I'm going old school today...in two ways. Firstly, The Itsy Bitsy Spider is a nursery rhyme (in case you weren't aware) from most of our childhoods (childrenhood?). Secondly, this is one of my early compositions, yet still one of my favorites.
When I was attending BYU in the very early 2000s, the BYU Singers were finishing up their landmark album of Eric Whitacre a cappella choral music (yes, I know this is the second post in a row mentioning Whitacre; it's an addiction). No, I was not in the BYU Singers (that's a conversation for a different day), but I was in Concert Choir which met directly after them. I would sit in the lobby of the Madsen Recital Hall with my friend Sarah eating lunch and listening the Singers do their thing. Suddenly, Eric Whitacre himself was there and wafted through the lobby. I was, as most singers of the time were, in awe and became much more aware of his music.
I began to ask myself if I could write something that sounded Whitacre-esque. This was a rather bold move on my part since I had zero composition training and had only done a couple choral arrangements at all. Nonetheless, I decided to put my hand to it and give it a shot. I didn't want to be so serious, though, so I chose a nursery rhyme as my text and proceeded to play around with it. The Itsy Bitsy Spider was the result.
The piece was finally premiered while I was at the University of Memphis. I showed the piece to my professor and mentor, Larry Edwards, and asked if I could conduct the Chamber Singers doing this piece. He said it sounded like it belonged in a set. I had a short piece that I wrote for a theory class based on a Shel Silverstein poem, A Selfish Child's Prayer that I added as the second piece in the set of Children Songs. Then, I wrote a brand new piece called Mary's Lamb and the premiered all three of them in the spring on 2004.
I have used the piece a couple times with other choirs since the premiere. Its for SATB div. choir, a cappella. It's appropriate for high school, community, or collegiate levels. I guess a church choir could use it, but you'd have get creative. :)
Sheet music is available at CadenzaOne.com.
For more information about how I really feel about Eric Whitacre (it's positive, if you're wondering), check out my previous blog post about Whitacre's Virtual Choir.