William Mayer (1925-2017)


pic wm William Mayer younger

William Mayer, a native New Yorker, grew up listening to music and playing the piano but found himself majoring in History at Yale, with the intention of becoming a writer. Soon however, his love of music led him to study composition with Roger Sessions at Juilliard and Felix Salzer at Mannes. His first works were playful: The Greatest Sound Around was recorded by Burl Ives. This led to a commission from Thomas Scherman to write for the Little Orchestra's children's concerts. Hello, World! was recorded with narration by Eleanor Roosevelt. It has had innumerable performances over many years.

Mayer's early opera, Why the Chimes Rang, was first performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra with many subsequent performances throughout the United States. Perhaps his most complex and meaningful work was his opera, A Death in the Family, based on the novel of James Agee. Performed by various opera companies in the U.S., it received prizes in Europe and was televised.

Mayer's versatility led to commissions by many different instrumentalists and singers. Enter Ariel, a setting of six American poems commissioned by the Ariel Ensemble, treats each of its performers (pianist, clarinetist and soprano) as an individual entity. The instrumental sections have equal billing with the six vocal sections. Mayer has stated that the title refers not only to its commissioners but to the character Ariel from Shakespeare's The Tempest. The fifth poem, by Langston Hughes, speaks for the artist's hope that after he is gone, his message will find wings on "the sea wind" and "be blown along."

William Mayer’s official website is at www.williammayer-composer.com.