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.”


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

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SSAA with divisi (up to 8 parts),
Poem by Zsuzsanna Ardó (English)

Composer's Program Notes

A few years ago Zsuzsanna Ardó approached me about composing a piece for C4 based on her poem
who are you?, a stark and powerful meditation on the nature of identity and how we think and speak
about it, as well as the ways in which we sometimes uncritically accept others’ definitions of it for
ourselves. I was glad to engage and come to terms with it, and to join the ranks of several other of my
C4 colleagues who also have chosen to set Zsuzsanna’s poetry: Daniel Andor-Ardó, Artemisz Polonyi,
Bettina Sheppard and Perry Townsend.

Among the challenges in setting the poem is its insistent quality, particularly its numerous repetitions
that become obsessive refrains (e.g., “time and space”), along with gradually accruing strings of words
commonly used in reference to the ways humans describe, contextualize, and otherwise “place”
themselves and one another:

“culture script legacy web screen
grid frames imprints blueprints
template, language practice memes genes
manners mores prism universe tapestry”

A text that contains this much repetition and is this expansive is a test of a composer’s resourcefulness.
All one can do in the end, it seems, is embrace those aspects. A ritualistic, objective approach struck me
as natural and essential, involving a refrain-like use of the poetry’s iterative elements. The choice of
treble voices perhaps evokes the idea of a siren call, though more in the sense of being compelling or
riveting than seductive or alluring. The pure, clear timbre of a choir of sopranos and altos for me also
evokes the feeling of a ritual, as well as possessing a kind of radiating intensity that I associate with
certain music of Stravinsky, particularly works such as Symphonies of Wind Instruments, a piece that is
itself—like so many others of his—ritualistic in its attitude and formal structure. As has occurred more
than once in my life, I have been presented with the opportunity to write a piece that I might not have
come to on my own, but that in the end I am very glad to have written. Thank you, Zsuzszanna, for
giving me that opportunity, and thank you to the trebles of C4 and Timothy Brown for bringing this
piece to life.

More recently, the amazing Australian soprano Amber Evans recorded a multitracked version of this piece in which she sings all the parts, It is truly a tour-de-force
—Hayes Biggs

Texts and Translations


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