Composers Festival spotlight: Charles Halka

Resident composer Charles Halka comes to the 2019 Mizzou International Composers Festival having already done a good deal of world traveling in his composing and teaching career.

Originally from Tulsa, OK, Halka (pictured) currently is an assistant professor of composition and theory at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. He earned a doctor of musical arts degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, TX, and holds degrees in both piano and composition from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD.

Overseas, he also has studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, and privately with Samuel Adler through the FUBiS program in Berlin.

Halka’s works include acoustic and electronic music for concert, dance, and opera. They have been performed in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Foro Internacional de Música Nueva.

For the MICF, he has written a new work titled “Fever Dream,” which will be performed along with new music from the seven other resident composers by Alarm Will Sound as part of the festival’s “Eight World Premieres” grand finale on Saturday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre.

Noteworthy ensembles that have performed his music include the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra led by Marin Alsop, Mivos Quartet, the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra, the Lviv Philharmonic, Odessa Philharmonic, counter)induction, Callithumpian Consort, Volti, ÓNIX Ensamble in Mexico, PRO ARTE eNsemble in Russia, the chamber choirs Aquarius in Belgium and Jauna Muzika in Lithuania, and more.

As a U.S. Fulbright grantee, Halka spent 2008-09 in Vilnius, Lithuania, researching Lithuanian music and writing an opera in collaboration with director and librettist Marija Simona Šimulynaitė. The opera, “Julius,” was premiered in 2010 in Vilnius, and a choral excerpt, “Dipukų Rauda,” was performed at the ISCM World Music Days 2012 in Belgium.

Other significant works include “Round and Round,” premiered in 2011 at the Library of Congress, then revised and premiered again in 2013 in Hong Kong at the Intimacy of Creativity partnership led by composer Bright Sheng; “And Jill Came Tumbling After,” a chamber opera  with a libretto by John Grimmett, written for the Baltic Chamber Opera Theater and selected for Fort Worth Opera’s 2015 Frontiers showcase; and “Imaginary Spaces,” a dance and percussion project created in collaboration with Houston’s Frame Dance Productions with support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Halka’s honors include a Barlow Endowment general commission awarded this year, the Copland House residency award in 2015, and many others. He has completed residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the M.K. Sarbievijus Cultural Center in Kražiai, Lithuania, and in Houston, with both Musiqa (2014-15) and the Foundation for Modern Music (2011-14).

For more about Charles Halka, listen to the interview he did recently for KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and check out the interviews he did in 2017 with the Flute New Music Consortium and the podcast Lexical Tones. You can hear some of his music via the embedded players below.

“Scherzo,” recorded August 18, 2018 by the Lviv Philharmonic, conducted by Taras Krysa

“Por la fuerza las tierras,” recorded September 9, 2016 at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, performed by Ónix Ensamble