A conversation with Russell Nadel

Russell Nadel is a Springfield, Va.-based composer who wrote "Peace (A Love Song)." He is in his ninth year teaching elementary school General/Choral Music in Virginia.

His connection to Six Degree Singers: Andy Goldman, who sings Bass and is a founding SDS member. 

How did you choose to write your piece in the way you did?
Every poem has its own mood, flow, and overall "vibe."  The way the poem is structured — in couplets, paragraphs, triplets, etc. — suggests an organic way to structure the musical content as well as the text. I believe that a composer should always work with the natural syllabification, scansion and emphasis of the words, and should accept the poet's guidance whenever possible. This Teasdale poem's clear three-stanza structure, with parallel language between each (liquid imagery, natural imagery, colors, monosyllabic words, etc.), gave me clear ideas of how to structure the setting overall. I decided to play up the "liquidity" of the language by fluidly distributing lines from the poem between the choral voice parts instead of always keeping the main melody in the same voice part. I also recycled, reharmonized and recontextualized a small number of melodic patterns throughout the piece, to try and make each new section sound both fresh and somehow familiar. I also brought back the opening motive and text throughout the piece to help transition between stanzas and ideas. 

What is your favorite thing about "Peace (A Love Song)?"
The moments of dramatic climax in the text — "My hopes were heaven-high / They are all fulfilled in you," and "Give me your stars to hold" — voice widely-spaced, rich chords through the full choral ensemble. I'm proud of the way this piece organically moves from very full, strong, ringing harmonies to thin, sparse, ethereal textures highlighting just one voice. In terms of the technical craft of the composition, I'm proud that the music still comes across as melodic, tonal and singable even while moving fluidly through many different keys, and I'm happy that I was able to give all the voice parts interesting and fun-to-sing lines.

What are you most looking forward to about hearing the Six Degree Singers perform your piece?
It's always a thrill for a composer to hear his or her own music performed live, especially by a group with great dynamic control, blend, and intonation like the Six Degree Singers. No computer-generated recording can ever come close to the goosebump-inducing quality of the human voice, especially when paired with powerful poetry and artistic interpretation!

What was your most fulfilling musical experience to date?
Every time I have the opportunity to work with enthusiastic learners, be they kindergarteners or experienced music educators, to share my enthusiasms and interests and to make music together is a fulfilling musical experience!  I did have the opportunity to travel with a group of 40 Orff-Schulwerk educators from around the world to Ghana for two weeks of study this past summer; that was a remarkable trip in many ways, and I'll always cherish the special learning and experiences I took away from there.

What musical challenges do you still hope to take on?
I hope to continue composing as long and as often as I can, despite my already-hectic daily schedule and the fact that my first child is due on Labor Day this year!  Sometimes simply finding the time to set aside to sit down in a quiet space and create can be the greatest challenge of all. Otherwise, though, I hope to continue presenting at Orff-Schulwerk workshops around the country, and perhaps one day in other countries as well.