Sean William Calhoun | Composer and pianist

Concerto for Harp and Orchestra (2019, 2021) – 20'

I. A Thickness of Birds
II. Skipped Shade
III. Cadenza
IV. Penumbra
A Thickness of Birds takes its title from the sentence “All darkness is just a thickness of birds,” in an episode of Welcome to Night Vale, a podcast written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. The harp weaves amidst the orchestra as rapid fluttering figures grow into slow winding melodies and vice versa, culminating in a long, solemn melody in the viola. Skipped Shade is based on 19-beat cycles, resulting in rhythmic patterns that periodically seem to skip slightly ahead. It is the longest movement, with two main themes — one fast and one slow — both introduced by the harp, developing and eventually overlapping. Fragments of the viola’s melody from A Thickness of Birds scatter into the first theme of Skipping Shade in the Cadenza. The unresolved ending of the Cadenza sets up the counterpoint beginning Penumbra, a final, hushed movement with the shadows of past movements playing across it. Concerto for Harp and Orchestra is dedicated to Amy Nam.

(Reading) Recording

Recording from a reading by the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra Amy Nam, harp; Jakub Rompczyk, conductor