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Original Works

Concerto for Organ and Orchestra

Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (2014)

2015 ASCAP Morton Gould Award - Finalist

Mvt. I - Sibelius/Hauptwerk Realization
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Mvt. II - Sibelius/Hauptwerk Realization
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Mvt. III - Sibelius/Hauptwerk Realization
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Concerto for Organ and Orchestra is where I decided to end my compositional "career."  I began to realize that, in order to have any hope of hearing my works come to life, I had a very difficult and hard road ahead of me that I just simply wasn't willing to continue down.  The piece was written as my Masters Thesis and explored everything I was capable of at the time.  I decided to write for this instrumentation for a number of reasons - chiefly because it is such an often-overlooked medium; likely due to the fact that most composers have no clue how to write for the instrument, and because it is still largely viewed as a "church" rather than "concert" instrument.

I wanted each movement to be strikingly different from one another - not necessarily thematically linked in any way. 


The first movement serves a few purposes - its the 'toccata' of the work (placed in the beginning, rather than the end for once), and also develops out of a fair amount of counterpoint, but vacillates between traditional, tonal sections, and harmonically-freer sections.  I always enjoy writing pieces that draw almost all of their material from a very small motif or figure - in this case, a simple neighbor group.


The second movement is a pedal-soli scherzo.  Since the entire organ is capable of "coupling down" to the pedals (in most cases), it seemed to me like a pedal solo against the orchestra could be a great opportunity to play with registrations.  This is one of the organ's greatest strengths, yet composers very rarely attempt to exploit the organ's abilities in "synthesis," either due to lack of understanding, lack of consistency between different organs, etc.  As such, the organist's hands spend a decent amount of time, "playing the stops" in this movement - though a sequencer would be greatly appreciated in this movement.


The final movement is a mosaic of American hymn tunes.  Although the organ really deserves a prominent place in the concert hall, breaking free of its long-held stereotype of being exclusively a "church" instrument, I felt it was worthwhile to write a movement that allows the instrument to be used in a concert-way, just using the tunes and melodies that it often accompanies in sacred settings.  This movement is, without doubt, the most personal thing I've ever written.  To this day, I still enjoy listening to it.  As with much of my other work, I tend to not let a single note be written, "by chance," but instead must be drawn from the original motif, or in this case, source material.  The opening harmonies in the cellos, bases, and violas are the first notes of the hymn tune SLANE, for example.  As the various tune fragments come and go, I never intended for the listener to "pick out" or "latch on" to the tunes but instead tried to craft them in such a way that they freely weave in and out, constantly being passed back and forth between the orchestra and the organ.  As such, this movement really seeks to make the organ just another part in the orchestra - leveraging solo stops, soft string choruses, etc.  Eventually the music makes its way to a dark and mysterious place in which we find two different hymn tunes, in two different keys (one major being sung by the orchestra and one rewritten in minor in the organ) finally played at full length.  You might say I drew some inspiration from Charles Ives, here, and while that is likely true to a point, the idea actually came to me while standing in a dark, cold field one winter night.  While standing there I heard two church congregations singing, very faintly, in the distance.  (Growing up down south, there are churches everywhere - so finding yourself conveniently located a mere 100 feet between two congregations isn't all that unusual!)  The piece reaches its climax here, as we here a single phrase of all the previously eluded-to hymn tunes played simultaneously.  The music then disappears into the distance almost as quickly as it emerged.  I decided the piece, like my compositional life, should end here.  The piece, rather unusually, ends quietly rather than with a loud bang.

Toccata (2009)

Toccata for organ was another very early piece in my compositional development.  It bears a striking resemblance to the two toccatas I was most taken with at the time - Leon Boellman's Suite Gothique and Henri Mulet's "Tu es petrus" - and it shows.

organ solo

Toccata - Dr. Kay Macafee
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Chorale (2009)

organ solo

Chorale 1 - Dr. Kay Macafee
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Chorale was written very early in my compositional life - likely being about the second or third piece I ever wrote.  The basis of the harmony was an exercise in trying to break free from the confines of traditional harmony - a difficult thing for me to do at the time.  The piece bases its harmonies, not so much on "functional chords" but on collections of intervals - Major 7ths, Perfect 5ths, etc.  It was also the first piece I wrote for organ and is presented here on a 1965 neo-Baroque Schaaaantz organ at Henderson State University - not exactly the most fitting style of instrument for this work.  Carson Cooman recorded this piece and it can be found on YouTube.

SARAH (2011)

SARAH was written as a duet for my wife (then girlfriend) and I shortly after we first met in graduate school.  The piece represents my one and only foray into 'minimalism' and process music - taking a bit of inspiration from the greats such as John Adams and Steve Reich.  The piece builds a 5-note motif based on the letters S-A-R-A-H in a sort of musical game similar in many respects to some of John Adam's great piano works such as Phrygian Gates, in which the performers are free to repeat ad-lib until the pattern slowly unfolds and certain events mark a "gate" moving the piece into the next section.  However, unlike traditional process music, I knew from the onset that I wanted the process to slowly break down and inevitably become strictly notated.  The idea being that, as the piece was a play on a newly-budding relationship, the idea that in the beginning we "go through the process," the niceties, the shyness, but inevitably break out into the frustration and struggle that inevitably ensues in a new relationship, weaving its way from peaceful to anxious, to angry, to redemption were key elements that needed to make their way into the music.  The piece is meticulously structured around the name SARAH, insomuch that literally every figure is derived from those five notes of the original motif, either through rotational arrays, retrogrades, inversions, etc.  The piece also contains five sections (one for each letter) and resolves up a Half-step in the final section (H).  I drew a lot of pleasure from studying some of the great 20th century scores while in graduate school and thought it might be fun to craft a piece in which one could spend hours with score, finding more and more instances of the SARAH motif hidden throughout.

two grand pianos

SARAH - Sarah Sabatino & Drew A. Worthen
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Advent Summons (2009)

SSAATTBB & organ

I don't remember the origin of this piece if I'm honest.  The text is based on an Advent theme but I don't recall who the author is/was.  The piece was an early choral work and is sung here by a volunteer choir put together during undergrad at Henderson State University.

Advent Summons - Drew A. Worthen
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Pater dimitte illis (2010)

Based on the Latin text, "Father forgive them, they know not what they do," Pater dimitte illis has, unfortunately, never been performed.  It is, without question, one of my favorite compositions.  Richly colorful in its harmonies as it develops, the texture becomes very lush and beautiful after the soft plain-chant develops.  I have often thought about expanding this piece into a larger-scale work but likely never will.

SSAATTBB & organ

Luke 23:34

Pater dimitte illis - Drew A. Worthen - Sibelius Realization
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Had I the Heavens' Embroidered Cloths (2009)

mezzo soprano & piano

W.B. Yeats

Had I the Heavens' Ebroidered Cloths - Drew A. Worthen
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The only song I ever wrote.

To Find Contentedness (2011)

violin solo

To Find Contentedness - Drew A. Worthen
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Sometimes you write music when you're in a bad mood.  This was mine.

Convalescence (2008)

tuba quartet (2 euphs., 2 tubas)

Convalescence - Sweet Thunder Tuba Quartet
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Convalescence was written for and premiered by the Henderson State University Tuba Choir.  Published by Potenza Music

On the Continental Divide (2009)

trombone choir

On the Continental Divide - University of Alabama Trombone Choir - Dr. Jonathan Whitaker
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Commissioned by Dr. Jonathan Whitaker and the University of Alabama Trombone Studio.  Premiered at the Eastern Trombone Workshop, Ft. Myer, VA.

Gliding O're All (2007)

SATB, piano     Text: Walt Whitman

Another early choral piece, this Walt Whitman text is set in Lydian, utilizing tone clusters, improvisation, and aeliotoric elements.  The piece was meant to be an exercise in breaking free from conventional forms and notations in my early undergraduate days.

Gliding O're All - Drew A. Worthen
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REST (2014)

Fixed Media

REST - Drew A. Worthen
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Text from Charlie Chaplin's "Great Dictator".

Handbells recorded by the Greenwood UMC handbell choir.

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