Since 2005, through our Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program we have commisioned 104 new works for orchestra, chorus and chamber ensembles; 101 composers from over 30 countries, two-thirds women and/or composers of color and with a commitment to more representative, international repertoire.  Alumni include choral and orchestral composers, both well-established and emerging: John CoriglianoChristopher RouseCaroline ShawMichael Gordon and Stephen Paulus, as well as Paquito D’RivieraTania LeónPiret Rips-Laul, two works each by Joan Tower, Bright Sheng and Oscar Escalada and three by Mokale Koapeng. Premiered everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center to the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Helms-commissioned composers have won GrammysPulitzersGrawemeyers, as well as an Oscar and MacArthur. Named after Neeta Helms’ late father, the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program is yet another way Classical Movements demonstrates its commitment to both its clients, as cutting-edge artists, and to the wider world of classical music—promoting the creation of fresh, exciting work that encourages international collaboration.

Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program alumni include…

Kinan Azmeh | John Corigliano | David Del Tredici | Paquito D’Rivera | Oscar Escalada | Ēriks Ešenvalds | Reena Esmail | Sydney Guillaume | Mokale Koapeng | Lori Laitman | Libby Larsen | Tania León | Jonathan Leshnoff | Stephen Paulus | Andrea Ramsey | Christopher Rouse | Greg Sandow | Caroline Shaw | Bright Sheng | Gabriella Smith | Christopher Theofanidis | André J. Thomas | Joan Tower | Therese B. Ulvo | Bernat Vivancos

View All Our Composers and Works

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, James Ross, conductor:

  • Cuban Jorge AmadoShuffle and Deal 
    World Premiere: Saturday, April 20th, 2024 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Hall, George Washington Masonic Memorial (Alexandria, VA); James Ross, conductor

For the New Orchestra of Washington, Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, conductor:

  • Ukranian Victoria PolevaTurn the River
    World Premiere: Saturday, November 18, 2023 at The Terrace Theater
    at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, DC)

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, James Ross, conductor:

  • American Lester GreenToast 
    World Premiere: Saturday, September 30th, 2023 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Hall, George Washington Masonic Memorial (Alexandria, VA); James Ross, conductor

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, James Ross, conductor:

  • Mohawk Dawn Avery- Tscenacomoco
    World Premiere: Saturday Nov 4th, 2023 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Hall, George Washington Masonic Memorial (Alexandria, VA); James Ross, conductor

For the Classical Movements 30 Year Anniversary:

  • American Derek MaseloffFanfare for an Uncommon Company 
    World Premiere: Sunday, October 30, 2022 at the Belle Haven Country Club (Alexandria, VA) by musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera.

Classical Movements 30th Anniversary

For the Chorus America Commission Consortium:

  • American Karen Thomas – Alchemy
    Virtual World Premiere: Sunday, April 25, 2021

For the William & Mary Choir and Botetourt Chamber Singers, Jamie Armstrong, conductor:

  • South Korean Hyowon Woo – Jubilate Deo
    World Premiere: Sunday, March 1, 2020, at the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church (Williamsburg, VA)
  • Japanese Teruaki Suzuki Two Postcards
    World Premiere: Sunday, March 1, 2020, at the Williamsburg Presbyterian Church (Williamsburg, VA)

For the Haitian Orchestra Institute, Thierry Fischer, conductor:

  • Haitian Sydney Guillaume Lavil Okap in honor of the 250th birthday of Beethoven
    World Premiere: Monday, Apr 3rd, 2023 at the Notre-Dame of Cap-Haitian Cathedral (Haiti)

For the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra and ASO Sympatico, James Ross, conductor:

  • American Brian Prechtl Tribute in honor of the 250th birthday of Beethoven
    World Premiere: Saturday, April 23, 2022 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall (Alexandria,VA)

For the Minnesota Orchestra, Osmo Vänskä, conductor:

  • Vietnamese Do Hong Quan Ruoc Truong for orchestra and dan bau
  • Vietnamese Tran Manh Hung Khai Xuân Mở Hội
  • In honor of the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the USA and Vietnam

For the 2020 Prague Summer Nights: Young Arts Music Festival:

  • Czech Sylvie Bodorová Silymabum for string quartet
    World Premiere: Wednesday, July 6, 2022 at Suk Hall, Rudolfinum

For the Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival’s “World Voices for Women,” works by American composers in honor of 5 suffragists whose contributions have often been overlooked:

  • Brittney BoykinStand Up in honor of Mary Church Terrell
    World Premiere: Friday, June 4, 2021 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Alexandria, VA); Scott Tucker, conductor
  • Arianne Abela Now We Can Begin in honor of Crystal Eastman
    World Premiere: November 2021 at Woolsey Hall, Yale University, by Yale Glee Club (Fullerton, CA); Jeff Douma, conductors
  • Melissa Dunphy Mabel Lee, 1912
    World Premiere: Sunday, 23 Apr, 2023 at  The Great Hall, Sir Christopher Wren Building, College of William & Mary, (Williamsburg, VA); Dr. Jamie Bartlett, conductor
  • Evelyn Simpson-Curenton Ode to Ida B. Wells
    World Premiere: TBD
  • Adolphus Hailstork Greatness of Nations in honor of Mary Burnett Talbert
    World Premiere: TBD

American Gabriella Smithf(x) = sin²x – 1/x

  • For the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, co-commissioned with the Curtis Institute of Music
  • World premiere: Saturday, September 28, 2019 at Cincinnati Music Hall (Cincinnati, Ohio); Eun Sun Kim, conductor

3 works for the Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival’s “The Human Journey: Music, Migration & Identity” July 8, 2019

  • American Patrice MichaelsRefuge for Serenade! mass choir; Dr. Doreen Rao, conductor
  • Odawa First Nations Barbara Assiginaak – Waaboos N’gamwin (Rabbit Song) for Toronto Beaches Children’s and Youth Chorus; Bronwen Low, conductor
  • Mexcian Rodrigo CadetXon ahuiyacan (Be Joyful) for Túumben Paax; Rodrigo Cadet, conductor

American Reena EsmailThe Love of Thousands

  • For the San Francisco Girls Chorus
  • World premiere: Saturday, June 8, 2019 at Mission Dolores Basilica (San Francisco, CA); Valérie Sainte-Agathe, conductor

English Lauren Braithwaite – Hamsafar: A Musical Journey Through South Asia

  • For the South Asian Symphony Orchestra
  • World premiere: Friday, April 26, 2019 at Tata Theatre, NCPA (Mumbai, India); Viswa Subbaraman, conductor

American Stacey GibbsI feel like my time ain’t long and Shut De Do’
American Johnie Dean – Three American Hymns

  • For the Lexington Singers
  • World premiere: Sunday, March 10, 2019 at First United Methodist Church (Lexington, KY); Jefferson Johnson, conductor

Syrian Kinan Azmeh (Classical Movements Composer-in-Residence) – Clarinet Concerto

  • For the Seattle Symphony Orchestra
  • World premiere: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at Benaroya Hall (Seattle, WA); Ludovic Morlot, conductor

2018: Norwegian Therese B. Ulvo – I am I am I am (“Wild of Spring,” “My Heart,” “Rest Now, Heart,” “My Cradle”)

  • For Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, in honor of Artistic Director Anne Tomlinson’s 22nd and final season
  • World premiere: Thursday, June 28, 2018 at Pasadena Presbyterian Church (Pasadena, California); Anne Tomlinson, conductor

10 works for the Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival’s “Mandela at 100: Songs of Hope, Justice & Unity” in June-July

  • Syrian Kinan Azmeh – Ibn Arabi Recitation for Serenade! mass choir and clarinet
  • South African Qinisela Sibisi – Let the New Age Dawn for Serenade! mass choir
  • Indians Vedanth Bharadwaj and Manjula Ponnapalli  நம்ம பாடு for Chennai Children’s Choir
  • Madagascan Talike GelléHeagnen-Tsy Tratse for Tiharea
  • Canadian Hussein Janmohamed – Rise Children, Let’s Rise to Peace for Nai Syrian Children’s Choir
  • Canadian Aaron JensenLong Road to Freedom for Countermeasure
  • Dutch Anne-Maartje LemereisA Requiem in Quotes for Olga Vocal Ensemble
  • Venezuelan Betsayda MachadoArriba Mandela for Parranda El Clavo
  • Dutch Carlijn MetselaarWell, Actually for Olga Vocal Ensemble
  • Tuvan Choduraa Tumat – Дагын катап дарлатпас бис for Ensemble Tyva Kyzy

American Greg Sandow – The Remembered Song

  • For Prague Summer Nights String Quartet (Cindy Lin, violin; John Lee, violin; John Petrey, viola; Sonya Nanos, cello)
  • World premiere: Wednesday, July 4, 2018 at the Rudolfinum (Prague, Czech Republic)

2 works for the Ihlombe! South African Choral Festival’s “Mandela at 100: Songs of Hope, Freedom & Unity” in July

  • South African Phelelani Mnomiya – It’s In Your Hands Now for Ihlombe! mass choir
  • South African Sibusiso Njeza – Uthando Nomculo (Love and Music) for Ihlombe! mass choir

South African Bongani Ndodana-Breen – Harmonia Ubuntu

  • For the Minnesota Orchestra‘s historic tour to South Africa
  • World premiere: Saturday, July 21, 2018 at Orchestra Hall (Minneapolis, Minnesota); Osmo Vänskä, conductor and Goitsemang Lehobye, soprano

American Julian Wachner – An Alleluia Flourish!

  • For Encore Chorale
  • World premiere: Wednesday, December 26, 2018 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.); Jeanne Kelly, conductor

2017: Syrian Kinan Azmeh becomes Classical Movements’ first-ever Composer-in-Residence

Argentinian Oscar Escalada – Misa para el Tercer Mundo (Mass for the Third World)

  • For Quinto de Cantares, to perform during Melodia! South American Choral Festival
  • World premiere: July 12, 2017 at Municipalidad de La Plata-Salón Dorado (La Plata, Argentina)

9 works for the Serenade! Washington, D.C. Choral Festival: A JFK 100 Celebration in June-July

  • Haitian-American Sydney Guillaume – Ansanm Ansanm
  • Latvian Ēriks Ešenvalds High Flight
  • Spanish Bernat Vivancos – L’ametller (The Almond Tree)
  • Indian Madhup Mudgal – Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam (The World is One Family)
  • American Con FullamUnder One Sky
  • Bulgarians Milena Jeliazkova and Milena Roudeva – Orissiya (Destiny)
  • Mongolians Egschiglen – Freedom of the Steppe
  • Zimbabweans Insingizi – Bom Bom Jeys (It is important to know who we are…)
  • Indians Madras Youth ChoirMusical Tribute to JFK

American Billy Childs In Gratitude

  • For Los Angeles Master Chorale, in honor of the 20th anniversary of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna
  • World premiere: June 17, 2017 at Chorus America (Los Angeles, California); Grant Gershon, conductor

South African Mokale Koapeng – Wings of Peace and Love: Reflections on Bheki Mseleku

  • For Choir of the College of William and Mary and Botetourt Chamber Singers
  • World premiere: May 19, 2017 at University of Pretoria-Musaion Theatre (Pretoria, South Africa); James Armstrong and Jamie Bartlett, conductors

2016: 10 works by American composers for Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s 100th anniversary season

  • Kristen Kuster – Moxie (February); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • Christopher Rouse – Processional (April); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • Joan Tower – Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman #6 (May); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • Libby Larsen – Earth (Holst Trope) (May); John Storgårds, conductor
  • James Lee III – Thurgood’s Rhapsody(June); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • Caroline Shaw – Baltimore Bomb (September); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • Lori Laitman – Unsung (September); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • TJ Cole – Double Play (November); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • Jonathan Leshnoff – Dancin’ Blue Crabs (Feb, ‘17); Marin Alsop, conductor
  • Christopher Theofanidis – The Game (June, ‘17); Marin Alsop, conductor

American Andrea Ramsey – The Gift to Sing

  • For Children’s Chorus of Washington, in honor of the retirement of Founding Artistic Director Joan Gregoryk
  • World premiere: May 22, 2016 at George Washington University-Lisner Auditorium (Washington, D.C.); Joan Gregoryk, conductor

2015: American Jim Papoulis – Sounds of a New Generation

  • For Miami Children’s Chorus
  • World premiere: May 2015 at New World Center (Miami, Florida); Timothy Sharp, conductor

5 works for American Choral Directors Association High School Honors Choir at ACDA National Conference (Salt Lake City, Utah) on February 28

  • American André ThomasGloria (Glory to God); André Thomas, conductor
  • Spanish Emilio Solé Sempere Hearts Beat Together; Cristian Grases, conductor
  • Canadian Sarah QuartelWide Open Spaces; Bob Chilcott, conductor
  • English Will ToddGloria; Elena Sharkova, conductor
  • American Jay BroekerPeace Like A River; Angela Broeker, conductor

2014: Estonian Piret Rips-LaulSalve Regina

  • For Choir of the College of William and Mary and Botetourt Chamber Singers
  • World premiere: April 2014 (Williamsburg, Virginia); James Armstrong and Jamie Bartlett, conductors

Eric Daniel Helms (1921-2001)

Learning to sing and play the piano was mandatory in the Helms family, remembers Classical Movements’ Founder and President Neeta Helms: “Eric Daniel Helms, my father, was a ‘natural’ musician. He had a splendid ear, taught himself the piano, studied choral scores and could sight-read and transpose anything. Music was a total joy for him, and if he had been born in any European country or the U.S. or Canada, he would have almost certainly become a musician.”

However, studying or being exposed to what was called Western Classical Music was not easy in India, even while Neeta was growing up during the 1960’s and 70’s. When Neeta started taking piano lessons, at age 4, the only piano teachers in Agra, home to the glorious Taj Mahal, were the nuns in the nearby convent or Miss Schroeder, an Austrian lady who struggled to make a living by teaching piano lessons at a local school and in private homes.

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