Friday, May 30, 2014

The Power of the Portrait

Imagery you use in correlation with your music helps create a connection between your audience and your work, and can even communicate who you are as an individual. Just looking away from the camera, adding dramatic lighting and shadows, and choosing an interesting or unique location or backdrop can help a portrait give insight into your character or personality. When these types of photos are taken professionally, they not only help generate increased interest in both yourself and your music, it makes you appear more professional.



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

McCormick Percussion Group Wins GMA Silver Medal for Outstanding Achievement

We are happy to announce that PARMA artists, the McCormick Percussion Group, founded and directed by percussionist/conductor Robert McCormick, are the winners of both Silver and Bronze Medals from the Global Music Awards for their Ravello Records album, SOLI FOR SOPRANO WITH PERCUSSION ORCHESTRA (2014), featuring soprano Jamie Jordan.

As stated on their website (, “GMA is a showcase for original music, unique voices and undiscovered and emerging artists.” Robert McCormick and the McCormick Percussion Group certainly have created a “unique voice” and have been significantly adding to the collection of recordings of contemporary works for percussion ensemble. They have recorded over two dozen albums including five other albums on Ravello:  CONCERTI FOR STRINGS WITH PERCUSSION ORCHESTRA (2012), CONCERTI FOR PIANO WITH PERCUSSION ORCHESTRA (2012), THE MUSIC OF GUI SOOK LEE (2011), MUSIC FOR KEYBOARD PERCUSSIONS (2010), and CULTURE SAMPLE: CONCERTI FOR FLUTE WITH PERCUSSION ORCHESTRA (2008).

Robert McCormick is Professor of Music at the University of South Florida in Tampa and has served as Principal Percussionist of the Florida Orchestra for 20 seasons. The McCormick Percussion Group is currently working with PARMA on an album of music by Ciro Scotto, John Cage, and Dan Senn. For updates about our future projects with the McCormick Percussion Group, stay tuned to the PARMA site and blog.

New releases on Navona and Big Round Records

Bunny Beck Jazz Ensemble

Birdland. The Village Vanguard. The Jazz Standard. Just a few of the New York clubs that have saturated the city's streets with the smooth sounds of jazz. Within this tradition, New York-native pianist and composer Bunny Beck presents seven cool and swinging original compositions as well as an arrangement of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" on her second release on Big Round Records, FROM THE SPIRIT. Featuring saxophonist Matt Blostein, guitarist Ed MacEachen, bassist Tom Hubbard, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, with Bunny Beck on piano, the Bunny Beck Jazz Ensemble highlights crisp and expressive improvisations while occasionally breaking into Latin rhythms. This album captures the relaxed and refined atmosphere emanating from those New York clubs.

Lionel Sainsbury

SUNLIGHT AND STORMS, composer and pianist Lionel Sainsbury's debut solo release on Navona Records, illustrates emotions from the peaceful to the tempestuous, and many more besides. A retrospective of the composer's piano music, spanning almost 20 years of his career, the album ranges from tangos to toccatas, character pieces to ostinatos. Two large-scale collections, Five Tangos and Ten Moments Musicaux, portray several dimensions of Sainsbury's compositional style, encompassing lively dance numbers, haunting and dark passages, jazzy, Gershwinesque themes, and gently swaying rhythms. Alongside these are a virtuoso Sea Storm, and a hypnotic Incantation. Two Cuban Dances evoke the rhythmic airs of the Caribbean; the second has been performed worldwide in the composer's own arrangement by violinist Tasmin Little. An introspective Meditation provides symmetry and resolution to the album. Throughout, Sainsbury's dexterity and control on the piano admirably conveys the sensual textures. 



With uncompromised interpretation, duo526, the powerful union of violinist Kerry DuWors and pianist Futaba Niekawa, presents BALLADE, their debut on Navona Records, performing violin sonatas by Leoš Janácek, George Enescu, and Edvard Grieg - repertoire rarely performed together. Yet each of the three sonatas introduces themes from European folk tunes and exalted Romanticism. Janácek's Violin Sonata illustrates a dynamic conversation, each instrument frequently interrupting, restating, and reacting to what the other pronounces. In Sonata No. 3 in C Minor by Grieg, piano and violin often move together in a dance-like fashion, leading one another to the next phrase. Enescu's Violin Sonata No. 2 weighs chromatic harmonies against controlled and sustained melodies, exploring the tones of loneliness and melancholy. These pieces highlight the faculties of DuWors and Niekawa - the sustained vibrato, the harmonic sensitivity, the rhythmic spontaneity, precision, and much more. 

Patricia Morehead, Philip Morehead


On her second release on Navona Records, BRASS RAIL BLUES, Canadian composer and oboist Patricia Morehead showcases her ability to incorporate varying instrumentation into her compositions, from mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble; to flute and piano; to mandolin, cello, and clarinet. Because of this variety, the composer creates a world of imagery, setting poems by such writers as Margaret Atwood, Anne Sexton, and Cathy Ann Elias in several of her pieces. Morehead adopts some of the technique and style associated with the Second Viennese School composers, such as Schoenberg and Berg; yet, in most cases, Morehead implements more tonal structure throughout her works. The release also includes three songs by Patricia's husband Philip Morehead on classic French poems by Théodore de Banville and Paul Verlaine.

Hamilton Fairfield Symphony Orchestra
Paul John Stanbery, conductor

Throughout an individual's life, certain experiences, places, and people remain fundamental to his or her identity. As in a memoir, composer and conductor Paul John Stanbery depicts some of the experiences that have substantially influenced his character in SYMPHONY NO. 2, FOUNDATIONS, his digital-only release on Navona Records. 

The first movement, described by Stanbery as a "Coplandesque-capade," presents a theme from the tune "Shortnin' Bread," a piece the composer's mother would sing to him. "In the Cathedral," the second movement, is inspired by Rosary Cathedral in Stanbery's hometown of Toledo OH, illustrating a walk through the elaborately painted and immense nave. Movement III, "Elegy and Cortege," is a lament and dedication to one of Stanbery's close friends, representing a funeral procession and honoring the deceased with a dirge-like rendition of "Taps." The final movement, "Epilogue," introduces an original lullaby and brings symmetry to the whole piece, recalling themes from earlier movements now with resolution, fulfillment, and triumph. 

Yves Ramette

AT THE PRECIPICE, the third release on Navona Records featuring the music of the late composer Yves Ramette (1921-2012), showcases four world premiere recordings of the composer's works. Recorded with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in the summer of 2013 after his passing, these four orchestral pieces follow on the heels of Ramette's albums CASCADING INTO REVERIE for piano and orchestra and WITH PASSION for solo piano, and offer interesting insight into not only the composer himself but also the times in which he worked. 

AT THE PRECIPICE highlights Ramette's rhythmically propulsive style, in which melodic fragments are presented, morphed, and expanded. As noted in his manuscripts, Ramette refers to Symphony 6 as a representation of "[my] firm belief in music... addressing the man and the technique that is a reflection of an era," perhaps a reference to the dismissal of his work by the French musical elite in the 1950s. 

Along with Symphony 6, the album includes Symphony 1, Symphony 2, and Symphony 4, all of which contain related motifs and concepts. Ramette was a prolific composer constantly searching for new sounds and ideas, but the underlying unity of his thinking shines through in this compelling collection.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

PARMA Takes Futura: The Alan Beeler and Sparky Davis Sessions

On May 14, PARMA returned to Boston's Futura Productions, one of our many homes-away-from-home, to record a handful of solo and chamber works by PARMA composers Alan Beeler and the late Sparky Davis.

The players on the session included soprano Aliana de la Guardia, alongside longtime PARMA collaborator Karolina Rojahn on piano.

Also present at the session (all the way from Kentucky!) was Mr. Beeler himself, who was dressed to kill (or at least dressed to look sharper than everyone else in the studio).  It was great to watch Alan's reaction as he heard his music performed so masterfully (he spent most of the session listening and following his score intently with a smile on his face).

Personally, this was my first experience at a recording session of this caliber, even though I wasn't actively involved with the session.While my mind was free of the pressures of missing notes or being out of tune, it was at full attention trying to absorb everything that I was seeing and hearing: producer Andy Happel's constructive and insightful advice for the musicians, Alan's continuously-sought feedback and approval of the performances, the engineer reciting "take 20, measures 43 to the end...", and of course, the wonderful music that Aliana and Karolina were playing.

It was an exciting and educational experience all around that I would highly recommend to anyone given the opportunity. Hearing everything on a finished CD is one thing, but seeing how the music is created and captured behind the scenes really gives you some valuable big-picture insight of all of the resources and efforts that go into creating the final product.

To tide you over while these new recordings make their way through the PARMA post-production pipeline, you can hear some of Alan and Sparky's earlier music below. As for their new music, you can look forward to checking that out when it's released in early-2015. Til then, take our word for it - it's worth the wait.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Queens New Music Festival - Eight Strings & a Whistle and Scott Brickman

This Saturday, May 17th, PARMA trio Eight Strings and a Whistle will be performing at the Queens New Music Festival in New York City.  They will be performing Martin Rokeach, Randall Snyder, Stefan Weisman, Dag Gabrielson, and PARMA's own composer Scott Brickman.

The trio received a nice mention in the The New York Times leading up to their performance this Saturday.  The concert will be at The Secret Theater on 23rd street and starts at 2 PM.

If you are going to be in NY make sure you stop by; they will be performing Brickman's "French Suite."

Tickets to the concert are available now:

Scott Brickman's upcoming album, DEAR DARWIN, will be released on our Ravello Records label this summer, you can listen to a sampler below.

NUGGETS! The "Where The Hell Is Spring" Edition

May 13, 2014.  North Hampton, New Hampshire.  44 degrees, overcast, windy, bleak.  After two bordering-on-glorious days that seemed to indicate spring's overdue arrival, here we are again, right back to resorting to gloves on the steering wheel.  I assume it will be temporary, but you never know these days...

Yet for many of us there is no better feeling than hunkering down in the studio on days of delayed warmth, working on music, listening carefully to each note, studying every nuance of sound.  That's the fun stuff.

While on a break from working in the studio this past weekend I made a checklist of some of my favorite cuts from recent PARMA releases, the ones that made my hair stand on end, compelled me turn up the volume to hear as much as possible, forced me out of my chair to stand at attention.  The jolt you get from a piece of art that speaks to you is hard to put into words, but there's certainly no mistaking it.

Here's an hour-long Spotify playlist of the tracks, featuring works by Svjetlana Bukvich, Anne Vanschothorst, Juan Alamo, Sean Chen, Marty Regan, Michael Glenn Williams, Ovidiu Marinescu, Alex Freeman, Matthew Fuerst, F. Gerard Errante, Douglas Detrick's AnyWhen Ensemble, Alexandra Ottaway, and more.

Fire up the tunes, let the Tauntaun loose, and enjoy.

Bob Lord
CEO, PARMA Recordings

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Harold Rosenbaum Wins 2014 Ditson Conductor's Award

PARMA is happy to congratulate choral conductor Harold Rosenbaum for winning the 2014 Ditson Conductor's Award. This annual prize is presented by Columbia University and is the oldest continuing accolade honoring conductors whose commitments to the advancement of American music are worthy of distinguishable merit.

Since the award's establishment in 1945, recipients include James Levine, Leonard Bernstein, George Manahan, Christopher Keene, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy and last year’s winner, Jeffrey Milarsky. As a choral conductor, Harold Rosenbaum stands out among this group of orchestral conductors for his continued devotion to choral music as a popular concertized genre.

Harold is the founder and director of several choral institutions, including the New York Virtuoso Singers and the Canticum Novum Singers. With his choral ensembles, Harold has commissioned 61 works and conducted over 475 world premieres. He is a strong proponent of contemporary and particularly American composers. He is also the founder of the annual Harold Rosenbaum Choral Conducting Institute, held this summer at the State University of New York at Buffalo. 

As the lead choral conductor for PARMA, Harold has been featured with the New York Virtuoso Singers on the Navona releases VOICES OF EARTH & AIR (2013) and Alexandra Ottaway's TETRAHEDRON DREAMS (2014) as well as the Ravello release ORPHEUS LEX (2014) by Marie Nelson Bennett.

More information about Harold can be found on his website: 

Monday, May 5, 2014

New PARMA Artist: Patrick Hawkins

Please join all of us at PARMA in welcoming South Carolina fortepianist Patrick Hawkins to our roster of talented artists.  We are pleased to announce that we will be working with Patrick on his upcoming release of music by Maria Hester Park and Franz Joseph Haydn. 

Patrick has performed extensively as a classical keyboardist in the United States, England, France, Germany, and South Korea and holds degrees in organ performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at The Johns Hopkins University, East Carolina University, and Arizona State University. Additional graduate studies were taken at The University of Washington, Seattle, and at California State University at Los Angeles.

Dr. Hawkins' interest in HIPP (Historically Informed Performance Practice) has lead to his research into music making in colonial America. In 2013 he was invited to lecture on the importation of pianos into Charleston, South Carolina, pre-1800 at the 2nd International Conference on Historical Keyboard Music at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2014 he will be a featured recitalist at the national conference of the Historical Keyboard Society of North America, which will be held at the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota. Patrick Hawkins has been featured on National Public Radio's "Pipedreams."

Patrick will be recording this summer on his personal 1831 William Geib square piano. Check out a video of his playing below and keep an eye our for updates on his release.