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American composer Judith Cloud’s gift for vocal writing originates out of her own rich experiences as an accomplished mezzo–soprano soloist. Performing throughout the United States, Cloud premiered many new works by young composers as well as her own music. Highlights of her performing career include a performance of the Brahms Neueliebeslieder Waltzer with the acclaimed radio program Saint Paul Sunday Morning, as well as being the soloist for the American premier performance of Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time with the Winston-Salem Symphony. She remains active as a recitalist and soloist, recently performing Siete Canciones Populares by Manuel De Falla with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. Other performances include frequent collaborations with NAU School of Music in faculty chamber recitals, most notable a performance of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder in an arrangement for piano, strings and winds.
Cloud first began composing for the voice in 1974, and she has garnered a reputation as a “singer-friendly” composer. Her vocal music has been described as “eminently singable, displaying a rich harmonic palate with an audience-entrancing sense of vocal line that is both dramatic and beautiful.” She has also composed a variety of choral pieces; a number of commissions attest to her growing reputation. In 2009, Cloud won first place in the prestigious Sorel Medallion Competition with her work Anacreontics for chorus and guitar, with a performance in Zankel Hall-Carnegie. The preceding year her composition Mesa Songs for SATB divisi with Native American flute received the 3rd place Sorel Medallion. Mesa Songs has been programmed by prestigious ensembles and in March of 2014 the Phoenix Chorale, under the direction of Charles Bruffy, presented the work with R. Carlos Nakai performing the Native American flute obbligato.
In November of 2016 Cloud’s monodrama “Beethoven’s Slippers” to a libretto by Santa Fe artist and writer Douglas Atwill received its first performance in Flagstaff, AZ. Soprano Jennifer Trost commissioned the work and sang the role of The Woman in a production designed by NAU Director of Lyric Theater Eric Gibson. The production in Ardrey Memorial Auditorium featured sketches by Atwill as a part of the set design.
Among several recordings is a cantata, Feet of Jesus (Langston Hughes), for soprano and baritone soloists, soprano saxophone, chorus and organ, with BIS on a CD entitled “Spirituals,” released in 1997 by the St. Jacobs Kammarkör directed by Gary Graden. In March of 2011 Summit Records released a CD of Cloud’s art songs. “Letting Escape A Song”, features Cloud singing some of her own music. Songs included on the CD are Quatre mélodies de Ronsard, dedicated to Carol Kimball, Four Songs of the Heart (Kathleen Raine), De Amor Oscuro (Francisco X. Alarcón), Three Songs from “Gleanings “(Betty Andrews), Três Canções (contemporary Brazilian poets), Four Sonnets by Pablo Neruda (Set 2), in the English translation by Stephen Tapscott, and Songs of Need and Desire, three songs for soprano and guitar.
Other art song collections include Five Edgar Allan Poe Songs (bass), I Spill My Soul (soprano), three songs to poems by E.E. Cummings, Four Sonnets by Pablo Neruda (Set 1, soprano or mezzo-soprano), also in the English translation by Stephen Tapscott, Black Day, Bright day (contralto) set to poems of Louise Labé and Cowboy Dreams (tenor or baritone), three arrangements of songs from the Western frontier. Cloud has also set the poetry of Winston-Salem, N.C. award-winning poet Janet Joyner. Her song set Botany for the Gods was composed for soprano Christine Graham.
Peter Wright, principal clarinet with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, celebrated his 40th year with the ensemble by commissioning Cloud to compose a work for him for the 2014-15 season. HiJinx! was premiered on September 26, 2014 by Wright with newly appointed conductor Courtney Lewis, also associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic. HiJinx! received its Arizona premiere on November 20, 2016 with NAU assistant professor of practice, clarinetist Cris Inguanti and the NAU Orchestra under the direction of Daniel O’Bryant.
For two seasons Cloud was an honored composer in residence with the noted “Escape to Create” program sponsored by the Seaside Institute in Seaside, Florida. She has been composer in residence at Big Bear Lake Song Festival in California and a guest clinician at Music in the Marche in Mondavio, Italy in where she presented a vocal master class and a lecture on learning new vocal music.
Dr. Cloud received vocal performance degrees from the North Carolina School of the Arts and Florida State University. Her first composition lessons were with Robert Ward, who advised her to keep singing—but to keep writing music, too. She has been a member of the music faculty for The North Carolina School of the Arts, Florida State College at Jacksonville, and Indiana State University. She is currently Coordinator of Music at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where she teaches studio voice. Inspiring students with her teaching as well as her compositional talents, she was awarded “Teacher of the Year” for the College of Fine Arts in 2004.
The Composer is a member in good standing with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.)
Publication: Journal of Singing
Author: Berg, Gregory
Date published: November 1, 2011
“ it is no small feat for a particular performer to make a deep and lasting impression, and to do so time and time again is especially noteworthy. Composer and singer Judith Cloud has accomplished such a feat on the strength of her beautifully crafted compositions and her accomplished singing of them. Whenever she takes the stage, one senses an uncommon, hushed attentiveness in the room, as though everyone gathered expects to experience something remarkable . . . and they always do.” Gregory Berg, Journal of Singing