Prof?s composition chosen for N.Y. concert

By By Elliott Bueler

By Elliott Bueler

For U music professor and composer Miguel Chuaqui, a career in music once seemed an unrealistic choice. Such ambition no longer seems frivolous, as Chuaqui has been named one of 12 winners in a prestigious international composition contest.

The Society for Universal Sacred Music selected Chuaqui’s “Salmo 139” from among hundreds of submissions from more than 260 composers of many nationalities. The piece, along with the works of the other 11 winners, will be performed at the Festival of Universal Sacred Music in April 2010. Chuaqui, who has composed music for a variety of orchestras, chamber ensembles, vocal groups and solo instruments, said the recognition means a great deal to him.

“It is a great honor,” he said. “Merkin Hall in New York City, where the performance will take place, is an important venue.”

For the Chilean-American composer, traditional native influences, including Latin-American folk music and literature, often serve as inspiration. Tradition aside, Chuaqui said the goal with “Salmo 139,” as with his other works, was to create diverse pieces with unique qualities and quirks8212;a pursuit that maintains the classical without losing the personal.

“If I feel that I’m repeating myself, I get bored,” Chuaqui said. “I tried to find ways to avoid writing in a completely traditional choral style, and I tried instead to give the work a personal point of view.”

Although the subject of “Salmo 139” is traditional, the opening lines of the psalm inspired the quick, repeating pattern that recurs throughout the piece. Chuaqui said the vigorous tempo and rhythms come directly from contemporary Latin-American folk-influenced music for Catholic Mass. Chuaqui said the verses of the psalm, which speak of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, have often been a source of consolation to him in times of distress.

“I could find no other psalm verses that spoke to me as directly about God’s abiding presence in our lives,” he said.

Chuaqui is not new to recognition. Blending traditional themes with modern instrumentation has made him a highly regarded composer. He has been the recipient of multiple awards, including an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Aaron Copland Recording Grant, the Eisner Prize and a Nicola de Lorenzo Award.

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