Hilltop Diary, December 28, 2019

It has been a little over a month since my last post, due to the busy holiday season, but here’s all the news!

hill top

It was one year ago that the body of much-loved ballerina of the St. Louis Ballet, Raffaella Stroik, was found in a rural lake 100 miles south of St. Louis.  Here is an article about her still-mysterious death.


Her father, a renowned church architect and professor of architecture at Notre Dame University, has done me the great honor of asking me to compose music for a new, full-evening ballet with full symphony orchestra. The new ballet will be called Raffaella, The Triumph of the Rose.  I cannot express what a meaningful honor and beautiful challenge this will be, and how special it has been to talk with her father about it, so recently, devastatingly deprived of his remarkable young daughter.  Details of the premiere, targeted for 2022, will be posted when we get closer to the time.

I am about to begin composing the last (fourth) movement of my second symphony, which is to be recorded with other works of mine on Parma Records during 2020. As soon as I finish the symphony, I will get to work on the ballet, and it will take me about a year to compose. Here is a lovely video interview with Rafaella, made when she was still a student at Indiana University:


Raffaella 2

Our last month took us on a trip to Denver for Thanksgiving with some of Crystal’s family, plus the usual work at home and school, then on to Atlanta for Christmas with her parents and with my sister and her husband. (I have family locally, so that doesn’t require travel, but it was wonderful, too.) We finally got to give people all those wool blankets and scarves, etc. we got them in Scotland last summer. Crystal put on her big “Lessons and Carols” program with her students and has accepted the part of “Miss Honey” in Matilda, the Musical at HPAC, a Nashville area musical theater where she did My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, and others. I keep doing interviews to promote my book.  There is a two part podcast interview with me at www.faithandculture.com. Click on the links for November 25 and December 9, 2019.

My own Broadway-style show, Dear Miss Barrett, has two productions under consideration – one in Nashville in March, and one in Vermont in June.  If/when those get finalized, I will let you know the details. Crystal will play the part of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, being perfect for the role. More about the show is at: http://www.dearmissbarrett.com

Having been on sabbatical leave all of fall semester, I’m now gearing up to teach my last semester at Vanderbilt before taking an early retirement to work on all my projects. I will have five private students in composition, a class in Orchestration, and a class called Advanced Orchestration. For me, the new year will hold all of the above, plus, God willing, a new book, this one a fictional novel — scary, but you have to take risks. I just try to remember G. K. Chesterton’s tongue-in-cheek words, which my friend Joseph Pearce is fond of quoting: “If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing badly.” May your 2020 be a wonderful one for you!

For today’s music, I will share my composition for women’s choir, Ave Maria, in honor of Raffaella.

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