Andrea Clearfield is an award winning American composer of music for orchestra, chorus, soloists, chamber ensembles, dance and multi-media collaborations. She has been praised by the New York Times for her “graceful tracery and lively, rhythmically vital writing”, the Philadelphia Inquirer for her “virtuosity”, “compositional wizardry” and “mastery with large choral and instrumental forces”, the L.A. Times for her “fluid and glistening orchestration” and by Opera America for her “vivid and galvanizing work, achieving a timeless beauty”. Her works are performed widely in the U.S. and abroad.
Among her 90 works are ten cantatas for voices and orchestra. Kabo Omowale (Welcome Home Child) (2008) was commissioned and premiered by The Philadelphia Orchestra and four intergenerational choruses with acclaimed storyteller Charlotte Alston Blake, narrator and librettist. The cantata has had subsequent performances by The Philadelphia Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony. Her cantata on breast cancer, The Long Bright, was commissioned by David Wolman in honor of his wife, soprano Ani Baker, and set to poems that Wolman wrote between Ms. Baker’s diagnosis and her passing. The work premiered at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia in 2004 as a fundraiser for breast cancer research with Grammy award winning soprano Hila Plitmann, Temple University Music Prep Children’s Chorus and Orchestra 2001, James Freeman, artistic director, and was performed again by Ms. Plitmann and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony at Royce Hall, Los Angeles in March, 2010 as a benefit for the Israel Cancer Research Fund. The work has raised a substantial amount of money for cancer research.
Other cantatas include her large-scale work on the poetry of Robert Frost, Fire and Ice (2007), commissioned to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Handel Society of Dartmouth College, the oldest choral society in the nation, Robert Duff, music director. Her cantata on freedom from oppression, Our Better Angels, commissioned by the 250 voice men’s choir, The Turtle Choir Chorale, Jonathan Palante, artistic director, was premiered at Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, Texas with the Dallas Winds in 2009. Women of Valor (2000), an hour long cantata on the women of the Bible with poetry by contemporary women writers was premiered in Los Angeles with Hila Plitmann, soprano, Gail Dubinbaum, mezzo-soprano, noted television actress Valerie Harper, narrator and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony conducted by Noreen Green, artistic director. The work has been performed numerous times in orchestral and chamber versions with some educational symposia. A story about the work was broadcast nationally on NPR’s “All Things Considered” in April, 2000. Les Fenêtres (to poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke) commissioned by Singing City, was premiered as part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Jeffrey Brillhart, conductor in 2011.
Her cantata on the legend of the Golem of Prague, The Golem Psalms, set to a libretto by Ellen Frankel, was commissioned and premiered by the Mendelssohn Club with acclaimed baritone Sanford Sylvan and the augmented Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Alan Harler, conductor in 2006; the work was released in 2011 on the Innova Label along with works by Jennifer Higdon and James Primosch and was selected as Album of the Week by WQXR in NYC.
Other works include Dream Variations (2008), commissioned by The Debussy Trio and premiered with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Walt Disney Concert Hall; Rhapsodie (2008), for flute, harp and string trio commissioned by Dolce Suono Ensemble was premiered in Philadelphia and subsequently performed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Music Series. Her trio, “…and low to the lake falls home” (A Memoriam for Joseph and Margaret Wincenc) was commissioned by internationally renowned flutist Carol Wincenc and premiered at the Morgan Library in 2010 by Les Amies Trio with New York Philharmonic Principal players, Cynthia Phelps (viola) and Nancy Allen (harp). Les Amies have taken the work on their 2012 American tour and recorded the work for Spring, 2013 release. She is currently writing an opera on the life of Milarepa commissioned by Terry Eder and Gene Kaufman to libretto by Jean-Claude van Italie and Lois Walden and new works commissioned by the Diller Quaile School of music for the Arc Duo, Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus, Susquehanna University, the Aids Quilt Songbook, Philadelphia hornist Denise Tryon and Group Motion Dance Theater.
Dr. Clearfield’s recent cantata, Tse Go La (At the threshold of this life) for double chorus, electronics and chamber orchestra incorporates Tibetan melodies that she has been documenting in northern Nepal. In Summer of 2008 and 2010, she traveled to the remote, restricted northern Himalayan region of Lo Monthang, Nepal to research and record the area’s indigenous Tibetan folk music. The royal court singer of Lo Monthang is aging, and with no willing heirs to learn his repertoire these songs passed down aurally for generations would be lost if he passed. Under the auspices of the Rubin Foundation, together with anthropologist Katey Blumenthal, Clearfield recorded 130 songs previously undocumented that were then sent back to the village on horseback with boom boxes, cassette tapes, headsets and batteries so that the children could learn the music. Tse Go La was co-commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club and the Pennsylvania Girlchoir as a way to bring some of these melodies to the United States for the first time. The cantata was premiered on April 29, 2012 with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and has had subsequent performances in New York City and New Jersey with Schola on Hudson and at the University of Texas at Austin conducted by Dan Welcher. Her earlier works inspired by her Tibetan music field research, Lung-Ta (The Windhorse) and Kawa Ma Gyur (The Unchanging Pillar) were commissioned and performed by Network for New Music, Linda Reichart, artistic director. Lung-Ta was created in collaboration with painter Maureen Drdak and choreographer Manfred Fischbeck. The work has had numerous performances including a 2012 Midwest premiere at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago. Lung-Ta was presented to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2009 as an initiative for world peace.
Other collaborative works include Schwarzer Tod, an electronic work for Group Motion Dance Company in collaboration with filmmaker/poet Quintan Ana Wikswo as part of a larger collection on a Holocaust related themes. Clearfield has created over twenty works in collaboration with Group Motion, Philadelphia’s longest running modern company, Manfred Fischbeck, artistic director. Older works include her Violin Concerto, Romanza, commissioned and premiered by Orchestra 2001 with soloist Gloria Justen in 2007 and recorded with the Russian Philharmonic in Moscow. The Rim of Love, commissioned by Astral, was premiered at the Kimmel Center in 2006 with Disella Larusdottir and Symphony in C under the direction of Rossen Milanov. The River of God (2003),commissioned by the American Guild of Organists for chorus and organ, was premiered at the inaugural ceremony for the new organ at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, PA with a west coast premiere at Disney Hall with the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 2006.
She was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency and a Civitella Residency in Italy, a Montalvo Residency in California in 2012 and a Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowships in 2013. She was a Knight Fellow and served as Special Assistant to the President at Yaddo in winter, 2013. She was awarded an American Academy in Rome William Penn Affiliated Fellowship from the American Composers Forum, 2010. She has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, where she was the recipient of the Aaron Copland Residency for an American Composer, The MacDowell Colony, Blue Mountain Center, Ucross Foundation, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, where she was awarded the Hannah S. and Samuel A. Cohn Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale, The Banff Centre, I-Park, Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Millay Colony, the Wurltizer Foundation and the Oberpfälzer Künstlerhaus in Schwandorf, Germany among others.
She was composer in residence at the University of Chicago in 2012 was recently visiting composer at The College of William and Mary the University of Texas at Austin. She was invited as guest composer to the XI International Conservatory Week Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia in October, 2011. She has received numerous grants and awards from organizations including the NEA, ASCAP, Leeway Foundation, American Music Center, American Composers Forum, Independence Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer and the International Alliance for Women in Music. Her works are published by Oxford University Press, Jomar Press and International Opus and have been recorded by MSR Classics, Crystal Records, Innova, 2L Norwegian and Albany Labels and Centaur Records.
Dr. Clearfield served on the composition and interdisciplinary arts faculty at The University of the Arts from 1986 – 2011. A native of Philadelphia, she received a D.M.A. in composition from Temple University where she was a student of Maurice Wright, a two-time winner of the John Heller Memorial Award for Excellence in Composition and the first composer to receive the prestigious University-wide Presidential Fellowship. She was honored by Temple University in 2004 as a distinguished alumna. She received an M.M. in Piano from The University of the Arts as a student of Susan Starr, and a BA in Music from Muhlenberg College where she studied with her mentor Margaret Garwood and graduated with Summa Cum Lauda and Phi Beta Kappa honors and first prizes in Performance and Musicianship. She was honored with the 2012 Alumni Achievement Award in the Arts from Muhlenberg College. Other teachers include Jonathan Kramer (orchestration) and George Tsontakis (composition). Dr. Clearfield has been the pianist in the Relâche Ensemble since 1990. Active as a pianist, she has performed and recorded with numerous groups, including the Court of the Dalai Lama. A strong believer in creating community through music, she is also the founder, producer and host of the Philadelphia Salon a renowned concert series featuring contemporary, classical, jazz, electronic, multimedia and world music, now celebrating its 26th Year and Winner of the Best of Philadelphia Award, 2008.