Nicholas Anthony Ascioti, Composer and Conductor

Music > Vocal Works

Vocal Works

Awakening to Grace (2011)
for voice, horn in F, trumpet in C, 2 trombones, & tuba
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

for voice, horn in F, trumpet in C, 2 trombones, & tuba

duration ca. 6 minutes

Awakening to Grace features a text by Richard H. Hibbert and is based on Psalm 136. Although the text is written in five stanzas, musically the piece is composed as a single movement.

Along a path so dark and worn
By hesitant steps and misled choices,
Searching for certainty I did not feel
And strength I did not know,
My heart and spirit wandered far
From the source and center of their life.

Enfolded in darkness of my own creation
Clouded by doubt and frozen in fear
Wondering what dark future awaits –
Alone with my chastising thoughts
In an aura of self-judgment
That is my final condemnation

Comes at last through the din of despair
A voice of mercy beyond my merit
Reminding me of a holy claim
Upon my very being
Calling me to remember the grace
By which I came to be:

I am known, and yet still loved
Re-shaped and restored by a healing touch
That never abandoned me through my empty search –
Waiting and calling, holding fast to my soul
Until I awakened to the Truth
Holding me in its eternal grasp.

Astounded by the revelation
Of unyielding and compassionate grace
Realizing that I am meant to be
An embodiment of that love
The Way is clear before my eyes
As Creation’s power now breathes in me.

Awaiting the Word (2011)
for high voice, trumpet in C, and organ
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

for voice, trumpet in C, & organ

For many years, Richard Hibbert and his wife, Mary Beth, have given friends and family homemade Christmas cards. The cards consist of a poem by Richard and art work by Mary Beth. I had asked Richard if he could find three poems, from past cards, that contain a theme regarding Advent and Christmas. The three he chose make up the text for Awaiting the Word.

This piece was premiered on November 19, 2011 by Nancy Loesh, soprano, Angela Gosse, trumpet, and Stephen Tharp, organist

I. The Word of Promise

Deep in a simple, waiting heart,

The stirring Spirit speaks
Its word of promise, bringing hope
To this world as it seeks
The life that long has been concealed,
A liberating grace,
In joy that is revealed at last –
Eternity’s embrace.

Received in trust and held in love,
This gift will touch the soul
That hungers for a healing word
To strengthen and console;
As God restores Creation’s bliss,
Affirming human worth,
Thus leading all to live in peace –
A blessing for the earth.

2005

II. The Voice of Promise

In silent shadows a seed of hope
Lies dormant, waiting for a ray of light –
A sign of trust to call it forth
To spread its promises
And reveal its truth.

A secret song of long-buried joy
Awaits a voice that will give it life –
A bold expression calling out
To burdened spirits
And expectant hearts.

The cry of birth sounds through the night
Awakening the dreaming souls of earth –
As the eternal voice divine
Calls out the sacred Word
That will renew, restore.

2010

III. The Promised Fulfilled

A strong, yet gentle alleluia
Now fills the heavy night
In simple, loving tones.
The comfort of a star of hope
Reveals a promise true -
So old, yet newly come.
To those who long ago forgot
The Word that gave them life,
A psalm of grace is born.

This song eternal is renewed
To bring a holy joy
Into a longing world.
There is a light of new-found faith
To guide each trusting soul
Unto a gift of peace.
All those who hunger for the truth
May find their hearts renewed
And filled with healing strength.

2008
Thoughts Along the Way (2010)
for tenor, flute, clarinet in Bb, bassoon, viola, and vibraphone
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

for voice, flute, clarinet in Bb, viola, cello, vibraphone.
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

I asked Richard for a text made up of non-sequiturs, and as usual he took my superficial idea and produced a substantial, meaningful text. What interested me, in addition to the text, were the six stanzas. I kept with the theme by writing for six instruments and creating a six note scale for each movement.

I. Stars blanket the earth with light
As if to cover our souls in sleep
Until we awaken to our selves.

II. There is no fear when we are filled
With understanding and can declare
The truth we know – or think.

III. How far shall we wander,
How long must we live, until we see
That we have not yet begun?

IV. If they listen, will they hear?
If they look, will they behold?
If they touch, will they then know?
If they learn, will they now teach?

V. A silent child, but restless
In the shadow of the day,
Awaiting what he does not know
But is anxious to receive.

VI. In the seed of my being
Lies eternity.
The vastness of Creation
Dwells in this very moment.

sin-drome (2009)
for tenor and saxophone quartet
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

*Syndrome:

The title for this piece is an alteration of the word  syndrome, which means:

  1. a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition
  2. a set of concurrent things (as emotions or actions) that usually form an identifiable pattern

The traditional listing of seven deadly sins is a group of signs or symptoms that characterize the condition of sinfulness in our human relationship with God.  Hence “syndrome” becomes “sin-drome”

The concept for the piece explained above was done so by the author of the text Richard Hibbert. A while ago I asked Richard to consider “sin” as a theme for a new piece and as in the past he has created a stirring text that transforms the Biblical thoughts of sin to the human experience.

Writing for saxophone quartet was a great experience. In this piece I explore the vast range of color these instruments provide. There is also extensive use of extended techniques such as, sub tones, slap tonguing, and multiphonics.

This piece was premiered by the Adirondack Saxophone Quartet and tenor, Alex Diaz on March 19, 2011. 

The Problem of Sin  (spoken introduction)
What power is there inside
That holds us back
Or weighs us down?
What magnet draws the soul away
From the Source and Goal of life?
To find the way to wholeness,
We first must look within –
And then without.

I. Envy
By looking beyond the restrictive walls
Of the world I call my own,
I see what is different, and start to long
To be something else
Or to have something more,
Losing sight and losing ground
From who I am or am meant to be.

II. Anger/Wrath
Eating away at the fabric of a soul
The fire burns within –
Building and growing,
Stealing energy, sapping joy –
It feeds upon itself,
With no outlet in sight –
A destructive power left unresolved,
The enemy of hope.

III. Greed
Enough?
What limits can there be
To what I hold, to what I own –
Defining me by a hunger
For more –
Never to be satisfied,
Driven by discontent,
Until; I dwindle down, ending up
With less.

IV. Sloth
How long does it take
To find the way?
What strength must be spent
To last the day?
What choice will be made
Or who will say
Where it all will come out?
If one of us does not decide,
Then the other one may.

V. Pride
Look and behold the power of one,
A power none other can claim or achieve.
Listen and attend to a singular voice –
For no one else can speak with such flair.
Alone in my beauty, my wisdom and grace;
Alone in my charm and my poise;
Alone in my knowledge,
Alone in my wit;
I stand alone.
I am alone.

VI. Lust
An overpowering urge creeps into the heart,
Overtaking the spirit,
Conquering the mind.
Focus is blurred,
Energy depleted,
There is no time left to reflect
Or discern a better way.
Desire controlling life –
All else forgotten
And abandoned
And lost.

VII. Gluttony
The relentless sound of a driving force
A power beyond control
That takes control of the sense of self
Until unlimited, grasping desire
Defines the world.,
Creating an aching need
That can never be fulfilled.
Unrealized longing
Of  an empty soul
In search of something/anything
That will satisfy.

Four Settings of Margaret Atwood (2005)
for soprano & piano
text by: Margaret Atwood

for soprano & piano
text by: Margaret Atwood

  1. I Can’t Tell You My Name
  2. Hotel
  3. I Look Up
  4. Four Evasions

As I began this project, soprano Eileen Strempel ask me to consider the poems of Canadian poet Margaret Atwood. Upon reading Ms. Atwood’s poems I found it difficult to choose only four for this project. It was a pleasure for me to musically interpret these poems.

This piece was recorded and premiered by soprano Eileen Strempel and pianist Sylvie Beaudette.

I Can’t Tell You My Name

I can’t tell you my name:
you don’t believe I have one
I can’t warn you this boat is falling
you planned it that way
You’ve never had a face
but you know that appeals to me
You are old enough to be my
skeleton: you know that also.
I can’t tell you I don’t want you 
the sea is on your side
You have the earth’s nets
I have only a pair of scissors.
When I look for you I find
water or moving shadow
There is no way I can lose you
when you are lost already. 

Hotel

I wake in darkness
in a strange room.
There’s a voice on the ceiling
with a message for me.
It repeats over & over
the same absence of words,
the sound love makes
when it’s been run to earth,
forced into a body,
cornered. Upstairs there’s a woman
with no face and an unknown
animal shuddering in her.
She bares her teeth and whimpers;
the voice ripples through walls & floor
released now, freed & running
downhill to the sea like water.
It tests the air here and finds
space. It enters
me and becomes mine.  

I Look Up

I look up, you are standing
on the other side of the window
now your body
glimmers in the dark
room / you rise above me
smooth, chill, stone-
white / you smell of tunnels
you smell of too much time
I should have used leaves
and silver to prevent you
instead I summoned
you are not a bird you do not fly
you are not an animal you do not run
you are not a man
your mouth is nothingness
where it touches me I vanish
you descend on me like age
you descend on me like earth

Four Evasions

Sitting in this car,
houses & wind outside,
three in the morning, windows
obliterated by snow
coats & arms around each other, hands
cold, no place we can go
unable to say how much I want you
unable even to say
I am unable
Not that there is nothing to be
said but that there is
too much: this cripples me.
I watch with envy & desire,
you speak so freely.

Music of the Spheres (2005)
for tenor, oboe, & harp
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

for tenor, oboe, & harp
text by: Richard Hibbert

  1. A Cosmic Rhyme
  2. Waking to Visions
  3. Eternity’s Song
  4. The Breath of the Universe
  5. This Holy Ride
  6. Life’s Aria

The idea for Music of the Spheres was inspired by Dr. Margaret Scheppach, for whom the piece is dedicated. I asked
Richard Hibbert to write a text using the title and the result is a testimony to the heavens, life, and music.

The harp and oboe have a variety of “voices” and effects that create a mystical sound scape.

This piece was recorded by tenor Mark Lawrence, oboist John Lathwell, and harpist Karlinda Caldicott.

I. A Cosmic Rhyme
The stars all glow as the planets twirl
In a force of rhythm
Both hurried and slow.
To a measured time - a beat, a rest -
They now unite in a cosmic rhyme.
With one breath, one heart, one soul,
Life is fulfilled in birth and death;
As a part of an eternal symphony,
Creation's voice is mine as well.

II. Waking to Visions
Wandering, wandering,
Soaring so high
Dreams of the universe
sail through my mind
Lifting and challenging
Spirit of Life -
Wondering, hoping
To find my way home -
One with the heavens,
At rest on the earth
Waking to visions
That burst into view.

III. Eternity’s Song
Dancing along on a ray of light
Eternity's song beams
through the vastness
Around the solid masses
Past the vapors of the universe
Resting not,
Determined or compelled
To find its way to ear or eye
To heart or soul
To home and back again.

IV. The Breath of the Universe
The breath of the universe,
In a silent air of ethereal tones,
Echoes through the bands of heaven's light --
A melody unheard,
Yet felt
Or touched
Or sensed
By all that is alive --
A whispered word
A loud refrain
And all is one
though not the same.

V. This Holy Ride
Our home is a spinning orb of clay
Moving on the edge of time.
As we hang on for this holy ride
Can we hear Creation grow,
Expanding, spreading
Out from a sacred center
To touch our trembling souls?

VI. Life’s Aria
I can see a song of mystery
In the galaxies' deep glow -
A reflected light
Spoken at the dawn of being;
I can hear a vision of hope
In the movement of the heavens -
A sound that brings new energy
To all that I behold.
The limits of my senses
Are still to be determined;
The boundaries of life's aria
For me remain unreached.

One Child’s Life (2004)
voice and cello
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

for voice and cello
text by: Richard Hibbert

  1. First Thought
  2. If I Could
  3. Free Fall
  4. A Bit of Earth
  5. Sunshine Inside of Me
  6. Maybe Someday

Richard Hibbert also wrote the text for One Child’s Life. This text begins with an adult’s recollection of childhood
innocence. As the cycle progresses, the recollection turns to the hope that the “child” stills remains in the adult.

With texts I hope that a sense of character comes across through the music. This sense of character is also realized by the
musicians’ performance. In the first four songs the voice part is sung with a child-like sense, while the cello retains the sound
of authority. The turning point is the fifth song when the voice has a more authoritative sound. In the final song the rolls are
reversed, the cello is more child-like and the adult voice is heard.

This piece was recorded by vocalist Mark Lawrence and cellist George Macero.

I. First Thought

When once I was a child
I did not know
What I did not know.
It did not matter then;
Because what I did know
Was all the world to me.

II. If I Could

So many bright and glowing stars
Just beyond my reach -
If I could only stretch my arm
A little more
A little farther
A little higher
There would be no place
I could not go.

III. Free Fall

If I lean back - way back -
Let go of what's keeping me up,
And I fall - free fall,
Arms are there to catch me,
Someone to lift me up again.
Nothing will hurt me,
At least not for very long.

IV. A Bit of Earth

When I sit on the ground
And dig my hands in the dirt,
It is warm, very warm
And a little bit wet;
Not so much that it bothers me
To let it fall through my fingers.
See how it holds the grass, the flowers,
The trees - but not me!

V. Sunshine Inside of Me

The sun’s so bright, I close my eyes
Tight, to shut out the light.
It should be dark now, but it’s not;
I still can see; I still can feel
The warm and shining rays
That touch my eyelids -
Inside and out -
And I know the light is part of me.

VI. Maybe Someday!

There is someone I once knew
Who is still a part of me somehow -
The one who trusts his heart;
The one who sees what yet might be;
The one who knows no limits
To what he can dream and do.
He is there, somewhere, deep inside.
It could be that he'll come out again -
Maybe someday!

Natural Questions (2003)
for soprano, flute, & piano
text by: Richard H. Hibbert

for soprano, flute, & piano
text by: Richard Hibbert

  1. A Patch of Ground
  2. A Falling Leaf
  3. Snowflake
  4. A Growing Flower
  5. Flowing Stream
  6. Cosmos

Natural Questions is a song cycle that personifies nature by imposing societal questions. This text was written by Richard
Hibbert. As the text gives life to nature, nature then gives life to the music. Natural Questions was premiered and recorded
by soprano Eileen Strempel, flutist Christopher Dranchek, and pianist Patricia DeAngelis.

I. A Patch of Ground
Cast a weary glance toward a teary sky
Sense the awkward moment when
The world ceases to be dry-
A revelation by immersion:
Are you simply drenched
Or suddenly alive?

II. A Falling Leaf
Gliding along for a while,
Then suddenly turning,
Looking down with a touch of fear,
Turning back with a yearning:
When did the change take place
Why didn't you notice?
Where, you wonder now,
Where am I going?

III. Snowflake
Drifting, drifting,
With time to see
So many near by, so many like me.
Energy bursting, air all a swirl,
Each one different, yet making one world.
Does the blanket we're forming draw its strength
From the likeness we share
Or the uniqueness I bring?

IV. A Growing Flower
Reach--stretch--grow--
The higher you climb, the farther you go!
Turn till you sense the warming light
Giving you energy, beauty, and height.
When did this feeling start; how long will it last?
What will you finally be
When this moment has passed?

V. Flowing Stream
Slowly moving, rising gently,
Gaining power, softly calling
To the life on every side.
With the stirring of the wind above
And the rocky path below,
Change directions, still not stopping.
There's a place where you are headed-
Will you know it when you reach it?
Keep on moving, even so!

VI. Cosmos
Broad and dark, vast and deep,
Waiting, longing, hoping,
Until a light, then more breaks through,
A glimmer gamely groping.
Imagine that -- a world revealed;
What is there left to be?

 

Credo (song cycle) (1999)
tenor and guitar

for tenor & guitar

  1. Vidi Aquam
  2. Puer Natus Est
  3. In Monte Oliveti
  4. Gloria Patri
  5. O Bone Jesu
  6. Ave, Dulcissima
  7. Benedicamus Domino
  8. Adoramus te, Christe

Credo was the first song cycle I composed, as a student at Bennington College in Vermont . The premiere of this work was given at Bennington College by vocalist Dan Mohr and guitarist Christopher Ladd. The recording of Credo features tenor Mark Lawrence and guitarist Ken Meyer.

Credo is simply a collection of Latin prayers. The word “credo” means “I believe,” and the voice and guitar work well to express these prayers in an intimate way. In this piece I explore the guitar’s many “voices” and effects.

Latin

I. Vidi aquam egredientem de templo,
a latere dextro, alleluia.
et omnes, ad quos pervenit aqua ista,
salvi facti sunt, et dicet, alleluia!

II. Puer natus est nobis,
et filius datus est nobis:
cujus imperium super humerum ejus:
et vocabitur nomen ejus:
magni consilii Angelus.

III. In monte Oliveti
oravit ad Patrem:
Pater, si fieri potest,
transeat a me calix iste.
Spiritus quidem promptus est,
caro autem infirma:
fiat voluntas tua.

VI. Gloria Patri, et Filio,
et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio,
et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

V. O bone Jesu, illumina oculos meos,
ne unquam obdormiam in mort,
ne quando dicat inimicus meus:
praevalui adversus eum.
In manus tuas, Domine,
Commendo spiritum meum.
Redemisti nos, Domine, Dues veritatis.
O Messias, locutus sum in lingua mea;
Notum fac mihi, Domine, finem meum.

VI. Ave , Dulcissima Maria,
vera spes et vita,
dulce refrigerium!
O Maria , flos virginum,
ora pro nobis, Jesum, O Maria.

VII. Benedicamus Domino
Deo dicamus gratias.
VIII. Adoramus te, Christe,
et benedicimus tibi:
Quia per sanctam crucem
et passionem tuam redemisti mundum.
Domine, miserere nobis.