Choral Division – 2nd Place Winner

Evaluation by Giselle Wyers

This young composer is already displaying an indisputably unique, confident and innovative voice in the choral composition field.  All five tracks submitted confirm Rudoi's strength – a knowledge of the vocal instrument (born out of his own solo career and work with renowned men's ensemble Cantus).  The evaluator is especially drawn to Rudoi's works for men's chorus, and his ability to deal skillfully with texture and spacing (a difficult feat in men's chorus literature which often becomes texturally too thick).

In 'Song of Sky and Sea', a kaleidoscope of key centers is easily manifest, set to the text 'we are going to sky, who wants to come with us' (Rumi), all within quick imitative rhythmic construct.  In the evaluator's opinion, too few living composers can meaningfully employ imitative textures, and tend to rely on a few beautiful horizontal sonorities to carry a piece.  Rudoi is the exception to the rule.  Not only are his harmonies exciting, and refreshing (example bar 56 "sacrifice" surprise cross-relations) but the rhythmic life of the piece is vigorous, speech-like – almost Monteverdian.  Rare is a piece that is so moving and deeply satisflying to hear.  Vocal ensemble Cantus' interpretation is deeply effective.

New harmonic language emerges in the second work, ' You Carry Oceans Within'.  This composer can move freely across various harmonic ideas, so that no one piece sounds like another.  Yet the speech-like utterances, then lengthened legato lines heard in 'Song of Sky and Sea' emerge again here, and continue to reflect this Sara Dailey poem appropriately.  The composer's choice to use a single pitch (either C or C# repeated like a mantra throughout) around a series of continually changing chords beautifully depicts the text's portrayal of the universe's orbits, ellipses and rotations.

In 'Everyone Sang', we witness Rudoi's easy embrace of idiomatic piano writing, complex and rhythmic, yet employed skillfully to never overshadow the beautiful melodic lines of the men's chorus.  One admires the flexibility of tempi and motivic ideas, yet the work holds together convincingly through Rudoi's consistent lyricism.  Sassoon's Armistice Day poem takes tremendous maturity to set well, and Rudoi is clearly up to the task.

Rudoi's 'Cantate Domino' joins a collection of enviable settings of this timeless text.  His leaping primary 6/8 motive is reminiscent of Roethke's poem The Waking ('and flowers jumped like small goats') – one can feel the leaping joy in every eighth note.  As the piece continues, the perceived innocence of this initial rhythm develops into a complex, robust, neo-medieval construct with delightful dissonances borne from Rudoi's horizontal melodic compositional technique (Machaut smiles down...).  The listener is continually drawn deeper, to listen and inquire more.  A true delight.

In 'Amazing Grace', Rudoi once again tackles a text and melody that has a venerable tradition.  The innovation starts within the second bar of the piece, with the sigh-motive in tenor, inverted in the bass and set a fifth below (double leading tones, anyone?) above the traditional melody.  The work develops gradually with rich unconventional harmonic progressions to an eventual peaceful close on a pure fifth.

The only suggestion... is for Rudoi to continue to explore the SATB idiom with equal vigor to his TTBB literature (where his strength currently lies), so that more people conducting mixed choirs will have the pleasure to program Rudoi's music in the future.

© Copyright 2016, Paul John Rudoi.  All Rights Reserved.