Upcoming in Charleston and Easton

Two performances coming up: my little piece for sax quartet, Straight Up, will be on a program played by Clifford Leaman, soprano saxophone; Neal Postma, alto saxophone; Robert Young, tenor saxophone; and Jonathan Kammer, baritone saxophone at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC on June 7. The venue is St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 67 Anson Street, and the show is at 6 pm. The piece was written at the request of the Prism Quartet and recorded by them on Innova. (So sorry to have missed Prism’s concerts with Joe Lovano this past weekend!)

In a sense this is my return to the Piccolo Spoleto, because nearly 40 years ago I played George Crumb’s Celestial Mechanics for piano four-hands there with Lambert Orkis as part of a 20th Century Consort performance (now the 21st Century Consort). (Hmm, that Innova page I linked to for the Crumb recording doesn’t credit me – nor Jan Orkis who plays the page-turner’s notes. Well, it is mostly Lambert playing solo on that disc.)

The second performance this week is a premiere, a quintet to be played by Peggy Pearson, oboe; Catherine Cho, violin; Dimitri Murrath, viola; Edward Arron, cello; and Diane Walsh, piano at the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival. The concert is Friday, June 9, at 5:30 pm at Christ Church in Easton, MD. This will also be a return for me to Easton because Peggy and colleagues played my Oboe Quartet on a Chesapeake program a couple of years ago. Here is a program note on the new quintet:

Quintet (2017)

1. Variations
2. Dirge
3. Poem (after Kathleen Norris)
4. Signals and Dances

The variations of the first movement of my Quintet are not on a melody but on a chord progression first proposed by the strings and piano. Four variations and a coda follow, increasingly rapid in their surface. Next come two slow movements, the first very dark, marked “wailing” at its climax; the second consoling, inspired by a poem by Kathleen Norris called “Who Do You Say That I Am?” that offers increasingly ecstatic responses to the Biblical question. The finale opens with a raucous call to attention, and the various dances that follow are sometimes bluesy and sometimes folk-like. Late in the game, some fragments of the previous movements unexpectedly return, and what was left open at the end of the first movement now finds affirmation.

With her request for this piece, Peggy Pearson granted me a third opportunity to write for her profoundly eloquent oboe, this time alongside the comparably gifted voices of her colleagues in La Fenice. I am deeply grateful.

The Norris poem referred to is “Who Do You Say That I Am?, found in this volume.

You can hear a recording of the earlier Oboe Quartet here and an online perusal score is here.

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