketing major)
Hillary Faulkner – Alumni Class of 2013 (Psychology)
Jaynie Ventura – Senior (Education major)
Kristina Jewell – Sophomore (Music Therapy major)

Noir by Jennifer Bellor
Elisabeth Martin, choreographer
Chris Collins and Elisabeth Martin, dancers from the Rochester City Ballet

Special Thanks to:
Jamey Leverett, Artistic Director of the Rochester City Ballet
Heather Roffe, Assistant Professor of Dance, Nazareth College
Alexa Tarantino, saxophone

Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Readings, June 2-4

My experience having a reading of my new orchestra piece “Crystal Skies” by the American Composers Orchestra, June 2-4 at Miller Theatre, Columbia University.

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Listening to the performance of “Crystal Skies” for the first time! (Composer Tania J. Leon is sitting behind me.)

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Congratulating conductor Delta David Gier and the orchestra after such an amazing performance!!!

Being a JCOI participant in the readings was a special experience for me because even though I received my degree in classical composition, I love working with both classical and jazz musicians, and writing music that incorporates both elements, whether it be involving jazz musicians in my pieces where I want improvisation, or writing a piece for classical musicians where I write out the improvisation that I’m hearing in addition to having a prominent rhythm section.

It was interesting for me to learn how the other JCOI composers approached composing the orchestra pieces, since they came from a jazz background. From conversing with many of them, they saw this as an opportunity to learn about all of these orchestration techniques and compositions that I was taught in music classes I took for my degree. Some of the composers also aimed to write something different stylistically from what they are used to composing for their own ensembles. When working with the orchestra, it was interesting to see how their use of terminology was different from classical musicians with regards to the use of articulation markings, such as how the ‘accent’ and the ‘staccato’ marking are approached differently between jazz and classical musicians. I hope my colleagues continue to use their own voice and write more compositions for the orchestra to create more repertoire that is new, exciting, and fresh.

P1080376 - Laubrock, Bryan, Sussman, Bellor, Tonooka, Milne

Composers, left to right: Ingrid Laubrock, Courtney Bryan, Richard Sussman, me, Sumi Tonooka, and Andy Milne.

I saw this reading as an opportunity to write an orchestra piece for musicians who were interested in being involved in an orchestra project that crossed stylistic boundaries. I’m so grateful to the American Composers Orchestra for giving me the opportunity to write this piece. It was such a liberating and positive experience for me, and I cannot wait to write more repertoire that incorporates these elements.

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Group photo of the composers, conductors, and mentors
Front left to right: Courtney Bryan, José Bevia, Sumi Tonooka, me, conductor Oliver Hagen, and mentor Anne LeBaron.
Back left to right: mentor Paul Chihara, mentor George Lewis, Ingrid Laubrock, Andy Milne, Richard Sussman, and conductor Delta David Gier.

Check out some excerpts!

Recorded live at American Composers Orchestra’s 2013 Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute New Music Readings. Please visit: www.americancomposers.org

Crystal Skies (2013) was inspired by my experience skydiving for the first time in upstate New York. It was a chilly November day, and as the airplane ascended into the air, it became even more freezing thousands of feet above the ground. When the door of the plane opened and I stepped out onto the ledge, I couldn’t wait to fall backwards and sink into the clouds. The freefall lasted approximately one minute, and then I felt like was just floating in the air. In my piece, I wanted to capture that feeling of being suspended in the chilly sky, as if I was flying. The string textures reflect the icy sky, portrayed by the artificial harmonics and ornamented lines that weave in and out of each other. The woodwinds represent birds gliding in the sky, and for a moment, I felt like a bird as I was slowly descending down to the ground.

The first excerpt showcases the first 48 seconds of the piece, and the second excerpt showcases 2 minutes and 11 seconds of the middle section. Please contact me for more information on the piece.

Here are some additional photos taken:

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The last day: Post-reading discussion – I was very happy!!!

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My composition mentor Paul Chihara during the rehearsal

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Post-rehearsal discussion

P1080153 - discussion with Mandel & Oteri

Lunch with the composers, Frank Oteri, and Howard Mandel

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Discussing drum set notation with percussionist Jonathan Haas

2013 Winner of a DownBeat Award for composition “Midnight Swim”

I’m really excited to announce that I won a DownBeat Outstanding Performance Award in the Original Composition, Orchestrated Work/ Graduate College category for my composition Midnight Swim (2013) for big band that was premiered by the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dave Rivello, featuring Colin Gordon on soprano saxophone. Here is a link to the recording:

I’m also thrilled to announce that I will be graduating this month with a Ph.D. in music composition. Following Commencement, I will be composing a 20-minute opera, commissioned by the Washington National Opera American Opera Initiative, for a fall premiere at the Kennedy Center. In June, I will also be participating in the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute readings in New York City, where my new orchestra piece Crystal Skies will be played by the American Composers Orchestra.

And, I just found out that I will be an Assistant Professor in Music theory in the fall at Nazareth College! I look forward to continuing my teaching there, and working with such an amazing team of professors, administrators, and students.

Premiere of Christabel: A Chamber opera/scenic cantata in 2 acts

The premiere of my chamber opera/scenic cantata “Christabel” was a huge success! It was such a pleasure to work with such amazing performers. Here is the video from the April 28 premiere at Eastman School of Music:

Christabel (2012) – a chamber opera/scenic cantata in 2 acts
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Christabel” adapted to libretto by Alexandra Tursi and Jennifer Bellor

Jennifer Bellor, composer
Lindsay Warren Baker, director
Danko Daniel Drusko, conductor

Pablo Bustos, Narrator
Natasha Drake, Christabel
Emily R. Mills, Geraldine

Alicia Mastrella,Christabel dancer
Katie Rhea, Geraldine dancer

Andrew Pramuk, Sir Leoline
John Leighton, Bard Bracy

Emlyn Johnson, flute
Wai Ki Wun, clarinet/bass clarinet
Lauren Cauley and Elizabeth Ehrlich, violin
Kelsey Farr, viola
Audrey Snyder, cello
Wan-Ling Chuang, bass
Chiao-Wen Cheng, piano
Megan Arns and Drew Worden, percussion
Aaron Staebell, drums

Christabel: A Chamber Opera in 2 Acts

The premiere of my new chamber opera Christabel will be premiered Sunday, April 28th at 9pm at Eastman School of Music in the Ray Wright Room (ESM 120).

The three principle roles are:
Narrator, performed by Pablo Bustos
Christabel, performed by Natasha Drake
Geraldine, performed by Emily Mills

Attached are audio files from a rehearsal. For the performance, the singers will all be amplified. The narrator was unable to be at this rehearsal.

For the composition portion of my dissertation, I wrote a chamber opera titled Christabel, using Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Christabel” as a libretto. For the purpose of the opera, my colleague Alexandra Tursi and I worked together to shorten the version of the poem in addition to incorporating stage cues and indicating which character is speaking or singing. The opera is approximately 35 minutes in duration, and the cast comprises five roles: Narrator, a tenor; Christabel, a lyric soprano/coloratura; Geraldine, a soprano with a darker timbre; Sir Leoline, a baritone; and Bard Bracy, a tenor. Inspired by the set design and synopsis of Stravinsky’s Histoire du soldat, I am also considering the possibility of having dancers act out the roles while the singers are off to the side of the stage singing the text.

The ensemble of instrumentalists comprises flute, clarinet in B-flat/bass clarinet, string quartet, piano, 2 percussion, jazz drum set, and bass.

In the first act, the narrator introduces Christabel, the young, pure, and beautiful daughter of Sir Leoline, as she is walking by herself in the forest. Suddenly, she notices a woman lying in the forest in distress. The woman introduces herself as Geraldine, and after explaining to her that soldiers kidnapped her and then left her in the forest to die, she persuades Christabel to take care of her in her father’s castle. As she is traveling back with Christabel, weird events occur that foreshadow Geraldine being evil: she shrieks in pain as she crosses the threshold of the gate, the dog barks at her, and when they arrive to Christabel’s bedroom, she starts casting a spell on her. The first act ends with Christabel unrobed and lying in bed next to Geraldine.

The second act begins with Christabel and Geraldine waking up. Christabel brings Geraldine to her father, Sir Leoline. She then recounts the story to her father about who Geraldine is and how she was found. Sir Leoline realizes that Geraldine’s father had been a friend of his, but long ago, after a horrible altercation, they stopped speaking. Sir Leoline feels sorry for Geraldine, and out of respect for his old friend, wants to make sure Geraldine is taken care of and escorted back to her father. He summons his knight, Bard Bracy, to accompany Geraldine back to the castle. However, Bard Bracy tells Leoline of a horrible premonition he had last night: that a beautiful white dove was being strangled in the forest by a snake. Sir Leoline is so enraptured by Geraldine at this point that not only does he think the dove is Geraldine, but he also does not notice that Geraldine is casting a spell on Christabel, causing her to act strange, possessed, and snake-like. Sir Leoline is so disgusted with his daughter’s actions that he leaves her on the floor coiled up and hissing, while he escorts Geraldine out of the room.

Highlighted Compositions for Big Band

Midnight Swim (2012) was premiered by the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dave Rivello, featuring Colin Gordon on soprano saxophone.

I wrote multiple versions of my piece Midnight Swim because when I was first writing the piece, I envisioned the piece existing as an orchestral piece, a chamber piece, and also as a piece for jazz ensemble.

Splash

for big band

Splash (2011) was premiered by the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dave Rivello, featuring Colin Gordon on soprano saxophone.

Overdrive

for big band

Overdrive (2010) was premiered by the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Dave Rivello, featuring Graham Keir on guitar, Ethan Helm on soprano saxophone, and Aaron Staebell on drums.

New Music Track: Splash

 

Splash

For trumpet, string quartet, vibraphone, piano, bass, and drums

I wrote multiple versions of my piece Splash because when I was first writing the piece, I envisioned the piece existing as an orchestral piece and also as a piece for jazz ensemble.

The original version of Splash was actually written for coloratura soprano and sinfonietta. I performed the soprano part on the Composers’ Sinfonietta concert in March 2011. Shortly thereafter, I created another version of the piece to be performed by the Cuong Vu Trio, titled A Walk at Dusk, where I arranged the melody in the soprano for trumpet, gave the chords to the electric bass, and allowed a lot of room for improvisation. My next version was written for the Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dave Rivello, featuring Colin Gordon on soprano saxophone. I arranged the sinfonietta version of Splash for big band, and gave the soprano melody to the soprano saxophone.

In spring 2012, Mike Kaupa asked me to arrange Splash for trumpet (with effects pedals), string quartet, vibraphone, piano, bass and drums because he wanted to perform a piece on his upcoming summer jazz faculty recital at Eastman.

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Works by Jennifer Bellor (b. 1983) have been featured in the United States and abroad at festivals and institutes including Aspen Music Festival, June in Buffalo, Cleveland Composers Institute of Recording, Buffalo Philharmonic Young Composers’ Readings, and the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute. Her music has been presented by performing artists and ensembles including Cuong Vu Trio, Society for New Music Vision of Sound Series and Rising Star Series; Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, Chamber Percussion Ensemble, and Wind Ensemble; Volta Trio, University of Rochester Percussion Ensemble, Eastman in China tour, and many others.