This post was written in preparation for our September 2016 summer program.
“The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar)” by Ellie Harold, 2016 Collaborating Artist
For our Summer Fantasies concert, we invite you to join us in a colorful journey for the imagination as we visit the themes of summertime and all of its fantastical elements. In this series of brief articles, you can learn more about the pieces on the program; the composers who penned them and the events that inspired them.
We’re so excited to be premiering another new work written by a member of our group: Laura Hood. In May, we unveiled First Flight — a quartet for flute, clarinet, harp, and guitar. Now, just in time for our Summer Fantasies concert, Laura has finished a new piece for the same quartet.
— Laura Hood (b. 1961)
The theme for Summer Waltz was composed about six years ago when Laura was part of a much different small ensemble — flute, violin, hammer dulcimer, and guitar. I like to think the theme needed some time to steep before Laura fully committed it to paper!
When a composer is deciding which instruments will be used in a composition, it is not unlike a painter gathering the pigments and paints just before heading to the canvas. Sometimes a composer simply writes using the instruments available, but other times they are able to hand select the timbres and colors they prefer.
“I really love the arrangement for Manitou Winds,” Laura says. “The combination of harp and guitar is perfect especially when Jason is playing in the lower registers — the harp has a depth that is missing even in the lowest strings of the guitar. The rich, woody sound of the clarinet is also wonderful in this piece, and Sam’s rich tone on the flute completes the ensemble.”
Having selected the instruments, the next task is deciding where the piece will go — what story it will tell, or what picture it will paint…
“As I was writing this short waltz, I was picturing a hot and humid summer night, with a warm wind blowing and the cicadas and crickets chirping,” Laura recalls. “A couple in love is dancing slowly on their big front porch. I picture a setting like that in my favorite movie, Out of Africa, when Robert Redford and Meryl Streep are together on her farm.”
During rehearsals, we’ve all had fun describing what Laura’s new waltz evokes in our minds. Magically, we all seem to see summer scenes, albeit different ones. Laura’s is cinematically inspired — a hopeless romance wrapped in the warm embrace of an impossible summer. My own is more mundane, but nonetheless bittersweet.
When I’m performing Summer Waltz I’m imagining a very common scene in Northern Michigan: a family enjoying its final day at the beach before making the long journey home, back to “the real world.” These happy times soon become memories depicted in photographs, invisible captions written on the heart. Seasons change. Vacations end. Children grow up and families change.
Embedded in these lines and harmonies I find the simultaneous happiness and sadness that comes from being in a beautiful place (literally or figuratively) while knowing you can’t stay forever. Standing on the beach at Good Harbor Bay before my husband and I ever imagined we would live here, feeling the water lap at my toes while looking out at that wide open expanse of blue, knowing there were so many miles between this beautiful place and home… it was a special kind of heartache. And now that we’re here, it’s a similar ache that comes with the changing of each season — each so beautiful and perfect in its own way, but never staying for very long.
“It is a simple melody, the harmonies are not complex,” Laura notes. “The waltz tempo is slow and easy — just how we all hope those perfect summer nights will pass: slow and easy.”
We look forward to presenting Laura’s latest creation at our upcoming concert as we celebrate the ending of one season and the beginning of another. We hope you can join us for one last waltz.
Remember, for more information about our collaborating artist, Ellie Harold, visit www.EllieHarold.com.