Four Performances This Weekend

Sometimes there is a dry spell when there are no performances of my music for an unpleasantly long time, and then there are moments when a cluster of performances congregate within a short period. This coming weekend is one of the latter. Two pieces: one from a few years ago, receiving three performances; and one being performed for the first time. Here are some details.

Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, an organization based in L. A., has included my Oboe Quartet on three concerts set for this weekend in Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara. Find all the details here. I wrote the Quartet at the request of oboist Peggy Pearson who gave the first performances with members of the Apple Hill Quartet back in 2015. I met Peggy through my work with Emmanuel Music, the group with which she has played Bach cantatas for decades as part of the liturgy at Boston’s Emmanuel Church. Winsor Music programmed the piece that season, and there is an interview with me in connection with that performance here. Read more about the piece in this blog post. Theodore Presser Company has posted a perusal score of the piece here, and you can listen to the piece here – scroll down past the videos or use the link at the top of the page to go to the sound clips.

The other piece being done this weekend is a premiere, a short work for SATB chorus called Wind, Carry Me. Here’s my program note on the piece:

When invited to compose a new work for the PMEA District 11 Chorus, I immediately turned to my friend Susan Stewart, a distinguished poet whose words I have set in several pieces. I asked Susan to write a new poem for the project. She responded with a text that speaks of challenges and yearning, but also of capability. While my setting uses conventional chords, these are often juxtaposed in an unconventional manner. Throughout the piece, sections of the choir call to one another, finally coming together in unison at the climax, and ending with determination and strength. 

The work will be sung by about 160 high school students selected from a number of schools in the region in a concert at Springfield High School, Montgomery County, not far outside Philadelphia, conducted by Cristian Grases. This is by far the biggest group of people to perform my music! The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia has done my music a number of times, and is a big choir with roughly 80 to 100 singers, but the size of this high school group is something extraordinary.

Here are a few lines from Susan’s beautiful text, ending with what I hear as the climax of the poem:

I said to the moon
turn to me, turn to me

I said to the star
send for me, send for me 

I said to the night
harbor me

Then I said to my love
I’ll come to you, wait for me

The commission for this piece came about through the advocacy of Andrew Puntel, who teaches at Springfield High School. I came to know Andrew through my work as a church musician at St. Genevieve’s in Flourtown, PA, where he directed the music ministry until recently. I’m grateful to Andrew for proposing the piece and finding the funding for the commission.

This is not the first piece I have written specifically for young musicians. My Variations on a Hymn Tune was written for Council Rock South High School (outside Philadelphia) a number of years ago. Completely by coincidence, that piece will be done twice this season, both by the University of Pennsylvania Orchestra and by an all-state ensemble in Delaware – there is more information at the performances page.

Oboe Quartet Comes to Penn

daedalus 3.24.17Oboist Peggy Pearson commissioned and premiered my Oboe Quartet, playing the first performances back in 2015 with members of the Apple Hill Quartet. This week’s performance here in Philadelphia will be the first time the Daedalus plays the work. Mark DeVoto reviewed the first performance of the Oboe Quartet for the Boston Musical Intelligencer – you can read the review here. Preview the piece with audio or the score.

Here’s a program listing and note on the piece: 

1) Moderato
2) Allegro con fuoco
3) Passacaglia: Adagio, ma non troppo
4) Moderato e fluente
5) Moderato; Allegro giocoso

 I first heard Peggy Pearson’s eloquent playing as part of the performances of Bach cantatas at Emmanuel Church in Boston, and I think that baroque context has influenced this quartet. The work’s central passacaglia invokes a baroque form, while the first, second and fourth movements, though not suggesting a baroque idiom, perhaps hint at cantata recitatives and arias without words – lyrical, dramatic, plaintive. The impulse throughout the work is more songful than symphonic. Using a stylized dance, as I do in the finale of the quartet, also reflects baroque practice, though the choreography in my quartet clearly has more to do with a 20th century dance floor than with an 18th century ballroom.

Oboe Quartet at Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival

The Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland was the venue for the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival performance of my Oboe Quartet this week. Commissioned by Winsor Music, and its Artistic Director, oboist Peggy Pearson, the piece received its fourth performance, the first three having been given by Peggy and members of the Apple Hill Quartet this past spring.

This time it was not members of a particular string quartet that played, but rather an all-star group put together for the occasion: Robin Scott, the newly appointed first violin of the Ying Quartet; Steven Tenenbom, violist of the Orion Quartet; and Marcy Rosen, who was cellist of the Mendelssohn Quartet for 31 years. I was delighted by the group’s superb performance. For example, the fourth movement of the piece is lyrical, but with the principal line frequently passed from player to player. It was impressive to see in rehearsal how readily these players intuited when to come forward and when to pull back, creating a finely crafted web of song.

Here’s a picture of the Deco-ish interior of the Avalon Theater in Easton where one of our rehearsals took place:

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And here is a shot from the sound check before the performance, this at the Academy Museum of Art:

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The festival schedule is packed with elite players performing both standard and lesser-known repertoire. Heartfelt thanks for Marcy Rosen and J. Lawrie Bloom, Artistic Directors of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, for giving me a chance to share my music with such wonderful players, and with an appreciative audience.