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Taking Note

Composer Stacy Garrop has a new CD, a world-premiere oratorio this month and even bigger things on the horizon.

Composer Stacy Garrop unveils new work of mythic proportions this fall.


It may come as a surprise to learn that much of the inspiration for composer Stacy Garrop’s new oratorio for orchestra and double choir came from The Matrix and Star Wars. There’s a bit of Back to the Future in there too. It’s not that Garrop’s music sounds anything like the soundtracks for these films—it’s just that in everything she writes, there’s a story being told.

“My parents believed in taking us to musical theater,” she says. “And one of the first things I ever saw was West Side Story. That, I think, has set the tone for a lot of my life.”

Garrop, who had sung in choirs since third grade and studied piano since age 5, began her composing career at age 16. The experience was revelatory: “Composing was like a room I had never been in before, and once I entered, the room lit up,” she says. “After that, nothing else mattered.”

Nearly two dozen CDs and over 60 musical compositions later, Garrop’s focus is still evident. She teaches composition on faculty at Roosevelt University while working on her own pieces. This year has been particularly busy: Local classical label Cedille released Illuminations, a CD by the Avalon String Quartet featuring Garrop’s String Quartet No. 4: “Illuminations” alongside works by Debussy and Britten; a recording of her “Mythology Symphony,” inspired by epic Greek characters, will release soon; and, Nov. 14-15, the San Francisco Choral Society, California Chamber Society and Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir will premiere her entire Terra Nostra: an Oratorio.

Above all, these days, Garrop’s work gives a sense of increasing scale and ambition: from a string quartet to an orchestra to an orchestra plus two choirs. Next will probably come an opera. “I’m always looking to the horizon,” she says, “for the next big thing to conquer.”

Microbrews, Chanticleer, sci-fi, hiking in the Rockies

Bad coffee, long road trips, grapefruit