Elaine Hagenberg is an accomplished pianist and singer who is becoming well-known as a contemporary American composer and arranger of choral music. She was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington, and studied at Washington State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree, and Portland State University, where she earned a Master of Music degree in choral conducting. After earning her degree in music, she began raising a family of four children and composing while at home. Within the last decade, she has become a household word among choral artists, and she composes for a wide range of skill levels.
Hagenberg’s music is known for its lush harmonies, memorable melodies, and sensitive settings of poetry and texts. Her works have been performed by choruses around the world and have been featured at national and regional music conferences in the United States. Some of her most well-known pieces include “O Love,” “The Music of Living,” and “The Tree of Peace.”
In addition to her work as a composer and arranger, Hagenberg is also an active conductor and clinician and has taught at the high school and college levels. She currently resides in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to compose and arrange music for choirs of all levels.
Hagenberg is a prolific writer. Having been commissioned for over fifty works in the past ten years, she has composed new music for the American Choral Directors Association, professional choirs, colleges, universities, community choirs, high schools, and churches.
The Canticle Singers will be performing Hagenberg’s “I Am the Wind,” which was commissioned by the National ACDA Women’s Choir Consortium, and named the winner of the 2020 ACDA Brock Competition for Professional Composers.
Elaine Hagenberg’s SSAA setting of “I Am the Wind” is a beautiful and evocative piece of music that captures the spirit of the poem by Zoe Atkins.
The piece begins with a subtle entrance of a cappella voices, then the piano enters with a simple accompaniment, while the melody is passed between the different voice parts, creating a sense of unity and harmony. The harmonies are lush and complex, with unexpected chord progressions and suspensions that add to the overall sense of wonder and awe.
The poem’s imagery of the wind is reflected in the music through the use of flowing melodies and dynamic contrasts. The choir sings with a sense of longing and nostalgia as if they are being carried away by the wind itself. Beginning with the phrase, “You are the light” there is a very gradual crescendo and building of energy which builds to the end without ever receding.
In this piece, poet Zöe Atkins compares her uncertainty to the wavering winds and shifting shadows, contrasting with the unchanging stars and secure land. This poetic tension is mirrored musically through rhythmic contrast and dissonant choral harmonies which highlight the power of women’s voices—joining together, offering strength, and, ultimately, soaring as one.