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Karen Siegel

Composer / Hoboken, NJ
Member since July 2019
Described as “colorful and at times groovy” (WQXR.org), Karen Siegel’s innovative music draws on her experience as a versatile vocalist. Her works are frequently performed by the New York City-based ensemble C4: the Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, which she co-founded in 2005. Her choral work "Saguaro" was recorded by C4 and released on the album Volume 1: Uncaged in 2013. "Why Do We Love Our Guns," her work for treble choir, was recorded by Tonality and released on the album Sing About It in 2019. Karen’s opera The Hat: Arendt Meets Heidegger was premiered by the Thompson Street Opera Company in 2019. Her works are published by See-A-Dot Music Publishing, self-published through Chestnutoak Press, and distributed in the Justice Choir Songbook. Please find more at http://KarenSiegel.com/.

My Style

My choral music encompasses a wide range of styles and difficulty levels, but what all my works have in common is that they are rhythmically exciting, with melodies that are enjoyable to sing. When composing, I think about the experience of the singers and the conductor, so that the alto line is engaging and the notation is conducive to smooth rehearsals. I work creatively with texts, often juxtaposing multiple texts, creating a text from compiling found sources, or setting original poetry. I like to focus on topics that are relevant to today’s world, often with a social justice theme.

Active Projects

We Will Stand Up

SATB with piano
3 · Medium
1.5 minutes
Inspired by the youth plaintiffs in Juliana vs. the United States who have sued the federal government for infringing on their right to a stable climate, “We Will Stand Up” celebrates the initiative and determination of the young activists fighting against climate change. With a fast tempo, and loud opening and closing sections, it will be an energetic work that engages both singers and audience. This short, dynamic piece will make an excellent closer. (Please note: the premiere window is almost 12 months, to Dec. 31, 2020.) Update—Even though the funding deadline has passed, it's not too late to join. In order to get all the acknowledgements in the score by the release date, the final deadline to join (including receipt of payment) is January 3rd.
FUNDED
release date
Jan. 8th 2020
$150 / ensemble
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Featured Compositions

Listen to works by Karen Siegel

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To Be Free

SATB & piano
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This arrangement of Joseph Brackett’s well-known Shaker song “Simple Gifts” draws on the Shakers’ history as an immigrant group to the colonial United States with the addition of a new second verse and chorus. It emphasizes the second clause in the opening line, that it’s a gift to be free, and it elaborates on the idea of being in “the place just right,” expressing gratitude for our communities and emphasizing the importance of showing kindness to the newly arrived stranger. I have taken many rhythmic liberties with Brackett’s song, in addition to fragmenting and layering the tune, but it is still recognizable as the song that is as quintessentially American as the idea of freedom itself. To Be Free is the winner of the 2018 Yale Glee Club Emerging Composers Competition, and was premiered by the Yale Glee Club with artistic director Jeffrey Douma November 9, 2018.
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Blessing

SATB a cappella
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Blessing sets an English translation of the Birkat Kohanim, or Priestly blessing, a Jewish prayer for God’s blessing and for peace. A variation of this blessing is also recited in some Christian traditions. Blessing alternates between homophonic, straightforward statements and layering of aleatoric repetitions over sustained chords. As congregants in a synagogue, or individuals in any faith community, the voices are heard both as unique and with the strength of the whole. Blessing was commissioned by the Te Deum Chamber Choir, with artistic director Matthew Christopher Shepard, and premiered in October 2018.
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Why Do We Love Our Guns?

SA a cappella
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Why Do We Love Our Guns? is a work for treble chorus (2017), featured on Tonality’s 2019 album, “Sing About It.” The phrase “Why do we love our guns more than our neighbors?” gradually unfolds and repeats, in a driving rhythm. In only two parts, it is an experiment in creating powerful music through simple ingredients.
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Clouds Ephemeral

SSATBB a cappella
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Like clouds, the harmony in Clouds Ephemeral shifts in and out of clear forms, simultaneously in constant motion yet almost still. The rhythm also embodies this nebulous quality, constantly changing meter throughout most of the piece. It sets three texts—scientific names of clouds are heard throughout, while cloud definitions layer underneath, chant-like in the men. An original poem layers over the cloud names, in a slow, graceful melody sung by the women. Clouds Ephemeral was commissioned by The Esoterics, with founding director Eric Banks. It is a result of winning their 2014-2015 POLYPHONOS Composition Competition in the National Composer category.

Testimonials

Matthew Shepard
Aug 15, 2019
I had known and admired Karen for a few years when the need came for thoughtful, closing piece for a concert. We commissioned her to write "Blessing," and it was exactly what we had hoped for: warm, beautiful, peaceful, and also inventive and unique. Thank you, Karen.
Jeffrey Douma
Jul 25, 2019
The Yale Glee Club had the great pleasure of performing To Be Free, the winning piece in our annual Emerging Composers Competition, on our tour program last year. It's a brilliant work - inventive and uplifting. It was also a favorite of audiences, and I've had multiple requests from other conductors for information about Karen and the piece so they can program it with their own choirs.
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