Choruses around the US and abroad have recorded and performed the music of Donald Skirvin, which is available on eleven CDs. Music critic David Vernier, writing for Classics Today, said that Skirvin's work “is rich in imagery wrought by imaginative use of harmony and apt, sensitive text-setting. And it's also just plain gorgeous music that speaks well for this composer's facility with voices.” The work he was describing, Alchemy, was commissioned by and is available on The Esoterics’s IMMAGINOSA CD. It was first recorded by the Grammy-nominated music ensemble, Conspirare, and is available on their Through the Green Fuse CD. Barlow Bradford, renowned composer, teacher, and director of the Utah Chamber Artists has said of Skirvin's music: “It is meaningful, beautiful, heartfelt, technically superb, and just luscious!” Roger Miller, Professor Emeritus, University of Utah, has described the composer as “a leading voice in the contemporary choral scene.”
Notable recent premieres include Curve of Gold, a setting in four movements of Teasdale poems scored for soprano solo, chorus, and piano (Seattle Choral Company); three new works, There will come soft rains, Places, like music, and The Fountain in an all-Teasdale/Skirvin a cappella concert presented by The Esoterics in December, 2016.
In 2013, he was appointed resident composer emeritus for the Seattle-based a cappella ensemble, The Esoterics, after serving 15 years as composer in residence for the group. He has written over forty new works for The Esoterics, many of which are recorded and available from Naxos of America. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants to write works for The Esoterics and has received numerous commissions from both local and national ensembles. He studied music at the Jordan Conservatory of Music, Indianapolis, and at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is a member of ASCAP, and his music is available through J. W. Pepper, SMP Press, Yelton Rhodes Music, and as self-published works.
About choral composition, Skirvin says, “I want to create choral pieces whose music is deeply imbued with the words of the poet. For such a piece to be successful and effective, I think the music must arise almost effortlessly and inevitably from the words themselves. Anyone who listens to my music can hear that the soundscape is definitely modern. I value melody in my writing as well as rich and sometimes complex harmonic structures and shifting tonal (and sometimes non-tonal) centers. As I have said to many groups and directors, my music looks easier than it is! I am fond of writing unusual sonorities that tend, I think, to surprise the listener.”