Dr. David Kelley, Minister of Music at Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna, VA, earned second place honors from the prestigious Notre Dame Magnificat Choir Competition for his composition on the Meditabor. For the competition, composers write new works to be sung by women’s voices, especially during worship services.
Kelley has been composing music for decades, but this is the first time he has won an award.
It took him about a month to compose the piece. “I spent a few weeks ruminating on the text, then I had a few ideas that would suit the text and give the piece an overarching form,” Kelley said. “I tried to make the feel of the music highlight the two emotional aspects of the Meditabor text — meditating on God’s commandments and the feeling of love for those commandments.”
Kelley added, “As a process, I imagine it like sculpting. I keep chipping away at this form until all the details come into focus.”
Kelley is no stranger to composing music. His work at Holy Comforter Episcopal utilizes these and other skills, from composing pieces for the choir and congregation to sing, to creating colorful improvisations that enhance weekly worship. David also uses his experience with vocal pedagogy and the Royal School of Church Music curriculum to train Holy Comforter’s choir members of all ages.
Kelley has broad classical training, including a Doctorate in Organ Performance from Peabody Conservatory; degrees in Music Theory, Composition, and Liturgical Music; and professional certificates from the American Guild of Organists. He has served on the faculties of training courses for the Royal School of Church Music in America and the AGO. He has published articles in The American Organist and The Diapason, and composed works on commission for church and community choirs.
Kelley can be found most every Sunday playing the organ and hopefully sometime in the future, directing the choir in person. During COVID, the choir has transitioned to a virtual choir for the weekly services found on the church’s YouTube Channel (Holy Comforter Vienna, VA).
When not engaged in musical activities, Kelley, who lives in Falls Church with his wife and sons, enjoys designing and building bikes that he can ride to and from the church.
His Medibator has not been recorded by a choir yet due to the church’s restrictions on singing in a group for safety reasons due to COVID. However, sample pages from his score and the piano recording he submitted are available on the contest website here.