Phoenix is excited to introduce young composer Timothy Cunningham to our repertoire and community. Cunningham is the winner of our inaugural Student Choral Composition Competition, which was open in the fall of 2019 at the University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif. where Cunningham is an undergraduate and where Phoenix Artistic Director, Dr. Nicholle Andrews, is the Director of Choral Studies.

The contest welcomed entries from any Redlands student (undergraduate or graduate) under the age of 30, and was decided on by a committee of jurors made up of the Redlands faculty and Phoenix artistic team.

Cunningham’s piece, “To Tsampasin,” written in the traditional Pontic folk style (Pontic refers to the area surround the Black Sea, and is a nod to Cunningham’s Greek heritage), will premiere at Phoenix’s Spring Concert, Earth Songs on Wednesday, April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The competition guidelines requested composers’ entries be tied to the theme of Earth Day. “I wanted to encapsulate not just the grief, but the anger and frustration I feel over the environmental crisis we face, since my generation has to live with the damages caused by previous generations.” Cunningham said.

“When looking for a text, I stumbled across a Pontic Greek folk song’s text that I thought fit excellently. The story was filled with sorrow, but the delivery was extremely evocative, which was effective for the narrative I set out to tell.”

Much like the planet, Pontic Greek culture and language also faces a predicament for its own survival, which Cunningham thought “add[s] another layer of urgency to the piece.”

Cunningham (b. 1999) is a composer and vocalist based in Southern California. Deeply rooted in meditative melodies and rich harmonies, his works span several genres, with pieces written for orchestra, choir, chamber ensembles, soloists, and electronic music. His experience lies in choral music, which is evident by the lyrical and expressive sonic properties of all his works. A supporter of collaboration, Cunningham has partnered with other composers, directors, and performers to write film scores, music for theater, pop songs, and concert music alike. With a strong influence from his Greek heritage, Cunningham’s works feature several compositional techniques drawn from the beautiful melodic content of Byzantine chant and the unique texture of Greek folk music. Upon graduation from the University of Redlands, Cunningham plans on pursuing a career in choral conducting and composition.