Press & Reviews


Duo Sureño & Carolina Chamber Players: Continuum
Teal Music Productions

The poem by Tim Eddy is very powerful. The continuum of the title refers to, for example, the dangerous ground between love and hate, peace and genocide. The dramatic text is matched by music that is powerful and sometimes disturbing. It is a fine work, though far from easy listening.  By contrast, the first work on the disc,  love poem with a knife, is essentially repulsive, perhaps intentionally so.  Poems do not need to be Hallmark cards, but the Kara Jackson poem that forms the text of the song is thoroughly unattractive, as is the music.   Some of Neil’s music works for me, other pieces not at all. 

Bookending the release are Neil’s compositions that deal in different ways with the normalization of violence and love’s betrayal. Whereas Kara Jackson’s words for Love Poem with a Knife satirically describe a woman trapped in an oppressive relationship, Tim Eddy’s for Continuum considers both the dehumanization that hates and fear engender and the power music has to counter it.  There’s much to like about the release. With no more than five players involved, the performances are genuinely chamber-like in character and intimate too. At the outset, Neil’s Love Poem with a Knife receives an insightful reading from King, Nathanson, Sellin, and Jasbar, with the soprano emoting dramatically in response to Jackson’s provocative text and the others engaging as deeply with the material. Flurries of guitar entwine with Sellin’s plucks and bowings and percussive knocks punctuating a seven-minute performance that’s more than a little riveting.


Out of Darkness Into Light

Unusual but rewarding chamber music for open ears for the adventurously inquisitive, a 24-minute contemporary work for soprano, guitar, violin, saxophones, bassoon or contrabassoon, and “digital acoustics” is a welcome opportunity. Performed by an ensemble centered on singer Nancy King and guitarist Robert Nathanson, trading as Duo Surenõ , Out of Darkness into Light by William Neil presents a text by Malgosia Sawczuk, in which the writer “hears” the words of her unborn child. The content is almost disturbing at times but culminates in the triumph of birth. King is a commanding custodian of the vocal part, while Nathanson’s clear and fluent guitar lines, ranging from sparse ostinatos to bursts of chordal energy, provide the harmonic foundation. Neil’s music is challenging yet never without shape, the experience being both intense and uplifting.


Spiritual Adaptation to Higher Altitudes by William Neil is an ode to the spiritualism gained from rock climbing.  The opening run demonstrates how fascinating the clarinet’s clarion register paired with undampened vibraphone can  be.  Overall, Neil achieves an excellent sense of space.  Derek Emch,  THE CLARINET

William Neil’s phantasmagorical Out of Darkness into Light, is a twenty-four-minute dramatic scena of operatic weight, if not length. (Neil was, for a time, composer-in-residence at the Chicago Lyric Opera.) The text is by art restorer Malgosia Sawczuk, who wrote it while working in a Chicago church, while pregnant.  Trust me, the text is illuminating and powerful regarding both of these experiences.  The Duo (Rob Nathanson, guitar and Nancy King, soprano, is joined by violinist Danijela Zezelj-Gualdi and by Laurent Estoppey on a variety of saxophones.  Helena Kopchick Spencer on bassoons, and the composer on “digital acoutstics.”  As you can imagine, the range of sonic experiences is astounding but always illuminates the music and the drama.  Soprano Nancy King is extraordinary.  This is a work that cries out for performance whenever the musical forces and an open-minded audience can be found.  -Al Kunze  SOUNDBOARD

“The range of sonic experiences is astounding but always illuminates the music and the drama.”  SOUNDBOARD MAGAZINE.

William Neil’s compositions present the listener with an intense brilliant effect. FANFARE MAGAZINE

His music represents contemporary writing at its most intellectual probing.  CHICAGO TRIBUNE

His extremely characteristic harmonic world is fundamental to the unfolding of his music.  CLASSICAL CD REVIEW

(Concerto for Piccolo Clarinet) is an absorbing and well-made piece, John von Rhein, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Neil’s Concerto for Piccolo Clarinet achieved another-worldly atmosphere with its fluid melodies for E-Flat clarinet…  Wilma Salisbury, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER

Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, commissioned by Chicago’s Katherine Abelson, proved a bright, attractive work with an open sound and a long noble romantic line.  Joseph Conniff LEADER FINE ARTS CRITIC

The rhapsody, a ravishing collage of sinuous melodies, extends Neil’s use of “shadow themes”; each theme spawns several close variations, which crowd around like musical doppelgangers. Ted Shenn, CHICAGO READER

When composer William Neil came to Chicago in 1984, he was out of sync with new music’s orthodoxy. Until the early 90s academic fashion favored atonality and consistency of voice, but Neil liked to choose from a variety of styles, old and new; he had more in common with Samuel Barber or David Del Tredici than Roger Sessions or Milton Babbitt. Though he produced a prizewinning live concert series for WFMT in the late 80s and organized a handful of festivals, his music’s lyrical leanings and conservative eclecticism probably cost him broader success. He didn’t want to teach, though his PhD from Michigan might’ve secured him a position; at one point, after a two-year stint as the Lyric Opera’s first composer in residence but before his next fellowship, he even collected unemployment. Neil went through a difficult divorce, then disappeared from the music scene for almost five years, joining an investment firm and taking courses to get a license as a financial planner. Since resurfacing as a composer in the mid-90s he’s debuted a concerto for piccolo clarinet, which he wrote for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s John Bruce Yeh, and a boldly sensuous setting of D.H. Lawrence poems for local soprano Barbara Ann Martin. This weekend the chamber orchestra Concertante di Chicago will premiere his Rhapsody for Violin, starring concertmaster Sharon Polifrone, as part of “American Eclectic”–a program that also includes Bernstein’s enchanting homage Arias and Barcarolles and Barber’s Cello Concerto. The rhapsody, a ravishing collage of sinuous melodies, extends Neil’s use of “shadow themes”; each theme spawns several close variations, which crowd around like musical doppelgangers. The work ought to help his comeback, and it will certainly make a case for a revival of the kind of eclecticism Bernstein epitomized in the 40s and 50s, which polishes old formulas until they glow with charm and warmth. The singers in the Bernstein will be Buffy Baggott and William Andrew Stuckey; Steven Honigberg will solo in the Barber. Hilel Kagan, the orchestra’s founder, will conduct. Sunday, 3 PM, Concert Hall, DePaul University, 800 W. Belden; 312-621-5265. Neil will give a preconcert lecture at 2, dramatizing his composition process with the aid of a laptop computer and a piano. TED SHEN

The world premiere of “The Guilt of Lillian Sloan,” the first product of the Lyric Opera’s composer-in-residence program, proved to be a powerful and effective piece of music and theater. Wynne Delacoma, CHICAGO TRIBUNE

the effect here was that of a tightly unified, fast moving and intensely dramatic story of a crime of passion based on an actual British murder case of some 60 years ago. The libretto, credited to the composer William Neil and Frank Galati, is a strong book. a sturdy foundation for the action. The score consistently illuminated and intensified the words, and the cumulative effect in this staging, directed by Galati, was one of the significant talents significantly employed. Robert C. Marsh, CHICAGO SUN TIMES

It opens with the beautiful ‘Out of Darkness into Light’ by William Neil. This is probably the one track that really showcases King’s incredible vocal range to its full.  Darren Rea REVIEW GRAVEYARD

…composer William Neil’s ethereal, tinkling sound design remind us that “Menagerie” itself is a delicately spun creature of memory — beautiful and easily broken.  Mike Fischer,  THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL



Sacrum Creaturae for String Quartet and Digital Acoustics

 La Crosse Local interview, August 2021

Concerto for Piccolo Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra, Montecito Journal, July 2017
Clarinetist Coaxes Composer to Update Concerto
Out of Darkness Into Light, WHQR in Willmington, NC, March 2017

Communique: Composer William Neil Premieres “Out of Darkness Into Light” | Pro Musica @ CAM

MAR 27, 2017

Pro Musica, under the artistic direction of Robert Nathanson, presents its 6th concert celebrating new music and works of living composers. On Thursday, March 30 at 7:00pm, composer William Neil will perform with the group at the Cameron Art Museum. Neil will begin the concert by performing short compositions on the piano, followed by the premiere of Neil’s Out of Darkness Into Light. The piece will be performed by guitarist Nathanson, Soprano Nancy King, saxophonist Laurent Estoppey, violinist Danijella Zezelj-Gualdi, and contra bassoonist Helena Spencer. Composer William Neil will accompany with digital acoustics.

Pro Musica presents “Out of Darkness into Light,” new work by composer William Neil. Thursday, March 30 @7:00pm at Cameron Art Museum. Performers: Robert Nathanson, Danijela Zezelj-Gualdi, Nancy King, Helena Spencer, Laurent Estoppey, and William Neil.

Sinfonia delle Gioie,  SEVEN Magazine, September 2015 

William Neil Brilliant Composer

Driftless Area Magazine Profile

William Grosvenor Neil -TheComposerStudio

WNIB Interview with Bruce Duffie

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