daniel daly

Music Today Festival review: listening, collaborating, exploring

Biennial University of Oregon new music event provides glimpses of the future of Oregon music


The University of Oregon’s 2017 Music Today Festival (MTF) offered such a diversity of concerts that in trying to sum it up, I found myself searching for unifying themes. It wasn’t easy.

Produced by members of the Oregon Composers Forum (OCF), under the direction and mentorship of Dr. Robert Kyr, the bi-annual UO School of Music and Dance (SOMD) festival offered a varied three-week (April 19-May 13) program showcasing the richness of vocal and instrumental music being written today. Over the course of nine concerts I had the opportunity to hear not only the premieres of 40 new works by UO composition majors, but also music by many well known contemporary composers including Pauline OliverosLibby LarsenToshio HosokawaClaude VivierMagnus Lindberg and more. This was the twenty-fifth anniversary year of the festival, which Kyr founded in 1993, and which he continues to organize and direct as one of the most extensive and innovative new music offerings in the Pacific Northwest.


James Shields Trio with Laura Metcalf (cello) and pianist Conor Hanick perform new works by UO composers. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

For example, the Ova Novi ensemble’s concert focused on music by contemporary women composers. TaiHei (view concert) offered new works influenced by Pacific Rim and other world cultures. The Sonus Domum Ensemble (view concert) staged a cross-disciplinary and improv-based event celebrating the life and music of Pauline Oliveros, and the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble performed three extended instrumental works by student composers; an unusual opportunity for young composers to showcase their ability to write long and more complex pieces of music.

The festival also included music inspired by the soundscape of an old growth forest and two special concerts by guest artists soprano Esteli Gomez (view concert) and clarinetist James Shields and Friends (view concert) performing works specifically composed for each by OCF composers. MTF concluded with the world premiere of “The Banshee,” a new chamber opera by Daniel Daly.

I finally decided to focus on three themes: attentive listening, collaboration, and breaking boundaries. You can view unedited webcast videos of concert events by clicking on links marked (view concert). Skip over stage set-ups and other non-performance activities.


“The Banshee” preview: confronting the dark side

UO Music Today Festival premieres a new opera by Daniel Daly


When his University of Oregon graduate school professor suggested that master’s degree candidate Daniel Daly consider composing a chamber opera for his thesis project, Daly’s immediate thought was, “I can’t do that!”

After all, Daly knew from his study of music history, creating an opera was a massive undertaking. “I shied away from the project because of the scope of the composition and the logistics of getting a production together,” Daly recalls. Writing the opera’s libretto, composing the musical score for voice and orchestra, scheduling rehearsals, workshopping the opera and revising, then bringing all the elements together for a public performance all seemed overwhelming.

Dylan Bunten, Sarah Brauer, Olivia Oxholm, and Alison Kaufman performed April 29 at the Oregon Composers IV concert performance of Scene 2 from ‘The Banshee’: A Chamber Opera in One Act (2017) by Daniel Daly. Screen capture: Gary Ferrington.

Yet given Daly’s background, Dr. Kyr’s suggestion made sense: he really cared about telling a good story, via creative writing in many genres, including fiction, poetry, and plays. And he had composed music for theatre since high school, with recent highlights at UO’s Hope Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Now, three years later, the world premiere of Daly’s The Banshee will be performed at 3 pm Saturday, May 13, in the university’s Aasen-Hull Hall as part of the 2017 Music Today Festival hosted by the UO School of Music and Dance’s Oregon Composers Forum. But for Daly, overcoming his doubts and opera’s logistical challenges proved to be less challenging than facing his own darkness.


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