In late Summer 2021, I was perusing music. Looking for music for my tenor/bass choir, I came across composer Reena Esmail. I put a couple of her works on my “maybe program” list, coming back to them later and ultimately deciding to program one (which I’ll dive into in a moment!). While attending the Midwestern ACDA conference in Chicago in February 2022, I heard her piece Tuttarana sung by 3 ensembles.
I should pause here to tell you that I absolutely LOVE her music. I also love her mission. I am lifting this from her bio: “Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music, and brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces.” More on those spaces in a moment.
Some of her music isn’t updated on her website because it is waiting on the premiere or a recording of the premiere. I’m really look forward to hearing and seeing “The Tipping Point,” “When the Violin” is on my maybe program list. Same with “The Love of Thousands.” And “Even After All This Time” (the version with the clarinet). Then she ALSO has a selection of pieces that can be performed with both choir and community singing! Pieces like “Take What You Need” that come in multiple different versions, which I’m absolutely in love with.
The piece I want to highlight for the rest of the post is TaReKiTa. Ms. Esmail wrote the piece for the Urban Voices Project. The story behind its creation is beautiful. She went to work with the Urban Voices Project (a street choir for the residents of Skid Row in LA). While there, she taught them Indian rhythm. The singers loved what they were learning, and she felt pulled to write them a piece. So, she put together “TāReKiṬa” in about an hour, recording the vocal parts herself and then teaching it to them. I also appreciate how Ms. Esmail clarifies that the piece does not require Indian classical singers to perform.
Ms. Esmail provides a series of three audio guides. I had my tenor/bass choir watch them a few times in our rehearsal process, and they were incredibly beneficial. The piece is vibrant and engaging. My small, but mighty, tenor/bass choir is comprised of primarily music industry/audio production singers, and the notes were learned quickly by them. Yet, even after the notes and rhythms were learned, there was work to do with vowels and terraced dynamics. And time keeping– once they became comfortable, there were times they decided to rush. This work kept them engaged during rehearsals.
I think of this piece in three sections. I found that my singers described it by these sections (“Where we move into the new pitch center” or “when we sing the stuff we’ve already sung but the baritones are echoing us” or “where we start the coda-type thing” were some phrases used along with measure numbers). When asked how they would describe the piece, many of my singers used words such as “celebratory” or “energetic” or “continuous movement forward.”
Please check out Ms. Esmail’s music. Her catalog is here and gives you options for a variety of ensembles. “TāReKiṬa” is offered in SATB, SA, and TB voicing (from the Oxford Publishing website). Enjoy!