The June/July 2022 issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “An Introduction to Jennifer Higdon’s Choral Works” by William Skoog. The 2023 National Conference will feature a premiere of the ACDA Brock Commission, composed by Jennifer Higdon. Read an introduction to the composer’s choral works in the current June/July issue acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the introduction.
Mention the name Jennifer Higdon to most classical musicians, and the response is near universal recognition for her instrumental compositions. Her Violin Concerto won a Pulitzer Prize in 2010, and her Percussion, Viola, and Harp Concertos won Grammy Awards in 2010, 2018, and 2020, respectively. She has earned awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In opera circles, as well, Higdon has been hailed as a rising star due to the enormous success of Cold Mountain and anticipation for her new opera, Woman with Eyes Closed.
Though she has achieved success in orchestral and operatic genres, there appears to be little awareness, even among choral musicians, of her accomplishments as a prolific composer of quality choral music. Since her first music for choir was published in the late 1990s, she has written twenty-five choral pieces, three of which are large-form works with orchestra. A current list of her total choral output is provided at this article’s conclusion. This article brings Higdon’s choral works to light, introducing a representative sample of her compositional techniques. Her choral compositions can at first impression be perceived as transparent and accessible, but upon closer scrutiny, the devices behind these effects are quite challenging.
Slightly more than half of Higdon’s texts are secular; the rest are spiritual. Of the latter, some draw from Christian traditions, while others are inspired by mysticism or a broad sense of spiritualism detached from any specific religion. These texts tend to focus on topics of longing, time, eternity, and humanistic being. Whether Higdon selects a text herself or agrees to one selected by a commissioning agent, it must align with her personal instincts.
If the text doesn’t resonate with me, how can I expect to write a convincing work that the audience can relate to? If I don’t connect with a text, I think listeners would hear a kind of insincerity come through.