William Neil’s compositions present the listener with an intense brilliant effect (FANFARE MAGAZINE) and represents contemporary writing at its most intellectual probing (CHICAGO TRIBUNE). His extremely characteristic harmonic world (CLASSICAL CD REVIEW) is fundamental to the unfolding of his music, and the range of sonic experiences (in his music) is astounding (SOUNDBOARD). In the 1980’s Neil was appointed as the first composer-in-residence with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the first residency of its kind with a major American opera company. His opera, The Guilt of Lillian Sloan was premiered by Lyric in June of 1986. He then went on to produce award-winning concerts and events at the New Music Chicago Spring Festival for several years. He has composed music for celebrated musicians including John Bruce Yeh and Chicago Pro Musica, guitarist Michael Lorimer and soprano Barbara Ann Martin. His Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, commissioned by the Abelson Foundation, was premiered in Prague by the Czech National Symphony conducted by Paul Freeman has been recorded and released on the New Albany label. The Rome Prize and the Charles Ives Award are among his honors and his work has been recognized through grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, fellowships from the Fulbright Commission, and the American Symphony Orchestra League, and awards from ASCAP and BMI. In 2008 he served as the McKnight Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum for the city of Winona, MN. Significant performances include the premiere of his piano trio, Notte dei Cristalli, at the Teatro Alla Specola in Padova by Trio Malipiero, the premiere of his Symphony No. 1 (Sinfonia delle Gioie) by The La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, directed by Alexander Platt, and the premiere of Out of Darkness Into Light at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, NC. Most recently, Italian pianist, Giacomo Dalla Libera premiered Nocturne No. 1, Prelude No. 3, and Tango No. 2 at Morely College in London, and clarinetist, Fàtima Boix Canto’ premiered Concerto for Piccolo Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA, Duo Sureno premiered Love Poem with a Knife and pianist Martin Jones premiered Six Preludes for piano at Radford University. Recent CD releases have featured his music including Out of Darkness Into Light on Ravello Records, Spiritual Adaptation to Higher Altitudes on Mark Masters Recordings and Six Preludes for piano on PnOVA Recordings. His music will be featured on several live broadcasts on WFMT radio in Chicago in 2019 including his Six Preludes for piano solo by pianist Martin Jones. In the fall of 2020, Neil served as an Artist in Residence at Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
The music of William (Grosvenor) Neil (FAAR ’83) has been performed on both sides of the Atlantic and has been featured at the Festival of Music in Evian, France, the Electronic Plus Festival in New York, the Pontino Festival in Italy, and the New Music Chicago Festival. He has written works for celebrated musicians including Concerto for Piccolo Clarinet for John Bruce Yeh and Chicago Pro Music, recorded on the Newport Classic label, Fantasia, and for guitarist Michael Lorimer, published by Melbay, Violin Rhapsody for violinist Sharon Polifrone recorded on Albany Records, At the Edge of the Body’s Night for Duo Sureno recorded on the Liscio Label, Out of Darkness Into Light for Pro Musica recored on the Ravello Recordings, Spiritual Adaptation to Higher Altitudes for clarinetist, Corey Mackey, recorded on the Mark Masters Label and Six Preludes for pianist Martin Jones recorded on PnOVA Recordings. His songs set to poems by D.H.Lawrence, The Waters Are Shaking the Moon, for soprano Barbara Ann Martin, premiered on WFMT radio in June of 1996.
Major Performances and Commissions
In 1984 he was appointed the first composer-in-residence with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His first opera, The Guilt of Lillian Sloan, was premiered in 1986. His orchestral works have been performed by the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, The Chicago Chamber Orchestra, the Opus One Chamber Orchestra, Concertante di Chicago and the Czech National Symphony. Commissioned works include, The Waters Are Shaking the Moon for WFMT Radio, Rhapsody for Violin for Concertante di Chicago, Scherzo at the Speed of Light for Northern Kentucky University, Project Phoenix for Chicago Pro Musica, and Super String Quartet for the Arts Association of Denmark, At the Edge of the Body’s Night for Duo Sureno, Out of Darkness Into Light for Pro Musica, and Sinfonia delle Gioie for the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alexander Platt.
Residencies and Significant Performances
In 2007 Neil served as a McKnight Foundation Visiting Composer-in-residence for the city of Winona, MN where his Oratoria for chorus and soloists was premiered by the St. Mary’s University Chamber Choir. In September of 2012 he was in residence at the D.H. Lawrence Gargnano Centenary Symposium in Gargnano, Italy, performing his song cycle The Waters Are Shaking the Moon and a commissioned work, Where There is No Autumn. The following year, Trio Malipiero premiered his piano trio, Notte dei Cristalli, at the Teatro alla Specola in Padova. In 2015 the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, directed by Alexander Platt premiered his Symphony No. 1 (Sinfonia dei Gioie). Recent commissions include, Out of Darkness Into Light and Love Poem with a Knife for Duo Sureno and Pro Musica premiered at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, NC. Italian pianist, Giacomo Dalla Libera premiered Nocturne No. 1, Prelude No. 3, and Tango No. 2 at Morely College in London in 2018. In the spring of 2020, Neil will serve as an Artist-in-Residence at Badlands National Park.
Sound Design & Radio Production
Neil is the artistic director of TheComposerStudio.Com, LLC that specializes in film and sound design for theatre. Recently, he has produced sound design for the In Tandem Theatre Company production of Beast on the Moon and The Glass Menageries in Milwaukee, WI. He has also worked with the actor-director Phil Addis in designing sound for Nosferatu for the Viroqua Community Theatre. Recent film scores include the Community Conservation documentary Conservation of the Yellow Tailed Wooly Monkey. Neil regularly co-hosts Symphony Sunday on WDRT in Viroqua, WI, a three-hour classical music program that features interviews with local musicians and live music. He is currently producing a ten-episode program featuring interviews with the American composer, George Crumb about his American Songbook series of recordings.
He also actively performs with Project FourthStream as pianist- composer with jazz musicians Tom Gullion and Karyn Quinn. The group has recorded and produced two recordings: This Music in 2010 followed by Out of Darkness Into Light in 2017. In June of 2016, he performed a solo piano recital of his own piano music, ” Verde, Bianca, Rosa Concerto” at the Academia della Musica in Sofia d’Epiro in Calabria Italy.
He earned the Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees in Composition from the Cleveland Institute of Music & Case Western Reserve University where he studied with composer Donald Erb. He pursued advanced musical studies with Joachim Blüme at the Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik, Koln, Germany and holds the Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Composition from the University of Michigan School of Music studying composition with Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, Eugene Kurtz, and William Albright.
His creativity has been recognized by awards from the McKnight Foundation (2008), the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1982), a BMI composition award (1981), an ASCAP award (1981), a Fulbright Fellowship (1978-1979), commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts (1978, 1984), an Illinois Arts Grant (1988), and the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome (1983). In 1988 he received the Armstrong Award for jointly producing Music at Hight Noon along with WFMT host Kerry Frumkin as part of the 1988 New Music Chicago Spring Festival. Most recently Neil was awarded 2008 Visiting Composer’s grant from the McKnight Foundation for the city of Winona, MN.