Mari Esabel Valverde – Les Papillons, Le Colibri

Mari Esabel Valverde is a Mexican-American composer based in Forth Worth, Texas. Born and raised in Texas, she began studying music at a young age. All her life, Mari has had a passion for foreign languages.  As a child, she wanted to study French, but her parents wanted her to understand the language of her heritage, so she first studied Spanish.  In high school, she began to study German lieder and French mélodie.  Today, she is proficient in French, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese. Swedish is her next challenge.

Valverde’s music draws on her Mexican heritage and her experiences as a trans woman and a person of color. Her works often incorporate traditional Mexican instruments and folk music traditions, as well as contemporary classical techniques.  

Valverde has been commissioned by ACDA, the Boston Choral Ensemble, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, and the Texas Music Educators Association.

She earned her Bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College,  a Certificate from The European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France, and her Master’s in Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. During her time at St. Olaf, Valverde was a member of the St. Olaf Choir under the direction of Dr. Anton Armstrong, to whom she attributes much of her growth and nurturing as a composer.  She also studied composition with Timothy Mahr during that time, and she earned opportunities to compose for band and chorus in her undergraduate years.

Says Mari, 

I aspire to create music that is humanist in message and sensual in expression. Dissonance is very purposeful and not to be overindulged. When composing for the voice, I put great care into setting a text.  Before drawing a single notehead, I memorize the text.  I sing it and sketch the composition with attention to articulation and breath.  My goal is to honor the text by ensuring clarity and space for the words and to extend its meaning in melody and harmony.

This Spring, The Canticle Singers will be performing two arrangements of French mélodie, originally set for solo voice by Ernest Chausson and arranged for treble choir by Mari Esabel Valverde:

“Le Colibri” is a setting of a poem by the French poet Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894).  Valverde’s setting of the piece begins with the hummingbird before it takes flight.  Throughout the piece, the voices dance, flutter, and weave in and out in a series of intricate, overlapping phrases.  The voices rise and fall seamlessly throughout the piece, which ends in a hushed, sustained octave unison, creating a sense of quiet wonder, awe, and unity.

“Les Papillons” features a text by the French poet Théophile Gautier (1811-1872).  Valverde’s arrangement is upbeat and playful, featuring lively rhythms and jaunty melodies that capture the flight of the butterfly (papillon) referenced in the poem.  The choral parts are homophonic but rhythmically syncopated.  The piece builds to a joyful climax before ending with a final phrase, and then the piano emulates the butterfly’s flight as it fades into the distance.