Heather Gilligan               
                                          composer and pianist

Composer, Pianist, Professor


"Heather Gilligan’s Mourning Dew

had a kind of stylistic respiration: 

flowing impressionism pared down 

         to pentatonic counterpoint, then

                   gradually enriched again."

-Matthew Guerrieri


Visit Soundcloud to hear other 

works by Heather Gilligan.

Sound Files

Sound File #1

Buried Love

for soprano and cello

Song 1 from the cycle Living in Light.

Poetry by Sara Teasdale

          Margot Rood, soprano

          Patrick Owen, cello

Program Notes:

A few years back, Margot Rood asked me to write a set of songs for soprano and cello, with the request that they focus on simplicity. With just two melodic instruments, the challenge was to write four contrasting pieces that remained simple while giving each song its own, distinct personality. To achieve both simplicity and contrast, I gave the cello a different area of focus for each song: in the first song, melodic writing to imitate the voice; then, pizzicato to maintain a lightness of character; next, harmonics to achieve an uneasy, ethereal sound; and last, double stops to reach a sense of stability and peace. The poems, while agonizingly dark at times, also give way to a sense of hope amidst a backdrop of mortal human existence. I tried to capture the emotion behind Teasdale’s despair while ultimately favoring a sense of enduring love. The song cycle’s title comes from the last line of the fourth song, “Living in light, before they turn back to the nothingness that is their home.”

LivinginLight - BuriedLove mp3


Sound File #2

Dona Nobis Pacem

for women's choir

          Lorelei Ensemble

          Beth Willer, conductor 

Premiered at Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, MA as part of WordSong's Forum VII, May 2011.

Recorded by Lorelei Ensemble and produced by Wordsong, 2011.

Program notes:

Amidst a creative and refreshing tonal palette and an evolving pitch center, this setting of Dona Nobis Pacem applies conventional elements of contrapuntal writing and resolution of suspended notes to unaccompanied women's voices. Its open fifths make reference to traditional uses of modes and harmonies, while its unexpected harmonies and use of cluster chords keeps the listener active and alert.

Dona nobis pacem - Lorelei WordSong recording


Sound File #3


for solo flute 

          Sarah Brady, flute

Commissioned by the Boston Composers Coalition and published in the SCI Journal of Music Scores

Program notes:

The inspiration for Dialogue came from an unlikely source. Composer Earl Kim (1920-1998) wrote a song cycle for soprano and chamber ensemble in 1982 entitled Where Grief Slumbers. The cycle’s fourth song, Ophelia, opens with a beautiful and tragic solo soprano line. Kim’s melody plays with intervallic material related to the major 7th, a dissonant interval which juxtaposes nicely with the consonant octave. Dialogue explores and develops related intervallic ideas on the flute but adds a crucial component, the interplay of a vocal line sung by the flute player. As a result of the melodic flute line against the vocal drone, an interference occurs which distorts both the flute and the vocal line. An eerie and intriguing sound ensues.

Dialogue - recording

Compositions by Heather Gilligan


2018 Swallowtail Suite - flute, clarinet, cello

2016 One Mountain - flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, piano

2016 Six of One - woodwind quintet

2015 Scenes from Midtown - violin, clarinet, piano

2015 Cityscape - percussion septet

2014 Peregrine - flute and guitar

2014 Contemplation and Pursuit - string quartet

2012 Mourning Dew - flute, violin, and harp

2012 New Beginnings - tenor saxophone and marimba

2009 Music For Saxophone and Piano - tenor saxophone and piano

2006 Excursion II - violin, viola, cello, oboe, clarinet, flute, and harp

2004 3 by IV - flute, clarinet, and piano

2003 Musica Para Clarinete e Piano 

2001 String Quartet No. 1 


2018 I'm a Girl. What's your superpower? - mezzo-soprano and piano

2017 La Vie En Rose - arranged for soprano and double bass

2016 Finer Points - soprano and percussion

2014 Living in Light - soprano and cello; four songs

2013 A Woman Knows - 8 unaccompanied songs for female vocal quartet

2010 Winged Reflections - mezzo-soprano, tenor saxophone, and piano; three songs

2009 Winter Wind - soprano, alto, viola, and flute

2008 Battlegrounds - soprano and string quartet, four songs

2007 Liebst du um Schönheit - soprano and piano

2007 The Lord’s Prayer - soprano and flute

2007 Garden Songs - soprano, trumpet, and piano; three songs

2006 Mixed Metaphors - soprano and piano, three cabaret songs 

2005 Keeping Things Whole - mezzo-soprano, saxophone, and cello; three songs
2003 Carlos - soprano and string quartet
2002 Love, Hate, and Honor - soprano and mezzo-soprano, three unaccompanied songs
2001 Deliveries Only - soprano, mezzo-soprano, and piano

2001 Eros - piano reduction of orchestral version

2001 What the Motorcycle Said - narrator and computer

2000 Lessons - mezzo-soprano and piano, five songs


2019 May It Be - SSAA arrangement of Enya song, a cappella

2014 I'll See You in the Morning - SATB chorus with soprano solo, a cappella

2014 Songs of the Seasons  - SATB chorus and piano, four songs

2012 The Farmer - SATB chorus, clarinet, and English horn

2012 A Prayer in Spring - SATB chorus and piano

2011 Dona Nobis Pacem - SSAA women’s choir, a cappella 

2011 Images of Autumn - SATB chorus and piano, two songs 

2006 The Scarlet Letter - SATB chorus and piano, three songs

2002 Psalm - SATB sacred choral work, a cappella

Large Ensemble 
2016 For Whom The Bell Tolls   wind symphony
2015 Flights Ascending – orchestra
2011 The Vibrance of Ordinary People – concert band
2008 Concertino for piano and chamber orchestra – piano concerto (doctoral dissertation)

2007 Excursion III – chamber orchestra

2004 Excursion I – orchestra

2001 Eros – mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra

2000 From a Journal – mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra


2017 The Adventures of Harold - vibraphone solo

2013 Dialogue  flute solo

2012 New Beginnings – piano solo

2003 Summer Folly – piano solo

2002 Five Pieces – piano solo

2002 Morning, Noon, and Night – piano solo

2001 Afterthoughts – piano solo

Piano duet

2012 A Warm Breeze in April – four-hands piano 

2007 Speculation – duet for two pianos