Women Behind the Notes Series: Melodia Commissioned Composer Hilary Purrington Wins Major New Commission

Melodia Women’s Choir’s bi-annual Women Composers Commission Competition has brought to life new works by ten talented women composers so far, some at the beginning of their composing careers. The program was introduced by Melodia as a way to support women composers and expand the canon of new works for women’s voices. The winning composer receives a commission to compose a new work, premiered by Melodia in New York City.

Composer Hilary Purrington won the Melodia competition in 2015, just as she was beginning her advance studies at Yale School of Music and already garnering some attention. Purrington’s piece for Melodia was a haunting work titled Cassandra, scored for women’s voices, piano and percussion. For the text, Purrington used fragments from five writers ancient and modern on the prophetess Cassandra’s dilemma and isolation. Purrington’s inspiration for the piece came from a fascination for people she calls “misunderstood women,” and a compulsion to bring their stories into focus in her work. Melodia performed the world premiere of Cassandra in May 2016.

Melodia has just learned that Purrington is one of three women composers to receive a $15,000 commission from the Women Composers Readings and Commissions program, which is administered by the League of American Orchestras, in partnership the American Composers Orchestra and with support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

For this major project, Purrington has composed a work for orchestra and choir entitled Words for Departure, using Louise Bogan’s poem of the same name for text. In an article posted by the Yale School of Music, Purrington says: “I find I’m drawn to texts that address current issues. I was a little hesitant to take on the personal nature of Bogan’s text, which is about a romantic breakup. The current pandemic has for many offered new perspectives on relationships. Suddenly, Bogan’s text felt incredibly timely.”

Purrington’s Words for Departure for chorus and orchestra is scheduled to be premiered in February by Stéphane Denève and the Philadelphia Orchestra, with the Westminster Symphonic Choir led by Joe Miller.

Melodia’s commissioning program is supported by The Elizabeth & Michel Sorel Charitable Organization.

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