Choral Reviews


Review by Jason Overall: "Light of the World"

Karen Marrolli provided her own text on John 8:12 for this anthem based on an original tune in an ersatz English folk style. The melody wavers between B minor and D major, with a heavy accent on G as a bridge between the two. This harmonic vocabulary, reminiscent of tunes like Kingsfold, gives the impression of familiarity even within the context of newly composed music. This mood is strengthened by the improvisatory feel of the obligato violin part and some well-placed accented grace notes increasing the “fiddle” feel. The slow harmonic rhythm, simple part writing, and clarity of phrasing all contribute to make this a compelling Advent anthem for choirs of all sizes and skill levels.

THE JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION OF ANGLICAN MUSICIANS        Volume 28, No. 10           December 2019


Review by Timothy Michael Powell: "Long-Expected Dawn"

Karen Marrolli begins her Long-Expected Dawn with an unexpected, a cappella opening that eventually expands into a more fully accompanied piano, flute, and choral texture. Marrolli’s piece features a lovely text, written by the composer, for the Advent season.

The piece is nostalgically hymn-like, calling to mind gentle shaped-note standards. However, the music is further exemplified by the inclusion of a rhythmically modified Veni, veni Emmanuel descant in the flute. The line weaves in and out of the choral texture, often deliberately obscured by elongation, only to appear with adroit and intentional clarity to bolster climactic moments. The most stirring moment forms a bridge to the previous strophic verses, as the choir sings the words “O Light of Hope, break forth!”

Marrolli symbolizes deferred expectation throughout the piece with extended cadential sequences in the voices, colored with moderate divisi. Particularly effective are the three repetitions of the final phrase of the chorus, punctuated by a fragment of the Veni chorus, and instrumental “rejoice,” which represents the herald mentioned in the text, announcing the titular dawn’s sunrise.

Her original text is clearly for the Advent season, particularly paired with the Veni antiphon, yet it is general enough that this anthem could conceivably be repeated during Holy Week. In this hypothetical iteration, the text could anticipate the “dawn” of Easter morning, highlighting the subtle theological connections found within the lectionary.

CHORAL JOURNAL       Volume 60, No. 3          October 2019


Review by Deborah Reiss: "Light of the World"

Marrolli’s inspiration for this piece is John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Her thoughtful text builds on these themes of how to follow Christ and to become light in the face of darkness, an especially apt prayer for the Epiphany season. The music is inspired by the tune Christe Sanctorum, fragments of which are heard in the violin line. Set in the same key and meter as the hymn tune, the choral lines highlight the call to follow while the hymn tune evokes the feeling of light attached to its texts. Thus, this piece would also be suitable for use at evening vespers. The violin part is integral to the piece and must be ordered separately. Both the choral score and the violin part may also be downloaded for the same price as the print copies. Be aware that the final chord is very soft, but dissonant, so as to remind the listener that light is evanescent and the act of following is never quite finished. 

CROSSACCENT          Volume 27, No 1      Spring 2019


Review by Jean R. Boehler: "Great Creator"

Karen Marrolli has written and composed this simple yet profound piece. It begins with unison singing, accompanied by the piano in the treble range, and eventually changes to three or four parts that are intuitive and could be learned easily. The piano accompaniment is well crafted with its independent voicing yet will guide the singers through the piece. The Advent text is a prayer to our Great Creator as we wait and plead for the glorious rebirth when the lion will lie down with the lamb. The piece ends reflectively as we pray, "use our hearts and hands in service; sculpt your kingdom here on earth."

CROSSACCENT          Volume 26, No 2      Summer 2018


Review by Timothy Michael Powell: "O Dayspring" 

Karen Marrolli (1975: 2014) Text: Karen Marrolli and J. M. Neale (1818-1866: 1851) SATB, piano (3:00) MorningStar MSM-50-0150 

Continuing with the theme of planning appropriate music for Advent and Christmas in mid-summer, Karen Marrolli’s "O Dayspring" incorporates fragments of the music and the English translation from Veni Emmanuel with newly written text and music. Marrolli opens with a violin (fiddle) solo on the chant, which appears in descant to the voices and also echoes Marrolli’s new melody. The use of tasteful “hammer-like” grace notes in the violin, occasional glimpses of dorian mode, and open harmonies in the keyboard lend the piece a Celtic feel. 

The piece grows in intensity throughout and is particularly effective when “death dark shadows put to flight” tickles the ear with brief dissonance before launching into a strong choral unison on the final stanza. 

The vocal range is limited, making this piece extremely accessible to the church ensemble. The quality of the writing, however, provides accomplished choirs a solid addition to the repertoire. Similarly, the violin solo is easily playable by beginning musicians but could easily act as a template for more extensive improvisation and ornamentation by an accomplished professional. The allusion to Veni Emmanuel—it is never sung by the voices—is a welcome artistic choice. Providing a slight hint of the familiar serves to highlight the new text and tune, while placing it all solidly within the liturgical season.

CHORAL JOURNAL Volume 58 Number 1    A Focus on Music in Worship 

Singer-Songwriter Press

"...Profound, cerebral, and creative..." Rick Jamm,

"Her voice is deep and rich, with strains of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Joan Armatrading, and her songs are devotional, though more spiritual than specifically religious in nature." Jennifer Levin, Pasatiempo (in the Santa Fe New Mexican)

"Marrolli’s voice is a rare and beautiful bird: vibrato-charged, richly contralto and choral in nature." Ted E. Lovato, The Santa Fe Reporter (May 2015)

Praise for Twilight Songs: "...As the title suggests, this is lush, starry-eyed stuff that packs enough melody and romantic energy to soothe even the most savage of beasts." Ted E. Lovato, The Santa Fe Reporter  (May 2015)

From a fan: "'Cathedrals is very powerful, 'Woman' is my kind of lady, and 'Run to You' is one of my favorites too. I support what you have to say and how you sing the words. They truly come from within you. Keep on evolving, Karen, you have so very much to say."