Allen Shearer, Composer

Allen Shearer's compositions have won him national and international recognition. He is the recipient of several awards in music, and his choral works have been performed throughout the United States as well as in many cities in Europe, the former Soviet Union, and South Africa.


A recipient of the Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome as well as a Charles Ives Scholarship from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, he was granted the first-ever residency at the Copland House in the Hudson River Valley under the Aaron Copland Awards. He has also had four residencies at the MacDowell Colony and support from Meet The Composer, including a consortium commission for his trio We Three; and from the National Endowment for the Arts, which funded his orchestral work Variations on Sumer is icumen in, his choral cycle Ages of Day, his trio We Three, and his first opera The Goddess. He is the 2012 Composer-in-Residence for the San Francisco Choral Artists.

An accomplished singer as well as a composer, Shearer has appeared as soloist in important premieres of works of Roger Sessions, Seymour Shifrin, Fred Lerdahl, Claudio Spies, Charles Wuorinen and others. He has made commercial recordings of works of Shifrin, Conrad Cummings, Anne LeBaron, and Don Walker, as well as his own Five Poems of Wallace Stevens.

Being a singer, it is natural that he has written often for voices. His Symphony (1977) uses large chorus with orchestra. Mushrooms and The Illusion of Eternity (1985) are for male voices. These were commissioned by Chanticleer after an earlier sextet Nude Descending a Staircase proved a success with audiences and critics. His selected works (below) include many works for solo voice and instruments. One of these, Three Lyrics, was given the 2008 Silvia Goldstein for works written at the Copland House. His experience as an opera singer was put to use in the composing of his first opera The Goddess, for which he created the libretto from a screenplay by Satyajit Ray. His more recent operas The Dawn Makers, A Very Large Mole, and Riddle Me, all on libretti by Claudia Stevens, have been given successful, fully-staged productions. His Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra has been performed and broadcast in Rome and repeated at the Cabrillo Festival. A chamber version was performed by Earplay in San Francisco.

Allen Shearer holds a Ph.D. in music from the University of California at Berkeley and diplomas from the Akademie Mozarteum in Salzburg. He teaches voice and composition at California State University, East Bay, and voice at U.C. He is founding co-director of Sonic Harvest (, the annual new music concerts in Berkeley, and since 1987 has been an artistic director of the San Francisco new music presenter Composers, Inc. Allen Shearer is an affiliate of BMI.

Selected works of Allen Shearer

Riddle Me (2010), a chamber opera in one act on a libretto by Claudia Stevens
A Very Large Mole (2009), a chamber opera in one act on a libretto after Kafka by Claudia Stevens
The Dawn Makers (2008), a chamber opera in one act on a libretto by Claudia Stevens
The Key to Everything (2008), a dramatic sketch on the poem by May Swenson
Flea (2008), a solo play by Claudia Stevens with music by Allen Shearer
Blue Lias (2006), a solo play by Claudia Stevens with music by Allen Shearer
The Goddess (1997), an opera in four acts. Libretto adapted by the composer from the screenplay by Satyajit Ray

Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra (1981)
Variations on Sumer is icumen in (1979) for orchestra
Symphony (1977) for chorus and orchestra

The Holy Innocents (2011) for chorus SSAATTBB
Orpheus in the Underworld (2010) for chorus TTBB
Songs of the Moment (2007) for chorus SSAA
Hymn to Gaia (2003) for male chorus and chamber ensemble
Fables (1996) for vocal ensemble or chamber chorus SSATB
Ages of Day (1987) for mixed chorus
Mushrooms (1985) for male vocal ensemble
The Illusion of Eternity (1985) for male vocal ensemble
Beauty is a Shell from the Sea (1983) for chamber chorus SSATB. Fallen Leaf Press
Nude Descending a Staircase (1980) for male vocal ensemble

Roundelay (2011) for oboe, clarinet and bassoon
Riff on a Verse (201l) for violin and percussion
Terrains (2010) for piano and string trio
Soliloquy (2009) for viola solo
Bagatelles (2006) for flute and clarinet
Memory Beams (2005) for violin and guitar
Outbound Passenger (2004) for flute, bassoon, viola and cello
Passing Through (2001) for violin, cello and piano
Strokes for Violin (1999) violin solo
Elegy and Walking Song (1994) for clarinet and viola
Travel Notes (1993) for trumpet, double bass and percussion
We Three (1989) for flute, cello and piano
Fantasy for Piano and Chamber Ensemble (1986), a version of Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra
Fantasy (1974) for cello and piano. Fallen Leaf Press

Night Songs II (2009) for mezzo soprano, viola and piano
Learning the Elements (2007) for mezzo soprano, clarinet, cello and piano
Night Songs (2005) for medium voice, clarinet/bass clarinet, viola and harp
Weather by Weather (2004) for medium voice, clarinet and guitar
Secrets (2003) for mezzo soprano, flute, cello and piano
Fables II (2002) for baritone, flute, guitar and double bass
At Water’s Edge (2002) for soprano and string quartet
A Wreath to the Fish (2001) for medium voice, bass clarinet and guitar
Schläferung (2001) for baritone, clarinet and guitar
Moly (2001) for baritone, bass clarinet and marimba
Three Lyrics (1999) for soprano, violin, clarinet, and harp
Four Lessons in Flow (1998) for soprano, mezzo soprano, and baritone with chamber ensemble
Girolamo Cardano, Physician of Milan (1992) for baritone and chamber ensemble
King Midas (1990) for solo voices SATB and chamber ensemble
Incantations (1985) for soprano, clarinet and piano
In Praise of Spinning (1973) for solo voices SSATB and chamber ensemble
Serenade (1971) for baritone and chamber ensemble

How Poems Are Made (2006) for soprano and piano
Dreams and Wakings (2000) a) for high voice and piano; b) for medium voice and piano
Hercules and Antæus (1988) for baritone and piano
Five Poems of Wallace Stevens (1984) for baritone and piano. Fallen Leaf Press

Five Pieces for Piano (1996)
Windows (1992) Fallen Leaf Press
Medallion (1983)

Middlemarch, an opera in two acts.