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Todd McNeal: News

New Manley Hopkins Commission for Xavier College - February 9, 2019

Over the Australian summer I've been finishing a new commission for Xavier College, setting four poems by the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. It has been a delight to be setting some of the finest English poetry. The works are for four of the Xavier College Choirs, and includes a finale setting of God's Grandeur for combined choirs, cello and percussion.

The works are due to be premiered at Hamer Hall in August 2019.

Gondwana Novus give Sydney Premiere of How to Get There - January 25, 2019

Gondwana Novus have given the Sydney premiere of How to Get There, my setting of a wonderful, whimsical poem by Michael Leunig. The young choir performed the work beautifully under the direction of Kate Albury, as part of the Festival of Summer Voices, the Gala concert of the National Choral School. Congratulations to all!

Roderick Williams Performs Everyone Sang as part of War Tribute - November 30, 2018

Award-winning British baritone, Roderick Williams, has been performing my setting of Siegfried Sassoon's classic poem Everyone Sang as part of a programme commemorating the Armistice. The concerts, accompanied by Susie Allan, included a recent performance at the Hampstead Arts Festival. Barry Millington writes in the London Evening Standard:

"The English late Romantics and their settings of the War Poets may have formed the nucleus of his sequence but there were fine examples too of songs by more recent composers including the Australian Todd McNeal..."

Godwits Premiere at World Migratory Bird Day - May 26, 2018

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of conducting the Spotswood Primary School Choir and the Newport Community Choir in the premiere performance of Godwits at the World Migratory Bird Day celebrations at the Newport Hub.

The piece sets text from The Yellow Sea by leading Australian poet Barry Hill, and forms part of a short suite -Songs for Birds - commissioned for the City of Hobsons Bay in Melbourne's West. The full suite will be performed later in the year at the Newport Substation.

Thanks and congratulations to the choirs, who performed the piece three times to great acclaim!

Whenever the Wind Taken Up by Choirs Worldwide - May 1, 2018

There has been huge interest in Whenever the Wind is High over recent months, following the Gondwana performance at Festival of Summer Voices. Orders for scores have come in from school and youth choirs across Australia and the UK.

The Gondwana performance is now available on youtube:

Junior Gondwana Give Sydney Premiere of Whenever the Wind! - January 20, 2018

Junior Gondwana have given a brilliant Sydney premiere of Whenever the Wind is High, my setting of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem Windy Nights. They performed the work in the Grand Finale of the Gondwana Choirs Festival of Summer Voices at the Clancy Auditorium, University of New South Wales.

The choir gave an electrifying performance directed by Brisbane-based choral conductor, Kate Albury. ABC Classic FM recorded the concert for broadcast.

Many thanks and congratulations to Kate and Junior Gondwana!

New Commission - Songs for Birds - January 16, 2018

Over the Summer I have been putting the finishing touches to an exciting new commission for the City of Hobson's Bay in Melbourne.

Songs for Birds is a suite of three short pieces setting words by one of Australia's leading poets, Barry Hill. The chosen birds - Godwits, Magpie and Ibis - are all seen in the Hobsons's Bay area, close to where I live in the western suburbs of Melbourne and the area where Barry grew up.

It has been a real pleasure to work on a piece with a strong sense of place. Excerpts were presented last week at the Australian Choral Conductors Summer School and were received with great enthusiasm, especially for Ibis!

The work is scored for children's and community choirs and piano and will be performed by local performers later in 2018. 

Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School Premiere New Arrangement of Let it Go, Brother - October 20, 2017

The Junior School Choir of Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School have given the first performance of a new arrangement of Let it Go, Brother. The song is a folk-gospel ballad sung by British singer Emma Lewendon on my album, All My Good Intentions.

The choral arrangement, for two-part upper voices and piano, was made at the special request of Head of Junior School Music, Christopher Cox.

Congratulations to Christopher and the girls!

Yallourn Madrigal Singers Premiere New Men's Version of Whenever the Wind is High! - July 30, 2017

The Yallourn Madrigal Singers have given the premiere of a new version of Whenever the Wind is High, adapted for men's voices from the original version.

The work was conducted by Bronwyn Morrissey, accompanied by Sophy Morley, and very well-received by the audience.

Thanks and congratulations to all.

Trinity College Boys Perform at ChoralFest - July 10, 2017

The boys of Trinity College, Perth have given the Brisbane premiere of Whenever the Wind is High at the National Choral Festival, conducted by Robert Braham.

The piece was a hit with both the boys and the audience.

Winter Park High Men's Chorale give encore performance of Ahab! - May 25, 2016

The Men's Chorale of Winter Park High School, Florida, have given an encore performance of The Redemption of Captain Ahab. The boys loved the work so much they repeated it at their Spring Concert having performed it just the previous fall.

Director of Choral Activities, Matthew Swope, commented: "It was wonderful seeing these young men come together and being so driven by a piece of repertoire. i cannot thank you enough for that!" 

WPHS has an outstanding Choral Department recognised nationally for its tradition of excellence.

Washington Men's Camerata to Perform Captain Ahab! - April 6, 2016

The Washington Men's Camerata will perform The Redemption of Captain Ahab in their forthcoming concert, Music from Down Under. The award-winning men's choir will perform my work alongside other well-known composers from Australia and New Zealand including Percy Grainger, Stephen Leek and Sandra Milliken in a June concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC.

More info about the Washington Men's Camerata...

National Boys Choir to give premiere performance of Stevenson setting - February 5, 2016

The National Boys Choir of Australia will give the world premiere performance of one of my new pieces, Whenever the Wind is High, later this year. The work sets the famous Robert Louis Stevenson poem, Windy Nights, for upper voices and piano, and will be performed as part of the choir's mid-year concert at Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University in July 2016. The program will also include my set of three pieces from 2010, Songs of the Sea and Sky.

NBCA are one of Australia's finest treble choirs and over the last few years have given outstanding premiere performances of my works Songs of the Sea and Sky and Three Poems of Walter De La Mare. Both these sets were included on their CD release Songs of Earth, Sea and Sky and feature regularly on ABC Classic FM.

New Commission for Baritone and Piano - December 23, 2015

Over the last few months I've had the privilege of working on a new commission setting an outstanding poem by Australian writer and poet Mark Svendsen, entitled Amongst Trees.

The work, commissioned by the poet in memory of David Ian Kerr, is an 8-minute art song for baritone and piano. It explores moving, lyrical imagery related to the strangler fig, which grows on host trees in tropical forests and is common in Queensland. The photo below will give a better idea than I can convey!

The score will be available shortly.


US Premiere of The Redemption of Captain Ahab! - November 1, 2015

The Redemption of Captain Ahab has received its premiere performance in the USA by the Black Bear Men's Chorus at the University of Maine, directed by Daniel Williams. This was closely followed by The Men's Chorale of Winter Park High School, Florida, directed by Matthew Swope, where it was a huge hit with both singers and audience!

New Commission to set Michael Leunig Poem - September 19, 2015

Following the success of Gifts, I have received a commission to compose a new work for Bel Canto from Firbank Grammar School. The piece will be a setting of the Michael Leunig poem, How to Get There.

The poem was chosen in consultation with the choir and has great simplicity and sense of movement as well as reflecting the wide open spaces of the Australian outback. Many thanks to Michael Leunig for granting permission to set his wonderful work!

Link to How to Get There on Michael Leunig's website.

Melbourne Premieres of Carry Us Home - August 18, 2015

Carry Us Home has been very well-received at two recent concerts in Melbourne, performed by the Firbank Chorale. They gave excellent performances at the Firbank Grammar School Choral Concert at St Andrew's Church , Brighton and then at Eisteddfod on the Bay, where they carried off second place. Many thanks to adjudicator Mark Puddy, highly regarded Australian composer and choral educator. He wrote in his comments that it was a "Great Piece!" and told the assembled choirs to "go and find more of Todd McNeal's marvellous music!".  

Carry Us Home is a lyrical piece for upper voices on a World War One theme, with a beautifully-crafted text by Queensland poet Mark Svendsen. For a score sample click the link below:

Carry Us Home (SA & Pno)

Acclaimed Varsity Ensemble to perform Male Voice version of Gifts - June 4, 2015

Randy Stenson, internationally recognised as an authority on male choral education, has asked me to arrange my setting of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal poem Gifts for male voices. He heard the recent performance at Choralfest by Bel Canto, of Firbank Grammar School, and was very keen to perform the work with his acclaimed male voice group, St Mary's Varsity Ensemble.

They will be performing the work in 2016.

Gifts at Choralfest - April 10, 2015

Bel Canto, the senior choir from Firbank Grammar School, have given a stirring performance of Gifts at Choralfest 2015 in Melbourne.

The festival, organised by the Australian National Choral Association, brought together many of the finest choirs and choral directors from across Australia together with distinguished international visitors, for four days of concerts and workshops.

Director Philippa Jones talked briefly about what an important piece Gifts has been for the choir since they gave the world premiere last year and then toured to Europe, taking first place in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in Vienna.

Bel Canto gave another excellent performance and the piece was very warmly received.

Birralee Blokes Perform Law of the Tongue at Pemulwuy Male Voice Festival - July 14, 2014

ABC Choir of the Year, the Birralee Blokes, have performed two choruses from The Law of the Tongue at a showcase concert in the Centenary Hall, Brisbane Grammar School, as part of the Pemulwuy Male Voice Festival 2014.

This outstanding young men's choir were conducted by artistic director Paul Holley and accompanied by Justine Favell.

The Law of the Tongue, with Libretto by award-winning author James Roy, is a dramatic cantata based on the Killer Whales of Eden.

Bel Canto Win 1st Place with Gifts - Judges Comment on 'Outstanding Piece' - July 7, 2014

Bel Canto, from Firbank Grammar School, have been awarded 1st Place with Outstanding Success in the Category Treble Choir for their performance of Gifts at Austria's premiere global youth music festival - Summa Cum Laude. The work, which sets the poem by Oodgeroo Noonuccal was specially commissioned for the choir to perform during their current European Tour.

The representative from the jury commented on how much he enjoyed the work and written comments included that it was an "outstanding piece".

The choir have now been asked to perform Gifts at the Gala Winners' Concert in the Great Hall of the Wiener Konzerthaus on July 8th.

More details can be found here:

Bel Canto give World Premiere of Gifts - June 20, 2014

Last night Bel Canto, the senior choir at Firbank Grammar School, gave the world premiere of Gifts at St Andrews Church, Brighton.

The piece, for SSAA and piano, was specially commissioned for the choir to present in their forthcoming European Tour, including performances at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival in Vienna. It is a setting of the poem Gifts by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, which recounts a young man's increasingly elaborate attempts to woo his sweetheart.

The choir gave an excellent performance under the superb direction of Philippa Jones, with Jerome Walles on piano. They really captured the drama of the poem and the nuances of the score and are to be most warmly congratulated.

Carry Us Home given premiere performance in Sydney - December 1, 2013

The choir of Marist Sisters' College Woolwich has given the premiere performance of my new choral piece, Carry Us Home, at their 2013 Showcase Concert.

Carry Us Home is a lyrical piece for two-part upper voices and piano with words by Queensland poet Mark Svendsen. It imagines a brief time of innocence in the early years of World War One, with young soldiers and their sweethearts walking together in the evening before the young men are sent to the front.

The choir gave a strong and sensitive performance under the expert direction of Ms Emilie Lemasson, accompanied by Ms Joyce Sun.

An extract of the score to Carry Us Home is available for download in the SCORES section and full copies can be purchased through BUY. Free perusal scores are available for choral directors.

Birralee Blokes give Premiere Performance of Choruses from New Cantata - November 20, 2013

ABC Choir of the Year, Birralee Blokes, performed a selection of choruses from my recently completed cantata, The Law of the Tongue, at the Voices of Birralee end of year concert at Brisbane Town Hall last Saturday.

The young men's choir performed three TBB choruses - Man the Boats, Tow in Right Away and Empty Sea, Empty Sky - under the direction of Paul Holley.

The Law of the Tongue is a dramatic cantata in two acts with libretto by award-winning Australian author James Roy. 

The Law of the Tongue - A New Cantata - February 24, 2013

I've recently completed a new cantata, The Law of the Tongue, with libretto by award-winning author James Roy.

The work is based on the remarkable relationship between shore-based whalers and killer whales on the far south coast of New South Wales throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. It's a story I found out about through a visit to the Eden Killer Whale Museum a few years ago and it struck me as both completely captivating and ideally-suited for a dramatic choral retelling.

The Law of the Tongue is a fifty minute work in two acts, for SSATBB choir and piano with soprano, tenor and baritone soloists. Free perusal scores are available for all interested choral directors.


The ocean near Eden, NSW, setting for The Law of the Tongue. image (c) James Roy 2012

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