I am just finishing up my first year as an assistant professor in the Contemporary Writing and Production Department at Berklee College of Music. What a year it was! This was my first year teaching and all I can say is that I laughed, I cried, I worked my ass off, and have no idea how I managed to make it through. Teaching the art of arranging has been the most challenging thing I have ever done. Period.
I am so looking forward to starting up again in the fall and diving in with a new group of students!
I am so pleased to say that the Weill project was an obscene success. The energy at the concert was incredible and the performances stunning. I had an incredible time writing the arrangements and rehearsing the band, and then hearing the charts in Jordan Hall… What a treat! We got two lovely write-ups, one in the Boston Globe (Far Cry Sounds Poignant, Precise, and Subtle) and the other in The Boston Musical Intelligencer (Long Gaze into Bright Colors).
“Capping off the concert were five songs by Kurt Weill, ingeniously arranged by jazz composer Nicholas Urie. Even here there were surprises — the opening of “Lonely House” could almost have been part of the Webern. For the most part, though, the songs adroitly walked the delicate line between art and entertainment. So did the performances by Wilder, Watson, and the Criers, all of whom wore their skills with a kind of casual virtuosity.” David Weininger, Boston Globe
“Nicholas Urie’s settings of five Weill songs (That’s Him, Lonely House, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Bilbao Song, and Speak Low) for string orchestra are masterful fun. Urie tempered the edgy harmonic play of Weill’s score and the wry wit of the texts for the new medium.” Sudeep Agarwala, Boston Musical Intelligencer.
I am really looking forward to my upcoming January 11 Jordan Hall concert with A Far Cry. We’ll be doing my arrangements of five Weill tunes scored for strings featuring the vocalists Kristen Watson, soprano; and Zachary Wilder, tenor. More info on The Long Gaze.:
Here is a video from my last collaboration with A Far Cry with Dominique Eade:
A Far Cry returns to Jordan Hall with a Boston love-fest. Tufts composer John McDonald presents the world premiere of “Gentle but Uneasy Dance Music.” Benjamin Britten’s haunting “Les Illuminations” features not one but two Boston stars: soprano Kristen Watson and tenor Zachary Wilder. Anton Webern’s early String Quartet (1905) provides an otherworldly interlude before Kristen and Zachary return, in a rocking selection of Kurt Weill songs, newly arranged by Nicholas Urie.
As always, the recording coming back from the Netherlands is amazing. The Metropole Orchestra had me re-orchestrate an arrangement I wrote for the Klüvers Big Band for their gig with Kurt at the Meer Jazz Festival. Below, you can hear my arrangement:
My June 2nd talk at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy was a success! My talk centered on two things: What is Song in it’s most basic form and how does an understanding of Song effect the arranging process. I used Cole Porter’s Every Time We Say Goodbye as a case study. We heard versions by: Coltrane, Ray Charles/Betty Carter, Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder, Annie Lennox, and an arrangement of Every Time We Say Goodbye that I did for Dominique Eade and Boston’s A Far Cry chamber orchestra.
After a brief overview of what I see to be the basic elements of a song we dove into a discussion of what fundamental elements of Every Time We Say Goodbye were essential to maintain, and which could be discarded or altered in the process of crafting an original arrangement. Through the listening examples we looked at how changing one element of any given song effects the overall character of the original, and how as arrangers we can highlight different aspects of a song to create the desired tone and ambiance that fits your personal creative vision.
featuring Jeremy Udden, Douglas Yates, Kenny Pexton, Adam Kolker, Albert Leusink, Ben Holmes, John Carlson, Alan Ferber, Max Seigel, Frank Carlberg, Gary Wang, Owen Howard and Nicholas Urie
The Carlberg/Urie City Band is a 12 (or 13)-piece group dedicated to playing (mostly) the music of Nicholas Urie and Frank Carlberg as well as some re-composed Monk. Come and join us in a casual atmosphere… have a drink, coffee, some dessert or…. some tea.
I’ll be giving a free talk on jazz arranging on Saturday morning at the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy as a part of my residency with Exploring the Metropolis.
Topics I plan on discussing: What on earth is an arrangement and why should I care? Ways to approach Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, the Alphabet Song, and Baa Baa Black Sheep. Other highlights include references to musical Platonism, William Shatner, and classical Hellenic Architecture.
Go hear the Metropole Orchestra play two of my arrangements with Kurt Elling 2 June at the Meer Jazz Festival. Here is a video of Kurt singing my Norwegian Wood arrangement at the 2011 North Sea Jazz Festival.