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Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings

Cary Ratcliff (b. 1953) studied at Eastman School of Music. His operas include Eleni, which was selected for New York City Opera’s 2008 VOX concert showcase, and Mice and Beans for children’s chorus. Chamber works include Gitanjali Dances for flute and piano and Grasshopper Dances for saxophone and strings. His Viola Concerto won the ASCAP Nissim Prize for best new American orchestral work. He also created orchestral soundtracks for the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. Recordings include Kathryn Lewek sings Cary Ratcliff, an album of art songs, and Mitzie Collins’s Rejoice, virtuosic carols for flute, harp and hammered dulcimer. His choral works are published by G. Schirmer, Boosey & Hawkes, and Hal Leonard.

Shawn Kirchner (b. 1970) is a composer, arranger, singer, and pianist. He sings with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and in 2012 was appointed its composer-in-residence. His projects for LAMC include Songs of Ascent, psalms for chorus & strings (2015); Inscapes, a cappella settings of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (2014); and Plath Songs, settings of Sylvia Plath’s poetry for chorus, piano, and percussion (2013). Kirchner’s TV/film credits include music director/arranger for the 2004 CBS Christmas Eve special and singer on two dozen feature film soundtracks. Kirchner earned an MA in choral conducting from the University of Iowa. His music is published by Santa Barbara, Oxford, Boosey & Hawkes, and Shawn Kirchner Publishing.

Donald Grantham (b. 1947) has received numerous composition awards and prizes, including the Prix Lili Boulanger, Nissim/ASCAP Orchestral Composition Prize, and first prize in the National Opera Association’s Composition Competition. His music has been praised for its “elegance, sensitivity, lucidity of thought, clarity of expression and fine lyricism” by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Grantham’s works have been performed by the Cleveland, Dallas, and Atlanta orchestras and the American Composers Orchestra among many others, and he has fulfilled commissions in media ranging from solo instruments to opera. His music is published by Piquant Press, Peer-Southern and E. C. Schirmer Music Co. Grantham is Professor of Composition at The University of Texas at Austin.

Works by Grantham, Kirchner, and Ratcliff

2015 Grammy® Nomination, Best Choral Performance

Recorded September 2014 at Sauder Concert Hall, Goshen College, IN
Sept. 2014 concerts program page

Craig Hella Johnson leads Conspirare in this vibrant tribute to revered Chilean poet and statesman Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose life-affirming poetry is the inspiration for these captivating choral settings by Donald Grantham, Shawn Kirchner and Cary Ratcliff, all recorded here for the first time. (from Harmonia Mundi package notes). Texts and notes on the works are found in the September 2014 program booklet.

With soloists Lauren Snouffer (soprano), Laura Mercado-Wright (mezzo-soprano), Eric Neuville (tenor),  James K. Bass (bass), Stephen Redfield (violin), Faith DeBow (piano), Michelle Schumann (piano), Michael Gratovich (guitar) and Conspirare Chamber Players.

“The Poet Sings” project page

GRAMOPHONE BEST OF 2015 (October 2015 article)

Minnesota Public Radio Classical Music Feature (November 25, 2015)

CD Release Party (10.01.2015) press release

Composer Conversations Videos
Cary Ratcliff talks with Dave Oliphant, “The Poet Sings: Pablo Neruda” Sept. 2014
Donald Grantham talks with Dave Oliphant, “The Poet Sings: Pablo Neruda” Sept. 2014

Kirchner Music Videos
Tu sangre en la mía Soneto 53, “The Poet Sings: Pablo Neruda” Sept. 2014
Tu voz Soneto 52, “The Poet Sings: Pablo Neruda” Sept. 2014

“Donald Grantham’s La canción desesperada… grips from first to last, with a continuity and expressiveness fully suited to the choral medium. Grantham’s mastery of the art is evident from bar one, full of color and shading while featuring a melodic locus, a significant addition to the choral repertory… As if it needs to be said, Conspirare’s performances are exemplary in every facet of the art; Craig Hella Johnson has them firing on all eight cylinders, displaying virtuosity, gorgeous tonal quality, and enthusiasm perfectly suited to the wonderful surround sound that Harmonia Mundi has given them.” — Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition

“Ratcliff’s settings match the simplicity of Neruda’s images with sparse, almost minimalist constructions (heard here is a chamber version of the work that must be superior to the unspecified original), and the intense precision of Conspirare’s performance results in something really chillingly good… A major release by an American choir that is offering strong competition for its European counterparts.” — James Manheim, allmusic.com

CARY RATCLIFF, Ode to Common Things (1996; Chamber Version 2014)

  1. Oda a las cosas
  2. Oda a la cama
  3. Oda a la guitarra
  4. Oda a las tijeras
  5. Oda al pan


  1. Tu sangre en la mía, Soneto 53 (2009, rev. 2014)
  2. Tu voz, Soneto 52 (2007)


  1. La cancíon desesperada (2005, rev. 2014)



From the Soloists