Colorado Music Festival 'Mash-Up' Series 2014

After appearing last summer with the 'Brahms V. Radiohead', I was asked by the Colorado Music Festival to music direct this summer's three-concert 'Mash-Up' series. What a fantastic opportunity to program and present a trio of innovative and exciting programs. Here is the lineup:

Program #1: World Premiere of 'Beethoven V. Coldplay' (July 1)

CMF has commissioned this next 'mash-up' program of mine. I am calling it an 'Eroica oratorio-fantasy using the themes of Coldplay'. It is the Beethoven 3rd symphony converted into a second choral symphony, with adapted themes of Coldplay suspended atop the orchestra throughout. Nine Coldplay songs are used in all, and the majority of the Eroica is played. The 'mashing up' has reached completely new heights with this work, as Beethoven and Coldplay generally coexist the entire time. I've also composed a new 'Intermezzo' to be played in between the third and fourth movement, which marries the Coldplay song 'Sparks'.  Needless to say, this is my biggest work to date, and I eagerly anticipate the premiere. I am very grateful to CMF for making it possible. 

The following playlist contains the individual selections that are used in the work.

Program #2: My Brightest Diamond, Aoife O'Donovan and Olga Bell (July 15)

I am quite proud that we were able to get all three of these incredible artists, given how in-demand they are. Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Aoife O'Donovan and Olga Bell have much in common- their conservatory training, their divergence from the 'traditional' path and development of their own voice, list of all-star collaborations (Yo-Yo Ma, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Dirty Projectors, etc), and emergence as some of the most significant artists in the indie/classical/whatever-you-want-to-call-it world. But yet their music is so wonderfully varied- and that is what I am most excited for. They will each present sets with the CMF orchestra then come together for pieces together as a finale.

Program #3: San Fermin

If you've heard these guys, well, then you know. Ellis Ludwig-Leone, the mastermind, composer and keyboardist of San Fermin, is a graduate of the Yale school of composition, and served as Nico Muhly's assistant for a time before creating this project. He holed himself up in a cabin for eight weeks and scored the entire 55-minute work- which flows continuously form beginning to end- calling for singers, rock instruments, and a classical chamber ensemble. One could call that an orchestra of sorts.... On this concert, the sweeping and captivating sound of the eight-person San Fermin will be augmented by the CMF orchestra, in arrangements Ellis has done himself. This promises to be an epic finale to the season. Just a few days after, San Fermin will appear at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, IL, and prior to being with us they are opening up for St. Vincent. What a thrill it will be to play with these guys in the midst of their emergence!

Brahms v. Radiohead

Brahms v. Radiohead:
A symphonic mash-up of the Brahms 1st Symphony and Radiohead's 'OK Computer'

Performed by the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra
Andrew Lipke, Will Post, and Kristin Newborn, vocalists
Re-composed, arranged and conducted by Steve Hackman

July 7th, 2012 - Chautauqua Auditorium - Boulder, CO

Previous performances include Indianapolis Symphony and North Carolina Symphony. Florida Symphony will present it in January '15.


Two arrangements for Chanticleer

I had the incredible honor of arranging two pieces for the world-renowned choral ensemble Chanticleer, a group that's inspired me since I was a teenager. This was for their recent album release Someone New.

I shared arranging duties with some fabulously talented individuals, among them Mason Bates ('Washing of the Water'), Michael McGlynn ('Ring of Fire') and Vince Peterson ('Somebody to Love'/'Temtation'). There are some stunning selections and awesome performances on this album, and I was so glad to be a part of it.

Here's the info on my pieces:

1) 'Wait Fantasy': This arrangement of the M83 song (from the seminal album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming) ended up being of epic proportion; though I had no idea how powerful it would be in the hands of an ensemble this virtuosic. In seeking a companion to the M83, which is very succinct of form and material, I came across the Emily Dickinson poem 'Waiting'. The first line of the poem is 'I sing to use the waiting'; I'd found some fortune indeed. Combining the two resulted in a long-form structure that was fit to accommodate the fantasy-like musical sketches I'd been making.

Hearing the ensemble sing this piece live in Brooklyn recently was among the most exhilarating musical experiences of my life. My heart has not beat that hard and fast in quite a while. Chanticleer has attacked this rather challenging piece with ferocity and unwavering artistic integrity; that they now include it in their touring program (alongside Samuel Barber , no less) is a humbling honor I truly had never even dreamed of.


2) 'The Hamburg Song': For some added flavor I snuck Hamburg Hymne , the city's traditional anthem, into this Keane song. The Hymne opens and closes the arrangement as well as provides thematic material for the development section. The biggest treat is that my great friend and former Other Guys colleague Ben Jones sings the solo- quite wonderfully.

Former OG's in the house, please stand up: James Earl Jones II (in NYC rehearsing for the 'Porgy and Bess' national tour), Chris Lacour, Ben Jones, me

Former OG's in the house, please stand up: James Earl Jones II (in NYC rehearsing for the 'Porgy and Bess' national tour), Chris Lacour, Ben Jones, me

Time For Three 'Grieg Mash-Up'

I wanted to share this wonderful suite that I created along with my longtime collaborators and friends Time for Three.  It mashes the Grieg 'Holberg ' Suite up with pop songs and TF3 originals. A highly enjoyable and pleasant listen. Great work to TF3the CMF orchestra and conductor Michael Christie.


1. Grieg Holberg Suite 1st Movement (Prelude) 

2. Banjo Love (TF3/Hackman)

3. Grieg Holberg Suite 2nd Movement (Sarabande) ->  

4. Blackbird (Lennon/McCartney) -> 

Grieg Holberg Suite 2nd Movement Conclusion

5. Grieg Holberg Suite 3rd Movement (Gavotte and Musette) ->

6. Kissing in the Tree (TF3/Hackman) -> 

Grieg Holberg Suite 3rd Movement Conclusion

7. UFO (Coldplay)

8. Grieg Holberg Suite 4th Movement (Air) 

9. Grieg Holberg Suite 5th Movement  (Rigaudon)


The Torch-Light

intended to blog every week so i suppose i’ll just write. much better at extemporizing at the piano. as soon as one note follows another a relationship establishes. evocation of a style, mood, setting. leaf through an internal rolodex; write a new card. the battle of what’s already been and what could be. keep moving. don't look back. turn off your brain. turn off your brain. abandon is the torch-light in this ne’er explored cave. recklessness. adrenaline. totality. form is the tracing of your steps. theories are useless here. it’s you and darkness and if you’re good a torch and if it’s good a tear.

Stephen Hannock: Vortex at Dawn, Rose Mist

Stephen Hannock: Vortex at Dawn, Rose Mist

In residence with the Illinois Sympony and Nick Kendall: 'The Arc Inspired'

This week my great friend and frequent collaborator Nick Kendall and I have the privilege of being in residence with the Illinois Symphony. I was commissioned by the orchestra upon Nick’s recommendation to compose a violin-concertante-type piece that would open this weekend’s performances, the rest of the program for which is the Sibelius violin concerto and Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration. My piece is entitled The Arc Inspired and indeed I hear Nick working through several passages in the adjacent hotel room as I write this (update- he’s just moved to Sibelius- perhaps if I rework this paragraph again he’ll have alternated back) (update #2- we are at breakfast now and Nick isn’t practicing anything, he’s eating oatmeal).

I’ve been awestruck since the very first moment I arrived by the graciousness and sincerity of the ISO family, starting with executive director Trevor Orthmann (who personally commissioned my piece) and extending to the numerous members of the board and symphony supporters we have met. Most of this interaction has taken place through dinners and cocktail parties that have been thrown in honor of us being here, where Nick and I have had the opportunity to speak and perform. Believe me, the honor has been all ours. These folks support their orchestra and are passionate about the arts in their community- and it shows.

Speaking of being awestruck- the hilarity and charm of new music director Alastair Willis incites in one the same response- but in no way do I mean to belie his formidable skills and perspicacious attention to detail. These qualities were obvious from his very first email to me, where numerous inquiries about my score evidenced his careful and thorough study. We had a wonderful session yesterday going through the piece, and both Alastair and Nick are ready to go. I'm humbled already by the effort and passion they've put into my work. I cannot wait to hear it with the orchestra.

More later. Fingers crossed for good rehearsals!