One way for you or your organization to participate in the creative artistic process is by commissioning original music. This page pertains to my compositions that have been created via commissions. Here you can:

  • See my Upcoming Commissions.
  • Learn about the Commissioning Process.
  • Download and peruse a Sample Commissioning Agreement.
  • Review my Previous Commissions.

Upcoming Commissions

A Surprise Commission · Happy Birthday, Kevin Clarke!

Choir members, friends, and associates of Kevin Clarke, Organist/Choirmaster of The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX, surprised him on his birthday with a choral setting of the Prayer for Church Musicians and Artists (Book of Common Prayer, 1979) composed in his honor. During the course of the October 11 choir rehearsal, Clarke was handed a copy (missing the dedicatory line) in order to read this piece with the choir. At the conclusion of the read-through, he was presented with a framed copy complete with dedication, autographed by the composer, and awaiting signatures from those involved in the commission. Happy Birthday, Kevin!

The Children's Chorus of Greater Dallas · Dallas, TX

Cynthia Nott, Artistic Director. Five compositions on texts about Music in celebration of the organization's Tenth Anniversary. Works for:

  • Unison Treble Chorus with Piano accompaniment (the addition of Cello is possible) to be performed by the Apprentice and Prelude choirs.
  • More advanced Unison Treble Chorus with Piano and Oboe accompaniment to be performed by the Concert II Choir.
  • Advanced Treble Chorus with up to three part divisi to be performed by the Concert I Choir.
  • SATB Chorus with limited men's voices and Piano to be performed by the Youth Choir.
  • Massed Choirs with Organ accompaniment to be performed by all the five Choirs of The Children's Chorus of Greater Dallas as the concert finale.

Premieres: May 1, 2007, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas, TX. Date needed: March 1, 2007.

All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church · Washington, DC.

Samuel Baker, Director of Music and Organist. Festival Hymn settings for Easter (Easter Hymn, Unser Herrscher, etc.). Congregation (Choir) Brass Quintet (Timpani) and Organ. Premieres: Easter 2007.

Region IV Convention of the American Guild of Organists · Atlanta, GA

David Brensinger, New Music Committee chair. A three-to-five-minute organ work based on Abbot's Leigh. Premiere: TBD, during the convention June 17–20, 2007. St. Bede's Episcopal Church. Richards, Fowkes & Co. organ.

Saint Robert of Newminster Parish (RC) · Ada, Michigan

Peter Kurdziel, Music Director. An anthem for SATB Choir and Organ in which Treble Voices and the Organ play a major role. Commissioned in honor of the children's choir director and in celebration of the organ renovations. Premiere: June 3, 2007. Date needed: April 1, 2007.

The Church of the Epiphany (Episcopal) · Dallas, TX

An anthem for SATB Choir and Organ. Commissioned by the church in honor of David Stinson's 20th anniversary as Director of Music. Premiere: Fall 2007. Deadline: September 1, 2007.

A Surprise Commission!

Yes, another surprise and secret commission - shhh! Due: mid-fall 2007.

Friends of Leah Hatfield · Dallas, TX

A work for 5-octave handbell choir in memory of her mother. Due: late fall 2007.

Your commissioned work could be listed here!

The Commissioning Process

Commissioning a piece of music is a unique opportunity to purchase a composer's time to create a tailor-made work for your organization. What can be easily forgotten, however, is that this new work will also be available to the greater musical community, and either can be something which others will find useful in their work or something which is going to be rarely performed or even redundant in the grand scheme of things. A commission is the most successful when the project can be widely used and is not composed for too specific or too unique forces, or is based on too narrow a subject matter or a biblical passage seldom used in the lectionary.

Composers of church music as well as writers of hymn texts are most often commissioned for festive occasions, and thus the subject matter — church, clergy and musician anniversaries, organ dedications, and musicians' gatherings — is often similar, and from a musical standpoint usually requires a "big splash" ending. Over the past few years I have queried composers and poets in preparation for workshops on commissioning. Both parties are wary of re-writing themselves and would like to create more works for "average" occasions. One author commented that he would like to have his extant texts on church anniversaries more widely sung than to be asked to write yet another one. A composer and church musician in the group commented that a set of "low Sunday" anthems — easy, but nice ones, to follow the festivals of the church year — would be a real addition to the repertoire. These thoughts should not deter one from commissioning larger works for festive celebrations, but perhaps more thought can be given to broaden the theme involved. For example, in commissioning a work — either music or text — for a church musician's anniversary at a parish, perhaps choose to use or create a text based on the idea of living out one's baptismal call in the service of God and others, rather than something which might rewrite the themes of F. Pratt Green's When In Our Music God Is Glorified.

It does help to give some thought to text or theme before contacting a composer about the possibility of a commission. However, being too restrictive in choice may rule out using your favorite composer, given what he or she already has written, has on the docket, or wants to write. Composers need to be inspired by and resonate with a text and require more that a little input in this matter. In fact, most of us have collections of books and files with texts we would like to set, and may even have the perfect poem for your project waiting in a cabinet or on a shelf in our offices! Personally, I would like to see more churches or individuals consider commissioning new texts along with new music. I have discovered that the expense of commissioning even the most well-known of US hymn writers is not that great, and new words allow for a distinctly new creation for a special occasion. Ask any composer with whom he or she would like to work — we all have our favorites.

Before you contact composers do your homework. Ask you friends and colleagues for suggestions on new works and composers they have found fresh and interesting. Research and perform these compositions. Make a list of what you have sung or played by them and what you like about their work. Most composers are scheduled for 9–12 months in advance, so it is very important to start the process early, preferably contacting a composer a year in advance of the premiere, and even earlier, if you have a larger project — a concerto or multi-movement work — in mind.

One huge caution: do not contact a number of composers at the same time in order receive "bids" on your project. This action will most likely result in you not ending up with any of them. Decide whom you would like to compose for you, and if you have several finalists, arrange them in order of preference. Telephone or email them one at a time in the order of your list and inquire as to his or her availability and fee. Even if a composer is busy, sometimes a piece can be worked in between other commissions, depending upon the complexity of the project and a composer's schedule, so do not rule anyone out without a contact first. If the first composer simply cannot write for you at this time and/or you cannot find the dollars required for the fee, then inform the composer and move to the next name on your list.

Email contact can work all right for the first stages of negotiation, but I find it very helpful to have a telephone conversation at this point in order to get all the details worked out. It also helps put a voice and personality with quickly typed words on the computer, and gives the composer a fuller sense of the commissioning body. Once everything is set by from both parties' standpoints — particulars about the work are determined (forces, premiere date, text or theme), space in the composer's schedule is arranged, and money is approved or set aside by the commissioner — it is important to form a written contract or agreement. (For an example download and peruse my Sample Commissioning Agreement, found lower on this page.) Some composers will require half or more of the fee as a down-payment when the agreement is signed. This is to prevent changes in musician, clergy, and other staff from derailing a project, and, as we all know, changes can happen all-too-quickly, even when everything in an institution has remained stable for years.

Depending upon the schedule of the composer, it might be some time before work begins on your project. Remember that most of the composers of church music have to support themselves by other, often demanding, positions, and must juggle their composition activities amidst several different schedules. For myself, I know that when I am ready to work on a commission, it is very important for the commissioner to be very accessible to me, as I most often like to get his or her input on the project as it develops, particularly when determining a final text.

In the end, as my colleague Donald Krehbiel relayed to me, it is important to keep in mind that a commissioned piece of music is a work of art and that you may not like it. Of course, the more you know of a composer's or poet's work before you begin, the better the chance you will have of liking it! Some of the most rewarding experiences with commissions have been when the commissioning body has enabled me to attend the premiere of a piece. This has most often been scheduled in conjunction with the dress rehearsal, and sometimes with some another event with which I am involved — a recital or a workshop for the AGO or musical community. If the composer cannot be in attendance, make sure you send an email or make a telephone call after the premiere to let him or her know how everything went. Send copies of bulletins, newsletter articles, and programs, as well as any recording or review.

If you have any specific questions regarding the commissioning process or wish to inquire about my availability for a commission, please contact me.

For Download to Your Computer

Sample Commissioning Agreement, 14 kB PDF

Previous Commissions

Lift High the Cross

Commissioned by neXtgen, Dallas, TX, in honor of The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration's 50th Jubilee celebration, September 17, 2006.

September 8, 2006

Cycle of Peace

Commissioned by St. Eugene Congregation, Milwaukee, WI, in celebration of the parish's 50th anniversary, 2007.

July 6, 2006

Grant Us Peace

Commissioned by the Willamette Master Chorus, Salem, OR, for its Veteran's Weekend concerts, November 2005.

September 23, 2005

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling

Commissioned by Michael Dodge, Dallas, TX, for his wife, Nancy, in celebration of their renewal of vows marking 25 years of marriage.

August 3, 2005

Out of the Depths - Three Essays on a Chorale for Organ Solo

Commissioned by The Church of Christ at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, in honor of Mary and Almon Ives in thanksgiving for their gift of the Letourneau organ and in memory of Martha Ives Owens, Robert Owens, Laura Owens, and Sarah Owens.

March 12, 2005

We Celebrate the Legacy (Kirkwood)

Commissioned by First Presbyterian Church, Kirkwood, MO, in celebration of the congregation's 150th anniversary.

November 3, 2004

Unbounded God (Saint James' New)

Commissioned by St. James' Episcopal Church, New York, NY, in honor of the dedication of the renovated church building.

September 10, 2004

Canticle R: A Song of True Motherhood (text by Julian of Norwich)

Commissioned by Church Publishing, Inc., for its Enriching Our Worship Series.

June 30, 2004

Christ Is Arisen

Commissioned by Bruce Bengtson, Madison, WI, in celebration of his 25th year as Director of Music at Luther Memorial Church for the 2004 Easter services.

March 31, 2004

Psalm 150

Commissioned by the Central Arkansas Chapter, American Guild of Organists, Little Rock, AR, in celebration of the chapter's 75th anniversary, 1929–2004.

February 28, 2004

Organum - A fantasy for two organs

Commissioned by Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church, Dallas, TX, on the occasion of the dedication of the Goulding & Wood organ, Opus 41, spring 2004.

February 18, 2004

Missa Canticum Novum

Commissioned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for the Renewing Worship series.

September 14, 2003

Ancient of All Mysteries

Commissioned by Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, San Antonio, TX, for the Opening Worship Service of the AGO Region VII Convention, June 2003.

April 28, 2003

Give Thanks to the Lord

Commissioned by Ward Parkway Presbyterian Church, Kansas City, MO, in honor of the congregation's 50th anniversary.

February 4, 2003

Lions and Oxen

Commissioned by Patti and John Cody, Dallas, TX, winners of the 2002 Saint Rita Choir Tour Auction, for the 15th Annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, Saint Rita Catholic Community in Dallas, December 2002.

November 10, 2002

Psalm 118

Commissioned by Claudia and Tim Lacy, Dallas, TX, winners of the 2001 Saint Rita Fine Arts Auction, for the 2002 Easter liturgies of Saint Rita Catholic Community.

March 15, 2002

Bright Beams - Fantasy for Organ

Commissioned by Keith Weber, Tyler, Texas, for the Welcoming and Seating of the Right Reverend Pierre Welté Whalon at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris France.

January 13, 2002

Four Advent Introits

Commissioned by Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, Dallas, TX, in memory of Luallie High, beloved member of the Sanctuary Choir (1950–1990).

November 18, 2001

Evening Music

Commissioned by Marcy & Keith Lindstrom and Betty & Hardy Sanders, Dallas, TX, for Orpheus Chamber Singers.

September 9, 2001

Come, Let Us Sing to the Lord

Commissioned by Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison, WI, in honor of the congregation's 150th anniversary and 150 years of musical tradition and service to the community.

August 31, 2001

When the Morning Stars Together

Commissioned by Betty Jean Bartholomew, Eugene, OR, for the Opening Convocation of the AGO Region VIII Convention in Eugene, July 2001.

May 14, 2001

Tuba Suite

Commissioned by First Presbyterian Church, Fort Wayne, IN, in honor of additions to the organ.

November 4, 2000

Evening Service for the Nativity

Commissioned by the Church of the Nativity (Episcopal), Huntsville, AL, in memory of Dr. Harold "Cotton" Ray.

October 8, 2000

Evening Service for the Incarnation

Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX, for the choir's summer 2000 tour of England.

June 12, 2000

Three Days Had Passed

Commissioned by Marcy and Keith Lindstrom, Dallas, TX, in celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary and for the 2000 Easter liturgies of Saint Rita Catholic Community.

April 12, 2000

Everyone Sang

Commissioned by Scott Cumming and Cliff Whittle for the Alamo City Men's Chorale, San Antonio, TX, for the GALA Choruses Festival 2000, San Jose, CA.

March 17, 2000

Litany for Organ

Commissioned by the Arlington, TX, Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota in celebration of the 100th anniversary of SAI.

February 6, 2000

'Twas in the Year That King Uzziah Died

Commissioned by All Souls Episcopal Church, Washington, DC, for its 1999 Advent Lessons and Carols Service.

November 30, 1999

Psalm 89

Commissioned by the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains, Cincinnati, OH, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Episcopal ordination of the Most Reverend Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Archbishop of Cincinnati.

November 20, 1999

Leaf from Leaf Christ Knows

Commissioned by Saint John's Episcopal Church, Minden, LA, in honor of the Rev. William R. Bryant's 10th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.

October 31, 1999

Tune Me, O Lord

Commissioned by Saint John's Episcopal Church, Minden, LA, in honor of the Rev. William R. Bryant's 10th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.

October 11, 1999

Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

Commissioned by the Old South Church, Boston, MA, on the occasion of the Rev. James W. Crawford's 25th anniversary at Old South Church.

October 1, 1999

Incarnation Suite on "Puer natus est nobis"

Commissioned by David Heller, San Antonio, TX, for his recording of music based on Gregorian chants made at the Church of Saint Louis, King of France, Saint Paul, MN.

September 4, 1999

From My Heart Springs a Song

Commissioned for the 92nd Annual Evergreen Church Music Conference, Denver, CO.

June 7, 1999

Pervasive, Never-absent One (Laurel)

Commissioned by the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX, in celebration of the congregation's 100th anniversary and for inclusion in its new hymnal supplement.

May 21, 1999

Across the Bridge of Fates Unknown (Passage)

Commissioned by the First Unitarian Church of Dallas, TX, in celebration of the congregation's 100th anniversary and for inclusion in its new hymnal supplement.

May 21, 1999

Missa Mandatum

Commissioned by All Soul's Episcopal Church, Washington, DC, for its 1999 Maundy Thursday service.

March 14, 1999

To Hear the Angels Sing

Commissioned by Marshall Rutter and Terry Knowles, Pasadena, CA, for the 1998 Christmas Concert of Orpheus Chamber Singers, Dallas, TX.

November 6, 1998

O Praise Ye the Lord

Commissioned by Wellesley Hills Congregational Church, Wellesley Hills, MA, on the occasion of Craig Bailey Adams' 25th anniversary as Senior Minister.

October 25, 1998

Save Your People, O Lord

Commissioned by the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, Dallas, TX, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the laying of the Cathedral's cornerstone.

September 22, 1998

Missa Festa Dies

Commissioned by All Soul's Episcopal Church, Washington, DC, for its 1998 Easter service.

March 23, 1998

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Singers, Dallas, TX, for its 1997 Christmas concert.

October 28, 1997

Christ Is Our Cornerstone

Commissioned by Central Presbyterian Church, Pine Bluff, AR, in memory of H. E. (Buddy) Slaten, for the dedication of the congregation's new church building.

September 19, 1997

Toccata a la Gigue

Commissioned by Carter Tiernan, Dallas, TX, for her husband Tim in honor of their 10th wedding anniversary.

August 18, 1997

I Will Exalt You, O God

Commissioned by Charlene Dorsey, Arlington, TX, for the 50th anniversary of St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Arlington.

May 19, 1997

O Spirit All-Embracing

Commissioned by Ruth Kath, Decorah, IA, for the confirmation of her daughter Jessie Kath.

April 16, 1997

When Music Wakes My Sleeping Heart (Concertato on Appleton)

Commissioned for the AGO Region VI Convention, Appleton, WI, June 1997.

March 24, 1997

Communion Service for the Incarnation (Missa Puer natus est nobis)

Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX, in celebration of the parish's 100th anniversary.

January 17, 1997

Mass for the Epiphany

Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Richardson, TX, in celebration of the parish's 25th anniversary.

October 8, 1996

All Saints

Commissioned by the Choir of Christ Episcopal Church, Little Rock, AR, in memory of Elizabeth Ware and for the 1996 All Saints' service.

August 23, 1996

Jesus Calls Us (Hill Street)

Commissioned by St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Grand Prairie, TX, in celebration of the parish's 50th anniversary.

July 16, 1996

Concertato on the Tune Hoff (O Sing Jubilee to the Lord)

Commissioned by Luther College, Decorah, IA, for the inauguration of Jeffrey D. Baker as 8th President of the college.

October 28, 1996

Festive Processional on "All Glory, Laud and Honor"

Commissioned by David Dunbar for the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church, Plano TX, in memory of Marjorie S, Dunbar for the 1996 Palm Sunday services.

March 4, 1996

Cántico por Guadalupe (Cántico para Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe)

Commissioned by Corpus Christi Cathedral and the Office of Worship of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, TX, in honor of Bishop Rene H. Gracida for the 1995 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

November 20, 1995

Eucharistic Prayer for Missa Guadalupe

Commissioned for the 1995 National Association of Pastoral Musicians National Convention, Cincinnati, OH.

July 10, 1995


Commissioned by Paul & Deborah Cunningham, Portland, OR, for their wedding.

May 11, 1995


Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Dallas, TX, for its 1995 celebration of confirmation.

April 21, 1995

Lo, How a Rose Is Growing

Commissioned by Gene Jansen, Edina, MN, for St. Matthew Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN.

October 26, 1994

Rejoice in the Lord Always

Commissioned by Gene Jansen, Edina, MN, for St. Matthew Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN.

October 10, 1994

The Invitation

Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Dallas, TX, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Howard E. Ross as Director of Music Ministries and Organist.

September 7, 1994

Epithalamium Suite (Intrada, Pastorale, & Fugue)

Commissioned by Dr. John C. Vanatta, III, M.D., Dallas, TX, for his wife Carol in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary and to be performed at an organ recital in her honor.

May 30, 1994

Miriam's Dance

Commissioned by Annette Albrecht, Richardson, TX, for the Closing Festival Service of the AGO Dallas 94 National Convention.

April 13, 1994

Gloria (for Missa Guadalupe)

Commissioned by the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, Dallas, TX, for the AGO Dallas 94 National Convention.

February 5, 1994

Arise, Shine!

Commissioned by Luther Memorial Church, Madison, WI, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Bruce Bengtson as Director of Music at Luther Memorial Church.

November 25, 1992

Psalm 15

Commissioned by Ruth Kath, Decorah, IA, for the 75th anniversary of Saint Benedict's Catholic Church in Decorah.

April 8, 1992

Come, O Blessed of My Father

Commissioned by Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, IN, for its art series.

March 21, 1992

Missa Guadalupe

Commissioned by the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, Dallas, TX, in celebration of the Cathedral's 90th anniversary.

February 15, 1992

Tomorrow's Catching Up to Me (musical for middle school children)

Commissioned by the Saint Richard's School, Indianapolis, IN.

December 21, 1991

Transfiguration (Transfiguration)

Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, Dallas, TX.

June 27, 1991

Salvation unto Us Has Come - A Small Cantata on a Reformation Hymn

Commissioned by the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians for its National Convention in Atlanta, GA, June 1991.

May 16, 1991

Jubilate Deo.

Commissioned by Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, TX, for the congregation's 1991 Interfaith Service.

January 7, 1991

Locus iste.

Commissioned by Saint Rita Catholic Community, Dallas, TX, for the dedication of the parish's new church building.

October 14, 1987

Concertato on the Tune Rushford

Commissioned by The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Richardson, TX, for the institution of the Rector.

November 13, 1985

Partita on "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern"

Commissioned by Dr. Charles S. Brown, Denton, TX.

April 21, 1983

Partita on "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland"

Commissioned by John Gill, Dallas, TX, for his senior organ recital at The University of North Texas in Denton.

June 4, 1982

Children of the Heavenly Father

Commissioned by Janis Miller Lovell, Decorah, IA, for her senior voice recital at Luther College in Decorah.

February 9, 1980


This website Copyright © 2006 – 2011 Joel Martinson. All rights reserved.