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Chorus Director: “Young Composers Should ‘Go for it!’”

Monday, December 20, 2010

As director of the Hampshire College Chorus, Elaine Broad Ginsberg brings works by others to the stage. She also has strong credentials as a writer and arranger of compositions herself, with seven published choral works.

Ginsberg's publishing career started in 1991, when she wrote a piece called "Hariu Adoni Kol Ha-Aretz" and entered it in a competition sponsored by the Guild of Temple Musicians.

"I won, and I was asked to be a guest composer at their festival later that year. The editor of Transcontinental Music was there, and I showed her some of my other pieces. She took two and published them right away," she said.

Her most successful composition is her interpretation of "Oseh Shalom," which is "one of the most beloved songs of the Jewish people all over the world," she said. "If you walk into any congregation, people are singing 'Oseh Shalom.'"

Ginsberg was inspired to write a four-part arrangement of the song—referring to the vocal ranges of the singers: soprano, alto, tenor, bass—in 1985. "I performed it with friends, made copies, and the piece took on a life of its own. Finally, years later, the piece was published. To date, it's sold about 3,000 copies," she said.

"Oseh Shalom" received another revision from Ginsberg for the Five College Choral Festival in 2005. "They asked me to rewrite my piece, so I took the original four-part arrangement and made it for six parts. That arrangement was performed at the festival with six hundred voices," she said. "That was pretty darned exciting."

The six-part arrangement has since been published by Transcontinental, and has sold 1,000 copies.

Dr. Ginsberg holds bachelor of arts and bachelor of music degrees from Oberlin College, a master's degree in music composition from Ball State University, and a doctor of musical arts degree in composition from the University of Cincinnati. In addition to her work with Hampshire, she teaches music theory and composition at Keene State.

As she enters her tenth year as Hampshire's choral director, she offers some advice for young composers: "Go for it! Enter any competition that you can, because that's what launched me. None of this would have happened had I not entered that competition for young composers."

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