Music Speaks: Dancing in the Sky

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

Our concert, May 27th, will showcase music from many different genres and styles — from traditional wind quintets in the Classical tradition to modern works and American folk tunes for all sorts of combinations of instruments. While the oldest work on the program premiered in 1830, the newest work will be receiving its world premiere!

We’re very excited and honored to premiere another chamber work by our friend and fellow ensemble member, Laura Hood. In her latest work, Sky Dance, Laura composed both the music and the lyrics, arranging for flute, clarinet, ukulele, guitar, harp, and a very special mother-daughter vocal duet (sung by Laura and her daughter, Jessie Hood).

I recently chatted with Laura about her latest chamber work to get some insider information on the upcoming premiere:

So, where did you get the inspiration for this new piece? Are there any particular memories attached to Sky Dance?

The basic song structure was actually written over ten years ago. I was on a spring camping trip with some Leelanau School students on North Manitou Island. We’d all just finished a very intimate, moving council on gratitude, and I was sitting on the beach, watching the light change during sunset. That’s when I first jotted down some of the main lyrical ideas in my little journal.

“So quietly, in the gentle hour,
IMG_5299the hour of blue,
When the sky meets the earth, and where they join, there is you.
Suspensions of the day, they are resolved, the root holds on and the tonic remains true.”

— from Sky Dance
Laura Hood (b. 1961)

Our concert program explores the connection between music and words. Several lines from your lyrics marry musical terms with natural imagery — I love the masterful mixing of metaphors you’ve made here! A lot of the music on the concert program tells a story or evokes a specific scene. Were you also hoping to tell a story or paint a scene with this piece?

I think of it as more of a scene than a story. The first part of Sky Dance is about the tender and intimate moments of dusk; the delicate transition between light and darkness. It’s about this fine line where everything becomes very real. I wanted the vocal lines here to be subtle and low, so the supporting instrumentation is quite transparent too. Then the song transitions into the safety and celebration of nighttime — a dance party with the Aurora Borealis. Here, everyone is playing in a fun 5/4 time — each instrument and the voices all have their own part to play in the celebration.

As I was working on the scoring, my husband Bruce shared with me a chapter from The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, called “Sky Dance”. It was about the intricate mating ritual dance the woodcock does in springtime right at dusk. The male bird establishes his territory on the ground, spirals up into the sky, and then tumbles back to the ground to begin again. It’s just be another example of the kind of magic happening during those precious moments of transition at the end of the day.

Sky Dance“Let the night enfold you.
Let it lift you into the sky.
In darkness all of your shadows disappear,
your soul is free, no chains of fear.
And you can dance and you can sing.”

— from Sky Dance
Laura Hood

You mentioned this piece began over ten years ago. I imagine time has changed some of the meaning of the lyrics for you — probably also the music itself. While scoring it for a chamber group, did you find translating that original vision into printed music a challenge? Did it change your vision?

It was a fun challenge to score one of my songs for a group rather than just solo guitar and voice. First of all, I had to notate the vocal parts which are very unstructured and folk-y. That was probably the hardest part and — at times — it felt like I was First Flightputting my melody into a box where it didn’t belong.

The flute and clarinet parts added a whole new challenge and dimension to the song — possibilities I had not thought about before. Since I’m a brass player, it took me a couple of tries to write parts that were not only fun for Sam and Anne to play, but also helped to create the sound I was hoping for.

Then came the harp part, which I usually approach much like a bass part (but with many possibilities for pizzaz). I knew that if I gave you a chord structure, you would come up with something cool more or less on your own, so all I had to provide was an outline for the harp.

Maybe rather than changing, I guess you could say your vision expanded! Performing your music is always such a treat because the music is challenging and yet not nearly so rigid as typical chamber music. We’re often invited to change our parts in subtle and not-so-subtle ways — there’s definitely that element of improvisation you naturally expect of us!

I feel so fortunate to work with you, Sam, and Anne. You’re able to play anything I write, you’re willing to give me suggestions, add your own ideas to the music. It was an amazing process to hear the notes I wrote on a piece of paper just spring to life, creating what I think is a really cool piece. I feel humbled and honored by this whole process.

The honor is certainly ours! We’re grateful you share your music with us — not to mention your great horn and guitar playing! For this upcoming concert, our audience will also get to hear Da Sista Hood with Jason Mudgettyou sing for the first time — your daughter Jessie, as well, will be performing with us for the first time. Can you tell us more about your musical work with Jessie?

Jessie and I have been playing music together for about three years as Da Sista Hood, playing at local establishments and for events and fundraisers in the area. It’s been fun to work as musical colleagues, creating the sweet harmonies that just come from blending voices of the same family. Matching tone and timbre just comes Da Sista Hood with Jason Mudgettnaturally for mother and daughter, so we’re able to focus on the sweetness of the harmonies, our inflection and interpretation of the lines. I’m continuously amazed by Jessie’s poise, her musicianship, and her ability to learn new material. I’m of course very proud of her and thankful for opportunities to share music together — including this premiere performance.

We hope you’ll join us for this one-of-a-kind premiere of another original work by Laura Hood.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

______________________________________

Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken

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Music Speaks: Conferring with the Sun

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

Words were created to communicate. Whether spoken or written, we need words to translate, convey, and make sense of our own experiences. Still, words are powerful but limited; they can tell us about an experience, but words themselves are not an experience.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve examined how music embodies its own wordless language of storytelling through sound and its interaction with our personal memories or daydreams. When music and words unite, however, a bit of transformation occurs. You might say music has the ability to transform words, briefly, into an experience.

Sun Songs by Jenni Brandon (b. 1977) collects sacred poetry from three different Native American tribes, examining their beautiful and harmonious relationship with the earth. The work — a seamless song cycle containing three songs — is written for soprano, English horn, cello, and piano and demonstrates Jenni’s transcendent flair for “tone painting”. I contacted Jenni, recently, and she graciously told me more about these texts, their significance, and how she chose them.

Many of Jenni’s works are directly inspired by nature or our interactions with it. “I had recently gotten a book of Native American prose and poetry (The Winged Serpent),” Jenni explains. “The book inspired me to look deeper into the lives of Native American people. Theirs was and is collection of cultures that honors the earth, sun, sky — all of nature. The idea of telling a story from their perspective (in a modern art song) really appealed to me.”

Nootka Sun MaskI. Song to bring fair weather
You, whose day it is, make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow colors.
So it will be beautiful.

— translated by Frances Densmore (1867-1957)
from Nootka and Quileute Music

Jenni assembled texts from three different Native American tribes, choosing their relationship with the sun as her focal point for telling a story. “I was interested in telling a story of the sun – of their respect for it and the Earth, and the notion of honoring the land,” says Jenni. “Even though these tribes were far apart (geographically) and maybe never crossed paths, I think it’s powerful that their conception of the sun and their honoring of the sun and nature is so similar. It’s a recognition that distance and time may separate us, but our feelings about the land and our love of it are often the same, even today.”

II. Song to pull down the clouds
IMG_3333At the edge of the world
It is growing light.
Up rears the light.
Just yonder the day dawns.
Spreading over the night.

— translated by Ruth Underhill (1883-1984)
from Singing for Power

Understandably, some modern ethnomusicologists dismiss the works of early anthropologists and musicologists. On the surface, it can appear many of those early scholars sought to define native music using western terminology, forcing it into standard forms and categories rather than studying it and documenting it in its organic state.

Ruth UnderhillAs pioneers in their field, however, they simply lacked the extensive knowledge of worldwide ancient cultures and the flexible musical lexicon that evolved in the decades following their discoveries. In truth, pioneers such as Frances Denmore, Ruth Underhill, and Leslie Spier are largely responsible for the survival of the often extant information we have about many Native American tribes which had already begun to vanish in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

What early scholars clearly understood and emphasized was that song had an important place in many Native American cultures. Their cultural practices combined words and music in ways that extended well beyond our fairly simplistic modern labels of secular and sacred.

III. A PrayerPapago-Woman
Sun, my relative
Be good coming out
Do something good for us.

Make me work,
So I can do anything in the garden
I hoe, I plant corn, I irrigate.

You, sun, be good going down at sunset
We lay down to sleep I want to feel good.

While I sleep you come up.
Go on your course many times.
Make good things for us.

Make me always the same as I am now.

— translated by Leslie Spier (1893-1961)
from Havasupai Enthography

Not only bridging miles by bringing together the poetry of these three unique tribes, Jenni seamlessly combined their songs into an uninterrupted journey from dramatic daybreak to dusk. From the first note to the last, there is no significant break or pause in the work. The voices of the native poets blend into one another.

Jenni says she often likes to tell a single coherent story by combining different texts and then using the common themes within each to link them together as a whole.

“There’s one line that really makes me feel these texts were meant to be together: ‘Make me always the same as I am now.’ The author talks of wanting to ‘feel good’, and I think of the feeling IMG_1767many of us get at a sunrise or sunset – the feeling of infinite possibility, that everything is going to be okay. I think this line captures the spirit of the work, and — to me — brings sunlight into what can be a dark and angry world. If we hold onto this good feeling, this sense of loving the land — finding the goodness in a sunrise/sunset — then we will do what we need to do in order to keep that feeling alive, to make us the same in that moment of happiness, even when times are hard and challenging.”

While studying the English horn part and rehearsing and discussing this enthralling chamber work with our special guests (Emily Curtin Culler, soprano, Jean Coonrod, cello, and Susan Snyder, piano), I’ve noticed that same line has stood out as significant for me as well. Colored by Jenni’s musical framing while still maintaining its pure word form, the line becomes an elemental statement of both gratitude and hope. What better way to express both simultaneously than to wish a feeling or moment would never end?

IMG_5309

In this unique combination of timbres which melds together in stunning warmth and remarkable expressiveness, Jenni Brandon has transformed simple but sacred words into a profound experience. We invite you to join us as we follow the sun on its journey from daybreak to dusk.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

______________________________________

Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken

Image/Photo Credits
1. Rogers Road, © 2016 by Margie Guyot (Manitou Winds 2017 collaborating artist).
2. Bella Coola Sun Mask, Nootka mask art, Nitinaht Lake, British Columbia. (Nancy Sue & Judson C. Ball Collection of Native American Art).
3. Sunrise Over East Traverse Bay, © 2011 by J.T. McKinney.
4. Ceremony Sun Dance, original artwork by David Joaquin of Two Hawk Studio. (Quote by Ruth Underhill, Singing for Power: The Song Magic of the Papago Indians, © 1938 by University of Arizona Press).
5. Tohono O’odham (Papago) Woman, © 1907 by Edward S. Curtis.
6. Sunset at Pyramid Point, © 2016 by James Deaton.
7. Sunset on Good Harbor Bay, © 2012 by J.T. McKinney.

Music Speaks: A Bunch of Nonsense?

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

We’ve been discussing for the past few weeks how music can enliven poetry and prose — bringing out hidden meanings from the words, engaging the listener beyond what the naked words ever could. But, when the words are basically nonsense, can the reverse occur? Can a composer use words to play with music rather than using music to play with words?

I happened upon Two Songs for Tenor and Wind Quintet and the music of David Jones (b. 1990) while Manitou Winds was still in rehearsal for our debut appearance in 2015. My chance encounter was David Jones, composerthanks to the modern wonders of internet searching. I was brainstorming for ideas and asked the ether of cyberspace for music written for vocalist and wind quintet. Thanks to the internet, discovering undiscovered and unpublished student composers is easier than ever.

David was about to graduate with his Bachelor of Musical Arts in Composition from Brigham Young University-Idaho when I first got in touch with him back in 2015. He’s now received his Master of Music Composition and is presently a graduate teaching assistant at BYU in Provo, Utah. Among his influences, he credits Stravinsky, Debussy, Hindemith, and Holst for shaping his motive-driven style. His brilliant settings of these two songs actually began as a light bit of competition.

“I wrote each of these pieces for two separate art song competition recitals put on by the voice faculty at BYU-Idaho,” David recalled. “The assignment for the first was to write something light or humorous since the recital was being held on April Fools’ Day.”

For a light and humorous subject, David consulted the poetry of Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), selecting Jabberwocky for his text. David says it was the “creative vocabulary” of Carroll’s poetry that initially drew him to it. “The light mood in which Carroll presents what could be considered a fairly dark topic appealed to me, so I sought to capture that in the nature of the music,” David says.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

JabberwockyAnd as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

— “Jabberwocky”
from Through the Looking-Glass (1871) by Lewis Carrol

First published in 1871 as part of Carroll’s novel Through the Looking-Glass (the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)), Jabberwocky remains one of the greatest nonsense poems ever written in English. Beneath the surface of the playful Humpty Dumpty & Alicelanguage is a tale of the heroic slaying of a terrifying beast, but somehow it’s the words that stick with folks rather than the gory details.

“It seems very pretty, but it’s rather hard to understand!… Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate.”

— Alice
from Through the Looking-Glass

David’s setting pairs the modern-day wind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon) with a vocalist armed with Carroll’s playful lexicon. What results is a fantasy tale set to music. Using a central theme presented by the vocalist, David manipulates the timbres of the quintet in inventive ways, altering the theme as needed to further portray the story.

The second song was written under slightly different circumstances: another competition but slightly different rules. All of the composers were required to use the same text: The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear (1812-1888).

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Kitty! O Kitty, my love,
What a beautiful Kitty you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Kitty you are!”

The Owl and the Pussycat

Kitty said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The Owl and the Pussycat (1871)
by Edward Lear

David readily admits he was not terribly fond of the assigned poem initially. Lear’s poem, like Carroll’s, is considered a nonsense poem but — unlike Jabberwocky — the nonsense comes more from the subject of the story and the poet’s whimsical plays on words rather than extensive use of nonsense words.

Students were assigned to use different instruments or sounds to represent various characters from the poem. David uses a central theme to carry the poetry, again, however for the quintet accompaniment he employs even more colorful uses of harmony, dissonance, and instrumentation to mirror events in the poem. In his setting, we hear several quirky harmonies, lop-sided rhythms, and even a few specific animal references (e.g., when the oboist is asked to crow his reed to simulate a pig’s squeal).

We’ve been enjoying rehearsals of these whimsical pieces — delighting in the crunchy harmonies and unexpected twists. For our concert, we’ve enlisted the vocal talents of our special guest, Emily Curtin Culler, soprano. Manitou Winds is delighted to present these two original settings of classic poetry for our Music Speaks concert.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

______________________________________

Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken

Music Speaks: One Ambivalent Shepherd

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

Words and music have long been intertwined going back to ancient times and continuing into our modern era of singer-songwriters. But, it was the composers of the Romantic Era (1820-1900) who began to be so moved by contemporary poetry and literature that they began to explore ways to enhance words with music — adding nuances and emotions that words alone were incapable of communicating.1

Prior to the influence of Romantic idealism, words and music often joined together in a sort of marriage of convenience. Poems were often written to fit existing melodies while musical accompaniment would be matched to a poem with little more reason than a shared meter.2 Depending on the listener’s perspective, the relationship between music and poetry was seldom more than one being a colorful delivery vehicle for the other!

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, composers began to write music that spoke to their own interests and ideals rather an aristocratic patron’s wishes. No longer at home in the lavish ballrooms of the affluent, the forefront of musical development was to be found in much more informal parties held in private homes where men and women with interests in the latest poetry, literature, art, and music would gather to perform and be entertained.1 It was in this vibrant, scintillating atmosphere that the art song (i.e. lied) was created.

Perhaps the most famous Romantic to unite music and poetry in a passionate embrace was Franz Schubert (1797-1828). In his short lifespan of a mere thirty-one years, he lived the rough-and-tumble Bohemian life of a true Romantic: abandoning a career in teaching to pursue his passion — a move which made him virtually penniless, but enabled him to write more than 600 art songs (not to mention several masterpieces in other forms).

“When one has a good poem the music comes easily, melodies just flow, so that composing is a real joy.” 1
Franz Schubert

— Franz Schubert
(1797-1828)

Schubert’s approach to writing art songs had a lasting influence on the composers who would follow. Rather than merely writing music to accompany poems, he joined poetry and music in a way that sought to make them inseparable. He purposefully bent the rules of harmony and often broke with conventional ideas of form — expanding the vocabulary of music, enabling it to speak more clearly to the listener and get at the meaning of the poetry.

Within the staves of Schubert’s art songs, music forms an intimate, sympathetic relationship with the text. When the narrator of a poem feels sadness, there is a very purposeful shift in harmony to evoke that emotion. When there is a sudden burst of joy in the text, the music has often built up to that same passionate fervor even while the text was only beginning to hint at it.

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (English: The Shepherd on the Rock), D. 965, was written in the final month of Schubert’s life and demonstrates his unique talent in marrying music and poetry. While arguably not an example of his most deeply-felt connection to a pre-existing text, Schubert was clearly showing off!3

Designed to be a showpiece for the famous operatic soprano Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann, he was instructed to write a work allowing her to express a wide range of feelings and emotions onstage. Perhaps because the clarinet was a fairly recent addition to the orchestra and yet another opportunity to add innovation, Schubert added a clarinet to the usual voice and piano combo.

For the text, Schubert wove together lines from three different poems written by two different poets. In effect, the song is divided into three fairly distinct segments. The first and third segments were excerpted from two poems written by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827) — “Der Berghirt” (The Mountain Shepherd) and “Liebesgedanken” (Thoughts of Love) — while the middle section was written by K.A. Varnhagen von Ense (1785-1858), excerpted from his poem “Nächtlicher Schall”(Nocturnal Sounds).

When on the highest cliff I stand,
gaze down into the deep valley
and sing, and sing,
the echo from the ravines
floats upwards from the dark valley
far away.

The further my voice travels,
the clearer it returns to me
from below, from below.
So far from me does my love dwell
that I yearn for her more ardently
over there, over there.

With deep grief I am consumed,
my joy is at an end;
all hope on earth has left me;
I am so lonely here,
I am so lonely here.

So longingly sounded the song in the wood,
so longingly it sounded through the night,
drawing hearts heavenwards
with wondrous power.

Spring is coming,
Spring, my joy;
now I will make ready to go journeying.

Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 965
Translation by Lionel Salter

Reading the text from a purely literal stance, it seems a bit vague if not overly-dramatic. Perhaps you also sense a change in voice between the two different poets. Here, Schubert’s music masterfully fills in gaps of emotion, meaning, and time left open by the words. Through carefully-placed harmonic changes and recurring, memorable themes, Schubert unites the poetry into a single voice. Through the union of words and music, you find yourself feeling the shepherd’s longing and just as easily understanding the sudden joy and hope of springtime.

It’s a marvel that he composed a piece filled with joy and hope while suffering from the very illness that doomed him to an early death. Sadly, we don’t know whether Schubert ever heard his piece performed. He certainly couldn’t have known how enduring it would be; he died only a month after completing it, and its premiere occurred nearly two years later.

Emily Curtin Culler, Susan Snyder, & Anne Bara

The trio of soprano, clarinet, and piano are in conversation and practically dancing throughout this song — a dazzling display of dexterity and vocal agility! A work of such range and depth is demanding for all the musicians involved. Manitou Winds is excited to present this Romantic masterpiece featuring Emily Curtin Culler, soprano; Anne Bara, clarinet; and Susan Snyder, piano.

We hope you’ll join with us in celebrating the coming of spring and the unity of words and music at our spring concert.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

______________________________________

Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken

References
1. Wright, C. (1996) “Listening to Music”, West Publishing Company; St. Paul, MN. pp. 245-249.
2. Grout, J. & Palisca, C. (2001) “A History of Western Music”, W.W. Norton & Company; New York, NY. pp. 448-449, 544-546.
3. Howell, C. (2013) “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen”; http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Apr07/Hirt_430542.htm

Music Speaks: What’s in a Title?

In our 2017 spring concert,

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Manitou Winds explores the meandering, mystical path connecting music and words.

Music and words are often united through a composer’s use of poetry or prose (i.e., lyrics), but sometimes a composer chooses to leave even more to the imagination by guiding audiences through scenes or stories using words only in a work’s title. With an evocative title and the composer’s clever use of colorful composition techniques, each audience member can journey to the destination the composer intends, and yet each can experience a different story or scene.

One such piece on our Music Speaks program is Pastoral, Op. 21 (1943) by Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987). A masterpiece in wind chamber music since its premiere by Philadelphia’s Curtis Quintet, this single-movement piece evokes for the audience bright and sunny scenes of rural life.

Fields North of Petoskey by Margie Guyot

By definition, a “pastoral” is meant to be a depiction of pastureland, shepherds, farmers, beautiful idyllic countryside.1 What country? Which people? It turns out these details may be at least partly up to the audience’s imagination.

Written during his late twenties, while still a doctoral student, many scholars feel Pastoral reflects a composer who was yet on the cusp of finding his own compositional voice, possessing a technique still much influenced by Stravinsky, Bartók, Hindemith, and Copland.2 Flavored as it is with a Coplandesque folk song sensibility and angular harmonies reminiscent of early 20th century composers, the voice of Persichetti’s influences is fairly obvious; but so too is his unique character — full of surprises, twists, and turns.

Vincent Persichetti in 1981 (Photo by Peter Schaaf; courtesy of the Juilliard Archives)“… if I knew you very well, I would rather not be talking to you in words; I would rather talk to you in a piece I write. All my relationships are more meaningful when it’s through my music.” 3

— Vincent Persichetti
(1915-1987)

Though it would be hard to prove scientifically (opinions would certainly vary from listener to listener), I believe it would be hard to listen to this piece and not picture the countryside — even if the title were kept secret from you. That, I believe, is proof that Persichetti captured a bit of the magic between music and words, making his Pastoral an endearingly popular piece for wind quintet.

As important as it is for the audience to explore the countryside using the live performance as a sort of map, the members of Manitou Winds must use the inner workings of Persichetti’s composition as a guide — shepherding all of his motifs and harmonies into a unified depiction of idyllic country scenery. To help us, we often talk about what we feel our individual parts might be contributing at any given point in the music, and also what the overall “story” of the piece might be.

While some who have written about this work hear a series of distinct scenes with contrasting characters and plot lines all their own, my own vision is far more simplistic. It’s a story of an ordinary drive along a rural highway that takes a spontaneous, child-like turn…

You’re driving along on a sunny day — maybe with a particular destination in mind, but you’re in no hurry to get there. You are blissfully unhinged from anyone’s schedule; a rarity in today’s world. Suddenly, around a bend in the road, the trees part to reveal a beautiful meadow with rolling hills, a pond in the distance with some cattails and a willow tree, maybe a few cows scattered about.

Entranced by the beauty, you find yourself pulling over to the side of the road to take it all in. On a whim, you step out of the car, walk to the edge of the fencerow, and lean cautiously onto it as you stare out across the meadow. Regardless that you’re wearing your good shoes and clearly not dressed for a hike, you suddenly find yourself going over the fence, smudging your clothes on the rough, weather-hewn boards. You notice this, but you keep going.

Birds skirt and soar overhead as you make your way across the meadow headed toward the pond. For a brief moment, you worry someone may be watching, wondering what you’re up to, but all those worries of self-consciousness dissolve as a breeze sweeps across the tall grasses, uniting them into a sea which parts and then enfolds in your wake. Weren’t there cows somewhere — OH! Yes, and here are their tell-tale leavings so suddenly and perilously in the path of your steps!

After a few spontaneous detours, you finally reach the edge of the pond IMG_1722by skirting across a patch of ground far boggier than expected (your shoes have simply had it by now). From a raised part of the bank where the old willow reclines, the pond reflects an early summer sun in its late-afternoon glow, rippled and dappled across the water. Your breaths come slower now, like the sighing of those willow branches brushing delicately against an invisible breeze.

How long have you been standing here? Is it okay to leave now? A brief escape from the everyday, maybe a momentary lapse of common sense in exchange for uncommon grace. A short excursion, but a meaningful one!

You’re invited to scurry over the fence with us and come along for an escape from the everyday on a journey with music as a map and words as pictures!

The pastoral-themed landscapes in today’s article are from the studio of our 2017 collaborating artist, Margie Guyot. For more information about Margie’s home studio and gallery and to view many more examples of her work, visit www.MargieGuyot.com.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

______________________________________

Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken

References
1. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Pastoral,” (accessed March 26, 2017).
2. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Vincent Persichetti,” (accessed February 15, 2017).
3. Duffie, B. (November 15, 1986) “Composer Vincent Persichetti: A Conversation with Bruce Duffie”; http://www.bruceduffie.com/persichetti.html

Music Speaks: The Art of Collaboration

Manitou Winds continually finds inspiration in the stories of the composers who write the music we enjoy sharing. We also seek fresh inspiration in the vibrant arts scene in Northern Michigan — selecting a new Collaborating Artist each year.

We’re often asked what it means to “collaborate” with an artist — especially when we obviously work in two completely different mediums. My favorite answer: each collaboration means something different! No two composers speak through music in quite the same way, and no two artists infuse the canvas with the same verve and personality, and so each collaboration means a new discovery.

Possum Hollow Studio

Throughout each year-long collaboration — through conversation about our unique art forms, and putting together joint concerts and exhibits — artist and musician alike often discover new aspects of their art and take our audience along for the ride. Not knowing where exactly that ride will go is part of the fun and makes it nothing at all like an assignment… and fun is pretty well our 2017 artist’s specialty!

I first met Margie Guyot in an unexpected way — during a fateful Encore Winds rehearsal. When someone aims a saxophone at you, you tend to take notice! It wasn’t too long after that rehearsal when Margie GuyotI happened to be browsing on Facebook and read an interview where Margie casually mentioned oil painting was a hobby of hers. Later that summer, while browsing in North Seas Gallery in Charlevoix, MI, a lovely landscape painting caught my attention. I did a double-take: Margie Guyot was the artist. “She’s no ‘hobby’ artist!” I thought.

Originally from Iowa, Margie grew up in love with both art and music — a penchant for expressing herself, you might say. Her family’s basement was always loaded with art materials, and she attended weekend art classes at the Davenport Art Museum. Art was fun – until high school, at least. That’s when her art teacher found out she also played saxophone and told her she couldn’t be in band and art. And so, Margie dropped art and majored in music — out of spite.

fullsizeoutput_2833“The power of spite can accomplish a lot — not all of it bad!” — Margie Guyot

“Spite” led Margie down the single-track road of music for a while. After receiving her bachelor’s degree with highest honors in music education, Margie made another critical decision in choosing not to teach. Instead, she took to the highway, playing saxophone in a road band touring the Midwest, dressed to the 9’s whilst living off mac and cheese.

When the “glamorous” life of a touring musician had spun its tale, Margie found her way to the Detroit area where she worked the graveyard shift at Ford Motor Company. It was 30 years of hard work and a steady paycheck, but not exactly the life she’d always dreamed of.

During these years on the line with her nose to the grindstone, art slowly began to make its way back into Margie’s life. She was inspired by Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Blue Shoes by Margie GuyotBrain — a book she says changed her life. She religiously performed every exercise in the book, gradually opening her eyes to really see.

As her renewed interest in art grew stronger, she traveled across the country (and continents) on extended vacations to study with famous mentors. In that time she studied with Robert Bateman, Clyde Aspevig, and Janet Fish — each artist contributing to her unique and colorful perspective.

Once she was finally able to retire from the assembly line, Margie moved to Northern Michigan and now paints whatever she likes every day — all from her Possum Hollow Studio in Ellsworth, MI.

Possum Hollow hosts a stunning array of Margie’s paintings. Surrounded on all four sides by their brilliance, you can see first-hand her favored painting styles vary wildly in color and content. We were able to make a trip up to Possum Hollow in early March — a chance to talk about her art and see her latest pieces.

Possum Hollow Studio

Possum Hollow Studio fullsizeoutput_282b

Possum Hollow Studio

Margie always creates her landscapes en plein air, painting on location all over Northern Michigan where she finds little bits of beauty and heartfelt scenes that the more casual passersby might miss in their hurry from one place to the next.

Clouds Over the Bay by Margie Guyot Scott Road at Sunset by Margie Guyot

Sunset - August by Margie Guyot

In times when she’s grown tired of more predictable landscapes and their endless variations of blues and greens, she turns to creating still life paintings where she can work in a limitless palette of saturated colors and complex patterns — juxtaposing linens, glassware, and produce with elements that might surprise (taxidermy, masks, vintage toys, and other unexpected “characters”).

fullsizeoutput_284b fullsizeoutput_282c

Finding visual inspiration among Margie’s work for our 2017 spring concert program, Music Speaks, was not at all difficult. Narrowing down all the choices proved to be the challenge that took much back-and-forth, however.

Music Speaks is a concert depicting many moods and characters, so it was hard to find a single image that would immediately, authentically stand along with the theme on a poster. Finally, after brainstorming and searching through the paintings a bit more, I realized the symbol of a road — a path connecting two places or two ideas — was a central part of our theme.

One of Margie’s recent landscapes, Rogers Road (2016), stood out immediately. The painting depicts a particular hideaway near East Jordan — a location Margie says she’s painted several times in all seasons. On a particular day in midsummer, she was inspired to paint on the roadside in the shade of a kindly tree who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The colors, the warmth of the sun, the wind in the grass, the sense of adventure of the open road… suddenly it was all making sense!

Rogers Road by Margie Guyot

Since our visit was in early March — just as the robins had begun to make their gradual reappearance and a thin layer of snow Possum Hollow Studiowas still on the ground — we weren’t able to have a grand tour of Margie’s extensive Possum Hollow Gardens. We’re certainly looking forward to a tour later this summer to see all the potential art in full bloom.

As part of our year-long collaboration, you’ll get a grand sampling of Margie’s work in a special exhibit at the concert venue. We also plan to have Margie and her saxophone on stage with us for our September concert. Stay tuned for more details!

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

______________________________________

Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken

Winter Songs & Carols: St. Basil’s Hymn

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents

a program of music, poetry, and prose inspiring you to embrace winter.

Have you ever heard a tune that just kinda grabbed you by surprise and then stuck around? We have a lot of terms for this potentially irksome phenomenon (ever heard of an earworm?), but sometimes finding out a little bit more about the tune that caught your Photo Nov 03, 6 50 36 PMattention can provide a sense of satisfaction if not relief. But what happens if it just leads to more questions?

Jason found himself in just that spot when he decided to include St. Basil’s Hymn on this year’s Winter Songs & Carols program. “I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I first heard the tune in a context pretty far-removed from what might be considered the original,” says Jason. “I heard it on George Winston’s excellent album (December from 1982) in a track he titled Night, Part III: Minstrels. I was immediately drawn in by the tune because it called to mind, for me, images of quiet, snowy winter. I had no idea about its origins, but I often listened to it well beyond the Christmas season.”

George Winston's DecemberGeorge Winston’s December liner notes say Minstrels was inspired by St. Basil’s Hymn, a traditional Greek children’s New Year’s carol, based upon a rendition by Malcolm Dalglish from his album Thunderhead from 1982.

Dalglish, a prolific dulcimerist and composer, later released the tune in a work for dulcimer and Children’s Choir (Kalanta of the New Year). But, in researching, Jason soon found that the tune can pop up in many different contexts sometimes even when the performer isn’t intending to evoke New Year or even Greek folk music.

“From this, I can only gather that the tune inspires a certain mood that makes it more or less independent from the lyrics,” says Jason. “Tunes and lyrics — especially in folk music — have a way of joining up and then parting ways. Many of our most beloved Christmas carols began as poems that someone much later decided to add to a pre-existing and unrelated tune, and we often don’t know who wrote either component.”

St. Basil’s Hymn is one of many traditional carols (often referred to as calanda) from Greece that are still sung by children on St. Basil’s feast day (which is also New Year’s Day). In the Calandatradition still practiced to some extent in modern times, Greek children roam the neighborhoods from house-to-house on St. Basil’s Day, playing instruments and singing songs, bidding New Year’s tidings to everyone. Over the years, the young carolers have gone from receiving gifts of sweets and pastries to often walking away with cold-hard cash. “These are the ‘minstrels’ George Winston was referring to!” says Jason.

Uncovering the tradition behind the carol was interesting enough, but what about those lyrics? And who was St. Basil? The questions were only growing…

Saint Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379) was an influential figure in the early Christian church whose theological writings and prayers are still in use. Though he lived in fourth century, he is still St. Basil of Caesareavery much a sacred figure especially in the Greek Eastern Orthodox Church. In Greek traditions, honoring St. Basil has gradually evolved his presence into something like our western Santa Claus wherein he is said to bring gifts to children on January 1st. Greek families also bake (or buy!) a special bread to commemorate St. Basil in a tradition similar to western traditions surrounding the feast of Epiphany.

The happy minstrel children, wandering the streets of a small village playing instruments and singing happy songs of St. Basil and the New Year. But what are the lyrics to St. Basil’s Hymn (Archiminia ki Archihronia)? Translated directly from Greek, depending on which version is being sung, they reveal a pretty mysterious thing: two songs in one!

It’s the beginning of the month, beginning of the year
High incense tree
Beginning of my good year
Church with the Holy Seat

It’s the beginning of our Christ
Saint and spiritual
He got out to walk on earth
And to welcome us

St. Basil is coming from Caesaria
And doesn’t want to deal with us
May you long live, my lady
He holds an icon and a piece of paper
With the picture of Christ our Savior
A piece of paper and a quill
Please look at me, the young man

Historians aren’t certain, but it’s assumed these lyrics come from 17th century Greece. As we’ve highlighted to demonstrate above, random lines from the poem seem to come from nowhere suggesting a completely different story, one traditionally believed to be a love story between a peasant man and a noble woman who were separated by social class.

As early as the medieval period in Europe secular composers created works by borrowing plainchant tunes from the church and then layering new vocal lines above the Latin chant tune and text — literally two or more songs being performed at once, the lyrics often having nothing to do with one another, contextually. “It may be a crude, lyrics-only, sort of continuation of that medieval form, or it may simply be some form of misprint in the written record that just took hold in tradition,” Jason muses. “I do find it funny that the tune and lyrics are still a large part of the celebration of St. Basil even though these non-sequitur lines are embedded in the poetry.”

“The more I thought about the mysterious lyrics and the unknown love story, the more I found the tune intriguing, too. Manitou MedleyI decided I would write a version for Manitou Winds that extracts a bit of that mystery and gives voice to this unknown poet whose lines have wandered into the wrong song at the wrong time. In my arrangement [for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and harp], I give space for the original tune, but then in the middle of the piece the horn and bassoon bring a passionate countermelody over the top of the tune. In our ears — at least for a few moments — we hear more about this painful story of unrequited love and the poet’s voice soars over the tale about St. Basil. Then, like mists of time rolling in to forever obscure the poet and his story, the melody disappears back into the harmony and lines of the traditional hymn tune.”

Manitou Winds will premiere Jason’s arrangement of St. Basil’s Hymn at both our Winter Songs & Carols performances in 2016. We hope you can join us!

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

,

______________________________________

Saturday, December 3rd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

___________________

Friday, December 9th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

____________

Admission is free for both performances
A freewill offering will be taken

Winter Songs & Carols: A Manitou Christmas Medley

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents

a program of music, poetry, and prose inspiring you to embrace winter.

As creative director of Manitou Winds, I spend a lot of time searching through titles and listening to music, curating the individual pieces that I plan to eventually morph into future programs for our ensemble. Putting a program together can be challenging. Often the toughest IMG_8850part is deciding how it all begins! It’s no secret that every concert needs an opener that is not only an attention-grabber, but also maybe a bit of foreshadowing to what the audience has to look forward to on the rest of the program.

For our annual Winter Songs & Carols concert, we enjoy presenting a program that encompasses all of winter — not just the holidays contained in December. So, finding an existing opening number that would encapsulate frost, warmth, holidays, feasts, and introspection all within one score was a tall order. It’s no wonder that early in January of 2016 I began scoring “A Manitou Christmas Medley” — a medley designed especially for Manitou Winds’ unique musicians.

The medley comprises eight of my favorite Christmas tunes in a variety of surprising twists and turns of style, tempo, and orchestration. In fact, one of the more unique aspects of this piece is that you’ll get to hear almost every combination of instruments Manitou Winds Jason's pianocan offer: five musicians, eight different instruments!

Before I even imagined I could be a part of a group like Manitou Winds, I would often sit at the piano and play through some of my favorite tunes and imagine lines that went above and beyond my own pianistic abilities — colors and characters that I knew only an ensemble could fully enliven.

It was in the spirit of those hopeful daydreams that I chose to begin the medley with a free, rubato-laden piano solo Anne's Clarinetof one of Alfred Burt’s most famous carols: Some Children See Him. In the midst of the piano’s rambling, Anne’s clarinet suddenly enters to lead the ensemble in adding striking colors to the evocative harmonies of Burt’s carol. Then, we’re off to the races as the tune shifts to a driving, syncopated jazz feel.

Next, the tempo quickens and we’re suddenly playing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a 16th century British carol, in a driving, pulsating style inspired by Karl Jenkins’ Palladio. The ensemble continues on a motif from the carol while I get up from the piano bench and make my way over to the harp.

Jason's Harp Sam's Flute

As the harmonies resolve into a dramatic climax, the harp enters with a glissando and suddenly we’re at an Irish seisiún with a foot-tapping, meter-jumping rendition of The Holly and the Ivy, a 19th century British carol. Sam’s flute takes the lead as the clarinet, horn, and bassoon intertwine (as the ivy!). The harp then takes a solo turn on the tune while Laura discreetly puts down her horn and grabs her guitar.

Laura's Horn Christina's Bassoon

Laura's Guitar

Seamlessly, Christina’s bassoon enters with a lyrical, ballet-inspired verse of Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella — a carol from 16th Century France — joined by the clarinet, flute, and harp. The guitar sneaks in at the end of the verse to lead us briefly into Cradle Song — a Christmas tune that I composed and hope to explore more in future pieces.

With the guitar taking over for the harp, I head over to the oboe while the key shifts to minor and there’s a guitar-flute Jason's oboeduet on Coventry Carol — a dark and disturbing carol from 16th century Britain.

As the clarinet and bassoon join in, we’re suddenly whisked from the mournful slaughter of the innocents as Laura’s guitar strums a fiery Flamenco rhythm and we flagrantly juxtapose an 18th century French carol (Pat-a-pan) within the trappings of Andalusian folk music (and maybe a wee bit of Romani influence too!). It’s like a wild sing-a-long around a bonfire — you don’t argue about whether it makes any sense!

As the flames of the flamenco grow higher and Manitou Windshigher, we’re suddenly swept up into a very syncopated spin of the ancient Ukrainian Carol of the Bells and with a sizzling stinger of an ending, we conclude a medley that reaches across continents, centuries, and even moods!

I’m very grateful to the musicians of Manitou Winds for agreeing to embark on such a strange musical journey with me. I hope you’ll join us for the premiere of this unique medley during our Winter Songs & Carols performances.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

______________________________________

Saturday, December 3rd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

___________________

Friday, December 9th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

____________

Admission is free for both performances
A freewill offering will be taken

Summer Fantasies: Three Fiddle Tunes

The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar) ©2016 by Ellie Harold

“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.

The second premiere on our program, this September, is a new suite based on fiddle tunes from the isle of Cape Breton arranged by Jason McKinney. “I have a list of places I’d like to visit someday and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is near the top of that list,” he says. “Since our concert’s theme is about fantasies, I thought it would be fun to create a musical journey to a place I long to visit someday. Plus, it was an excuse to learn more about Scottish music!”

Jason McKinneyA Suite of Cape Breton Tunes

— Jason McKinney (b. 1979)

The suite is arranged for flute, clarinet, and lever harp (i.e., Celtic harp), and contains three distinct movements. “I wanted each movement to capture a different mood or scene you might expect to find during a céilidh (pronounced KAY’-lee) — the Scottish-Gaelic word for a party where there will be singing, dancing, and storytelling,” Jason explains.

I. Natalie Fraser is based on a hornpipe tune written by legendary pianist Joey Beaton of Mabou. Beaton happens to come from a very long line of famous Cape Breton composers and musicians. The hornpipe is a dance many northern European cultures share — each with their own version and traditions. In Cape Breton, the hornpipe is usually a lively dance in 4/4 time (though it can be danced slowly when the occasion calls for it) with a distinctly contrasting A & B sections.

Jason explored what he could from the Mabouinternet about Beaton’s tell-tale style of piano accompaniment. “In traditional Cape Breton music (which is seldom written down by the way), the piano accompaniment usually provides a bass line and rhythmic foundation for the undulating fiddle while ‘filling in’ chords and harmony. Since fiddling is nearly impossible on wind instruments, I basically split the musical roles between all three members of the trio,” Jason explains. “The harp part provides the bass line and the basic harmony, but it also grabs bits and pieces of the melody, allowing the flute and clarinet a little liberty to breathe and also embellish.”

Watching the dancers of the hornpipe swirling and bouncing like planets shifting in and out of their orbits is a bit mesmerizing (watch a hornpipe here). While there won’t be any dancers at our concert, it’s not hard to imagine them as the flute, clarinet, and harp weave in and out of the texture of the trio seamlessly.

II. The Rosebud of Allenvale is based on a relatively simple tune by the famous Scottish fiddler, dancer, and J.S. Skinnerprolific composer J.S. Skinner (1843-1927). Many Scottish emigrants to Nova Scotia arrived as a result of being thrown off their lands during the Highland Clearances. These displaced Scots made their way to North America and beyond, carrying their culture with them. A thoroughly Scottish citizen, Skinner’s music influenced the Scottish community in Nova Scotia because of his international notoriety and his advancement of Scottish music and dance.

“Since the traditional céilidh would contain at least a little storytelling, I thought this charming lyrical melody would be a great segue from the dancing,” Jason explains. “I imagined everyone making their way to their seats or gathering around as a single vocalist began singing a lyrical ode to a lost or current love.”

In this movement, the melody is carried mostly by the clarinet with the flute taking on the role of an accompanying violin while the harp provides graceful, arpeggiating accompaniment. “I think what drew me to this melody initially was that it was calming and graceful without the expected hint of tragedy that almost always finds its way into Celtic music,” Jason explains. “Reading the title then hearing the melody, you get the sensation that the fiddler is filled with pride or love rather than mourning.”

But, alas, after digging deeper there remains that little hint of tragedy. Skinner published this tune around 1922 and dedicated it to his cousin Jessie who was married to the gardener at Allenvale Cemetery in Aberdeen, Scotland. In his original inscription, Skinner wrote, “The Rosebud is in full bloom and will be played when you and I are asleep.” J.S. Skinner died five years later and was buried in the Allenvale Cemetery.

III. The Night the Goats Came Home Goats(sometimes known as “The Night We Had the Goats”) is a traditional Cape Breton reel tune. Here’s the moment in the céilidh where everyone has likely had one too many and the party’s getting decidedly rowdy! The fiddler takes the stage to get the crowd on its feet. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know how this tune got its name,” says Jason. “It’s so energetic, though, one just understands that it was an awesome thing when the goats showed up (perhaps for one night only)!”

In Scottish folk music, a reel is one of four traditional dances, but it is also a loose musical form (usually used to accompany the dance of the same name). Similar to the hornpipe, a reel has contrasting A & B sections that are repeated (sometimes growing faster and faster). In contrast, the tempo of a reel is often much faster than the hornpipe and/or its melody is more heavily embellished (i.e., fiddled).

Photo Jul 29, 8 08 47 PM (1)“I’m honored to have Sam and Anne perform this suite with me. Working on the intricacies of the music and working through my own learning process on the harp was a joy thanks to their dedication and energy to their individual parts.”

— Jason McKinney

“This is the toughest movement of the suite,” Jason confesses. “Between the tricky embellishments written in the flute and clarinet parts and the muffling technique required in the harp part to create a pianistic effect between each chord, there is a good bit of challenge to getting this reel in motion. While not exactly like a fiddler’s bow strokes (watch a fiddler play this tune here), I think the energy and effect are similar.”

We look forward to sharing this one-of-a-kind foray into Scottish folk music with you at our upcoming concert: Summer Fantasies, September 30th.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss Summer Fantasies
Friday, September 30th, at 6pm
Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Frankfort

Admission is free.

Summer Fantasies: Summer Waltzes Out

The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar) ©2016 by Ellie Harold

“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 01Summer Waltz

— 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 Out of Africarecalls. “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 Frankfort Beach Dream ©2016 by Ellie Haroldwere 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.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss Summer Fantasies
Friday, September 30th, at 6pm
Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road
Frankfort

Admission is free.