My pieces tend to fall into two different yet complimentary styles. The first is relatively simple and modal, a practical outgrowth of my writing for amateur groups. The second style is more complex and personal, an outgrowth of the desire to contribute something of significance to the art, and my reaction to the somewhat surreal times in which we live.
My path of development as a composer has been long and varied, with much study and hard work, many commissions (mostly for sacred music), and a five-year composer residency, all fit between stints of traveling the world as a singer and work as a choral conductor and sacred musician. The resulting works are products of a broad education, widely varied life experiences, and enthusiastic idealism, tempered by practical musicianship, and a thorough, workmanlike approach to the art.
My composing process is fairly straightforward. I plan pieces first at the macro level, deciding length, form, basic rhythms and motives, tonal and harmonic materials, instrumentation, etc. If the work is a commission, I consult with the commissioning group or performer about these factors. After the high-level planning is completed, I then work the composition as a whole to incrementally finer levels of detail, much as a sculptor might chip away at a block of stone, until the finished piece emerges.
I am a somewhat religious person, and can best describe myself as a slightly unorthodox Judeo-Christian. The bulk of my composing has been for use in worship, both Christian and Jewish. Lately I have fallen pretty heavily under the influence of my hobby, astronomy, drawing inspiration from principles of science and mathematics in that field. I'm interested in how to realize in musical terms such phenomena as the gravitational resonance among bodies orbiting around a common object or axis, a trip through a planetary system, or the musical equivalent of a journey through a wormhole. Lest you think that all of this stuff is cold, calculating, and devoid of feeling, consider the inspiration that comes from gazing at the Milky Way on a dark, clear night, or from meditating on the great questions of Cosmology: What is the origin of the universe? What are its development, mechanisms, and ultimate fate? It's entirely natural and mystical, on the grandest possible scale.
Whatever style I am working in or whatever group or performer I’m writing for, my attitude to the work is the same: I strive to create finely crafted music that edifies, uplifts, and ennobles both listener and performer. Much of the new music these days sounds pretty nice, safe, and unadventurous. I suppose that's where the market is. I've never been one to chase the market, though. I may realize little income from my work, but I hope that, if what I have to say is worth hearing, the dare will earn me a small but unique place among the stars...
Douglas Shambo, a native of Watertown, New York, received his music education at Hartt College of Music. He also holds a Certificate in Dalcroze Eurhythmics earned under Robert Abramson.
Douglas has composed commissioned works for the Choir of St. Luke-in-the-Fields, New York City; the Choristers and Fellowes of the Nevil Memorial Episcopal Church of St. George, Ardmore, Pennsylvania; St. Stephen's Parish, Pittsfield, MA; and the University of Minnesota Episcopal Center. While Precentor and Composer-In-Residence at the Church of St. Louis, King of France, St. Paul, Minnesota, he composed more than 30 works for liturgy and concert. His anthem “The Shepherd” was premiered in London at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral by the Choir of the Church of St. Michael and St. George, St. Louis, MO, and recently sung by the Choir of St. Clement's Church, St. Paul, MN at Durham Cathedral. His hymn descants are published in the collection “The Crowning Glory: New Descants for Church Choirs” (Church Publishing Corporation). Performances of his works have been broadcast on NPR’s “Performance Today” and “With Heart and Voice,” and on MPR’s “The New Releases.”
Douglas’ solo performance credits include seven seasons as principal performer with Early Music New York, appearing with them in New York City, and on several North American, European, Middle East, Asian, and Australian tours. Other solo credits include appearances with Ex Machina Baroque Opera, Concentus Musicus, VocalEssence, Magnificat Baroque (San Francisco), Metropolitan Chamber Ensemble (Chicago), Amato Opera (New York CIty), and Consortium Carissimi (Twin Cities); and two appearances as soloist under the baton of Sir David Willcocks. Douglas recorded Aaron Jay Kernis’ “The Blue Animals” for the CD “Heartbeats: Songs from the Minnesota AIDS Quilt Songbook.” He can also be heard as soloist on Consortium Carissimi's newest recording, "Oratorios of Benefazio Graziani" from Naxos Records.
While Director of Music at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Douglas conducted the Choir of St. Clement’s during their week in residence at Westminster Abbey in 2001, and at the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church. He made two recordings with the Choir: “I Love All Beauteous Things: Music from St. Clement’s” (2001) and “Hail, Redemption’s Happy Dawn: Music for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany” (2005).
Douglas is a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers). He was elected to membership in the Association of Anglican Musicians in 1993. He and his music have been profiled in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, The American Organist, and The Living Church. Douglas lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.