One of America’s foremost composers of vocal and choral music recently joined the faculty at Oklahoma State University. Z. Randall Stroope, who conducts the OSU Concert Chorale and Chamber Choir, has composed more than 90 works for voice and chorus in addition to works for various vocal forces featuring brass, organ and/or percussion.
Stroope’s compositional heritage is impressive: private lessons with Normand Lockwood and Cecil Effinger, both of whom studied with noted pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. Stroope also singles out Leonard and Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky, two giants of 20th-century composition who influenced his music.
"I studied with Lockwood for 15 years,” Stroope said. "I’d often fly to Colorado to have lessons with him. He turned me on to writing music, and through Boulanger, passed on (the process of) combining instruments and voices to create this tonal fabric of wonderful colors. He was a master of sonority.
"Efficiency of writing would be the main thing I took from my studies with Effinger. Boulanger didn’t try to replicate herself through her students; she let them be successful in their own way. As a result, Lockwood and Effinger were very open to different styles of music in my writing. It wasn’t a cookie cutter approach to composition.”
Although Stroope started to experiment with composition around age 10, he began composing seriously in the early 1980s. Among his earliest successes are "The Cloths of Heaven,” which features a text by William Butler Yeats, and "Inscription of Hope,” a work set to a Holocaust text.
"I was quite fortunate to have written some works that found great attraction across the country,” Stroope said. "That sort of catapulted my career compositionally. I was soon being asked to write pieces and conduct those works with the groups that commissioned them.