Deborah Kilmer has asked me to review "Spring and Fall", a recording of eleven of her compositions.
Ms. Kilmer writes in an accessible but not simplistic style. Her harmonic language is tonal, but attractively unpredictable. Similarly, her rhythms are memorable and grounded in regularity of meter, but spiced with enough asymmetry to keep the ear engaged.
Seven of the eleven works are vocal. Ms. Kilmer writes fluently in this idiom, and demonstrates the strong knowledge of the voice she has gained from her own life as a choral singer. She describes her music as influenced by "Renaissance melodic structure," and the fluid lyricism of such works as "Song" and "A Birthday" show this characterization to be true.
Ms. Kilmer's vocal works also demonstrate a skill for handling text. She consistently chooses poems of the highest value ("Song" and "A Birthday" by Christina Rosetti, and "Never Weather-Beaten Saile" by Thomas Campion, for example), and sets them with care for their sense and sound.
There are also a number of works for piano. Like her choral works, they draw on the American neo-classical tradition with their emphasis on clarity of texture and structure, piquant but tonal harmony, and playfully asymmetric rhythms (the latter particularly in "Vinegar").
On the basis of this CD (and a few live performances I have been lucky enough to have attended), I believe Deborah Kilmer to be a talented composer with particular skill in writing choral music that is both interesting and direct. I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.
With all good wishes,
Associate Professor of Conducting, Westminster Choir College
Director of Choral Activities, Carmel Bach Festival
Music Director, Masterwork Chorus and Orchestra
Artistic Director, Fuma Sacra
Chorusmaster, Montreal Symphony Orchestra
February 16, 2011
By way of introduction, I am University Organist at Princeton University, where I play for Official University Services, Sunday Morning Services and the University Chapel Choir. Additionally, I play a number of solo and collaborative concerts each year, [both] at the University Chapel and nationally. Both of my degrees are in organ performance, and I am, indeed, humbled to say that I am one of the few who are able to make his living in music.
Deborah Kilmer is a gifted composer. I was honored to have performed several of her works recently, and found them to be well-crafted, unique and ultimately very appealing. It is clear that she works diligently at her craft. Her attention to detail is to be admired, yet her music is not fussy or cerebral ~ it is often charming and whimsical. She is also a genuine collaborator. In preparation for the aforementioned performance, she was receptive to alternate ideas, yet she was not a pushover. She had her own ideas as to how the music should be performed and discussions often led to compromise or a melding of approaches. This is an enviable quality in a musician and a composer, not often encountered.
Deborah's music is precisely the type of music I believe should be supported and encouraged. It is tonal, fresh and attractive, yet challenging and thoroughly worked through. In a day when support for the arts is in steep decline, Deborah's work as a composer deserves every bit of support.
Princeton, NJ 08544
February 5, 2011
This is a unique recording containing truly original musical thinking. There is no sound and fury, no putting together of far-out sounds for the sake of satisfying the fact that this is the 21st century. Ms. Kilmer's compositional hand is deft and clean; she presents her ideas with shining confidence and skill. This is not groundbreaking music, but it doesn't pretend to be either, and that is an important consideration. It is fine music which speaks to the joy of being.
The performances are solid and thoroughly rehearsed, and we take special notice of the piano playing of Eric Plutz. His touch is light and warm, rhythmically solid, and it is easy to tell that he loves this music.
The entire album is a refreshing change from the frequently self-conscious and empty attempts at originality that too often pass for avant garde. It is simply exquisite, meaningful music.
"Mr. Frank Akers, director of music for the Augsburg Academy and cantor of the Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in Beltsville, is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, George Washington University, and the University of California. He has been active in the music and theatre community for over 50 years, including service as the pianist for the White House and the US Marine Corps." - excerpted from The Beltsville News, April 2007