Robinson McClellan ~ composer



"Mahogany music..."

- Gabriela Frank, composer


"Take McClellan's music as a reminder and a gentle
admonition that no matter how ancient the music,
the door to reinterpretation is never shut. McClellan
pulls new life from centuries-old choral styles, drawing
on their native spiritual power and recasting them in
the haunting arrangements of the new avant-garde."

- Editor,


"This music is both smart and beautiful."

- Kimberly Dunn Adams, conductor


"...a vivid sense of atmosphere and
narrative force...the audience loved it."

- Michael Miller, Berkshire Review




My song 'Lift Up Your Voice' is in the wonderful Justice Choir Songbook!


My hymn 'Peace, Perfect Peace' in the book Singing in Community: Paperless Music for Worship is regularly sung in worship settings around the country.


I began Ascension Cantata when I was stuck at home during a storm as a "for fun" project, and completed it soon after. This cantata, on a beautiful libretto by my collaborator, Australian poet Robin Muir-Miller, and inspired by J.S. Bach's early chorale cantatas (BWV 131 in particular), is currently seeking premiere.


Read my guest blog post from my talk at Notre Dame University, "God is a Harmonic Being": Musical Theology. View it online, or as a PDF.


A Child in Nature, a secular choral work on a poem by my collaborator, Australian poet Robin Muir-Miller, received its premiere in October 2012 with The Esoterics, Eric Banks, director. More info and full TEXT here.

The piece was selected in 2014 for inclusion in Project Encore.


Zahra Partovi's film, Noise, featuring a song I wrote, premiered May 28, 2013, at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery in NYC. The film was chosen for an award by New Film Makers and was screened in January 2014 at the Anthology Film Archives.


Invitation to a Marriage, my commission from the Macalester Concert Choir and director Mike McGaghie, premiered November 16, 2013 at Macalester, with a followup performance November 22 in Hawaii, conducted by McGaghie, with choral forces of the University of Hawaii Manoa, Miguel Felipe director.


In Spring 2013 I completed two new cantatas, one secular and one sacred, both premiered in May. Trinity Dancing Cantata premiered in Honolulu as part of Miguel Felipe's Cantata Project, and BQE: An Urban Cantata premiered in NYC as part of the Queens New Music Festival. For more info see my works page.


Ostorlab, my Rumi setting for voice and viola, on a translation by Zahra Partovi, premiered in May 2013. For this purpose I attempted to learn the Persian Dastgah mode... with the help of the very fun Just Intonation Toolkit.


My grandmother Anita Curtis, a wonderful sculptor, passed away in October 2012. Please get to know her work on this website I created for her during my last visit with her. She closely guided the look and content.


Looking for Composition Lessons? I teach private students both in person and online. Follow the link for more info, and write to me.


Planning for Christmas or other holidays?
Peruse my liturgical music here, including these choral anthems:

They Worship Without Words (3 Kings/Epiphany)
O Antiphons + Come Emmanuel (Advent hymn)


Buy Music by Heart, the paperless hymnal including a selection of songs I wrote.


The wonderful poetry of my collaborator Robin Muir-Miller is available online.


My grandfather, James T. McClellan, was an inspired sculptor, and a major role model for me as an artist. View his sculptures.


The Highland Bagpipe: Music, History, Tradition a book from Ashgate (I wrote chapter 13); also check out my original thesis, now also e-published at the Piobaireachd Society.


Non-musical items... This photo I took of the "Manhattan Solstice" appeared in Jaguar Magazine.

National Geographic Magazine's "Daily Dozen" selected my photo last April of the NYC Armory and Folk Art Museum's amazing quilt show.


El Salto, which debuted in NYC at the NY Society for Ethical Culture, will return...please write to me if you're interested in the project.

Daniel Neer and Alyssa Reit presented The Gyre on April 27 and 29 as part of a unique program called NARKISSOS at The Tank with a third performance at RAM's Queens New Music Festival on May 11. The piece received its second performance in January at Andrea Clearfield’s Salon.


Choral performances in 2013 included the UMass Dartmouth Chamber Choir and Mt. Holyoke Chamber Singers.


Gone Today (orch) received its third performance in 2012 with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, led by Bruce Polay.


Plans are underway for the U.S. premiere of my nuclear-age cantata, This Ravelled Dust, inside the decommissioned Hanford B nuclear reactor. Learn more about the cantata in my NewMusicBox article, and in this very perceptive from a blogger in the UK.


Dreaming in Darkness (SATB) was presented at the ACDA Eastern Division conference in February 2012.


In December 2011 the choir of High Street Church in Muncie, IN premiered Psalm 71: The Generations (SATB/org), commissioned for the church's 175th anniversary.


The Toronto Chamber Choir, led by Mark Vuorinen, premiered my Christmas carol Sweetly Sleeping (SATB, solo instrument) last December.


The composer's/conductor's collective C4 performed The Woman Turns Herself into a Fish on November 17 and 19, 2011 in NYC


The Yale Camerata performed Lighten Our Darkness, my Evensong Collect, on their Hartford concert November 13, 2011


The Rider University Choir, led by Philip Orr, presented Noorun, a choral arrangement of a 13th c. Armenian piece with a 12th c. Arabic text, Fall 2011.


My one-minute piece for solo harp was selected and performed by Alyssa Reit as part of Vox Novus Fifteen Minutes of Fame. May 29, 2011 in NYC


Liz Player and The Harlem Chamber Players presented my commission for wind quintet on the Orpheo Duo's What a Neighborhood! series. May 21, 2011


German soprano Felicitas Erb and her vocal trio presented The Woman Turns Herself into a Fish at the 2011 Gaudeamus Competition in Amsterdam


The Mahagonny Ensemble premiered Hudson Running, a new piece for flute, clarinet, strings and piano, during the Vassar College ModFest on January 29, 2011


Among the Signs, a setting of Qur'an verses in English, received another performance in January 2011 NYC as part of ActorCor's annual concert


Three works were performed, and two premiered, on September 30, 2010 at Yale University. Lament for the Flowers received its first full performance with Matt Welch; Daniel Neer premiered two works: The Gyre and Gather Me


Stay tuned for the premiere of Nativity Kontakion, for Greek Byzanting chorus and strings, commissioned by Nektarios Antoniou.


Song Overheard, a setting of poetry by Joan Murray, commissioned by the Hudson Opera House for Moira Smiley and VOCO, was premiered August 20, 2010


This Ravelled Dust: Cantata for a Nuclear Age, with poetry by Robin Muir-Miller. April 30, 2010 world premiere with the Toronto Choral Artists (Mark Vuorinen, director) at the Music Gallery, Toronto


Farewell MacCrimmon received its American premiere in an Orfeo Duo concert in NYC on February 28, 2010


ActorCor, where Robin is composer in residence, returned January 17, 2010 at All Souls Unitarian Church. The performance included the premiere of When Hafiz Sings, written for the occasion on a text by the 14th-century Iranian poet, translations by Ralph Waldo Emerson


Prodigal Songs received its second performance May 22 and 23, 2009, in San Francisco with Goat Hall Productions


Lament for the Flowers, Robin's first pibroch composition for the Highland pipes, received its premiere on March 12, 2009 by Matt Welch at Issue Project Room in NYC


Among the Signs was presented by Chicago Choral Artists, conducted by Donald Nally, on March 7th and 8th, 2009


ActorCor returned January 18, 2009 at All Souls Unitarian Church in NYC. The program featured Among the Signs and other music by Robin (Robin is ActorCor's composer in residence)


Robin's choral piece Dreaming in Darkness was the title work in a presentation by Luminescence at Indiana University on December 12 and 13, 2008


Noorun, was performed by members of the Collegiate Chorale at the Tel Aviv Museum as part of the Israel Philharmonic Chamber Music Series on July 12, 2008


Alleluia was sung at the Vatican on June 29, 2008, by the Lirico Chamber Singers who previously performed it at the Spokane Club on December 13, 2007


Among the Signs, Robin's setting of Qur'an verses in English, was premiered in NYC as part of ActorCor's May 2008 debut, alongside arrangements of Anglican, Pakistani, Hasidic, and Armenian music, which Robin created for the project


Gone Today (orchestra) was read by the Forth Worth Symphony, conducted by Danaila Hristova and Miguel Harth-Bedoya (FWS director), on February 17, 2008


Coraldan, a commission from the Baroque trio Flying Forms, was premiered by them on February 10, 2008 at Stony Brook University


Prodigal Songs, commissioned by NYC's Museum of Biblical Art with a new text commissioned from poet Tess Taylor, was premiered at the Museum on November 3, 2007 by female vocal Trio Eos


Flight of the Earls, concerto for uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes) and orchestra, commissioned by the Albany Symphony, was premiered September 27, 2007 with two further performances on the 28th and 29th in venues near Albany, NY


Sylvia Aiko Rider, mezzo-soprano, commissioned and premiered a new arrangement of a Gaelic folk song, Crying Not for You (inspired by the singing of Flora MacNeil), at Yale University April 14, 2007


Organ Mass received its New Haven premiere on March 30, 2007 with Alistair Nelson performing, during a concert of bagpipe music and bagpipe-inspired compositions featuring Matthew Welch on pipes


A new setting of Sung Morning Prayer commissioned by and for Marquand Chapel, Yale Divinity School, based on Gaelic music, was heard on Wednesday mornings in January, February and March 2007


An Unwholesome Episode for Double Bass and Marimba was performed for the second time (now in its revised version) December 21, 2006 at Yale. The piece was premiered by NYC-based Fireworks Ensemble in 2005


Nunc Dimittis 3 performances in the Netherlands by Monteverdi Kamerkoor Utrecht, under the direction of Wilko Brouwers: November 3, 12, & 19, 2006


Beware the Sasannach! for Wind Ensemble, premiere by members of Yale Philharmonia, John Concklin, conductor, November 2, 2006. Sprague Hall at Yale University


Farewell MacCrimmon: Pibroch for SSA or SAB Choir was premiered July 7, 2006 at Ceolas, a Gaelic language and music school on the Isle of South Uist, in the outer Hebrides of Scotland; Jackie Cotter, conductor


George Bush's Notebook, 1779 (arr. 2006): Songs Without Overt Political Overtones for bluegrass quartet (gtr., mand., banjo, bass, plus cowbell) ... FOUR recent performances in 8 months:
- Most recently: July 19, 2006 at the Massachuesetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival, with an assorted ensemble headed by James Moore, guitar.
- Performed in NYC May 28, 2006 at The Monkey as part of "Operation: Hoe-down--A Collaborative Bluegrass Experiment" - An ecclectic program of new compositions for Mandolin, Banjo, Guitar, and Bass. Featuring the notorious Diesel Lounge Boys, an avant-bluegrass quartet comprised of renegade students from the Yale School of Music. ...and again by the Diesel Lounge Boys as part of "Operation Hoe-down" on April 9, 2006 at Artspace in New Haven, CT.
The piece was premiered by the Diesel Lounge Boys, for whom it was written, at Sprague Hall, Yale University, on February 2, 2006


Alleluia for choir was performed during Easter morning services at Battell Chapel, Yale University (Holland Jancaitis, conductor)


The Passion According to Mark was premiered by the choir of Christ Church Episcopal (Robert Lehman, director) in New Haven, CT on Palm Sunday 2006 (April 9)


Gone Today for orchestra was premiered by Yale Philharmonia (Shinik Hahm, dir.) on March 31, 2006 at Woolsey Hall in New Haven, CT


The Albany Community Chorus, directed by Benjamin Taylor, premiered Lighten our Darkness at Albany United Methodist Church, Albany CA on November 15, 2005


Trio Eos (a New York-based female vocal trio) premiered the piece they commissioned, The Woman Turns Herself into a Fish, as part of the Music at St. Paul's series at Columbia University on November 15, 2005


October 29, 2005: The Pharos Music Project performed Alleluia (Erin Jeanette, conductor) at St. Bartholomew's Church, New York City, as part of the Great Music at St. Bartholomew's series


October 9, 2005: Organ Mass was premiered by Carson Cooman in Pittsburgh at Trinity Cathedral


August 18, 2005: Yale Schola Cantorum (dir. Simon Carrington) performed commissioned work, Nunc Dimittis as part of 3rd International Monteverdi Choir Festival. Esztergom, Hungary. Concert broadcast on Hungarian Radio


July 2, 2005: NYC-based Fireworks Ensemble (Brian Coughlin, bass, Julian Molitz, marimba) performed
An Unwholesome Episode for marimba and double bass at the Oregon Bach Festival


May 15, 16, 17 2005: Yale Schola Cantorum performed Nunc Dimittis as part of Evensong services in the UK at Winchester Cathedral, Magdalen College at Oxford, and St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle


April 28, 2005: Performance of I got a kiss of the King's hand for 3 oboes, english horn, and drone. Michael Barnett, Sarah Schram, Karisa Werdon, oboes; Kevin May, english horn; Robinson McClellan, bagpipe drone)




James McClellan, sculptor
Dragon, by James T. McClellan
Site created by Robinson McClellan.