Philip Orem’s music has been performed across the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia. He is noted for his emotional directness, lyricism, varied textures, distinctive harmony, colorful orchestrations and imaginative text settings.
He has been awarded an NEA Meet the Composer/Midwest grant by Arts Midwest and in 2014 he was winner of Best Choral Work in Labor of Love Composition Contest for Composers and Songwriters for his setting of Langston Hughes’ I Dream a World. He was recently commissioned to write It Is As Simple As Breathing by the Verona Area Concert Band in memory of Ed Senechal, a dear friend and one of the VACB’s founders. He also was commissioned to write From Darkness to Light, A Tribute to Nelson Mandela by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.
Orem’s varied catalog includes music for orchestra, with concerti for flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon and horn as well as works with solo voice and choir. His music for wind ensembles ranges in difficulty from college wind ensemble to Jr. High concert band. Chamber music includes brass quintets, a brass sextet, a wind quintet, a saxophone quartet, several pieces for violin, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone with piano or organ as well as solo pieces for piano, organ, harp, and marimba. He has written extensively for voice including fourteen song cycles and collections including texts by Wendell Berry, William Blake, John Donne, Paul Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Sidney Lanier, Herman Melville, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare and John Greenleaf Whittier. His large choral output includes music for both church and synagogue. His Requiem incorporates texts from many different religious traditions and Ashira, A Musical Service for Cantor and Choir, written for Cantor Vicky Glikin, is appropriate for a Shabbat evening service. He has also written the scores for three musicals for young audiences; The Emperor's New Clothes, Just Too Cool and Alice in Wonderland.
He is currently published by GIA Publications, Inc., Gentry Publications, Dorn Publications, Inc., Pan Press, oySongs, Transcontinental Music Publications and Sheet Music Plus.
After receiving his B.M. and M.M. in piano performance from Northwestern University he relocated to Los Angeles where he earned a diploma in Composition and Arranging from the Grove School of Music. His composition and orchestration teachers have included M. William Karlins, Alan Stout, John P. Paynter, Dick Grove, David Angel, Will Schaefer and Don Owens. Now back in the Chicago area, he is actively involved in musical theater and church and synagogue and is a much sought after arranger.
“I am often asked to describe my music or to give it a stylistic label. I have had many diverse influences and I tend to let the circumstances surrounding a piece dictate the style. I think the best description is “emotionally direct”. My musical ideas while varied, are generally simple, though I’d like to think I do interesting things with them. I do come from a tradition however. A tradition that made quilts out of scraps of cloth that others might throw away, a tradition that fixed machinery with baling wire, a tradition where one would take the time to repair something oneself, (probably without the best tools for the job), a tradition where well crafted items were valued, a tradition that placed an emphasis on self reliance, on making do with what one had and being grateful and content with that. A very American tradition.”
I just finished a new chamber piece for mezzo, oboe, cello and piano with poetry of Emily Anne Strange. These poems detail her experiences during the Vietnam War serving as a Donut Dollie. Some powerful stuff! AND we're headed to the recording studio! More on this as it unfolds.
The bassoon concerto is finished and got a thumbs up from CSO bassoonist Dennis Michel!
My new clarinet concerto, A Dream Deferred, is finished. Clarinetist John Yeh of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is eager to perform it when I can find an orchestra to program it!
Poems for Orchestra was premiered by the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Orchestra conducted by Norman Hanson on May 14!
I just finished a new song collection, William Blake Songs. There are fifteen poems in fourteen songs. That adds up to 215 songs I've written!
Shiru Shir Chadash and Ashira are done! Thanks to Andy Bossov for his assistance in helping me finish these! Shiru Shir Chadash is for sale as a pdf. download for $35.00.
My Heart Aches is now available. Written in response to the violence in Louisville and Pittsburgh the week of October 21-27, 2018, it features a solo cello. This is a poignant, moving work for orchestra.
I'm all caught up with score editing! YAH! Remember you can always buy directly from me. It's cheaper for you and I get all of the sale price!
I had a great week playing synthesizer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets concert screenings in December,2018! I was invited back for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in June and to play the harmonium part for Mahler's Symphony 8 with Maestra Marin Alsop at Ravinia in July! While chatting with Maestra Alsop after the concert I was able to share with her a score of And We Have Learned Nothing !
I am currently contemplating what I might do with some poetry by Stephen Crane (1871-1900). You might remember reading his The Red Badge of Courage in high school. These are short, wonderfully colorful, thoughtful poems that aren't Victorian in the least.
I have also started a new piece, Children in Cages.
My new CD, Concerto, is available from Roven Records. It includes my Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra, Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, Fantasy for Horn and Orchestra and for Ed, my flute/piccolo concerto. Here's the link to purchase.
There are links below to preview church and synagogue music. Contact me for purchase information!
There are four ways in which a composer earns income; by selling sheet music; by licensing performances of their work; by licensing their work for recordings; and by receiving commissions. I always look forward to commissions because I know a performance of something new is coming!
Things to consider when commissioning a new work
1) Listen to some of my music and ask for samples. What things move you?
2) When are the score and/or parts needed? Allow time for preparation of both part copying and rehearsal.
3) For what ensemble is the new work to be scored and what length will it be?
4) If the work is to include text, is the text Public Domain or copyrighted? Publishers and authors generally want a fee up front and then will want a percentage of publishing and performance royalties for copyrighted material, so this isn’t always as lucrative for me
5) Is the new work for a special occasion or to honor someone? If so, are there special requirements?
6) On completion of a contract and payment of 50% of the commission composing commences. The remaining 50% is due on delivery of the score and parts.
7) Part copying for larger works may be an additional cost.
8) If my presence at the premiere is requested those are further expenses to be negotiated separately.
9) Sending me recordings of rehearsals or having me attend a rehearsal are encouraged to help with bringing the music to its final form.
The composer’s rights include the right to retain the copyright and the right to offer the work for publication.
The commissioner’s rights include the right to be credited as such in the score, the right to receive a copy of the score, the right to the first performance, the right to make the first commercial recording and exclusive performance rights for one year after completion.
Bird Songs (26 poems of Wendell Berry)
Christina Rossetti Songs (5 poems of Christina Rossetti)
Civil War Songs (7 poems of Herman Melville)
An Old Man and His Dog (3 poems of Wendell Berry for baritone)
On the Banks of the Kentucky (25 poems of Wendell Berry for baritone)
Paul Dunbar Songs (4 poems of Paul Dunbar)
Praying (6 poems of Mary Oliver, currently unavailable)
Sacred Songs (10 songs with texts of Sidney Lanier, John Greenleaf Whittier, Shaker hymns, The Bay Psalm Book and spirituals)
Shiru Shir Chadash (32 songs)
Six Shakespeare Songs (6 poems of William Shakespeare)
Songs to Throw at the Sun vol.I (17 poems of Langston Hughes)
Songs to Throw at the Sun vol.II (22 poems of Langston Hughes, currently unavailable, please inquire)
Three American Hymn Tunes arr. (for baritone)
Three Elegies (John Donne and William Shakespeare for medium voice)
William Blake Songs (15 poems of William Blake)
A Wonder Is What It Is (23 poems of Wendell Berry for baritone)
for my brothers and sisters in Orlando (Wendell Berry)
Gabriel's Message arr. (Basque song)
Holy Innocents (Christina Rossetti)
How Far Is It to Bethlehem? (Francis Chesterton)
I Want Jesus to Walk With Me arr. (American spiritual)
Meeting Wolf (Mary Oliver, currently unavailable)
Somewhere Far Away
Starlignt, Star Bright (solo and duet versions)
Three Christmas Carols (How Far Is It?, Holy Innocents and Gabriel's Message)
The Valley of Unrest (Edgar Allan Poe)
Absalom, Absalom - SATB, speakers, piano (2 Samuel 18:33, Wendell Berry)
Advent - SATB (Christina Rossetti)
The Ancients - SATB, piano (Marilyn Biery)
And It Is Good - SATB, narrator, piano
Ashira, A Musical Service for Cantor and Choir - unison choir, cantor, piano
Ashira - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Be Still - SATB, solo, piano
Be Thou My Vision - SATB, piano
By the Waters of Babylon - SATB, soprano solo, piano
A Christmas Carol - TTBB, English horn (Christina Rossetti)
Create in Me - SATB
Creator of the Stars of Night - SATB, piano GIA Publications
Do Not Weep - TTBB, piano (Stephen Crane)
Dona nobis pacem - SSAATTBB
Easter - SATB, brass quintet, organ, timpani, percussion (George Herbert)
Easter Anthem - SATB, 4 horns, timpani, organ (William Billings)
Easter the Song - SATB with divisi (George Herbert)
Eitz Chayim and Hashiveinu - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Epiphany - SATB, SATB solos, piano (Christina Rossetti)
Epiphanytide - SATB (Christina Rossetti)
Esai Einai - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Every Blade of Grass - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Five Christmas Motets - SATB (Middle English texts)
Hal'lu - SATB, cantor, piano
Hashiveinu - SATB, cantor, piano (traditional arr.)
Hava Nashira - SATB, piano
Hineih Mah Tov - SATB, cantor, paino
Heiveinu Shalom Aleichem - SATB, cantor, piano
How Far Is It to Bethlehem? - soprano solo, SATB, piano (Francis Chesterton)
A Hymn for Peace - SATB, soprano solo, piano
I Dream a World - SATB (Langston Hughes)
Introit, Offertory and Benediction - SATB, piano (Gayle Tucker)
I've Got Peace Like a River - SATB, alto solo, piano (American spiritual arr. ) GIA Publications
I Want Jesus to Walk With Me - SATB, baritone solo, piano (American spiritual arr.)
I Want Jesus to Walk With Me - SA, piano (American spiritual arr.)
I Will Sing a New Song - SATB, cantor, piano
The Lamb - SATB (William Blake) GIA Publications
L'dor Vador - SATB, soprano solo, piano
The Lowest Place - SATB (Christina Rossetti)
Lux aeterna - SATB with divisi, SSTT solos, 2 vibraphones and orchestra bells
Mah Yafeh Hayom - SATB, cantor, piano
Make a Joyful Noise! - SATB, soprano solo, piano and congregational participation
Mass in G - SATB with divisi, SATB solos, organ
Mass Fragments - SATB with divisi
Mi Chamochah - SATB, cantor, piano
Mi Shebeirach - SATB, soprano solo, piano
My God, My God - SATB, soprano and bass solos, piano
My Lord, What a Morning - SATB, soprano solo, piano (American spiritual arr.)
Nunc dimittis - SATB with divisi
O magnum mysterium - SATB, soprano solo, harp
Or Zarua - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Oseh Shalom - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Peace for Ed - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Pray With My Feet - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Psalm 150 - children's choir, piano (Marilyn Biery)
The Quiet Hour - SATB, solo, piano
Remember -SATB with divisi (Christina Rossetti)
Requiem - SATB, treble and SATB solos, flute, clarinet, horn, cello, harp, organ, percussion
Return and Rest - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Rise Up Shepherd - SATB with divisi (American spiritual arr.)
Seek a Place of Breathless Beauty - SATB, flute, piano (Marilyn Biery)
Shehecheyanu - SATB, piano
Shiru l'Adonai - SATB, cantor, piano
Shiru Shir Chadash - SATB, cantor, piano
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child - SATB, soprano solo (American spiritual arr.)
Steal Away - SATB (American spiritual arr.)
T'filat Haderech - SATB, cantor, piano
T'filat Haderech (for Lindsay Schoenberger) - SATB, solo, piano
There is One - SATB, soprano and baritone solos, piano
Three Christmas Motets - SATB, string trio (Christina Rossetti)
Tzadik Katamar - SATB, cantor, piano
Ufros Aleinu - SATB, cantor, piano
V'taheir Libeinu - SATB, soprano solo, piano
Walk Softly - SATB, soprano and tenor solos (Shaker hymn text)
We Remember Them - SATB, solo and piano (currently unavailable)
What Cha Gonna Call Your Pretty Little Baby? - SATB, solos (American spiritual arr.) Hal Leonard
The Wise - children's choir and piano
Yih'yu and Oseh Shalom - SATB, soprano solo, piano (American folk tune arr.)
Your Heavenly Father Feedeth Them - SATB, flute, piano
for Val (piano)
Hymns for Piano arr.
Nine Preludes for Piano
Sascha's Piano Book
Two Lullabies (piano)
Chorale and Night Bells (organ)
Starry Night (organ)
Three Organ Fantasies (organ)
after reading Mary Oliver (oboe and organ)
Butterflies in My Garden (flute and piano)
Butterflies in My Garden (marimba and piano)
Dialogues and Fancies (flute and harp)
Findings (saxophone quartet)
Five (alto saxophone)
for Sasha (brass sextet)
from Emily (mezzo, oboe, cello and piano - poetry of Emily Anne Strange)
Little Symphony (brass quintet)
Lullaby for a Bull Moose (english horn and organ)
Nocturnes (brass quintet)
Prelude and Fugue (string quartet)
Proverbs of Hell (wind quintet)
Rhapsody (violin and piano)
Summer Suite (alto saxophone and piano)
Swans in the Moonlight (cello and piano)
Three Pieces for Alto Saxophone Dorn Publications Inc.
Three Psalms for Clarinet and Piano
Two Moods (vibraphone)
Two Trifles and a Wedding Present (clarinet and piano)
Two Trifles and a Wedding Present (oboe and piano)
Two Trifles and a Wedding Present (soprano saxophone and piano)
BRASS ENSEMBLE MUSIC
Fanfare for a Ceremony
Fanfare for Pete
Invocation and Dance for a Pagan God (trombone choir)
Labour and Love, arranged and edited (Percy E. Fletcher)
WIND ENSEMBLE MUSIC
Air and Dance
From Darkness to Light, A Tribute to Nelson Mandela (with choir)
A Hollywood Overture
It Is as Simple as Breathing
King and Queen March (Jr. High)
1978 San Francisco Pride March (arr.)
Nocturno Op. 7, arranged for solo horn and band (Franz Strauss)
Panama Pacific, arranged and edited (Harry L. Alford) Freedom Band Press
Pan-Pacific Expo, arranged and edited (Al Pinard) Freedom Band Press
Response to a Dilettante
Reverie, transcribed (Alexander Scriabin)
San Fran Pan American March, arranged and edited (Joel P. Corin) Freedom Band Press
And We Have Learned Nothing (baritone solo and choir, poetry of Wendell Berry)
Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra
Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra
Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra
A Dream Deferred (clarinet concerto)
Fantasy for Horn and Orchestra
for Ed (flute concerto)
for Larry (trumpet solo)
for Sasha (string orchestra)
How Great Thou Art arr.
Lullaby and March
My Heart Aches - A Prayer for the Realization of Oneness (cello solo)
Morning on the Prairie
Poems for Orchestra
A Short Overture for a Small Orchestra
Three Elegies (texts of John Donne and William Shakespeare - for medium voice)
Three for Choir and Orchestra (poetry of Wendell Berry, Chaim Stern and Mary Oliver - last mvt is currently unavailable )
The Valley of Unrest (soprano solo, poetry of Edgar Alan Poe)
Variations (string orchestra)
Where Should a Baby Rest? (alto solo)
JAZZ ENSEMBLE MUSIC
Blue Berries (bari sax feature)
Salsa con brio
Sorta Ciel (alto sax feature)
Wednesday, Wednesday (trombone feature)
THE "FOR" SERIES MUSIC
music written for friends and family who have lost pets
for Buddha (horn and piano)
for Dizzy (harp)
for Jennie (violin and piano)
for Kirby (flute and piano)
for Maggie (violin and piano)
for Mo (bassoon and piano)
for Nicholas (piano)
for Rhum (flute and piano)
for Sponge (voice and piano)
Oseh Shalom from Ashira
I find these pieces very well written and most successful all around. No wonder the sax concerto was a hit with the Navy Band. I find the flute concerto first movement very moving and the rest quite exciting. I like all three concertos...
Professor Emeritus - Eastman School of Music; Professor Emeritus - The Julliard School
Wow--what a great piece! Great piccolo scoring! (for Ed)
former principle piccolo - Chicago Symphony Orchestra
... a major classical composer. (But user friendly!)
four-time Emmy Award winner; CEO/Artistic Director - Roven Records
I have known Phil for over thirty years, and have found him to be an exceptional musician - his compositions are expressive, exhibit supreme craftsmanship, sensitivity to text, and while singable and playable, nearly always contain challenges for the performer. I urge colleagues around the globe to take a good look at Phil's work - it deserves to be played and sung!
Music Director - Chorale Bel Canto, Los Angeles CA; Professor of Conducting - Claremont Graduate University; Professor of Music Emeritus - Whittier College
Phil Orem is a fresh voice as a composer for band. His works are sensitive, artistic, intellectual, and brilliantly scored. His works are also playable as he completely understands the band medium.
Michael Golemo, D.M.A.
Professor of Music, Director of Bands- Iowa State University
I so appreciate the music of Phil Orem, having performed both his band and choral music. His eclectic voice and deft touch lead him to create works that are both accessible and fresh, and his choices of text are inspired and inspiring.
Director of Bands - University of California Davis; Artistic Director and Conductor - San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band; Artistic Director and Conductor - Camerata California Chamber Choir and Orchestra; Artistic Director - Music in the Mountains; Professor Emeritus of Horn and Chamber Music - Sacramento State University
... he certainly knows something about how to pace time, melody and harmony in an interesting and still emotionally 'present" way. Some passages clearly have the immediacy of theater and are generously direct/emotional, but there are lots of other things that show him to be a really knowledgeable musician and composer. (Requiem)
Music Director and Conductor - Waukegan Symphony; Director - DePaul Community Chorus
I have found Phil Orem's music to be interesting, innovative, and very musical. He is a highly talented musician and I recommend his works without reservation.
Professor of Clarinet and Saxophone - North Park University, Chicago; Founder and Director - Northwest Concert Band; Principal Clarinet - Evanston Symphony Orchestra
My 7/8 grade band thoroughly enjoyed this march! They related easily to the regal theme and made many connections to other artistic mediums and to their imaginations. Phil Orem does a splendid job of carefully crafting melodic ranges and orchestrations that enhance the mid-level group. I found this work (King and Queen March) to be a wonderful resource for teaching music through performance! The band learned this quickly and easily, which, for junior high, equals fun!
Instrumental Music Educator - Georgetown-Ridge Farm Schools, Georgetown, Illinois
Phil Orem's "I've Got Peace Like a River" is a regular part of our choral repertoire at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church. He has taken a simple spiritual and made a remarkable extended anthem from it. Particularly fine is the word-painting of each verse (especially "I've got pain like an arrow") and the way the piece takes you on an emotional journey. Phil Orem's writing has craft, sensitivity, creativity, and style!
Minister of Music and Organist, Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan
Mr. Phil Orem is a talented composer with a unique ability to bring the emotional content of a text - whether poetry, prose, or liturgy - to light. He writes music that is emotionally direct and honest; accessible, yet sophisticated; deep, yet unpretentious. His original settings pay homage to the words in a sensitive fashion and lift up their message in the way that music can and should. An accomplished musician and arranger, Mr. Orem's settings are written with a knowledge of the instrument's range, color, and tone. As a singer, I appreciate Mr. Orem's settings for their singability and musicality.
Senior Cantor - Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, Texas
Phil Orem has written a gloriously original work for oboe and organ that is innovative and creative as well as idiomatic and listenable. It was well received at our 2016 premiere and we will definitely play it again.
Marilyn Perkins Biery, DMA, AAGO
Music Director at Fort Street Presbyterian Church, Detroit, Michigan
Orem, whose solo works for saxophone I've had the privilege to perform, represents a unique and refreshing voice in contemporary composition. While inventive and direct, his voice reflects an innocence and optimism sorely needed in the 21st century.
Dr. Jessica Maxfield
Artist-Teacher of Classical Saxophone - University of Southern California
Philip Orem writes intelligent and engaging music featuring jaunty rhythms, surprising harmonies, and Sondheim-like melodies, all interspersed with a wry humor.
Professor of Oboe- University of Nevada Las Vegas; Principal Oboist -Las Vegas Philharmonic; Buffet Group USA Performing Artist
I was privileged to give the first public performance of "Three Psalms for Clarinet and Piano" at Augustana College, Rock Island, IL in October, 2015. It is a very enjoyable and audience-friendly work, with interesting rhythms and some not-too-scary extended techniques and special effects. "Out of the Depths" begins in a dark and moody place, but becomes more active and angular. The second movement includes a setting of Isaac Watt's hymn "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need", and could be suitable as a stand-alone piece for liturgical use, perhaps as a prelude. The third movement, "Make a Joyful Noise", includes many musical quotations, a taste of klezmer, some bluesy jazz, a couple of multiphonics, and some improvised sound effects, and is a ton of fun!
Susan D. Schwaegler
Instructor of Clarinet - Augustana College; Charter Member - Quad City Wind Ensemble
I have sung much of Philip Orem's music: The premier of a major song cycle with texts by Wendell Berry, an encore piece (again with text by Mr. Berry, which has consistently delighted audiences); I've conducted Mr. Orem's choral compositions and have been involved in the world premiere of his Ashira, A Musical Service for Cantor and Choir
The outstanding feature of Phil's vocal music is its singability -he knows the voice and writes excellently for it. His melodic lines are well crafted and always lyrical. He has a true sense of text and the drama thereof, never mis-setting the rhythm and stresses of the word, never failing to bring out its meaning and always honoring the poet in this way. His accompaniments are done with a true sense of humor (when humor is appropriate) and a serious flow when a serious flow is appropriate to the text. They never obscure the singer, rather compliment the singer and text regardless of tone and of the text. As with other fine vocal composers, Mr. Orem's accompaniments form a trio between the pianist, singer and the author.
Philip Orem is a most theatrical composer, sensitive to the voice, the poetry, and the poet's sense of what he has written and why.
Dr. Warren Fremling
baritone; Choir Director Emeritus
When the Caramoor Festival asked me to program and perform a holiday concert, I wanted to bring in some fresh repertoire and Orem delivered big time. I put together a set of his songs that included "How Far Is It?", "Holy Innocents" and "Gabriel's Message" to close. "Holy Innocents" is a magical addition to anyone's program. The vocal line is simply gorgeous and provides ample opportunity to present a spinning legato line and mezza voce. The melody is both soothing and dreamlike, the accompaniment like a running stream spinning the exquisite poetry. This is one of my favorite pieces to sing.
links to friends, colleagues, performers and publishers
Stephen Caplan, Oboemotions
Inquiries regarding commissions and purchases of compositions can be made through this site.
Published compositions can be accessed by clicking the links of the publishers listed after the piece. You may also find most of these compositions at Sheet Music Plus.com.
I look forward to hearing from you!