“ Interestingly, the work that tried to please the least was the most compelling. Hayes Biggs’ piece Ave Formosissima harkens back to the dance-mad, melismatic and slightly raucous music of the Middle Ages. But the score, with its zig-zagging lines and pungent dissonances, is genuinely contemporary.”—New York Times
“ A Consuming Fire, a short, zesty trio by Hayes Biggs, led off the evening. The piece is framed by some engagingly angular rhythmic writing, with a lyrical nougat at the center.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“ [The] most convincing and coherent performance [was] Hayes Biggs’ homage to his composer/pianist colleague Eric Moe, E.M. am Flügel, a short piece with romantic gestures and echoes of Berg and Stravinsky.”—Aufbau
“ The Mass for All Saints would be an exciting challenge for those choirs skilled in precise intonation and rhythmic agility. Biggs writes with knowledge of and respect for the expressive capabilities of the human voice.”—Choral Journal
“ Hayes Biggs’s wedding motet Tota Pulchra Es, here being sung for the first time, impressed by its quiet solemnity and neat working of its expressive opening motif: not empty fanfares but a reminder of the seriousness and privacy of love.”—New York Times
“ Mass for All Saints by composer Hayes Biggs releases shadows transformed into tendrils of light by the arabesque of the vocal line. Contrapuntal procedures are used to their utmost expressive effect. [It] is a work of a melodist of talent in the manner of Puccini, or better yet, Respighi.”—La Liberté
“ The Biggs song, Northeast Reservation Lines, is a real party piece... the sneakiness of the changes, the liveliness of the music and the verve of the performance worked handily... a potential recital hit in the vein of Bernstein’s I Hate Music cycle.”—The Village Voice
“ All the works tried a return to tonality typical of the decade; the most successful made the return oblique and ambiguous. Hayes Biggs’ O Sacrum Convivium took off from the motet of Tallis, yet it handsomely reconfigured early modes in a modernistic scheme of free tonality.”—New York Times
“ Hayes Biggs’ To Becalme His Fever... is a vivid evocation of anxiety, fits and repose. The language embraces pointillistic colors, romantic lines and prickly episodes when the demons hover. Biggs claims a forceful and subtle dramatic hand, along with a keen command of instrumental resources.”—The Plain Dealer
I wish for us all that 2022 will be a vast improvement over the previous two (or more) years. In that spirit I offer you this year’s holiday greeting piece.
In 1974, when I was all of seventeen years old, I wrote a short setting of Ave Maria for unaccompanied four-part chorus. It might have received one performance, if memory serves, by a Madrigal group I sang in when I was an undergraduate at what was then known as Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College).
As thanks to my friend and colleague James Wetzel, who is the Organist and Director of Music at the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Catherine of Siena in New York City, along with the fine musicians of the Schola Cantorum there, with whom it has been my pleasure and honor to sing on many occasions in recent years, I decided to rework this little sin of my youth as a token of my respect and esteem.
I tried to see what portions of it might be worth saving, in order to make a better piece of it than I was capable of doing as a high school student. Undertaking this sort of revision of a much earlier piece is of course fraught with dangers, chief among them being that, at 64, one is at a rather different place in life and experience from where one was at 17. The main issue is that it is tempting to correct everything that one did naively in youth, possibly resulting in revising the initial spark that gave rise to the work out of existence, thus draining away its lifeblood. I have tried to avoid this, and, if I’m lucky, I’ve succeeded partially. Some of my problem is that the piece was rather short-breathed as it stood, and needed some expansion, due in part to the fact that I was setting the text from memory, and had inadvertently omitted part of it. I allowed much more leeway in revising it rhythmically, as it was much too foursquare as originally conceived. Many of the faux-Renaissance touches of the original remain, along with other things that decidedly run counter to sixteenth century style (parallel root position triads, ending the piece with a minor chord and a cadence without a leading tone, etc.).
I hope its innocence and good intentions will overcome its youthful indiscretions, and again wish you all good things in the year that lies before us!