Thursday, December 17, 2015

New PARMA Artist: James Shrader

James Shrader
 PARMA is pleased to welcome composer James Shrader to our family of artists.

James earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Conducting from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Before that, he earned his Master of Music degree in Opera Direction from the Cleveland Institute of Music, and his Bachelor of Music Education degree from Bradley University.

James taught at Texas Tech from 1990 to 1994 and Northwestern Oklahoma State University from 1995 until 2006, when he took his current position at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia.

In addition to his work as an educator, James is also an experienced choral conductor, stage director, operatic tenor, and author.

We'll be hitting the studio with James in March to record two of his choral works for an upcoming holiday-themed compilation. To hear some live performances of his work in the meantime, you can head over to his website here.

Stay tuned, and welcome James!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


One year after President Obama’s steps toward normalization, still not enough has been done for either country

By Bob Lord (CEO, PARMA Recordings LLC)

I arrived in Cuba late in the evening on Saturday, November 7, 2015 for recording sessions in Havana.

The trip was the culmination of a massive amount of preparation and planning to match the right music by the right composers with the right musicians, something we do here at PARMA each and every day of the year. 

PARMA CEO Bob LordBut this was… different.

It would be simple to say that my job is to create music.  I’m the CEO of a music production company, I’m a producer, I’m a bassist and composer, so that statement is undoubtedly true, but the fact is that I am obsessed with making music, with listening to music, with producing music, with helping others make music, with experiencing all the beautiful interactions that form what we hear.

Times have changed since I first picked up a bass.  Nearly 3 decades ago the best way to find old records was to dig ‘em up at a yard sale, but now with the touch of a screen I can listen to virtually anything I wish, and do so immediately.

Yet while access has in many ways been solved (for us here, at least) it has become harder to get back to the original source, to find the undiluted, unaltered stuff of our youth.  Good luck locating an un-remastered version of any ‘60s or ‘70s hit album online… better to go scour those yard sales again if you want to hear anything in its original form.

This is in part why I find myself on the road for recording sessions so frequently: there is a sound that each culture brings to music that is something unto itself, a unique perspective borne out of its own history and experience.   

The 20th century was a time of huge artistic change and expansion, in which music moved boldly in unusual, unexpected directions on a jagged journey.  At the start, the situation was a more localized one, where music could and did frequently evolve with minimum outside influence. 

To paraphrase my friend, the conductor Vit Micka, if you wanted a Bulgarian rhythm, the best place to get it was most likely Bulgaria.

And as we all know, by the end of the century connectivity completely altered the entire landscape of music, resulting in an explosion of styles and new hybrids.  We suddenly had the ability to ‘broadcast’ our art to a mass audience the whole world over, and what once was unobtainable and inaccessible was now omnipresent.

For us, at least.  But not for the Cuban people.


Arriving in HavanaIt was not my first time at Havana’s Jose Martin Airport – I had been there previously in May, having visited the country for a few days under the general licenses authorized by the U.S. and provided for by President Obama’s executive actions.

The President’s amendments to the embargo, which were first announced one year ago on December 14, 2014, have succeeded in loosening some of the restrictions on interactions between our countries.  Further changes appear to be on the horizon

But even though the U.S. and Cuba both appear to be moving in the same general direction, this slow waltz toward normalcy is unnecessarily delaying the blossoming of a mutually advantageous relationship. 

I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it, and the reality is clear: the embargo is an utter folly, and it must end.

As I touched down in Havana, these lofty, fiery thoughts and many more were bombarding my mind as I did what I do, in the way that I do it, in so many other airports across the globe, while mentally preparing to record music.

I waited for my damn bag.

Make no mistake about it, it was the last bag, the very final parcel off the plane after a 20+ hour journey across 3 countries, collected while wearing a shirt that consisted more of sweat than cotton.

And as I witnessed my soiled suitcase tumble down the dilapidated, wheezing carousel, I thought what I normally think when this happens: such is life! 

Almost immediately my mind pulled back from this thought, withdrawing from my privilege and entitlement, because I have been here before.  This has happened to me before.  Such is not life.

What I have is charmed indeed compared to so many in Cuba, where stasis has been status quo since the start of the 6th decade of the 20th century.  The average Cuban makes the equivalent of approximately 20 USD per month and is allotted a small ration of food from an astonishingly restricted availability

When you are in Cuba, be prepared to not have access to just about anything that you take for granted back home.  Running water, toilet paper, soap – this stuff is catch as catch can.  You do not go to Cuba and find bottles of water in every gas station, because there are very few bottles of water and even fewer gas stations.

Driving along what is called a highway in Cuba is an eye-opening experience indeed.  Huge potholes throughout the lanes are avoided like a real-life version of “Frogger” or “Pitfall.”  Broken-down cars litter the side of the road, and indeed the middle of the road, with passengers tinkering and waiting and tinkering and waiting.  AAA isn’t coming to the rescue in Havana.

Internet?  Have fun with that.  As of this writing, fewer than 5% of the population has regular access to the internet, and there are approximately 4 dozen hotspots in Cuba – all of them in Havana.

The cost for online access is around the equivalent of half a month’s salary. Telecommunications partnerships which will ease this situation are being forged as I type this, but at this time online life is the domain of the well-heeled.

But things are indeed changing, as we are so often reminded by the press, and essays such as this will soon be read as history rather than current events – and after this many years, it’s about time. 

The reality of this all hit me as I looked around a nearly-deserted airport, too hot for comfort and clearly not ready for an influx of tourists.  I dusted myself off from a mighty testy customs exchange, and as I choked on the emission fumes of the 1954 Chevrolet Bel-Air that drove me to my apartment I again realized how very stupid this whole situation is.


Walking into a studio anywhere in the world is a remarkably uniform experience.  There’s the gear and the glass, the knobs and the sliders, the speakers and cables, and the silence that hangs before the sound starts. 

It’s a meditative place, if only briefly.  Music is music and musicians are musicians, we all speak the same language and delight in the same things at our core – the smiles and the laughs are the same whether you are in Portsmouth or New York or Havana or Moscow or Prague, whether you are producing a symphony orchestra or a rock band or a choir or a solo pianist. 

When the recording begins, the passion and fun remains but is accompanied by professional analysis and criticism, focused with clarity on accuracy, efficiency, inspiration, and interpretation. 

I believe that recording music is a profound responsibility.  Music is the most ephemeral of the arts, in its final form unable to be even be touched, and its fleeting nature makes it all the more important to achieve some degree of permanence, to capture these vibrations and colors and feelings.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, with great frequency, in many different settings, with countless musicians.  I know what I like.

The big band listening to a takeSo it was an incredibly exciting and energizing experience indeed to hear the Cuban musicians, many of whom I met in May during my first visit, perform and record not only what was on the page but what was in their head, hands, and heart as well.

What I heard during my week in the studios and concert halls was a true collaboration, the real ideal of musical and artistic interaction, in which composition and composer and performer and team come together to create something fresh and beautiful.

In the studio there were legends of Cuban music playing alongside some of the very best from the younger generation, long-time members of Grammy-winning bands side by side with soloists fresh to the scene, engineers and producers and conductors and arrangers of true brilliance all working together to create the perfect sound and performance.

New music by living composers is my passion, and hearing musicians play with this level of preparation, dedication, and ingenuity was invigorating.  We went right to the source, and sure enough they brought a totally new dimension to the music – a Cuban dimension, a feel and a sound and a perspective unlike anything else in the world.

“The pianist isn’t playing what I wrote,” composer Tim Miller told me at the start of one session. “He’s playing what I wanted.”

Listen for yourself:

The recordings from our November trip will be released in 2016, and we'll return to Havana shortly to work with the Cuban musicians again.  Making this music clearly benefited everyone involved and resulted in a meaningful cross-cultural collaboration, not to mention some truly amazing, inspired recordings.

So why, at this point in time, is this such a tightly regulated activity?  Why is the U.S. continuing to make it so hard to do exactly what we did? 


It is difficult to explain how isolated the Cuban people have been for so long and how secluded they continue to be.  We have no frame of reference for this in the United States, and our cultural fixation on preserving what we feel to be our “freedom” seems utterly ridiculous after you’ve visited Havana.

Blame can be assigned easily, and it often is, but this simply ignores what is actually happening on the ground and in the streets.  Listening to U.S. politicians who still support the embargo is like being unstuck in time, subject to a hallucinatory fever dream in which the Soviet Union and its government system are still crawling up on our shores, ready to infiltrate and take away our neighbors, our friends, our families.

We are nearly 24 years from the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet in this one idiosyncratic political space, this one tiny sector of our policy, our Congress blindly insists upon holding a grudge.  And make no mistake, this grudge is Corleone-quality.

Here’s another way of looking at it: for more than 50 years the U.S. embargo on Cuba has precluded meaningful exchanges of culture and commerce between the people of each country, and held the people of Cuba at arms’ length from our prosperity and quality of life.

There are of course challenges to forming a productive relationship, including disagreements between the countries regarding seized property and human rights violations, but is this any more complicated than our relationships with other countries?  We have a policy of engagement with Iran, after all.

So to what end the embargo?  To continue to punish the Cuban government out of disagreement or spite?  To keep the Cuban people outside our front door instead of inside by the hearth?  To deny American people the rights we hold so dear?  The United States holds no restrictions whatsoever on travel to North Korea, but the same is not true of Cuba.

Normalization is possible.  Templates for a successful transition into a collaborative trading economy following periods of extreme strife exist, and you only need to look at a map to find them – Germany, Vietnam, even Russia itself.

And who better to be the vanguard of this transition than the artists, the musicians, the people themselves?  We’re already getting along great and making beautiful music together, creating those cultural bridges that both countries need and deserve.  There’s no good reason whatsoever to stop here.

View of the Malecon in HavanaThe embargo is codified in legislation, and therefore solely the responsibility of the Congress to contemplate its removal.  An argument could be made that the U.S. rules and regulations regarding Cuba are, at best, contradictory and riddled with inconsistencies, the accumulated detritus of years and years of amendments and political shifts and prevailing winds.

I believe those arguments hold weight and truth.  Our lack of engagement has done nothing but harm the people of this country that resides only 90 miles from our shore.  A president, any president, can only do so much, and this president’s actions can be undone

I hope that doesn’t happen, because it is clearly time for Congress to lift the embargo, remove the outdated rules of social, political, and economic engagement, and fully normalize relations with Cuba.

Cuba is a challenge.  But it needn’t be so. 

Bob Lord
CEO, PARMA Recordings

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Project: Gay Pearson's "Goin' Home... A Retrospective"

We're pleased to announce that we will be releasing a digital live album of Gay Pearson's most recent annual chamber-jazz concert in Newburyport, MA, recorded on October 18, 2015.

Although this release will only be distributed digitally, we're also pressing a limited number of promotional CDs (some of which may likely find their way to Gay Pearson's next annual concert in 2016!).

Featuring Gay Pearson on piano, Shannon Allen on cello, John Lockwood on bass, Phil McGowan on drums, Tracy McMullen on sax, and Lea Pearson on flute, the program features an array of chamber jazz works and arrangements by Pearson, Astor Piazzola, Chick Corea, and others.

Please enjoy this video of Pearson's original composition "Chromatic Exploitations" from the concert (below), check out her new Facebook artist page, and while you're waiting for news on the upcoming release, you can also enjoy her previous album on Big Round Records (below the video).

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Project: Apollo Chamber Players' "Blurred Boundaries"

We're happy to announce that Apollo Chamber Players are currently working with PARMA to release their next album: “Blurred Boundaries” featuring works by Libby Larsen, Marty ReganFlorence PriceErberk Eryilmaz, Harry Burleigh, and Hajime Komatsu along with their own original arrangements.

The album features the first three works of Apollo's multi-year commissioning project, 20x2020. Through this project, the ensemble aims to commission 20 new folk music-inspired works by the end of the decade. Libby Larsen's Sorrow Song and Jubilee launched the project in September 2014.

This will be Apollo Chamber Players’ second Navona release, as well as the second and fourth Navona releases respectively featuring the music of Libby Larsen and Marty Regan.

Check out Libby Larsen's recent interview where she discussed the inspiration behind her new work with Apollo, and while you're waiting for the new album please enjoy Apollo Chamber Player's 2014 release: EUROPEAN FOLKSCAPES:

Friday, November 13, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Edie Hill

Photographer Credit: Anne Marsden
We're pleased to announce plans to record and release a full album of Edie Hill's choral works through PARMA Recordings with critically-acclaimed chamber choir The Crossing

Edie Hill is a three-time McKnight Artist Fellow, a two-time Bush Artist Fellow, and has received grants and awards from the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Meet The Composer, ASCAP and Chamber Music America.  She currently serves as Composer in Residence at St. Paul’s The Schubert Club. Although Edie's music has been part of a number of recordings in the past, this will be the debut album of her music alone.

Tentatively titled “Clay Jug” this project will be comprised of seven choral works commissioned from 1999 to 2014. From Edie's Fractured Atlas profile, here's some background about the inspiration behind the album's works:

"We are all the “Clay Jug.” We are sturdy, strong, breakable and fragile. We hold inside us the resilience of the human spirit, (the Fenix), the ability to actively think and listen, (Thinker, Listen!) the ‘dark night of the soul’ or that journey we have to take even though we do not know what is on the other side (Cancion de el alma). The stages of our lives (We Bloomed in Spring and Alma Beata et Bella). Breath, heartbeat, flutes, drums, MUSIC! MUSIC - this thing that is intrinsically human, that has spoken to us since the beginning of time (From the Wingbone of a Swan)." 

You can find out more about her project through the video below; to read more about it and to make a tax-deductible donation towards Edie's project, please visit: 

November Navona and Ravello Releases Out Now


Composer Fredrick Kaufman is praised for writing music that “resonates with worldwide audiences” and “captures feeling and emotion, reaching the listener with convincing sincerity” (Music & Vision). On his Navona Records release STARS & DISTANCES, the composer presents an eclectic collection of works that displays his exploration of the unknown, the natural order, and universal human experience. Read More


Navona Records’ compilation of contemporary works for orchestra, TURBULENT SKY, presents works by composers Fred Broer, William Coble, and Stephen Yip that explore and celebrate the dramatic fanfare, intricate textures, and variety of timbres possible with the orchestra. Read More


Composer, pianist, teacher, poet, and writer, Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) is regarded as one of the most important musicians in American history, lauded in his lifetime as the first American composer to fuse African American folk idioms with the European art music tradition in a sophisticated way. On his debut album on Navona Records, MY CUP RUNNETH OVER, pianist Clipper Erickson presents the first complete collection of Dett’s piano works, a milestone for American music discography. Read More


Trailblazer.  Advocate.  Innovator.  All of these descriptors apply to Grammy Award-winner Libby Larsen, but at the core is the most important title of all:  Artist.  As the first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra and one of the most performed and prolific composers of our time (she has over 500 works in her catalog, including 15 operas), Larsen has established a permanent place in the annals of American concert music. Read More


With an innate sense of curiosity and a drive for knowledge, humans constantly push the boundaries of their physical and psychological environments, attempting to break through and discover the unexpected. On his debut Navona Records release ASTRAL TRAVELS, composer and double bassist David Arend explores several frontiers, including perceived boundaries between musical genres, earth and outer space, humanity and nature, and perception and reality. Read More


From Stravinsky-esque rhythms and impressionistic harmonies to Xerox® machine-inspired gestures, Eight Strings & a Whistle – comprised of flutist Suzanne Gilchrest, violist Ina Litera, and cellist Matthew Goeke – present a diverse selection of contemporary and 20th-century works that highlight the ensemble’s blend of technical prowess and emotive interpretation on their debut Ravello Records release ALBERT’S WINDOW. Read More


As ocean waves continue their usual cycle of meeting the shore and returning to the vast blue wholeness, a certain kind of freedom, along with a sense of comfort for the unknown, can be found within their consistent movements. Drawing inspiration from nature and meditation, flutist and composer Jennifer Borkowski presents her debut Ravello Records release COMPOSED. Read More


Although Don Gillis (1912 – 1978) is most known for his Symphony No. 5½, A Symphony for Fun (1945), premiered by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1947, the American composer, conductor, and educator wrote prolifically in nearly all contemporary styles and genres, with a catalog of more than 150 works including ten symphonies and six string quartets. Near the beginning of his career, between 1938 and 1939, he composed three suites for wind quintet, which have never been recorded – until now.

On their debut Ravello Records release, FIVE PIECE COMBO: THE COMPLETE SUITES FOR WIND QUINTET BY DON GILLIS, the Madera Wind Quintet presents the first recording of these delightful works. Dedicated to exploring the fringes of the quintet repertoire, the group – consisting of Amy Thiemann, flute; Jason Paschall, oboe; Rachel Yoder, clarinet; Jorge Cruz Jr., bassoon; and Angela Winter, horn – recorded six new works for wind quintet on their first album Five at Play before turning their focus to the music of Don Gillis. Read More

Thursday, November 12, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Juli Nunlist

Mark Nunlist has signed on with PARMA to record his mother Juli Nunlist’s “String Quartet” and to release this recording along with her “Six Chansons from Prières Dans L’Arche," “Two Symphonic Poems," and “12 Bagatelles for Clarinet" as a retrospective album of her musical work.
Juli Nunlist was a composer, published poet, and a teacher of music, specifically to choreographers and dancers. Her music was reviewed favorably in the New York Times, and her “Zwei Nachtstücke” won the 1962 National Competition for Solo Piano Composition held at Olivet College’s Festival of the Fine Arts. She was also personally commended for her work by the prolific choreographer George Balanchine.

This release will serve to present and preserve a collection of Juli Nunlist’s music for current and future generations. You can find an in-depth interview with Juli about her music through the following link; a highly-recommended read:

Stay tuned for updates and music samples as we work towards this release; in the meantime, you can find a book of Juli Nunlist's poetry through this link:

Monday, November 9, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Michael Laurello

Please join us in welcoming Michael Laurello to our growing roster of talented artists. We are pleased to announce that Laurello will be releasing a full album of his works through PARMA Recordings in 2016 showcasing his eclectic, powerful voice.

Laurello is a composer and pianist originally from Boston, currently based in Connecticut. He studied music composition at Yale, winning the Woods Chandler Memorial Prize for his orchestral work, Promises. Prior to this, he earned a master's degree in composition from Tufts University, and completed his undergraduate degree at Berklee College of Music, studying music synthesis (electronic production and design) and jazz piano performance. 

With a style that fuses rhythmic invention with a visceral directness, Laurello composes for both traditional and non-traditional ensembles. His work embodies a synthesis of jazz fusion, rock, pop, and classical music. Recently, he has composed for ensembles such as So Percussion, the Yale Philharmonia, and the Yale Percussion Group. 

Laurello was a composition fellow at the 2015 Bang on a Can Summer Festival. He participated in the 2015 Nashville Symphony Composer Lab and Workshop and the 2015 ACO/EarShot Berkeley Symphony Readings, and has received commissions from the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and the American Composers Forum. Upcoming projects include a new work for the piano duo HOCKET, a piece for the sextet Echo Chamber, and a composition for solo bass for the 2015 International Society of Bassists first-prize winner, Sam Suggs. In 2016, his amplified quintet, Big Things, will be performed by the ensemble, ShoutHouse, and can also be heard at the MATA Festival in New York. 

Keep an eye out next year for updates on his release. In the meantime, listen to "Promises" for orchestra (which will be performed this weekend at the SCI National Conference in Gainesville, FL).

Friday, November 6, 2015

PARMA in Havana, Cuba

The PARMA team is pleased to announce our return to Havana, Cuba this weekend from November 7 to November 15, 2015 for a week of musical and cultural exchange activities under the United States “people-to-people” program and OFAC general license authorizations.

We will collaborate closely with the great musicians of Havana, engage in performance workshops, tour some of the many historic musical and cultural institutions of the city, and hit the studio with ensembles ranging from women’s choir to big band.

PARMA’s staff worked with our Cuban music team to carefully handpick each score, composer, musician, and venue for the trip.  Joining us on this special trip will be PARMA composers Roger Bourland, Michael F. Murray, Timothy Lee Miller, John A. Carollo, Bunny Beck, Donald Bowyer, Margaret Brandman, and Mel Mobley.  Please check our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates from the trip.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Composer Interview with Libby Larsen

We checked in with renowned composer Libby Larsen ( earlier this month leading up to her debut release on Navona Records, and we're pleased to share her thoughts on the composing process, her influences, and her favorite instrument (one you encounter every day and may not even realize)!

Your upcoming release, CIRCLE OF FRIENDS (out November 13, 2015) focuses around the performances of some great musicians with whom you’ve developed relationships over the years. Do you prefer to write with specific performers in mind?

When I compose music for my friends and colleagues to perform, I am supercharged and inspired - I know I do my best work for the performers and am challenged by their talent, their energy and their connection with their audiences!  For me, music lives in the relationships it invites.  It’s a person to person communication of emotion.  

How is your process different when writing for specific performers vs. writing for an instrumentation in general?

Since I don’t necessarily have personal relationships with musicians in the ensemble, when I compose for an instrumentation in general, i.e. an orchestra, I find myself thinking about the “ensemble” as one instrument, made up of many instruments.  It’s a kind of playground where my playmates are the musicians, the established repertoire and the many possibilities for us to make music in a fresh way. 

Do you have a favorite instrument or instrumentation?  

Actually, I don’t have a favorite instrument or instrumentation in the way you might imagine.  I do have a favorite instrument.  It’s the air.  I think of traditional instruments as “air exciters”.  It’s the air that holds and displays the sounds, colors and shape of a piece of music.  You might think of the air as a companion instrument to other instruments.  I think of it as the instrument which translates music in your head to music outside of it. Without the air, music could only exist in our heads!

There seems to be an underlying scientific impulse in your approach to the compositional process; how did this approach develop?

I think I’m equally influenced by the humanities and the sciences.   Which of the two is at the center of any given work depends on the piece!

You were commissioned by the Apollo Chamber Players to write “Sorrow Song and Jubilee” which will be featured on their upcoming album (also on Navona Records) – what was the inspiration behind this piece?

The Apollo Chamber Players were creating a program centered on the music of Antonin Dvorak when they asked if I might be interested in composing a work for them.  I was delighted (supercharged and inspired!) to work with Matt, Anabel, Whitney and Matthew.

I’ve been intrigued for many years by the friendship of Dvorak and Harry Burleigh. Burleigh, one of the most respected African American musicians of his day, assisted Dvorak while he enjoyed his short stay in America.  Dvorak and Burleigh dug into the vast repertoire of American spirituals, where Dvorak learned about the sound, rhythms and scales of the music.  Dvorak’s New World Symphony and his American String Quartet would not exist but for Burleigh.

So I wanted to compose a work that honored Burleigh and Dvorak at the same time!  

What was your first composition to be performed by other musicians?       

I composed the class song for my 7th grade class.  I wrote it on the blackboard and we all sang every day for that year.  Pretty nerdy and definitely not the thing to do if you want to be popular in 7th grade!

Of the many awards and accolades you’ve earned since then, which have meant the most to you?  

I don’t know that you would call it an award but the most rewarding moments in my life as a composer come when I meet a new generation composer who has been supported and inspired by their connection with the American Composers Forum.  I have a deep feeling that we composers have a community that did not exist 40 years ago.

What do you think should be done to help generate more attention around new music in general?

Many things, too many to go into in a short space.

We're all looking forward to CIRCLE OF FRIENDS - in the meantime, you can read all about Libby Larsen's upcoming release and hear the album's boogie-woogie-inspired closer "Four on the Floor" at (and to help generate more attention around this great new music, we encourage you to share this link with your circle of friends too)!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Heidi Krutzen and The Philharmonia Orchestra

We're happy to share that PARMA Artist Heidi Krutzen (of both COULOIR and Trio Verlaine, and founding member of the Turning Point Ensemble) has recently been appointed Principal Harp of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London.

Since its founding in 1945, the Philharmonia has commissioned more than 100 compositions, presenting premieres of contemporary works along with the classics, and now holding over 160 concerts a year. The Philharmonia has been one of the most active orchestras in exploring new ways of distributing its music; live performances are available in a large video archive, also distributed as video podcasts, and on Vimeo and YouTube.

While COULOIR's next album is still in the works, you can hear samples from Heidi's ensembles' two previous PARMA CDs below on Ravello Records:

Heidi is also a member of Malambo Grassroots, an organization committed to the people of southern Zambia, including scholarships towards further education at schools like Ngoma Dolce Music Academy, the first full-time school for music education in Zambia. You can find out more at

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fall Orchestral Sessions

The PARMA team just returned from our last two orchestral recording trips of the year, producing a mix of orchestral and chamber recordings in both Russia and the Czech Republic this September and October.  The past two months saw music recorded from Carl Vollrath, Phillip Rhodes, Jay Anthony Gach, Stephen Lias, Douglas Anderson, TJ Sclafani, David Tanner, Michael Lee, Yves Ramette, and Alan Beeler.

We had the pleasure of working with Australian composer, Margaret Brandman, in both September and October.  We recorded a wide variety of her music and Margaret was able to join us for sessions in the Czech Republic.  Upon her return to Australia, I had the chance to ask Margaret a few questions about her trip.

AB: You recorded a variety of works with PARMA and the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in the Czech Republic over the past few months.  What was the general experience like and how did it compare to past recordings you’ve been involved with?

MB: What an exhilarating experience recording with the Moravian Orchestra!  Being present to comment on the interpretation and performance at the time of the recording was a very satisfying and rewarding....a rare treat, as composers do not always get the chance to be on site during performances and recordings.

Margaret Brandman
The orchestra played my music with a great accuracy and depth of feeling, which allowed my music to truly breathe and sing.  Their interpretation not only captured my musical original concept but added another special dimension to the notes I had written, something I have not experienced with other orchestras that have performed my music.

In addition the process seemed quite streamlined as the conductor and all the musicians demonstrated great sensitivity to the musical lines I had written and were able to learn the parts very quickly.

I was impressed with the efficiency of the recording process,  Bob Lord’s producing experience, and the professionalism of all concerned. 

This was the first time I had traveled to the Czech Republic, so it was an interesting travel experience as well.

AB: What were the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of the recording process?  Did anything unexpected come up once you heard a score performed by a live orchestra?

MB: Two of the orchestral works, ‘Undulations’ and ‘Lyric Fantasy’, have been performed on previous occasions, and I have had the privilege of attending some of the performances. However the wonderful Moravian Orchestra under the direction of Petr Vronsky far outdid any of the previous performances, with accuracy of intonation and rhyhmic cohesion, plus their intuitive interpretation of the natural rise and fall of my melodies and phrasing and suitable dynamic range.

AB: Some of your works reference the flora and fauna of your home country, Australia.  What was your inspiration behind some of the pieces we recorded together and can you tell us more about the music that was recorded?

MB: Several of my pieces reference my native Australian landscape, birds and animals to which as I feel very connected. (One of my books of pieces for piano – Contemporary Modal Pieces, has pieces with Australian Animal Titles)
Margaret Brandman with Lucie Kaucká

‘Undulations,' seeks to express the wave movements in the ocean on the eastern seaboard of Australia, near which I was born and am currently living.  (I love to swim in the ocean as we have such wonderful beaches along the Sydney coastline.)

The first movement is a theme and variations based on a poignant adagio theme while the second movement is more animated. It begins with a section of rhythmic hocket and then introduces ostinati with floating melody lines.

Firestorm Symphony is a descriptive work which depicts the atmosphere and my emotions during the summers of 1993-94 and 2001 during which time my family and I fought a fire that had taken hold in our house the forested Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
In the 2001-2002 fire season, the fires were so intense, the smoke was blown right over Sydney Harbour.

The first movement depicts the searing summer heat on a still day, with the only sound being that of the plaintive sound of the Eastern Spinebill (bird)  followed by sharp gusts of wind carrying dangerous embers which cause widespread outbreaks of fires. As the wind picks up the piercing sound of the cockatoos fleeing the fires is heard, signifying the danger ahead. The dramatic sections in this movement, seek to capture the tension of these times.

The second movement begins with the sound of three bells tolling as heard in the memorial service for the victims of the fires. It depicts the sorrow and reflection of the nation after the devastation of the fires, which, in the 1993-4 fire season, for the first time affected even suburban areas of Sydney where several lives were lost and many people were left homeless.  The nation reels back, stunned by the ferocity of the fires. Yet through the tears there are signs of renewal and a sense that life must go on.

The final movement reflects the renewal of the bush with new green shoots appearing after the fires and the rebuilding of lives affected by the tragedy. To achieve this effect I composed lively cross rhythms and used Quartal harmony lending a feeling of vigour and brightness to the piece.

Binna Burra Dreaming (for violin and piano) - Binna Burra is the aboriginal place name for ‘where the Beech Tree grows’.

Dreaming refers to the Aboriginal Dream-time stories.  Binna Burra is a world-heritage site among the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia, located near the Gold Coast in the Australian state of Queensland.  Local aborigines used the place for shelter and cooking.

Therefore in this work I incorporate effects which suggest the Australian Aboriginal musical instrument the Didjeridoo ( and wind gently flowing through the branches of the trees of the Gondwana forest. As the themes are explored and developed taking the listener through various moods various rhapsodic sections are contrasted with sections employing contemporary rhythms.

The Eastern Spinebill (for violin and piano) is an arrangement of the first movement of Firestorm Symphony for violin and piano, In this work I include sounds of our native birds, the Cockatoos and the Eastern Spinebill which I heard while living in the Blue Mountains. I also incorporate wind effects, and the rhythms of aboriginal clap sticks.

Eastern Spinebill
The other works recorded were purely musical works rather than descriptive works.

AB: You wear many “hats” in the music industry.  What other engagements do you have in addition to composing?

MB: I started out in music at a very young age, playing several instruments including piano and accordion. My family owned and operated a music education and instrument business in Sydney – Brandman Music Studio.

My mother Else Brandman taught accordion and piano and employed many teachers of other instruments.  I grew up surrounded by music of many music genres and exposed to the sounds of many instruments.

I performed at my first concert at age 6 and then at the Brandman Music Studio annual concerts for at least 12 years from then. After completing studies at the music specialist high school in the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney, I attended Sydney University where I majored in composition. Concurrently with the university course, from the age of 18, I began work as a professional pianist performing either solo, or with various ensembles or as accompanist for singers or other instrumentalists.

Therefore by now, I have had experience in many aspects of the music industry. My various musical hats include:

Producer Vit Muzik with Margaret Brandman
Performer - I have had a lot of stage experience and that continues to this day.  In the past two years, I have performed at my ‘Rhapsodies to Rhumbas’ concerts which were two-hour events featuring only my compositions played by a team of 12 musicians, plus concerts in Oxford, England where I performed my own works and just last week, a concert in my local area, accompanying the soloist and the choir, and performing my own compositions.  I am also currently writing two new song cycles for Baritone Martin Cooke (who sings with the Bavarian State Opera).  We intend to perform them together in Sydney in 2016 if all goes to plan.

Composer – Apart from my immediate family, composing is my absolute passion in life.  The creative process is a form of meditation in which I can become totally absorbed. I get the sense that I am channelling the music from the matrix and when playing it back often wonder at how that particular theme or rhythm happened to flow through me onto the page?

Music Educator – I have endeavoured to combine my interests in music education with my composing career.  I have been teaching piano for over 40 years and have devised a unique teaching system and a complete series of music education materials, many of which contain my original compositions for piano and other instruments. I also conduct Professional Development courses for Music teachers.

Published Author - Among the collection of materials I have written are a high school music text book (Accent on Music), a set of ear-training materials (Contemporary Aural Course),  a Piano Method, a Recorder Method and several music theory and harmony texts and workbooks.

Professional Arranger – over the years I have arranged many pieces for various ensembles and voice.   The arranging skills of course come in handy when composing my own original works for voice and piano or orchestral settings.

AB: What else should we know about you?

MB: I am interested in languages other than English.  My family heritage (on both sides) is German, although I was born in Australia.  When I was young German was spoken in the house by my parents and grandparents and I recall my mother singing children’s songs in German with me. Therefore the German language comes quite easily and is handy to have when travelling to Europe.

I enjoyed learning French at school, which means at least I understand French when travelling to Paris, and lately I have been learning Spanish as a hobby, which will come in handy for my trip to Cuba for the next recording session in November.

Apart from composing my daily activities include, yoga, walking, gardening (I love Australian native plants) and swimming in the ocean when the weather is fine. These activities provide a healthy balance considering I spend a lot of time at the piano (either composing or teaching) or arranging music at the computer. I am also a second level Rei-ki channel. Since doing the Rei-ki course back in 1994 many amazing things have fallen into place, through chance meetings and my e.s.p. seems even stronger since doing the course.  Music, like Rei-ki, is vibration and can affect people in very subtle ways, so having both in my life seems a perfect fit.

I read for information and enjoy doing cryptic crossword puzzles for relaxation.  I don’t spend much time watching TV or reading novels as I always have some musical project on the go that requires my attention.

I am now also a dual citizen of both Germany and Australia.  This is a recent development as the German government is now allowing the descendants of people who fled the Nazi regime in Germany, to once again obtain citizenship.  My grandfather, grandmother, father and four of his siblings (my uncle and aunts) all managed to immigrate to Australia in early 1939, just before the war broke out. 

They were sponsored by our state (NSW) commissioner of police at the time, who had visited the family Jewellery Shop in Berlin during the Olympic Games in 1936. Another amazing synchronicity, that actually saved the whole family.  The business was confiscated by the Nazis so when the family came to Australia that had to make a fresh start.

Brandman Family Jewely Shop, Berlin, Germany
Having my new German passport made it extremely easy to travel to Europe for the recent recordings, as I was able to use the European Union smart gate to enter the country. In recent years I have been archiving the family history and as a result I feel more connected to my German roots. In fact I have music already published in Germany by Furore Music, who publish exclusively women composer's works.

Keep an eye out for updates on Margaret's project.  You can learn more about her and listen to her music at

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New PARMA Artist: Joanna Estelle

Please join us in welcoming Canadian composer and new PARMA artist: Joanna Estelle!

Joanna has signed on to release a collection of her solo piano works and various chamber music. This will be Joanna’s first official release, a milestone that coincides with her entrance into the Doctor of Music program at the University of Sheffield.

After graduating from Brock University in 1972 with a Psychology degree, Joanna achieved significant success as a corporate accountant for the House of Commons and Governor General, among other agencies. But from a young age, however, Joanna had an inner longing to create and make music that persisted over time. She began writing “little songs” never thinking anyone would hear them. Twenty years later, Maestro Laurence Ewashko from University of Ottawa discovered her secret life as a composer and arranged several of her pieces for his choir.

In 2009, Joanna went on to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, and as her reputation grew she had several premiers/performances in London, Barcelona, and Ottawa. In 2011, she wrote “Song for Abwoon” for her Master of Arts Music from York University. This piece explored how humanity’s belief in the existence of a higher power has inspired the writing of sacred music in various forms to affirm this belief and encourage a closer relationship with the spiritual dimension of life.

Since 2011, Joanna has continued to have new works performed across the world and served as Chair of the Association of Canadian Women Composers for three years.

Stay tuned for news on Joanna Estelle’s upcoming release, and be sure to visit her website to learn more about her work:

New PARMA Artist: Jay Kawarsky

PARMA is pleased to welcome composer Jay Kawarsky to our roster of artists. Jay has signed on to record his orchestral work “Episodes” for a future release.

Jay Kawarsky
After completing his Master of Music degree in composition from Northwestern University in 1982, Jay conducted the Opera Company of the Negev Region in Israel. He returned to Chicago in 1983 and completed his doctoral degree in composition at Northwestern. 

Jay founded the Bachelor of Music in Music Theater at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ. He currently teaches undergraduate and graduate music theory, composition, and special topics at Rider. He recently received his sixth Composer Award from the American Society of Composers.

We'll be hitting the studio with Jay in the summer of 2016, but to hear some of his work in the meantime, you can check out a performance of his piece “Al Hanissim" by the USC Thornton Concert Choir below. 

New York City audiences can also catch a performance of his 65-minute orchestral work "Sacred Rights, Sacred Song" at Congregation Ansche Chesed, 251 W 100th St in Manhattan on November 15 at 7 PM. For more information about the performance, click here

Stay tuned for more updates!