March 24, 2014

Warrior Songs


Warrior Songs is a five movement concerto for improvised percussion and choir. It is a 75 minute epic! The central theme running throughout the work is the idea of being a warrior for nonaggression and the simple bravery needed to look directly at one’s own mind and heart.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s poetry is the anchor and centre of the work.  We are using three of his poems: To Gesar of Ling, A Childs Concept of Death and Battle Cry. We are also using a text from the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, a text from the Roman Catholic liturgy, Da Pacem, and a text by Malcolm X from a speech he gave in New York in March of 1964. This speech has the wonderful and important line “…my sincerity is my credentials”. In some way the whole work, though anchored in Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s poems and ideas, points to this incredible line by Malcolm X which is the basis for last movement of the concerto.

The texts are sometimes very direct and can be taken literally and at other times they meld into a sound wall and are more metaphorical, sometimes even colour for the sake of colour, since there will be some who perceive the work as just sound. This concerto is written in the spirit of the early Shambala vision of different schools and schools of thought existing under one roof. Granelli and Togni are friends and have collaborated for many years; they play together in improvising ensembles in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Together, they have managed to build a piece that combines Jerry’s use of specific rhythmic patterns, patterns important to him on many levels, and Peter-Anthony’s imagination and skill as a choral composer and by consequence have united their spiritual practices; Granelli’s Tibetan Buddhist practice and Togni’s Catholic practice.

This concerto is an ecumenical journey towards nonaggression but it is certainly not a quiet ride; it ranges from sublime static sections to thundering chords and wild bursts of sound! The percussion part is freely improvised and is also made up of set patterns, the coming together of freedom and form, intuition and improvisation. The texts and Togni’s mystical choral writing are the backdrop for Jerry Granelli’s legendary brilliance as a jazz drummer and improvising percussionist who will endeavour to bring the listener, in the words of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, to a state of “hereness”.

Warrior Songs was commissioned by Jerry Granelli with funds from the Nova Scotia Department of Culture and Heritage.

Jerry Granelli and Peter-Anthony Togni

The World Premiere of “Warrior Songs” in Boulder Colorado October 2014

Naropa presented a five-movement choral concerto by founding music faculty member, artist, jazz drummer, and improvising percussionist Jerry Granelli, in collaboration with composer Peter-Anthony Togni with funding from the Canadian government.Boulder’s Ars Nova Singers, one of the leading choral ensembles in the U.S., in its 28th season, performed the piece. Anchored in Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s poetry, the work also draws from the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, the Roman Catholic liturgy, Da Pacem, and a speech Malcolm X gave in March 1964.

Canadian Premiere by the Elmer Iseler Singers with Jerry Granelli

Friday , March 6 2015 – 7:30 p.m.
Walter Hall, University of Toronto, Ontario

Photo Credit: Geoffrey Creighton

The Warrior Songs project gratefully acknowledges funding support from Arts Nova Scotia.

2 thoughts on “Warrior Songs

  • Scott,

    I am not aware of any plans in the works at the moment to perform the work in Halifax, but you are not the only one who thinks it would be a good idea! Fingers crossed there might be an opportunity in the future.


  • Dear Peter,

    Do you and Jerry plan to perform Warrior Songs in Halifax?

    A friend of mine went to your concert in Boulder and was blown away by it.

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