Christopher Tin on Top Score

by Emily Reese
September 25, 2012

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Christopher Tin (Courtesy of the Artist)

I had the distinct pleasure of talking with composer Christopher Tin for our newest episode of Top Score.

Christopher's song cycle, Calling All Dawns, burst onto the classical scene in 2009, winning a Grammy for "Best Classical Crossover Album." The first song in the cycle, Baba Yetu, also won a Grammy that year (2011), resulting in the first Grammy awarded to a song for a video game.

Backing up to 2005, when an old roommate Christopher had from Stanford, Soren Johnson, was working on the fourth game in Sid Meier's widely successful Civilization series, Civilization IV (think of the board game, Risk, in video game form and you'll have a good understanding of the Civilization series). After bumping into each other at a reunion, Soren asked Christopher to compose the theme song for the game.

Baba Yetu was born, and fans began writing Christopher for more music. He decided to take Baba Yetu and create Calling All Dawns.

Christopher was able to have mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade, along with medieval group Anonymous 4 and Chinese soprano Jia Ruhan perform on Calling All Dawns. When I asked how an unknown kid-composer fresh out of college gets such internationally famous musicians, he simply said all he did was ask.

In addition to stars of the classical world, Christopher used groups from his alma mater in the Stanford Taiko and the Stanford Talisman (the mixed-voice a cappella African music choir Christopher conducted as a student).

Although Christopher didn't write the song cycle with live performance in mind, a high school in Wisconsin became the first group to perform the cycle live. Following other successful live performances of Calling All Dawns, the cycle will be performed later this year at Carnegie Hall in New York.