Sail Away Summer

On Friday, August 25, we presented Sail Away Summer, a special program combining music, poetry and storytelling at the Old Art Building in Leland, MI. On Saturday, September 16, we’re performing an encore presentation of this program at the Oliver Art Center in Frankfort, MI.

This is an eclectic program of traditional works and originals bridging Classical, Celtic, and Folk styles, interspersed with inspiring spoken word to tempt the imagination. Best of all, we get to share all of this with you a mere stone’s throw from one of your favorite Lake Michigan beaches!

Our entire program is interwoven with poetry and short stories thoughtfully selected by our reader and narrator, Jan Ross, and some written by Jason McKinney. The readings expand upon the themes of the music and are sometimes embedded within the musical performance. 

cliff on the sea

We’ll start the evening by embarking on a journey to the Shetland Islands with Jason’s Shetland Air & Reel, a lyrical work he composed for wind quintet. A mix of large and small, inhabited and uninhabited, the Shetlands are certainly remote. Over centuries, the islands have been settled, ruled, and influenced by both the Celts and Norse peoples. The first movement, Da Slockit Light, is based on a tune composed by Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson (1910-1991). Having grown up on the islands, Anderson remembered the days when villages were teeming with life and activity. As the decades passed and economic hardships came, however, he noticed fewer and fewer lights in the hills as evening approached. A “slockit” light is a light that has gone out, referring to his fond memories of vibrant village life now dwindling. The second movement, Sleep Soond I’da Moarnin’, is a fast-paced reel straight from the Shetland Islands sure to get your feet tapping.

Next, we’re excited to present Jason’s newest work for wind quintet: Is This a Poem? Inspired by a poem (and a doodle in the margins) written by Izzy Simpson, a second grader at Leland Public School, this quintet is filled with color, surprises, humor, and maybe a touch of child-like wisdom. “At first, reading Izzy’s short poem made me chuckle,” Jason remembers, “but the more I thought about it, the more clever and inventive it seemed to me. I quickly began to hear musical lines in the words, see colors between the lines. I gradually began to feel this was a child’s exploration of the entire creative process. At some point, haven’t we all questioned our value, our creativity, our motivation, our material, etc., as part of the process of making whatever art it is that inspires us?” In a short piece, the entire quintet is called upon to play many different characters and mood changes. Each instrument has its moment to bask in the bold, yellow glow of the finger-painted sun. (You’ll be able to see a painting by Izzy at the performance!)

Our narrator will then transform into many different characters as we marry music with storytelling, combining Peter Shickele’s Seven Bagatelles with selections from Jason’s Seven Unfinished Stories. The performance calls on flute, oboe, clarinet & bassoon to create seven musical miniatures — each rife with curiosity and mystique — while Jan Ross brings to life an entire crew of unrelated characters onstage. Like each movement of the music, each story drops us into a different setting amid the saga of completely unrelated characters. The stories are “unfinished” because they conclude with a cliff-hanger, a lingering question, or they’re a full scene but clearly not the end of the story. You can find more about this musical pairing in an earlier Manitou-Zine article.

Then, we’ll follow the healing journey of a wounded raptor rescued by healing hands with Laura Hood’s First Flight. This unique quartet for flute, clarinet, guitar, and harp has been a concert favorite since we first premiered it in 2015. You can find out more about Laura’s inspiration for this piece in an earlier Manitou-Zine article.

Next, we set sail for the Orkney Islands where we’ll hear one of many legends about the Selkie people who are said to inhabit these islands, magically transforming from human to seal. Jan will regale us with the tale of The Goodman o’ Wastness set against the backdrop of harp accompaniment by Jason.

Last summer we premiered Jason’s The Old Ash Tree with the Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra. For this performance, we’ll perform Jason’s original chamber music version for flute, clarinet, bassoon, guitar, and harp. Dedicated to Jason’s grandfather who died in 2022 of Alzheimer’s Disease, this is a piece about strength, beauty, and hope. You can learn more about this piece in an earlier Manitou-Zine article.

Next, we’ll sail across the sea to Ireland, near Limerick, to discover the old fiddle tune that inspired Jason to create Willow Song (Baint Áirnidhe faoi Ghílúr na gCraobh), a peaceful work for clarinet, guitar, and harp. “When I hear the tune, especially now, I’m instantly brought to a place of peace,” Jason explains. “I feel it’s about seeking solitude and comfort beneath a favorite tree or in a forest. There’s a certain sadness or pain in the melodic line and harmonic motion, but there’s also the sense that this trouble is being lifted up into the branches — there’s communication between human and tree.”

Crossing the Atlantic, we’ll make our way to the Isle of Cape Breton to hear a lilting waltz in the little village of Mabou, where Joey Beaton wrote David Bradley Beaton’s Jig. Beaton wrote this to honor his son’s eighth birthday. Laura and Jason have turned it into a nice little dance number for guitar & harp.

And, to close out the evening, we make our way to our favorite barn in the heart of Leelanau County where there’s a toe-tapping dance to share by our own Laura Hood: Happy Feet! Laura wrote this inspired by the improvised dance steps of her five-year-old son.

We hope you’ll join us Saturday, September 16, for this inspiring program of music and story presented at Frankfort’s Oliver Art Center. Seating is limited, so you are encouraged to secure your seats in advance. CLICK HERE to reserve your seats via the Oliver Art Center website. Tickets are $40 each, OAC members receive a 10% discount! Limited VIP Bridge seats are available, with seating for two on the OAC’s bridge balcony (including private hi-top table with bar height chairs and light refreshments). VIP seating is $75 per person and must be purchased in pairs (limit 2 per order). For more information, visit the Oliver Art Center website or call 231.352.4151 (Mon-Sat; 10 am – 4 pm).

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