As a composer, I think of my songs as hymns for the modern world, hymns that are not tethered to any one religious tradition but which still ask big questions: what does it mean to love and where can we find solace, what does it mean that we shall, someday, die, and how does that impact the way we live our lives now? Of the many definitions of a hymn, I think the best comes from Augustine, who wrote that a hymn must contain "three things: song, and praise, and that of God". If you'll grant me a broad sense of God's nature and the scope of Her concerns, then I believe that most of my songs meet those criteria. The texts, some of them my own and some taken from other sources, center on familiar themes: home and heartbreak, our kinship with the earth, and our love for one another.
I first started writing choral music in the style of the American shape note tradition. In 1998, Kate Brinton, my adoptive grandmother, brought me to the New England Sacred Harp Convention, held that year in Chelsea, Vermont. 200 some people were crowded into a white clapboard church on the town green, singing old hymns in the hollow square, the tin walls shaking from the power of their voices. Adding new songs to this rich tradition has been deeply enjoyable: some of them can be found in the 5th edition of Northern Harmony. While I continue to write songs in that vein, my most recent work explores new directions, incorporating contemporary texts and a broader palette of musical ideas. As with any composer, I write as a way to make sense of the world and in the hope of spreading a little more beauty.
I love it when people sing my songs: singing is one of the finest things, and I am honored when people bring my songs to life. However, if you are teaching, performing, or recording these works, I do ask for a licensing fee to support the composing process. There are three different licenses, based on the size of the group you will be working with. These licenses do not have a time limit, so please keep on singing the songs.
To purchase a license, please go here and select which license you would like. There is a text box where you can indicate which song you are interested in. When I receive your payment, I will send you a .pdf of the song. These license are not time-limited, so the song will be yours to enjoy and share. There is a list below of songs available for licensing.
Since 2011, I have been taking commissions for choral work from individuals and organizations. To date, these pieces have included songs commemorating passings, wedding anniversaries, weddings, and birthdays. The process of creating songs in this way, in which I collaborate with the commissioning party to come up with something that embodies this other experience while still speaking in my musical voice, has been fascinating, challenging, and hugely rewarding.
If you are interested in commissioning a piece of your own, please contact me.
This is a video of The Bright Wings Chorus performing Greenwood Lake, a song commissioned by Ellen Murphy to celebrate the lives of her parents, Tim and Estelle.
Original Pieces and Arrangements Available for Licensing
© Brendan Taaffe – 2014. All Rights Reserved.