Photo taken by David Fisher

WSU Honors Alum’s New Album Transforms Poetry to Music

By: Phyllis Shier, WSU Honors College,

Honors College alumnus Eric McElroy’s (‘13 Music) debut album, Tongues of Fire, released by Somm Recordings this March, includes songs that he says draw connections to his student days at WSU. Financial support from the Honors College allowed him to study abroad in Vienna before he graduated in 2013.“That incredible experience was only meant to be a six-month adventure, but I’m still in Europe ten years later,” McElroy said.

The album features McElroy on piano for four connected song-cycles and a single song. Each of the song cycles explores distinct introspective themes inspired by modern day poets, including former US Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin, transforming their ideas and meanings from the written word to music. Performing with McElroy is the celebrated English tenor, James Gilchrist.

The album takes its title from the third song cycle, which is based on the works of poet Grevel Lindop. McElroy credits his Honors English professor Robert Eddy with introducing him to Lindop’s work. That introduction and the education and encouragement he received from WSU music professor Gerald Berthiaume continue to influence his work as a performer, teacher, and researcher today.“Simply put, none of my subsequent achievements would have been possible without the support of WSU,” McElroy said.

In 2014, McElroy completed a master’s degree at The Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna. He earned an Advanced Diploma in Professional Performance with distinction at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2017 and is currently a doctoral candidate at Oxford University. He has written for solo piano, voice, choir, orchestra, and various chamber ensembles and his works have been performed across Europe and the United States.

Read more about his debut recording and sample the new album in Opera Today here. An interview with McElroy will appear in an upcoming issue of BBC Music Magazine.