Contemporary Works & Recording Projects

 

Vickers is an active proponent of modern song composition. He is currently engaged in the preparations of numerous major song cycles and song works, working closely with the composers who are writing for his voice: Thomas Schuttenhelm’s newest song cycle for the tenor, Four Aves (2020), Apollos Lament, an extended cantata for Vickers and guitar by Schuttenhelm; a further Schuttenhelm setting of a poem by Peter Pears, “Ode to Music”; a cycle that sets the poetry of Jewish painter Marc Chagall and another that sets poems of Alexander Pushkin, both by Jerrold Morgulas; Martha Horsts extensive Songs from a War Journal, which sets texts from Siegfried Sassoons wartime diaries; two versions of a setting of Chinese poetry from antiquity by Tony Solitro, Same-Heart Knot, for tenor and piano, as well as for tenor and guitar; Two Oscar Wilde Songs by Timothy J. Bowlby, “Hélas!” and “E Tenebres”; and a companion cycle of Chinese poetry to Benjamin Brittens Songs from the Chinese that is

being composed for Vickers by British composer Colin Matthews.

 

Vickers has a new release on Albany Records (TROY1800) that was

released in December 2019. The Scottish-themed disc, titled

Caledonian Scenes: Songs of Judith Weir, Benjamin Britten, and

Hamish MacCunn, features the world première recording of

MacCunn’s Cycle of Six Love-Lyrics (1899), alongside a number of

his songs, accompanied by American pianist Gretchen Church.

The balance of the disc is Britten’s Four Burns Songs (in Colin

Matthews’s piano reduction) and Weir’s Scotch Minstrelsy, accom-

panied by Scottish pianist Geoffrey Duce.

In 2017, Vickers was honored to perform the world première of

Zachary Wadsworth’s Secret Songs in The Music Room of Britten’s

and Pears’s home, The Red House, in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

Wadsworth’s Secret Songs is a setting of Uranian poetry of early

gay pioneer Edward Carpenter, which was commissioned by

Vickers for the Britten-Pears Foundation’s 2017 Exhibition on the

1967 “Decriminalization” of Homosexuality in England. At the

2015 Red Note New Music Festival, Vickers sang the first perfor-

mance of Jonathan Green’s Michelangelo cycle Amore cieco. At the

2014 Red Note New Music Festival, Vickers was thrilled to première

John David Earnest’s song cycle, the Songs of Hadrian, a homo-

romantic memorial work detailing the life of the second century

Roman emperor Hadrian and his love for his eromenos Antinuous.

Vickers commissioned and premièred Tony Solitro’s tour-de-force

War Wedding in Philadelphia in 2012.

 

In January and December 2013, Navona Records released the first

two of The Shakespeare Concerts Series recordings, Shakespeare’s

Memory and The Fair Ophelia, respectively, on which Vickers is the

featured tenor soloist performing multiple world premières of Joseph Summer’s Shakespeare settings, alongside two separate recorded versions of Michael Tippett’s cycle Songs for Ariel with pianist R. Kent Cook—recorded individually on both piano and harpsichord, the latter of which was released on Full Fathom Five in April 2015. Vickers has additionally recorded three of Hamlet’s monologues from Summer’s operatic setting of Hamlet with acclaimed Alarm Will Sound pianist John Orfe (forthcoming).

 

Vickers previously recorded for Albany Records, singing the title role of Mario in the professional New York première of Francis Thorne’s opera Mario and the Magician (2006). He was fortunate to perform the world première performance for the composer of the especially-composed aria “Beatriz, puerta del mundo” while portraying the pivotal role of Giovanni in the revised version of Daniel Catán’s Spanish-language opera La hija de Rappaccini. Vickers has sung the world premières of Jerrold Morgulas’s Anna and Dedo in Moscow; Bill Banfield’s jazz-fusion opera Gertrude Stein Invents a Leap Early On in New York City, creating the role of Leo Stein; and he sang the lovesick Tom Cobb in Seymour Barab’s A Perfect Plan; and appeared on numerous seasons of the New York City Opera-sponsored VOX Series for the performance of new and workshopped opera. Vickers sang the world première of Alexander Zhurbin’s Fourth Symphony, City of the Plague, at Moscow’s International House of Music.

 

In 2012, Vickers performed the world première of Benjamin Britten’s excised “Epilogue” to his song cycle The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, using Vickers’s own transcription from the composer’s manuscript, which was forgotten in the archives of the Britten-Pears Library—sixty-seven years after Britten composed it. The previous year, the tenor recorded early songs from Britten’s juvenilia at the request of the Britten-Pears Foundation, in Britten’s Music Room with the composer’s Steinway, accompanied by Lucy Walker, with whom the tenor has also appeared in recital at the Aldeburgh Parish Church and at the University of Surrey, Guildford, England.

 

Additional projects for the tenor include the world première recordings of selected songs and the Cycle of Six Love Lyrics by Scots composer Hamish MacCunn with the American pianist Gretchen Church. Vickers is also recording Judith Weir’s Scotch Minstrelsy and Britten’s Four Burns Songs, in addition to multiple Britten cycles. Vickers is also recording Alexander Zhurbin’s The Shakespeare Madrigals, for voice and piano; Ivor Gurney’s Five Elizabethan Songs; Solitro’s War Wedding; in addition to Earnest’s Songs of Hadrian and the other cycles that the tenor has premièred.

World Première Songs, Song Cycles, and Commissions of Song Cycles

 

  • Benjamin Britten’s “Epilogue” to The Holy Sonnets of John Donne, Op. 35 (Composed 1945; Premièred 2011) †

† World première and discovery by Justin Vickers

“Perchance he for whom this bell tolls”

  • Six Chinese Songs (Formal title TBD; Music by Colin Matthews, Poetry from Chinese Antiquity in translations by Arthur  Waley; 2018–2019)

Commissioned in memory of his late father, John E. Vickers (1942–2017), and Premièred by Justin Vickers

† First performance on 26 February 2019 of “Three Chinese Songs” from the as-yet incomplete forthcoming song cycle

I. “The Valley Wind” (Lu Yün, 4th century CE)

II. “New Corn” (T’ao Chi’en, 365–427 CE)

III. “Flowers and Moonlight on the Spring River” (Emperor Yang-ti, 560–618)

  • Four Aves (Music by Thomas Schuttenhelm, texts selected from Chinese antiquity; Songs for Tenor and Guitar; 2020) †

          † Commissioned by and Upcoming Première and Recording by Justin Vickers

          I. Wind and Rain

          II. My Wings

          III. The Calling Dove

          IV. A Crane Cries

  • Secret Songs (Music by Zachary Wadsworth, Uranian Poetry by Edward Carpenter; 2017) †

† Composed for and Premièred by Justin Vickers at The Red House for the Britten-Pears Foundation’s 2017 Exhibition on the 1967 “Decriminalization” of Homosexuality, Aldeburgh, England: Queer Talk: Homosexuality in Britten’s Britain

† Dedicated to Justin Vickers

I. “I am a voice” (Edward Carpenter)

II. “Summer-heat”

III. “Cradled in flame”

IV. “Home”

V. “Through and through”

VI. “Self-conscious”

  • Same-Heart Knot (Music by Tony Solitro for tenor and guitar, Ancient Chinese Poetry; 2018) †

† Composed for and Upcoming Première by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

I. “Meeting in the road” (Anonymous, first century BCE)

II. “Plucking the rushes” (Anonymous, fourth century CE)

III. “The bright moon” (Anonymous) and “Winter night” (Emperor Ch’ien Wen-ti of Liang, sixth century CE)

IV. “The letter” (Po Chü-I, 772–846)

V. “Crossing the river” (Anonymous) and “People hide their love” (Emperor Wu-ti, 464–549)

  • Same-Heart Knot (Music by Tony Solitro for tenor and piano, Ancient Chinese Poetry; 2018) †

† Composed for and Upcoming Première by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

  • Apollo’s Lament (Music by Thomas Schuttenhelm, text complied from Ovid, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Hilda Doolittle; A Cantata for Tenor and Guitar; 2016) †

† Composed for and Upcoming Première by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

“I am the eye with which the universe beholds itself”

  • Ode to Music (Music by Thomas Schuttenhelm for tenor and guitar, text by Peter Pears; 2018–2019) †

† Composed for and Upcoming Première by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

“Perhaps it is because I always see”

  • Songs from a War Journal (Music by Martha Horst, wartime diary texts from Siegfried Sassoon; 2015) †

† Composed for and Upcoming Première by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

I. “Writing this in a tiny dugout” (Siegfried Sassoon)

II. “It was raining”

III. “Blaze of Lights”

IV. “Sunday Night”

V. “The List”

VI. “Thursday, 1916”

  • “it wasn’t supposed to be like this” (Music and text by Roy Magnuson, for tenor, piano, and electronics; 2016) †

† Composed for and Premièred by Justin Vickers for a Music and Politics event in late-October 2016, prior to the Hillary Clinton–Donald Trump presidential election

  • Two Songs on Texts by Oscar Wilde (Music by Timothy J. Bowlby, text by Oscar Wilde; 2017) †

† Composed for and Upcoming Première by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

I. “Hélas!” – “To drift with every passion”

II. “E Tenebres” – “Come down, O Christ, and help me!”

  • Amore cieco (Music by Jonathan Green, text by Michelangelo Buonarroti; 2015) †

† Composed for and Premièred by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

I. “Perch’all’estremo ardore”

II. “Ben tempo saria omai ritrarsi dal martire”

III. “Veggio co’ be’ vostr’occhi un dolce lume”

  • War Wedding (Music by Tony Solitro, text by Alun Lewis; 2011) †

† Commissioned and Premièred by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

I. “The Vigil: He lies awake in the barrack room, fearful she will not come” (Alun Lewis)

II. “The Vigil: She tarries, far-off, in a strange anguish”

III. “He gives her Botticelli’s Birth of Venus as a Wedding Gift”

IV. “The Marriage Bed”

V. “They part at daybreak, returning their inevitable ways”

VI. “She remains”

  • Songs of Hadrian (Music by John David Earnest, text by Arch Brown; 2015) †

† Composed for and Premièred by Justin Vickers; Dedicated to Justin Vickers

I. “Hadrian’s Prayer” (Arch Brown)

II. “Hadrian’s Love Song”

III. “Hadrian’s Ecstasy”

IV. “Hadrian’s Sorrow”

          V. “Hadrian’s Madness”

  •  “How all occasions do inform against me” (Music by Joseph Summer, text by William Shakespeare, from Hamlet, IV, iv) †

          † Premièred  and Recorded by Justin Vickers

  • “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” (Music by Roy Magnuson, American hymn tune) †

† Composed for and Premièred by Justin Vickers

  • Three Frost Songs (Music by Ke-chia Chen, text by Robert Frost; 2011) †

          † Premièred by Justin Vickers

          I. “Now Close the Window”

          II. “Storm Fear”

          III. “To the Thawing Rain”

© 2020 by Justin Vickers.