“I’m really privileged and grateful to have the opportunity to write a piece for Portara, and to have such a great group of vocalists to premiere the work.”
–Matthew Walker, ALIAS cellist and composer
After a series of fruitful collaborations with Portara, ALIAS has created an on-going creative alliance with the choral ensemble, from multi-genre performances with the Nashville Ballet to a new recording project with Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Paul Moravec.
And on Sunday, October 13, Portara will perform ALIAS’s Matt Walker’s World Premiere: “A Elbereth”. Walker took a rare few minutes away from his busy schedule of performing and composing to share his excitement for this unusual composition.
“A Elbereth” is an unusual name. How would you describe this piece?
Matt: The piece is for chorus, violin, harp and cello. Its name is taken from a verse in the text of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” novels. The Elves pray to their deity of starlight, who goes by the name Elbereth. The piece, then, is called “A Elbereth” — the first line of the prayer.
What are the other elements that make this piece so unique?
Tolkien’s Elves are an ancient, noble people. I attempt in the music to evoke this sense of timelessness and gravity, so it has sounds that we associate with early medieval church music.
The most interesting thing about it, I think, is that the text is in the Elvish language. Tolkien was a celebrated philologist, expert in dozens of ancient and modern languages; he invented several languages for his fictional world, complete with grammar and vocabulary. His Elvish is a very beautiful language, and fits very well in an ancient, spiritual setting.
What were the biggest challenges to composing this piece?
I’ve never written anything quite like this. It’s the first piece that I’ve written in a long time that didn’t have some element of jazz or blues. The effort to hearken back to much older styles of music preempted any of those modern popular idioms. Also, this is the first thing that I’ve composed for vocalists, so that was new to me. I feel confident that the great singers in Portara will be able to make anything I compose sound good.
Date: Sunday, October 13th
Location: Cathedral of the Incarnation, 2015 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203