Ben Moore

Art is All Around

An interview with opera and song composer Ben Moore, the featured artist in the Cliburn's composer series at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

published Friday, February 12, 2016

Photo: Courtesy
Ben Moore

DallasThe Cliburn in Fort Worth has one of the world’s most important piano competitions, but it also been expanding its programming over the past few decades to concerts beyond recitals featuring artists with major names. These include a laid-back chamber series at the Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge, a composer-focused festival, and its long-running series dedicated to working composers at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

This intriguing series invites a composer as the guest and perform some of the music. The format is informal and the composer discusses the music being performed as well as added some personal observations about how it came to be written. Regular attendees have met most of the important composers working today.

Next up is Ben Moore, who is somewhat different in that he specializes in vocal music, mostly in songs (although the series has featured musical theater composers like Adam Guettel and Jason Robert Brown). Moore’s unique style is a compilation of the music of his life story, and every path he took left its fingerprints.

One big influence is opera. His parents were amateur opera singers who were very active in a local company in upstate New York. So, he grew up in the company, hanging around rehearsals and singing in the children’s chorus. You can hear the music of the great opera composers in his songs in that they are wonderfully written for the voice: what singers call “a good sing.”

The other main influence on his musical voice came from another direction. In his 20’s, he was a working actor in musical theater. His first compositions were in this genre. He has always been impressed by someone who could write a good melody, he says, greatly admiring such composers as Gershwin and Berlin. But he also has an eye for the craft of composition.

“I love Mahler not he was not a melodist,” Moore says, adding that he admires “the way he exploded them.”

This easy way with a good tune was reflected in the Wall Street Journal’s review of his first opera, Enemies, A Love Story, which premiered at the Palm Beach Opera in February 2015. In that review Heidi Waleson wrote: “Hints of operetta, American musicals and a little Leonard Bernstein coexist with soaring Puccinian lines, folk tunes and klezmer melodies.”

His songs have been performed by the likes of Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Frederica von Stade, Isabel Leonard, Lawrence Brownlee, Robert White, Nathan Gunn and Audra McDonald.

Moore is also an accomplished painter. In fact, he has a degree from the Parsons School of Design. There was a time when he thought that he would live the life of an artist.

“But my composing career started to take off,” he says. He changed course to follow what was working for him. And why not? He still paints.

As a result of this varied background, Moore’s songs combine the compositional craft gleaned from opera with the ability to write a good melody from the Broadway greats. There is also a sense of perspective and overriding concept of the whole song that might be a remnant of his training as a painter.

You will hear all of these influences in his delightful songs that will be performed on Saturday.

The concert will also feature Edward Parks, baritone, third prize winner of the 2015 Operalia Competition, and Brian Zeger, piano, Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Department at The Juilliard School.

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Art is All Around
An interview with opera and song composer Ben Moore, the featured artist in the Cliburn's composer series at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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