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Binghamton University alumnus places third in chorale competition

After studying music his whole life, Binghamton University graduate Christian Martin is reaping the benefits of his lifelong passion.

Martin, who graduated from BU in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in music and is currently studying for a master’s in music composition, entered his piece “The Three Ravens” in the competition held by Corpus Christi Chorale of Texas A&M University.

Upon hearing the news that he had won third place in the competition, Martin said his heart skipped a beat.

“My wife was in the room and when I looked up at her I think she almost knew,” Martin said.

Composing a musical piece can be a very long process. According to Martin, one must first find a suitable text, a melody and then a harmony.

Martin explained that the melody and texts were captured from a 16th-century Elizabethan folksong. The composition involves a soft melody, piano chords in the style of a lute in both fast and slow paces. The piano music disappears and is replaced by the choir three-quarters through the songs, and then the piece ends in a calm, reserved manner by piano.

“‘The Three Ravens’ describes the characters in the piece, and through their eyes a number of sad scenes are played out,” he said.

Martin previously placed second in the 2010 Edwin Fissinger competition for his piece “Walls of Glass” and also placed second at a competition in San Jose.

Martin comes from a musically talented family and has been involved with music for as long as he can remember. He started taking piano lessons when he was five, and he sang in his elementary school choir. He later attended the Arizona School for the Arts, where students were mandated to play at least two instruments and sing in the choir.

“There were no sports, because no one had time to play them,” he said.

Throughout high school, Martin was a part of a series of different choir groups. He now plays guitar, bass guitar and drums in addition to piano and singing.

At BU, Martin was involved in a number of music groups, including the Harpur Chorale, University Chorus, Madrigal Choir of Binghamton and the Canterbury Choir.

“I believe that my experience singing in all of these ensembles has helped to develop a strong ‘mind’s ear’ for choral music,” Martin said.

He is inspired to write music by a number of events.

“When I was choosing a text to set for ‘Walls of Glass’ my grandmother was in hospice,” he said. “I came across ‘Sonnet No. 5’ and knew it was the one because of its poetic comparison of the cyclical seasons and the linear human life. I dedicated that piece to her.”

Outside of creating music, Martin also enjoys listening to it. His favorite genres in particular range from bluegrass, such as Nickel Creek, to easy listening by artists like John Mayer and Nora Jones, to classical music.

Martin’s piece will premiere at Texas A&M on Oct. 15th. He will be attending the show with his wife.

“I can’t wait for that beautiful moment when for the first time I hear human voices and breaths in place of harsh, electronically generated ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs,’” Martin said. “It always gives me chills.”