Working With the Best

Timothy C. Takach ComposerTimothy C. Takach – Composer

Reviewed as “gorgeous” (Washington Post) and “stunning” (Lawrence Journal-World), the music of Timothy C. Takach has risen fast in the concert world. Applauded for his melodic lines and rich, intriguing harmonies, Tim has received commissions from various organizations including the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, St. Olaf Band, Cantus, Pavia Winds, Lorelei Ensemble, VocalEssence, the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, The Rose Ensemble, and numerous high school and university choirs. His compositions have been performed on A Prairie Home Companion, The Boston Pops holiday tour, multiple All-State and festival programs and at venues such as the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center and Royal Opera House Muscat.

Tim has received grants from the American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and ASCAP. He is a co-creator of the theatrical production of All is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914, by Peter Rothstein. The critically adored show has had over 100 performances since its premiere in 2006. He was also selected for the 2014 Nautilus Music-Theater Composer-Librettist Studio.

Tim has had frequent work as a composer-in-residence, presenter, clinician and lecturer for conventions, schools and organizations across the country. He is a full-time composer and lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons. For more about Tim, visit: www.timothyctakach.com

“Bringing this piece to life will be an enjoyable musical challenge for me. I’m working with five soloists, the chorus and a chamber orchestra. Each character in the libretto will have his or her own musical identity, and I’ve gone through the texts and decided what instrumentation will accompany each voice. Because we’re telling four different soldiers’ stories, I’m also planning the pacing of the piece. Who sings or plays when? How can the texture shifts keep the listener engaged? Certainly there will be moments of sadness in these stories, but there are also the moments of pride, of doubt, of fear, and of love. I’ve written several movements so far, and I’m excited to dig deeper and continue to bring this story to life.”

Pat Daneman Co-LibrettistPat Daneman – Co-Librettist

A writer and editor living in Lenexa, Kansas, Pat retired from Hallmark Cards, where she worked for 22 years, the last nine as director of the writing studio. She grew up on Long Island, New York, and went to college at Binghamton University, where she studied British, American and Canadian literature, and South American magical realism, earning a master’s degree in fiction writing.

Pat published short fiction in The Indiana Review and other literary magazines. She began writing poetry in the mid-1990s under the mistaken belief that it would be easier than writing fiction. Her chapbook, Where the World Begins, is inspired by stories her aunts and mother told about growing up in a poor sharecropper’s family in Louisiana. It was published by Finishing Line Press in April 2015. A full-length poetry collection After All, will be published in the fall of 2018 by FutureCycle Press. She served for four years as the senior poetry editor for Kansas City Voices magazine and does several readings each year in Kansas City. For more about Pat, visit: www.pw.org/content/pat_daneman.

“I am a poet and fiction writer, drawn to both lyric and narrative, so I was thrilled when Rob asked me to co-write a libretto with him. Rob had already done the research and fact-checking and created the characters and the structure. The subject matter also resonated for me. I had spent a few weeks in England in 2016 where I visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. They had an exhibit commemorating their WWI centennial and honoring the gardeners, all from the nearby village, who had gone to fight—of the twelve who left, only three came home. At the time Rob contacted me, I had begun work on a long poem about this visit to Cornwall. The poem is still unfinished, but because of Rob’s preliminary work and the reading I had been doing, my contribution as co-librettist came relatively easily. I focused on fleshing out the characters—adding details to their backstories to make them as real as possible. I also played with the language to make the sound as pleasing as possible. This was my first experience with a choral work, and it was a joy.”


Rob Hill Co-Librettist and ConceiverRob Hill – Co-Librettist 

Rob is a Department of the Army civilian by day and “squirrel” by night. The “squirrel” appellation comes via a family member who bemoans Rob’s incessant busy-ness: darting from project to project, event to event, rehearsal to rehearsal, and so on. From Rob’s vantage point, such busy-ness feeds his imagination, although the inspiration for WETU came to him in a moment of silence listening to a former boss—Maj. Gen (Ret) John H. Little—tell the story of how the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came to be.

After serving in the Army for 20 years in uniform, Rob retired to initially work for Turner Broadcasting. He next worked at Wentworth Military Academy and Jr. College, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and SAIC before re-joining the Army as a civilian. Along the way, he advanced his education, achieving an Ed.D. from the University of Missouri in 2009. He has sung with Heartland Men’s Chorus since 2005, serving one year as president of the chorus and two years as board chair.

This is Rob’s first libretto. He has dabbled in creative writing alongside his fulltime occupation as a technical/doctrine writer. He published his first novel, The Church of Whosoever: Extra Grace Required, in 2016.

A third-generation soldier, Rob seeks to honor all who have served and continue to serve the common defense. He especially wishes to honor his paternal grandfather, Brig. Gen (Ret) John. G. Hill, Sr., who served as a doughboy in WWI, and is thankful to his aunt (John’s daughter) and uncle, Dr. (CAPT, U.S. Navy Ret) and Mrs. Larry Dickson of Lexington, KY, for their generous donation that was the seed money for the choral commission.

“I wrote the first draft of the libretto very quickly, perhaps because I had been sitting on the idea for almost a decade. When I conceived it back in 2004/2005, I imagined Sgt. Younger entering the room in which were arrayed identical coffins, one for each of four unknown soldiers. Each soldier would “come to life” and tell his story. The first would fundamentally be a coward up until his last living moment, when he is felled by a bullet just as he turns to save a fellow soldier’s life. One would be African-American, yearning to be acknowledged for his equal service and sacrifice. One would be gay, serving as he must in silence. And one would be heard through the voice of his mother, echoing the letters he’s written her from the front.

Despite the ease of shaping the libretto’s narrative arc, I felt the characters lacked sufficient nuance. That’s when I invited Pat to join me. With her help, each character became more authentic and vivid. The first soldier went from being an outright coward to simply being candid about his fears, as well as his keen admiration for his fellow soldiers. The black soldier spoke more poignantly about his desire for equality and the gay soldier about his love for a fellow soldier. Lastly, the mother spoke much more movingly about the literal and figurative journey her son was making from boyhood to manhood against the backdrop of war.

All along the way, Tim was part of the process and made recommendations to heighten the authenticity of the libretto. The more authentic it was, the easier it would be to set to music. This fact is certainly affirmed in the early movements Tim has shared back. After listening to one movement, in particular, I found myself humming the refrain constantly. When I caught myself, I knew this long-held dream to tell the Unknown’s story was turning into something beautiful and memorable.”