The Salt Lake Vocal Ensemble will perform on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Zion Lutheran Church. For the fourth consecutive year, their spring concert will be highlighted by compositions of Utah composers.
With Philip A. Day, Jr. conducting, the Ensemble will present works by Mark David Johnson, Stanley A. Funicelli and Jeff Manookian, winners of the SLVE's annual Utah Composer's Contest. Also programmed are Italian madrigals, three arrangements of the Elizabethan poem "To Daffodils," by Benjamin Britten, E.J. Moeran and Arthur Sullivan; "Trois Chansons" by Jean Martinon, and the Mass "Ascendens Christus" by Victoria. A $5 donation is suggested.Johnson, composer of "O Vos Omnes," was born in Chicago and raised in Missouri. He holds a B.S. degree from William Jewell College and masters from the University of Iowa, and is working on a Ph.D. in composition at the University of Utah.
Jeff Manookian, a prolific and award-winning composer, pianist and teacher, has played throughout the U.S., South America and the Philippines. A pupil of such prominent artists as John Browning and Jerome Lowenthal, he holds a masters degree in piano performance, and has soloed with the Utah Symphony, Philippines Philharmonic and Bolivian Symphony among others. His symphonic, chamber, choral and solo compositions include his SLVE winning work, "El Lagarto Viejo" (The Old Lizard).
Stan Funicelli, who won with "Distance and the Sea," was born and raised in Edison near Brunswick N.J. - farm country at that time and a good place to grow up, he said. "All through high school I played percussion for jazz, rock and symphony, but when I came to Utah in 1967 I turned to guitar, because percussion isn't much of a composing instrument."
He knew composing was for him when he was about 15, and even then was "never diatonic." Along with earning B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Utah and doctoral studies at Columbia, he has accumulated more than 300 works, including symphonies, ballets, chamber music, film pieces, and electronic music.
The Jensen Woodbury Duo often plays his music, and three of his symphonies have been performed "quite satisfactorily" by the Murray Symphony, where he was composer in residence for a time. He finds that the challenge of atonal music often makes amateur performers more responsive and careful.
Funicelli makes a living from music, teaching guitar and classes in theory and composition privately, and copying and preparing scores for other composers and arrangers - a good sideline.
He's also won a number of contest awards, including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra competition of 1980, for his "Scintillae," conducted by Jorge Mester. This led to a commission from the University of Florida at Gainesville - a work called "Tides," based on Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach," for coloratura soprano and a large supporting ensemble.
However, a lot of his music is for guitar. "If I find a piece I'm really in love with I arrange it, but I'm most interested in original works," he said. Devoted to his craft, he composes easily 30 hours a week, beginning with a morning session that sometimes spills over into the afternoon and evening.
His initial inspiration for "Distance and the Sea" arose from a visit to the Great Salt Lake. "But I don't like to work on a thing in the heat of inspiration," he said. "I prefer to be coolheaded, to apply my craft. When I returned to my original idea I started pulling material out, some not appropriate for choral music, and I have enough material for a guitar suite, which I will give the same name.
"I didn't create this piece specifically for the competition, and it is difficult for the singers to get their pitches. The piece is an impression, timeless, with no rhythmic elements at all, or tonality. It is basically a long held tone, with other voices overlapping - not in measured steps, but approaching and receding in waves, with no words, just various syllables juxtaposed for color."
Among composers who have influenced him are "Beethoven, of course, and the avant garde - Penderecki, Ligeti, and especially Berio. Though I can't obtain their scores, I listen a lot to their records. But when I write, I have to divorce myself from their influence."
Funicelli has published a text for classical guitar technique, and has the first draft of a second book on theory and composition ready to send to publishers. "It starts with the Renaissance, to baroque, to classic, romantic and modern, and it's easy to trace the progression," he said.
Over the centuries only a few concepts and problems have preoccupied composers, said Funicelli, just as they still do today. One concern is the use of dissonance and its resolution, and the other is the encompassing of all elements of music - harmony, chords, melody, rhythm - into a formal structure.
Funicelli agrees with composer Edgard Varese's statement, "composers are not ahead of their times, just a little less far behind." - By Dorothy Stowe