Stephen Variames is a composer, pianist, and vocal coach based in Cincinnati. He has written two new works for this week’s Music for Three which draw upon the poetry of mezzo-soprano Shannon Keegan: Their Words and A Question. Join us for the premieres at 7 PM on Sunday, 28 April at the 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati, featuring vocalists Jackie Stevens, Lauren McAllister, and Ellen Graham.

CSB: What is your background as a composer?

SV: My undergraduate degree was in composition, focusing mainly on vocal music. I have done two musicals, a number of song cycles, and an opera.

CSB: How would you describe the musical landscape in Cincinnati?

SV: The musical landscape in Cincinnati is incredibly diverse. At one end, you can find classical performances that would rival any other city; at the other, chorus and bands are everywhere. 

CSB: You have collaborated with some of the singers in the trio previously. How did those collaborations inform the new work you composed for this event?

SV: Since I’ve worked with all three singers, it was much easier to know their vocal style and the strongest points of their ranges.

CSB: What was the compositional process for this piece like?

SV: The process for this piece was rather fun. Since it is for female voices, I wanted the text to be female-driven. I remembered seeing poetry by Shannon Keegan before, and since I play for her – she is also a singer, I thought this would be the perfect freshman collaboration. Creating a sound world for these words was my main focus.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar?

SV: Upcoming projects include: Leaving Vaughan Behind, a one act opera; a song cycle in Spanish in July; and a song cycle for Lauren McAllister in December!