The Score of The Greenest Branch
Initial work on the score for The Greenest Branch was completed in December 2010. The composers “shopped” the score around to various ensembles. The response was that the music and staging would be too difficult. Mary and Ben then decided they would gain the skills necessary to self-produce the work. In 2011 the collaborators completed two musical commissions, the second of which was the first half their second opera, written specifically to be easier to perform. That work was staged in Massachusetts September 2011. Mary and Ben then moved to Denver, where Mary created Nuptials for the Dead in collaboration with Andrew Adams, while Ben served as executive producer. In the spring of 2012, they successfully completed and staged the second opera, Queen Victoria.
Meanwhile the score of the first opera remained unfinished, waiting for the specific circumstances of a live production to sort out details — like what instruments and singers would be available to perform it. In 2014, those details started to materialize. An initial read-through of the score took place in March, and preparations began for a concert-length performance planned for November.
What’s So Challenging In the Score?
The variety of musical styles ranges from contemporary to baroque, and backwards through late renaissance polyphony, to medieval hymns and street songs, to music from around the Mediterranean, including Arabic and Occitanian, as well as early polyphony, organum, heterophony, and monophonic styles, including plain chant and Hildegardian chant.
Also, the score assumes Pythagorean intonation, which requires fretless stringed instruments (or movable frets) and open hole wind instruments. This creates an unusual collection of instruments, with few professional players available. We’ve made concessions; for instance, an alto recorder is substituted for traverso, the open holed European wooden flute called for in the original score.