Roger Ames
Biography 2012

Roger Ames, Pulitzer Prize nominated composer, has written Martin Guerre for the Hartford Stage, Mark Lamos, director, and Laura Harrington, book and lyrics.  While in residence at the Roundhouse Theater in Washington, D.C., he wrote several musicals for the company, one of which, Magical Touch, was done in the London Fringe and by the Berkshire Ensemble For Theater Arts in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

He has written original music for off-Broadway plays, and composed several operas commissioned by Central City Opera, Utah Opera, Boston Lyric Opera and Broadway Cares / Equity Fights Aids.  He has won composition prizes from the International Clarinet Society, the Children's Aid Society of New York, the Boston Metro Opera's contemporary music festival, and the American Chamber Players.

Recently he premiered his music theater collage,  Take Joy at the Strathmore Music Center in Washington, with lyricist, Elizabeth Bassine.  His oratorio,  Remember Warsaw, was just premiered by the Oratorio Society of Minnesota in May, conducted by Matthew Mehaney.  Other recent work:  Requiem For Our Time, by the Boston Pro Musica, (for which he received the Pulitzer nomination), Ancient Songs Of The Universe, by the Long Island Masterworks Chorus, and A Man's Worth, commissioned by the Colorado Springs Conservatory.

Currently Ames is Resident Artist at New Dramatists, NYC, Resident Composer at Central City Opera in Colorado, and Composer in Residence at Great Neck North High School, near NYC.

His new musical, written with Elizabeth Bassine:  How Green Was My Valley,  had a recent workshop / reading at the Actors Studio, New York City, and Mark Lamos has just joined the creative team for further development.  They have also just completed their new musical:  ALICE Lost and Found, and had a developmental Equity reading in NYC.  It is written for veteran actors and takes place in a nursing home, using Lewis Carroll's characterizations to trace Alice's search for 'the light of the rabbit hole.'

Ames has studied composition with Samuel Barber, Carlysle Floyd, John Kander, Robert Washburn, conducting with Brock McElheran, Lukas Foss, Robert Shaw, and voice with Robert Reinert, Elizabeth Vrenios and Michael Trimble.  He completed his undergraduate degree at the Crane School of Music, State University of New York at Potsdam, did graduate work at American University, The Hartt School of Music, (where he became Chair of Musical Theater and joined the faculty), and then completed his Masters degree in Composition at Queens College, CUNY.

He served as Chair of Music Theater at the Hartt School of Music, Dance, and Theater, University of Hartford, and has taught students of all ages throughout his life, in both Europe and America.  He has been a consultant for Opera America, and does professional development for teachers in music, social studies, and language arts for that organization and numerous opera companies.

He is an active member of MENC, Dramatists Guild, and is an SAI National Arts Associate and a member of the American Composers' Forum.

Google <Roger Ames Composer> for further information

I specialize in music for the theater:  incidental music for plays, music theater pieces, operas, and song cycles that are dramatic in nature.  I also publish a lot of choral music, most of which also show a penchant for dramatic expression.  I love words.  I embrace many genres, and enjoy collaborating.  Many have said my music is memorable and lush, my 'tunes are hummable,' and the larger works are transformational.

Describe your music

Roger Ames
List of Works


A Requiem for Our Time
Libretto by the composer, poetry by Anne Sexton, with texts from the Latin Mass.  Premiered by Boston Chorus Pro Musica, Jeffrey Rink, Conductor; nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in music, 2008.

Soprano and Lyric Baritone soloists, optional narrator, large chorus and chamber orchestra (16 players).  Using the death poetry of Anne Sexton, the piece has received several performances in the U.S. and abroad, with immensely positive reviews.  The Latin Mass interweaves with the Sexton poems in a touching and profound way, calling forth the need for a spiritual life in the midst of the challenges of our time.
Duration:  43 minutes.  Recording and score(s) available from the composer.

Orchestrion:  fl; ob/eng. horn; horn in f; bassoon; trumpet; trombone;
tuba; string quintet; 2 percussionists; organ and piano (2 players)
Three Emancipation Songs
Texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay

For Women's Voices (SSA), violin, viola and piano (stgs optional)
Commissioned by Philip Brown for his Women's Chorus, Minnesota Competition Festival
Duration:  7 minutes
Recording available from the composer

Remember Warsaw

Libretto by Bernard Kaplan, with German translations by the composer.  Premiered by The Oratorio Society of Minnesota,
Matthew Mehaffey, Conductor

For soprano, tenor and baritone soloists and two accompaniments:  organ, piano, ‘cello and percussion, or full orchestra:  flute, oboe/English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, french horn, bassoon, two trumpets, two trombones, percussion (3 players), keyboard, strings.  The story of three young Polish Jews and their struggle to survive the Holocaust.  The chorus serves as the nation of Polish Jews, the Nazis, and the world looking back on one of the great tragedies of the 20th century.  Dramatic, with complex contrapuntal choral parts, and simple, beautiful melodic music sung by the soloists.
Duration:  one hour
Score(s) and recordings of the world premiere available from the composer.

Orchestration:  fl; Bb clar; violin; 'cello; piano; percussion; organ;
(Optional synthesizer)

Ancient Songs Of The Universe

Libretto by Paul Rosen, commissioned by the Long Island Masterworks Chorus, Frances Roberts, Artistic Director.

For SATB Chorus and Concert Pianist, with extended piano solo passages.  Difficult performance level, Duration 18 Minutes.  Premiered November, 2009, Long Island.

Mass for All Saints

Libretto by Rembert Herbert, with the High Episcopalian liturgy for All Saints Day.  Premiered by the Montgomery County Masterworks Chorus and Westmoreland Congregational Church, Washington, D.C.

For SATB Choir, organ and optional chamber ensemble.  The story of John the Baptist and his search for the mystical, true God.  With medium difficult choral parts,  solos for members of the choir,  with a transcendent ending that interweaves themes from seven parts of the mass.  Duration, with readings:  approximately one hour.

Orchestration:  flute, oboe, French horn, ‘cello piano/celeste and organ.

Take Joy

A setting of three poems by Laura Harrington,  for large chorus, violoncello and harp.  Premiered by the Minnesota Oratorio Society, 2008.  Duration:  11:30 minutes.


Amarantha:  (How Beautiful with Shoes)

Libretto by the composer and Timothy Nolen,  premiered by the Maryland Opera Studio.

Cast of nine, for two pianos and percussion or optional orchestration for 14 players based on a short story by Wilber Daniel Steele, where a mental patient and former teacher escapes from the hospital, and kidnaps a young Appalachian woman, falls obsessively in love with her while teaching her the beauty of the poetry of John Donne,
William Shakespeare, and the Song of Solomon.    In the background, the hunt for the two of them increases, with the search parties coming closer and closer to their hideaway.
Duration:  One hour forty five minutes

En Mis Palabras

Libretto by Jeffrey Gilden
Cast of four, (Two mezzo sopranos, tenor and baritone), accompanied by piano, classical guitar and violoncello.  Commissioned by Central City Opera,  Deborah Morrow, Producer.  Premiered by Central City Opera, Denver and performed often throughout Colorado and the west.

First Prize:  Boston Metro Opera Composition Contest, 2010

One act opera in Spanish and English that deals with multi-cultural issues.  A teenage daughter seeks her own "American" identity in a family encircled with Latino tradition and a conservative father.  After a violent family argument, it takes Magic Realism, and the death of the paternal grandmother to bring the father and daughter back together.  Duration:  50 minutes

Illusions / Illusiones

Libretto by Peter Webster and teenagers from Salt Lake City, Utah;  commissioned by the Utah Opera.

Two Latino teenagers fall in love, but misunderstand where each of them fit into a potentially violent and judgmental contemporary culture.  They find good advice and redemption in the words of their grandparents, one a Mexican immigrant, the other a Holocaust survivor.  Duration:  45 minutes, premiered by Utah Opera and toured throughout Utah and nearby states.

Hearts on Fire

Libretto by Laura Harrington
Cast of four:  soprano, mezzo, tenor and baritone.

A young woman battles her demons and seeks redemption for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.  A complete, full evening one act opera first premiered by Nautilus Music-Theater in Minneapolis, Ben Krywasz, artistic and stage director.  “The imagery, poetry and musical palette are experimental, contemporary, and provocatively effective.”  Minneapolis review).  Accompanied by synthesizer, optional percussion and tape – the piece is primarily a cappella in nature, with textures from spoken (acted) word through passionate arias interwoven in a powerfully dramatic way.

The Worth Of A Man

Developed with the students of the Central City Opera / Colorado Springs Conservatory Summer Performance Intensive.

This short 45 minute opera, for up to twenty singing actors and piano, is based on the life of Winfield Scott Stratton, a prospector in Colorado who became one of the richest men in the west in the late 1800s.  It was a life of complex, colliding energies – a man of great generosity, simple habits, and unusual luck – combined with a man who was unable to trust nearly everyone who came close to him.  While he worked for twenty years to find his fortune, it only took him half that time to give it away and drink himself to death, largely because of his loneliness and personal suffering.  He bequeathed a fortune to Colorado Springs, established a home for the indigent and the elderly, built the city an urban railway, museums and civic buildings – and yet could not, himself, find a way to be satisfied with his achievements.  He is cherished in that part of the world today and celebrated for his simple ways of giving.

Penrose:  A Colorado Legacy

Developed with the students of the Central City Opera / Colorado Springs Conservatory Summer Performance Intensive.

One-Act Opera, 40 minutes in length, commissioned by Central City Opera
and the Colorado Springs Conservatory.  Text by Jeffrey Gilden and members of the CCO/CSC student ensemble,  2011.

The story of Julie and Spencer Penrose, his 'male antics' and her philanthropic persuasive ways. Humorous, boisterous and wonderfully touching love story about early Colorado and a generous couple who supported the arts.


Choral Reflections on Amazing Grace

Published by GIA, Chicago
Commissioned by Westminster Choir College
SSATBB with piano, duration 6:30
Dedicated to the children of the victims of 9/ll.
Incorporating an original setting of the KYRIE.
Available Orchestration and SSAA version

Laudate Dominum

Commissioned by the Swiss Global Foundation and the Playhouse Project, East Hampton, New York

For large chorus and string orchestra, a tribute to Leonard Bernstein.
Text from Leonard Bernstein and the Latin "Laudate."
Duration:  7 minutes.

Love’s Gift

Published by GIA, Chicago
SSATB with piano, TTBB with piano; Duration 3:30
Set to a poem by James Agee on love and its global and personal aspects

Come, O Christ

Published by GIA, Chicago
SATB with piano or organ, Duration 3:15
Set to a poem by Rembert Herbert, suitable for All Saint’s Day

She Moved through the Faire

Published by GIA, Chicago
SSATB a cappella, Duration 3:45
An arrangement of the well known Irish folk song

Splendor in the Grass

Published by GIA, Chicago, text by William Wordsworth, Duration 4:15
SSATTB with piano, with optional string orchestra  (Parts from the composer)

Abraham and Isaac

Published by Hinshaw Music

A dramatic work for chorus and piano, with text by Wilfred Owen
Duration:  App. 5 minutes.

Rejoice:  A Celebration of Christmas Carols

Published by Hinshaw Music
for Choir and Organ

The Christmas Story in a Six Minute, seamless medley of well-chosen
familiar carols.

Optional Orchestration:  3 trumpets, 2 horns, 3 trombones and percussion (2 timps, tambourine, triangle, wind chimes, sus. cymbal,
antique cymbals, tenor drum, snare drum, bass drum, wood block.
Parts available from the publisher


Down by the Riverside

Published by Hinshaw Music, Inc.
SSATB, soprano solo with piano. Duration 5:45
Chosen as one of the ‘top twenty’ choral arrangements of the past decade.


Published by Hinshaw Music, Inc.
SATB with piano, Duration 3:00

Pick a Bale o’ Cotton

Published by Hinshaw Music, Inc.
SATB with piano, Duration 3:30

Three Sacred Prayer Motets

Published by the Composer, for SSATB a cappella choir


The Wife of Martin Guerre

Libretto and lyrics by Laura Harrington, cast of principal characters:  8, with a chorus of 12 – 20 singers.  Chamber orchestra – 18 players.

The famous story of Martin Guerre, a marriage for land, a husband abandoning his young wife for the military, and his ‘return,’ which leads to scandal, a trial and a death by hanging.  Premiered by the Hartford Stage, with Judy Kuhn in the lead role, Mark Lamos, artistic and stage director, to rave reviews and an extended run. Nominated for several 'best musical awards' in New England.
Duration:  Two hours, thirty minutes.  Score(s) available from the composer.

How Green Was My Valley

Music by Roger Ames, Lyrics by Elizabeth Bassine, Book by Ron Hutchinson, based on the novel by Richard Lewellynn.

Workshopped at the Nautilus Music Theater, St. Paul, MN, and the Actors Studio, New York City.  Production pending.  The story of a Welsh mining family at the turn of the twentieth century, using both tradition and folk Welsh music and original songs.

Alice Lost and Found

Book and lyrics by Elizabeth Bassine

For an acting / singing ensemble of 11, with piano, and optional synthesizer, clarinet, double reeds, and cello.

The story of Alice, (in Wonderland), who at age 70 is forced to go to a nursing home.  It is here, among the watchful and oppressive eyes of the matron, that Alice searches for her rabbit and the rabbit hole.  A struggle for control emerges, between Alice and the Matron - cum Queen of Hearts.  A lesson about life and its wonders, and death and its transcendence ensues.  Duration:  95 minutes, no intermission.  Score(s) available from the composer.


A musical in two acts based on the writings of Colette
Roger Ames, music; Jim Friedland, book and lyrics

Commissioned by the Theater des Westens in Berlin, this full-length musical traces the life of Colette during her ‘actress’ days – a time period of considerable personal struggle, professional triumph, and general confusion for this passionate, liberated writer… on her way to her own liberation.  Prompted by an “M.C. character,” Brogue, the new musical the ensemble is ‘writing,’ is her future life – and the pitfalls and obstacles that could encumber her own search for freedom.  A visceral, presentational work that involves athleticism and a Brechtian performance style, Vagabonds has been workshopped by the Theater des Westens and awaits a full-blown development period and production.

If the Shoe Fits

Libretto by students and the composer, premiered Albany, New York.  The story of the Marcos’ overthrow in the Phillipines, written to be performed by children.  Commissioned by Lake George Opera.
Duration:  35 minutes
Score available from the composer

Sleeping Beauty

A one-act musical by Roger Ames (music), and Laura Harrington, (libretto)
Commissioned by Northshore Theater near Boston, Massachusetts

This 45 minute romp through many unknown parts of the Sleeping Beauty story – including the metamorphosis of a frog to a prince, (yes, originally there in the tale), is written for four singers, keyboards and optional drums.  Beauty, when threatened to be stabbed by the evil witch, decides to jump out of the window and take a 100 year-long flight around the cosmos.  Upon her return, she wakes up the kingdom, turns the frog into a prince, and forgives the witch – which of course makes the witch furious.  Love conquers all in this comedic, witty take on the oft-told tale.


I Wonder

For two sopranos and violoncello, (or optional clarinet), and piano.  Commissioned by the American Chamber Players, European premiere at the Paris Opera.  New England premiere in Boston by ALIA.  Numerous performances in America and abroad.  Duration:  20 minutes.

Summer Sang In Me

Four songs to poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay, recorded in Germany on WDR, by Georgine Resick

Five American Folk Songs (2006)

A setting of The Erie Canal, Shenandoah, and Pick A Bale Of Cotton, recorded on EMI by Thomas Hampson (Old Songs Re-sung and others)

Numerous Art Song Settings

Additional info

Hinshaw Music bio -

Reviews: Roger Ames “Joyous, exuberant work... the crowd was on its feet...” Washington Star “Ames' score is an eclectic mix of heady atavistic rhythms, jaunty counterpoint, and mealy ballads with an intriguing melodic tension that validates the characters' turmoil.” New York Newsday “Powerful, theatrical impact... the music of AMARANTHA is highly expressive, instantly intelligible, flexibly varied in its styles and emotional nuances, and full of immediately enjoyable melodies.” Washington Post “Ames REQUIEM FOR OUR TIME is a significant addition to the choral repertoire.” Washington Post “MARTIN GUERRE is emotionally relentless... takes your breath away... a must-see.” Stamford Advocate “ a class by itself. The music is so powerful that it comes clos in spirit and greatness to an opera. A masterpiece.” (MARTIN GUERRE review) Hartford Courier "The most beautiful arrangement of AMAZING GRACE I have ever heard." Youtube listener