Persis Vehar

News and Reviews

February 20, 2020 - world premiere INFINITE DANCE commissioned by Northeastern State University of Oklahoma for NSU Brass Faculty member Dr. Benjamin Hay, Solo trumpet/flugelhorn/piccolo trumpet & NSU Wind Ensemble, Dr. Bryan Raya, Conductor, Tulsa OK
March 25, 2020 - INFINITE DANCE, Crane Brass Faculty John Ellis, Solo trumpet/flugelhorn/piccolo trumpet & the Crane School of Music Wind Ensemble, Brian Doyle, Conductor, State University of New York College at Potsdam, Potsdam, NY
Benjamin Hay, member of Tulsa Oklahoma’s Signature Symphony, & Faculty of Northeastern U of Oklahoma, commissioned Vehar to compose a Concerto for Solo Trumpet(s) & Wind Ensemble for programming on Northeastern U of Oklahoma Wind Ensemble’s 2020 International Tour A consortium from other colleges/universities is also taking part in the commission.
August 26, 2019 - Scenes from PUSHED ASIDE, Syracuse Society for New Music, Heather Buchman, Conductor, Empire Theater at the New York State Fair, Syracuse, NY for "equality and social justice" day
2019 Project - song cycle based on African-American Poet Lucille Clifton, Soprano Louise Toppin, U of Michigan Faculty & African-American song project leader based on Afro-American poets, Ann Arbor, MI
2019 - Received her 34th consecutive ASCAPLUS Award for Excellence in Compositiion.
January 2017 - Vehar received her 32 consecutive ASCAPLUS Award for Excellence in Compositiion.
September 2016 - Syracuse Society for New Music commissioned Vehar’s 8th Opera to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in 2020.
SHOT! premiere on June 10 & 12, 2016
Nickel City Opera Company, Shea’s Theater, Buffalo, NY

“Congratulations Persis! I was dazzled by the opera and thought it was a fantastic production with great singers. The libretto was stunning and the music was so powerful and so lyrical.”
JoAnn Falletta, Conductor
“A gifted and artful composer, her music is stunning to listen to and to perform. Persis crafts each line to fit the voice like a glove. Her encouragement and feedback was invaluable in creating the role of Supterintendent Bull—I look forward to singing many more of Persis’ works over the years!”
Fred Furnari
June 2016 - Buffalo Philharmonic Principal Clarinetist John Fullam commissioned a trio for oboe/English horn, clarinet & piano.
April 2016 - Buffalo Philharmonic Cellist Robert Hausmann commissioned a sonata for cello & piano.
March 2016 - The Body Electric from CITY OF LIGHT CD aired on WFCF 88.5 FM in St. Augustine, FL, Ellen Grolman, host.
Summer 2015, WOMEN WOMEN is available on the CD Modern American Art Song, Sharon Mabry, mezzo soprano, and Patsy Wade, piano, released on Albany, available on
Vehar’s THE FOUR DIRECTIONS was performed by Michigan Chamber Brass, Paul Eachus, Conductor, was aired on February 1, 2015 on “Fresh Ink”, Neva Pilgrim, host, on WCNY-FM (Syracuse), WUNY-FM (Utica), & WJNY-FM (Watertown)
Vehar’s CITY OF LIGHT CONCERTO performed by John Fullam, Principal Clarinet, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta, Conductor, was aired on September 27, 2014 on “Artifex”, Jon English, host, on WCNY-FM (Syracuse), WUNY-FM (Utica) & WJNY-FM (Watertown)
Her 7th opera, SHOT!, was commissioned by Dr. Judith Wolf.
Vehar’s DONA NOBIS PACEM was performed by the North Texas Choir, Mel Ivey, Conductor, was aired on March 16, 2014 on “Fresh Ink”, on WCNY-FM (Syracuse), WUNY-FM (Utica) and WJNY-FM (Watertown) radio stations.
In October 2013, ASCAP awarded Vehar a 2014 ASCAPLUS Award for excellence in composition, her 28th consecutive award.
Opera Buffs of WNY presented Vehar with the 2012 Educator Award for her contributions to the promotion of the operatic tradition in Western New York.
American Music Center awarded Vehar a Composer Assistance Program Grant for her opera, Eleanor Roosevelt premiered in March 2011 by the Society for New Music in Syracuse, New York.
Vehar received her 7th Meet the Composer Grant for presentations relating to her opera, Eleanor Roosevelt in Syracuse area universities and high schools.
Nickel City Opera Company in Buffalo, New York, names Vehar as Composer-in-Residence. Dr. Judith Wolf has commissioned her 7th opera based on the assassination of President McKinley. SHOT! will be premiered in July 2013 to celebrate Nickel City Opera Company’s Fifth Anniversary Season.
The Professional Music Teachers of New Mexico have commissioned a song cycle for tenor, clarinet & piano to be premiered in November 2012 at their conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Upcoming CD releases with Vehar’s music: From the Mountaintop by David & Daniel Kuehn, trumpets, and Ken Mervine, organ; on Fleur de Son Classics
“The latest edition of Canisius College Magazine featured Vehar in an article entitled “Virtuoso”. In her article, Writer Audrey R. Browka quoted Conductor JoAnn Falletta as saying “Persis is a composer of great imagination and tremendous talent. She enjoys writing for musicians whom she knows and cares about, and her music is always deeply personal and very communicative.”
After Skyping recently with her class on solo art song and Vehar at Pittsburg State University, Professor Stella Hastings wrote, “My students were grinning from ear to ear leaving class today. I cannot thank you enough for your time. Your insight, humor, and accessibility were helpful in allowing the topic of discussion to expend in the students’ mind. You are awesome. An inspiration. Thank you for your music and your warm spirit. I am humbled to prepare your songs and look forward to teaching my students more of your repertoire!”

Concert Review
David Kuehn, Trumpet with Ken Mervine, organ and Dan Kuehn, trumpet
International Trumpet Guild Conference, Denver Colorado
Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 11am

Entering the beautiful new Hamilton Recital Hall inspired a mood of awe and majesty. Gazing at the magnificent organ, the audience was filled with anticipation as we awaited the start of David Kuehn’s recital. Kuehn has an extensive career performing with major orchestras and chamber ensembles for many years. Among these include the Michigan Opera Theatre, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Buffalo Philharmonic, and Phoenix Symphony. What we were treated to was a recital that was played with extreme sensitivity, lyricism, control, technical facility, and beauty that was well worth the wait of the delayed start.
Kuehn began the recital with Concertina for Trumpet and Organ, Op. 41 by Joseph Jongen. The piece opened with a beautiful introduction that was played with rich sonorities from both trumpet and organ, and soaring melodic lines from Kuehn all done with a pure sound and excellent sense of expression. Throughout, Kuehn played with great intonation, superb phrasing, and evenness of sound in all registers. The second half of the piece was, by contrast, more playful and lighthearted. Kuehn played with ease and great control, especially in the rapid double-tonguing section. The closing section combined the soaring melodies, playful qualities, and fanfare motives serving to unify the piece as it came to a close.
Next was Elegy for Trumpet and Organ, Op. 27 (to Harry Kvebaek) by Øistein Sommerfeldt. As the title implies, the piece contains many religious qualities and relies on hymn tune usage. A relatively short work, Elegy began with a simple held note that invoked the solemn and contemplative quality of the work. Again, Kuehn performed with an excellent sense of phrasing, musicianship, and resonance. The climax near the end of the piece was performed with the power and intensity demanded while then returning to the solemn mood of the beginning. Both Kuehn and organist Ken Mervine played with remarkable sensitivity.
One of the highlights of the recital occurred when Kuehn and his brother, Dan Kuehn, also an accomplished trumpet player, performed From the Mountain-Top by Persis Parshall Vehar written for two trumpets and organ. Structured in an ABA form, the piece began antiphonally with David Kuehn, stage left in the balcony, performing melodic fragments which were echoed back by Dan, who was off stage, creating a distinct echo effect as if playing into the valley. The overall effect was tremendous as both players performed flawlessly and the organ sustained soft chords underneath. The second section brought the brothers together in the balcony for a duet that was more dance-like. This section was interrupted with fragments of the call and response motives. Both David and Dan performed the quick arpeggiated figures without any sense of the technical demand necessary. The final section returned to the off stage echo effect and was again played with ease and precision. The work ended on a beautiful major chord in the organ bringing a heightened sense of peace and repose to this inspired piece.
The recital ended with Concerto in Re by Giuseppe Tartini. The first movement was done with the brilliance and purity of sound demanded of this literature, while the second movement provided the appropriate contrast in sensitivity. Kuehn made the upper range sound effortless and played with great intonation. The third movement was very light and playful with the passages of multiple tonguing executed with exact precision and character. The brilliantly played cadenza brought a magnificent close to this great recital and left the audience refreshed and wanting more.
David Montgomery, Reporter

Eleanor Roosevelt opera

Excerpts from Eleanor Roosevelt, an opera by Persis Parshall Vehar
Based on the book and play by Rhoda Lerman with libretto by Gabrielle Vehar
Eleanor Roosevelt
Long before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, there was Eleanor Roosevelt—another human being caught in the crosshairs between the old world and a New Deal; between war and peace; between passion and duty; between a man’s world and her own; between apathy and courage; between poverty and health care; between bigotry and freedom; between heroes and veterans; between the old view of the US and a better, improved one; and between being lesser partner and world role model.
The Opera, Eleanor, based on Rhoda Lerman’s one-woman play, tells the fascinating and strangely parallel story of a world almost a century away that looks uncannily like our own in the 21st century. As seen through Eleanor’s eyes, we a find a USA struggling to promote peace, prosperity, equality, dignity, and respect for all, after the fall-out from some very troublesome times.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a role model who rose out of an old world passing away—her husband’s life; her own humiliation at his hands; her ignorance of war’s reality; a lack of code for humane treatment of troops in battle, veterans, mothers, and children; an end to bigotry and religious bias; and a USA that needed a new image—to a new world coming.
Just as we have today courageous heroes tempered by their own hard times, so, too, was Eleanor Roosevelt. And in an operatic world where women characters are relegated to stereotypical roles as “angels” or “whores”—victims in either case—here is a refreshing new role for a woman: intelligent, betrayed, unsupported, and alone, but accomplished. A woman who rose to become a world leader and model for all following her today, as she even now lives on in her own writings, biographies, dramas, and now ... an opera!
By Librettist Gabrielle Vehar

What the Critics Say

Eleanor Roosevelt

“‘Eleanor Roosevelt’, an opera in two acts, garnered a warm reception at the Saturday world premiere produced by Society for New Music. A strong cast, simple but authentic sets, and an excellent chamber orchestra—conducted by Heather Buchman—combined to create uniformly high-quality entertainment and a glimpse into early 20th Century American history through a woman who forged pathways of justice, opportunity and equality. Composer Persis Parshall Vehar’s talent is matched by her wisdom, which she demonstrated by not attempting to cover the entire lifetime accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) ... Her (Eleanor’s) subtle comic lines garnered spontaneous and genuine laught ... One of the strongest moments was Moriaty’s closing solo in Act 1 after she met three French widows, saw (as the audience sees through projections of WW 1 images) the trenches and the burial ground of slaughtered men, and understood the ravages of war ... Vehar’s music built throughout this scene to the culminating declaration that ‘all human beings are born free and equal’ ... ’Eleanor Roosevelt’ is an artistic look at some of the personal struggles of a significant public figure. In exploring and celebrating the vibrant and visionary woman she was, Vehar, librettist Gabrielle Vehar, and all who worked on the production, help save Eleanor from the fate of so many other historical personalities: that of being represented as just a name and a few lines in a textbook.”
Syracuse Post-Standard

“The premiere of a new opera based on the life of Eleanor Roosevelt by Persis Vehar drew near capacity crowds to a pair of performances at the Carrier Theater in Syracuse last weekend. In the title role, soprano Bridget Moriarty vividly recreated the character of one of the most significant American women in the 20th century, as brought to life in the libretto by Gabrielle Vehar, and in the wonderfully melodic and transparently orchestrated score, by composer Persis Vehar, in which every word of the text was intelligible.”
Emily D

“For Earth, For Heaven has the feel of a future salon favorite. It was sheerly exquisite. There was instant audience response with appreciative applause.”
Dwyer, Buffalo News
From Buk’s Battered Heart

“Vehar’s ability to create seamless dramatic continuity from (Bukowski’s) material borders on mystical ... Vehar’s music should take its deserved place in the repertoire.”
Brockman, International Alliance of Women in Music Journal

“In the soft-edged pieces, a revealing tenderness lurked.”
Woodward, Los Angeles Time
Peace Requiem

“Requiem aeternam modulating upward on three chords, has a strikingly heart warming effect, radiating optimism.”
Trotter, Buffalo News
Bukowski: Blood, Guts & Tears

“The set of songs deserves repeated listenings.”
MacTaggart, Buffalo New
Sound-Piece for Organ

“Vehar continues to be a composer unafraid to try new ideas, to be different, but with a comfortable framework of accessibility for the listener.”
Trotter, Buffalo News
George Sand...And Chopin?

“Vehar never falters as she creates a warp speed of drama, emotional contrast, and character development within a musical atmosphere capable of both subtle and dramatic shifts as determined by the text ... This work provides gorgeous, intimate music for each character to sing, yet there are moments of dramatic emotional distress, humorous satire and rhythmically challenging duets that leave one almost breathless with excitement.”
Mabry, NATS Journal

“The concluding duet can make a listener laugh out loud in delight.”
Kunz, Buffalo News
City of Light CD

“Back in Fanfare 24:1, I reviewed an omnibus release on the Fleur de Son label (FDS 57934) dedicated to a host of 20th-century trumpet pieces accompanied by piano. The trumpeter was David Kuehn; the pianist, Persis Parshall Vehar. Both Kuehn and Vehar were brilliant as performers. Among the pieces was one by Vehar—Sound Piece for trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet, and piano. I found that piece ingratiating in its integration of tongue-in-cheek insouciance with moments of inspired lyricism. Now, 10 years later, I’ve finally come into possession of a disc fully dedicated to the music of Persis Parshall Vehar. In this case, all of her virtues are beautifully realized.
“Vehar is currently in her 12th year as composer-in-residence at Canisius College, Buffalo, New York. As a composer, she has studied privately under Warren Benson, Ross Lee Finney, Roberto Gerhard, and Ned Rorem—a fine pedigree by any measure. A lot of her disarming quirkiness, however, I suspect results from her attendance at advanced composition workshops with such Philosophically differing luminaries as Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Leon Kirchner, Roger Sessions, and Jacob Druckman. One cannot experience such influences without concluding that any sort of universal musical reality is, to quote Lily Tomlin somewhat out of context, “an overrated concept.” And so one finds in Vehar’s music a masterly integration of many supposedly mutually exclusive elements—comfortably jazzoid passages cleverly intertwined with harsh moments of extended instrumental techniques, and moments wherein patches of rather severe dissonance uncannily melt into soaring lyricism. At the risk of once again nailing shingles to the fog, I sense the influence of Le Six in her stuff, but here with an undeniably American accent.
“In terms of scale and complexity, the largest piece on this offering is her City of Light clarinet concerto. It was commissioned by John Fullam, the distinguished performer on this disc. Fullam is currently principal clarinetist of the Buffalo Philharmonic, and has a résumé that documents performances as principal clarinetist and soloist with such ensembles and venues as the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with Eugene Ormandy, the Marlboro Festival with Pablo Casals and Rudolf Serkin, and the Tanglewood Festival with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa. Composed with his technical guidance, the work gestated for three years. According to Vehar’s liner notes, “[This] programmatic concerto is composed on two levels; in one sense it is based on the actual physical progression of Buffalo at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries from a city illuminated by gaslight to the first electrically lighted city on the globe. … Secondly, the concerto also musically demonstrates the growth of any creative idea from its inception to its successful climax.” The live performance on this CD is from Fullam’s and Falletta’s second go at it on April 29, 2007. It is a stunner. With its eclectic use of jazz intertwined with Gregorian chant, Irish keening, and moments of diatonic lyricism all underpinned by a both trenchant and kaleidoscopic orchestration, I found the concerto an illuminating musical odyssey.
“I won’t dwell on the remaining chamber-music pieces that round out this offering except to say that they show Vehar to be a resourceful master of both instrumental color and scale. As in the concerto, their affective range runs from the intensely poetic to the decidedly tongue-in-cheek, best exemplified by her Jukebox Dances for clarinet and piano, the first movement of which is titled “Tango for Two Left Feet.”
“The sound is fine and certainly up to the task. I have not only taken pleasure, but will undoubtedly continue to do so with this quite quirkily magical disc.”
William Zagorski, Fanfare
Pushed Aside
“The ayes have it for world premiere opera about Suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage”

"Audience members in the sold-out Carrier Theater gave a strong affirmative vote in the form of a standing ovation for the Jan. 21 world premier of ‘Pushed Aside: Reclaiming Gage’.
... Having been one of the original suffragist triumvirate, with Susan B. Anthony (Juliane Price) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Laura Enslin), to spearhead the women's movement, Gage was later shunned, and her contributions have been largely overlooked. Her fault, as it was perceived by her suffragist sisters, was not in lack of energy or courage, but rather it was in her determination to extend liberty to all people, including the African-Americans and Native-Americans that she saw as equals.
... The score by Persis Parshall Vehar ... references American music of the period as well as Native American rhythms and melodies. The music conveys a sense of each individual's character, with the motif for the title character revealing her endless energy and intelligence.
... ‘Pushed Aside’ is ready to move beyond its Central New York roots. It is a landmark achievement for the Society for New Music, a successful historical opera that can be produced across the nation as America celebrates the 2020 Centennial of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
Linda Loomis, Syracuse Post-Standard
Sound-Piece for Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Piccolo Trumpet & Piano

“It is at once jazzy and pointillistic. Both serious and tongue-in-cheek, it integrates a wide and divergent array of melodic material into a cogently worked out essay.”
Zagorski, Fanfare

“Here, Vehar’s music has a jazz influence, but she’s no third-stream composer. Her melodic writing can be quite angular, but it does not leave a listener feeling dizzy. She admires clarity and simplicity, yet can be complex and certain passages made me think of Ives, for who simplicity and complexity were the light and dark of a day.”
Putnam, Buffalo News
L’aqua Vivaldi

“Extraordinary composer.”
Pre-concert publicity—Kunz, Buffalo News

“Vehar’s work was a joy ... immediately accessible ... took on the lightness that is the hallmark of Vivaldi. Like Vivaldi’s music, Vehar’s was overwhelmingly bright and unintimidating. The audience loved it.”
Kunz, Buffalo News
A Hill of Bones

“The Greater Buffalo Opera Company intends for the play to be performed in schools to promote environmental awareness and multi-cultural understanding. There is no question about either its meaning or its direction. It is a 20th-century morality play. The music is very accessible throughout, with a particularly effective section in which the parents argue. As they alternate between ‘sure’ and ‘not sure,’ the music and the argument masterfully interweave ‘sure’ harmony and ‘not sure’ dissonance.”
Sedlak, Buffalo News
Spring Things

“A delightful group of three short songs for SSA chorus—their range makes these songs very suitable for young untrained voices.”
Murray, ACDA Choral Journal

“Surely rank among the most beguilingly simple and beautiful of her bountiful oeuvre.”
MacTaggert, Buffalo News
In Celebration

“It made a very good first impression ... the interest sustained throughout ... rippling, roiling music.”
Trotter, Buffalo News
O Sacrum Convivium

“The seamless sound created a growing intensity without increased volume. It was very effective.”
Sedlak, Buffalo News
From The Mountain-Top

“One of the highlights of the recital occurred when Kuehn and his brother, Dan Kuehn, also an accomplished trumpet player, performed From The Mountain-Top by Persis Parshall Vehar ... The overall effect was tremendous ... the work ended on a beautiful major chord in the organ bringing a hightened sense of peace and repose to this inspired piece.”
Montgomery, International Trumpet Guild website
Light, Lux, Svietlo

“... expertly crafted, flows well, often on the pulse of a quirky waltz rhythm, and is structured with a palpable sense of logic.”
Trotter, Buffalo News
Inevitable Dawn

“As described in the title, there is an inevitability to the development that is no less spectacular for its expectation. There is spiritual content in this celebration that Vehar integrates naturally. It never seems superimposed.”
Sedlak, Buffalo News
Sounds of the Outdoors

“This is music of lovely sounds and coherent phrases. She is a traditional melodist with a French bent, and the saxophone is a most appropriate instrument for her music. Its beauties were savored—its rich tone, range and versatility.”
Putnam, Buffalo News
4 Developments for bassoon

“An inventive work that played off of the bassoon’s jocular character without making it seem like a parody.”
Trotter, Buffalo News

“... a delight of harsh harmonies, springingl rhythms, and sonic experiments in extended techniques for both instruments. Vehar is solid in her craft—we may think about what she’s concocting, and we may trace her antecedents (Stravinsky for one, surely) but she also makes us enjoy the sound of the bassoon, and its character, which is much more that that of a clown (in a little waltz movement the bassoon is something of a dancing bear).”
Putnam, Buffalo News
Women, Women & Three from Emily

“She excels at coloristic vocal writing and tongue in cheek humor.”
Mabry, NATS Journal
String Quartet

“The second movement seems to seek a level of spirituality similar to that achieved by Beethoven in some of his great slow movements.”
Trotter, Buffalo News
Yesteryear Suite

“Modeled after the Baroque dance-suite, it is well-crafted and Vehar’s keen awareness of her models is everywhere evident, be they distant or not so distant.”
McCandless, Buffalo News
Four Attitudes

“There is much to admire here ... all in a very accessible idiom.”
Trotter, Buffalo News
Missa Brevis Pro Pace

“The music is very attractive and seemed a serendipitous program choice in these troubled times ...” (The start of the first Iraq War)
Trotter, Buffalo News
Three Renaissance Tableaux

“These are sweet, simple playful settings. It’s a modern piece in its looking back.”
Putnam, Buffalo News
Three from Emily

“Continual interplay between voice, cello and piano creates a spritely, humorous effect ... It is well written and rewarding for all performers.”
Lerch, NATS Journal

“Ashore At Last ... one of the most captivating songs to be published recently ... The effect is almost ethereal.”
Richardson, American Music Teacher
Persis Vehar
Photo: Jim Bush