Winter Songs & Carols: The Art of Collaboration

Leelanau County WinterIn our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents a program of music, poetry, and prose inspiring you to embrace winter. But what does it mean to embrace a season known for darkness and cold? When confronted with the dazzling merriment expected of us for the holidays, what could we learn from a season of quiet and introspection?

During winter, a season that receives more than its fair share of bad press, we’re more often tempted to find ways of distracting ourselves from the season’s sometimes harsh realities. We huddle indoors like hermits, deck our halls with boughs of holly, or fly the coop for an extended stay someplace warmer and more life-affirming.

For our 2016 collaborating artist, Ellie Harold, winter is often a season of inner discovery. With the weather outside inhospitable for her paints and canvas, daily inspiration from picture windows becomes limited and quickly exhausted. Where else might an artist turn but inward?

Last winter, desperate for a subject to Periwinkle Skiespaint, Ellie found inspiration in a most unlikely place! “A brief scrounge through my recycling bin yielded a [mostly] rinsed out ketchup container and lid. I set up a small table and started arranging Still Life With Dead Ketchup Bottle.”

“As I began to paint I was reminded how I love looking at light shining on and through a transparent object,” says Ellie. “I love how painting asks that I look more and more closely at the thing in front of me. I love how, if I look carefully and paint well enough, I actually begin to see what’s there, to feel its existence as a Presence in the world. It doesn’t matter if the thing before me is a crunched up plastic bottle with remnants of ketchup clinging to its innards – the point of the exercise is not to make a pretty picture. Rather it is to look – using paint as a medium – until I see.”

Here in Northern Michigan with many of our Winter Quietudefavorite hang-outs closing up for the winter and some of our friends and neighbors departing for warmer climes, perhaps it’s an exercise that would benefit all of us: to look at the starkness of winter and allow the innermost elemental beauty of the season to emerge. Those of us who are artists can then take those discoveries with us to our respective “canvas” and kindle in others a passion for this season of cold and darkness.

For our Winter Songs & Carols performances, this December, Ellie has graciously loaned us two of her paintings for promotion and inspiration. For the performance in Traverse City, we have SnowLight — a beautiful abstract evoking both warmth and chill, abundance and scarcity, conversation and silent wonder.

"SnowLight" ©2016 by Ellie Harold

Ellie says it was during a recent winter here in Northern Michigan that her painting style underwent a significant change, leading to a series of abstract paintings. “For most of my painting life I’d been a representational artist. I painted from life or photographic references or not at all. But when the weather turned, I found myself bored with painting from photographs and insufficiently motivated to brave the Michigan cold,” she recalls. “Fortunately, the brush in my hand found its way to the palette and then to a large canvas. The result? A whole new sort of painting, one for which I have yet to develop a descriptive language. In fact, the new work seems to be its own language. It speaks to me while I’m working and fulfills a deep need to reveal my Inner Landscape.”

The painting selected for our Glen Arbor performance, Winter Sunset, explores the more literal and external landscape but its juxtaposition of light and darkness still invites us to explore a deeper landscape within. In my own musings about our winters here in Leelanau County, I marvel at how the slightest change in winter sunlight can turn an entire landscape’s mood on its head — sometimes my own mood too! There’s definitely a special magic in this season!

"Winter Sunset" ©2016 by Ellie Harold

“Longtime residents of this area are amused at how snow continues to delight me,” says Ellie. “I tell them it’s a visual thing. I see in this winterscape fascinating shapes, colors, and contrasts — for this landscape artist that’s the whole hokey pokey. It pretty much makes up for the cold temps, howling winds, icy roads and endless layers of clothing.”

You’re invited to embark on an exploration of your inner landscape with music, poetry, prose, and a special exhibition of Ellie’s works. Our final collaboration for 2016 is an excellent opportunity to meet Ellie and see more of her work in person. Come surround yourself with winter inspiration!

For more information about Ellie’s home studio and gallery and to view many more examples of her work, visit www.EllieHarold.com.

___________________________________________________________

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

Advertisements

Summer Fantasies: Three Reveries

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.

Within our Summer Fantasies concert program, there are three pieces I’ve dubbed reveries. I refer to them this way primarily because reverie is an intentional nod to their French origins, but also because each was inspired by or intended to evoke a dream-like fantasy.

Gabriel PiernéPastorale

— Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937)

Though he was a talented and very active musician and composer in his day, much of the compositional output of Gabriel Pierné is seldom performed (at least internationally). Like many composers whose works bridged the late-Romantic and 20th century (e.g. Jacques Ibert), he wrote for many different genres and types of ensembles and this is perhaps why he never received long-lasting notoriety for any particular accomplishment.

His colorful Pastorale, composed around 1886, is a vivid example of Pierné’s mastery of the colors within the wind quintet. Beginning with a lyrical if not somewhat plaintive solo from the Frankfort Beach Dream ©2016 by Ellie Haroldoboe, we’re guided into the warm and lush pastureland of the French countryside. This theme is passed about freely between flute, oboe, and clarinet, while the horn and bassoon provide the unmistakable voice of the bagpipe’s drone.

This is a journey across fragrant and sunny pastures or even the Lake Michigan coastline, guided not by a particular sense of destination, but merely a yearning to wander and to feel the warmth of the sun and the embrace of a fleeting breeze that comes and goes.

DebussyGolliwogg’s Cakewalk

— Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

Certainly a contrast from the nearly obscure Pierné, Claude Debussy is no stranger to concert programs. Although Debussy disliked the label of “Impressionist” being applied to his works, it is perhaps his association with this movement and his fascination with the musical elements it contained that has given most of his works lasting influence.

Much like the painters who were classified as impressionists, composers who became associated with impressionism often used moods and emotions as themes for their works. Similar to an artist skillfully using their pallete, a composer uses stark contrasts of color, texture, and timbre to blur the traditional framework of “melody vs. harmony” or “foreground vs. background”. The effect causes the viewer or the listener to focus attention on a larger perspective rather than small details.

Debussy dedicated his solo piano suite, Children’s Corner (1908), to his three-year-old daughter. Each movement is inspired by toys from Claude-Emma’s toy collection. For our concert, we’ve selected the final movement, “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk”, transcribed for wind quintet by Tom Kennedy.

On the surface, this is a colorful dance movement with very abrupt dynamic and tempo changes. But there are deeper historic and musical details within this seemingly simple movement.

When the movement was composed, Golliwogg dolls were very much in fashion due to the popularity of the series of children’s Golliwoggbooks written by Florence Kate Upton (1873-1922). Golliwoggs were stuffed black dolls with red pants, red bow ties, and wild hair — a mimicry of black-face minstrels. Perhaps due to the fact that Upton did not trademark her Golliwogg character, the later free use of these characters as menacing villains and garish icons in literature and advertising has led to the modern perception of Golliwoggs as overtly racist against people of African descent.

A most detailed history of Golliwoggs can be found here — as part of the ongoing work of Dr. David Pilgrim at Ferris State University. When examining the Golliwogg character from an historic context, it’s difficult to see its beginnings as anything but racially insensitive at best. Debussy’s music being associated with a character that became purposefully demeaning to people of color is certainly unfortunate.

Meanwhile, the cakewalk itself is a product of black minstrel shows. Beginning somewhere in the mid-1800s, the dance was a parody of upper-class whites performed by black dancers as entertainment for white audiences. At the conclusion of the dance, the most elaborate dancer would be awarded a prize — a hoecake wrapped in a cabbage leaf. Gradually, the dance became a popular sensation regardless of the race of the dancers.

Debussy also embedded a bit of satire into the music by quoting Richard Wagner’s love-death leitmotif from the opera Tristan und Isolde. Each time this quote appears it is immediately followed by distinct banjo imitations — an immediate contrast between drama and mirth.

Despite negative associations and undertones of darker themes, Debussy’s piece has remained a concert favorite. At least Tropical Joy ©2015 by Ellie Haroldthe murkier side of its origin has provided important discussion for students, teachers, and historians. Personally, rather than imagining the demeaning, clown-like dance of a Golliwogg, I imagine the energetic, boisterous play of children during a performance of this piece; what I imagine Debussy himself likely intended.

Our unique challenge as a quintet is to perform this piece with the precision of a single pianist’s 10 fingers rather than the 50 fingers belonging to the 5 individuals we are! The contrasts and abrupt changes are enough to make any ensemble flex their muscles.

FauréPavane

— Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

While there are certainly more renowned French composers, it was Gabriel Fauré’s scholarship and teaching philosophy that freed French art music from its stubborn rut, paving a clear path between the Romantic era and the 20th century. When he was appointed head of the Paris Conservatoire in 1905, a crowning achievement of his life’s work, he rocked the boat considerably by broadening the curriculum of study — extending it well into ancient times as well as into very modern works which had been completely banned previously. His appreciation for a wide variety of music and intuitive compositional technique enlivened future generations of composers (e.g. Maurice Ravel & Nadia Boulanger).

Originally written for piano and chorus in the late 1880’s, the orchestral version of Fauré’s Pavane was premiered in 1887. During this period, his career as a composer was beginning to bring both modest income and (gasp) the extra-marital romantic entanglements which would delight, inspire, and torment him.

Appropriately, the choral lyrics lament the romantic helplessness of man. Fauré described the work as “elegant, but not otherwise important” little realizing it would become one of his most performed Water Shapes ©2015 by Ellie Haroldpieces, inspiring similar works by Debussy and Ravel. The orchestral version is often performed with or without chorus and can also include dancers.

Manitou Winds’ performance of Fauré’s Pavane is based on the orchestral version of the work arranged for wind quintet by Tracy Jacobson. An unavoidable challenge facing wind players is the sheer necessity of breathing without interrupting Fauré’s long, enticingly chromatic phrasing. This breathing difficulty is complicated by the tendency for most orchestras to perform this work at a tempo much slower than the composer intended. The memory of these inspired performances tempts us to play more slowly than our lungs will allow. Meanwhile, we invite you sigh along with us, getting lost in Fauré’s light-hearted romantic daydreams.

The reverie-themed paintings in today’s article are from our collaborating artist, Ellie Harold’s studio. For more information about Ellie’s home studio and gallery and to view many more examples of her work, 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.

Summer Fantasies: Händel’s Fireworks

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.

Music for the Royal Fireworks

— Georg Friederich Händel (1685-1759)

From the beginning, Händel led a successful career as a composer. Having garnered the favor of royal patronage, his primary audience was both powerful and wealthy. But it was his arrival in London in 1710 that led to his immense popularity, winning him the commissions Handelwhich led him to compose music that still shows up on concert programs nearly 300 years later.

In our modern era of iPods, online streaming music, and non-stop news-feeds, live music is so commonly bypassed in favor of the convenience of “canned music” that it’s almost inconceivable for us to envision music being written and performed expressly for a single occasion. However, it was exactly that sort of one-time occasion that prompted King George II to commission Händel in 1749 to write Music for the Royal Fireworks.

As the title so clearly suggests, the music was intended to accompany an elaborate fireworks display. The fireworks were only one part of a gigantic outdoor celebration of the recently-signed peace treaty which ended (albeit only temporarily) the War of Austrian Succession.

This particular commission carried with it some fairly difficult requests Händel was required to honor; among them, a commandment about the instruments to be used. Rather than the traditional orchestra, the king commanded only wind instruments be used (No fiddles of any kind!). This edict led to the formation of a rather strange ensemble comprised of 24 oboists, 12 bassoonists, 1 contrabassoonist, 9 trumpeters, 9 horn players, 3 timpanists, and a battery of side drums. Having begrudgingly complied, Händel later added strings to his score and (thankfully) it is this version that is most often performed!

In an odd twist of fate, it was an unauthorized public rehearsal held a week prior to the big party that was the more successful premiere. That rehearsal performance (which Händel had vehemently opposed) led to one of London’s first RoyalFireworkstraffic jams as concertgoers crammed the streets, stalling traffic for more than three hours. A week later, during its intended premiere performance, many spectators were distracted by the fireworks which had set fire to one of the elaborate pavilions in the middle of the show.

One month later, Händel himself conducted a performance of his revised score (with added fiddles, zero fireworks, and hopefully far fewer oboes) and this set his suite on the road to becoming one of his most popular works.

Manitou Winds’ performance will feature three of the smaller movements from Händel’s suite painstakingly arranged especially for wind quintet by Trevor Cramer.

The first selection, II. Bourrée, is based on a stylized French dance that was especially popular during the Baroque period (1600-1750). Composers often elaborated on this quick dance rhythm in inner movements of multi-movement works as a contrast to slower, Manitou Windsheavier material. These pieces were not actually intended to be danced to for any performances, but they have a tendency to get one’s toes tapping.

III. La Paix (Largo alla siciliana), “The Peace“, was Händel’s acknowledgement of the peace treaty his music was commissioned to celebrate. It’s a wonderfully serene movement based on the siciliana style marked by lilting rhythms. Perhaps to denote the happy occasion, Händel broke from tradition and composed this siciliana in a major key, avoiding the darker sounds we normally associate with minor keys.

We close out our visit to the royal fireworks party with what is probably the most recognizable movement from the entire suite: IV. La Réjouissance (“The Rejoicing“). This boisterous theme was undoubtedly Händel’s way of letting the guests know the party was definitely not over!

___________________________________________________________

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

Admission is free.

Summer Fantasies: The Art of Collaboration

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 our collaborative artist and the individual pieces on the program.

When you attend a Manitou Winds concert, not only are you able to experience and witness the unique, intimate quality of chamber music, you can also experience the unique visual art provided by our collaboration with a local artist we’ve personally selected.

What does it mean to “collaborate” with an artist? How can musicians and visual artists truly collaborate when each works in a completely different medium? We’ve learned that each collaboration means something a little different. Each experience is flavored by the music we’ve chosen for the concert and also by the artist’s personal style, their existing work, and their eagerness to engage and bond with a bunch of musicians.

Ellie Harold Art Studio & Gallery Sam Clark, Jason McKinney, Christina Duperron, Laura Hood, Anne Bara

Our 2016 collaborating artist is Ellie Harold of Frankfort. You can read all about Ellie and her marvelous home studio and gallery in an article we posted earlier this year while we were working toward our spring concert. Ellie’s work is unique for its boldness of colors and contrasts and its blurring of the lines between representational and abstract art. The immediate and unmistakable effect of her artwork was what initially drew us to reach out and ask her to collaborate with us. However, it has been her personal artistic philosophy and her openness to explore new facets of the creative process that has made her an inspiration to The Art of Collaborationus and has insured more joint projects for us in the future.

Our collaborating artists typically provide artwork to help us promote our concert, and we always offer the artist an opportunity display a collection of their artwork at the concert venue. But, not too long before the concert, Ellie approached me with an even bolder idea. “About a week before the concert, a friend asked if I was going to paint ‘live’ during the event,” Ellie recalls. “I’d heard of artists ‘performing’ live before an audience and had not given it much thought, but in this circumstance it seemed like a perfect way to expand our notion of collaboration.”

I remember getting Ellie’s e-mail about painting live while I was in the midst of pulling together some rehearsal details. I had been struggling with ways to demonstrate for the audience the deeper connection between our music and Ellie’s art. Though I was immediately touched by our synchronicity of thought, her idea seemed very risky to me initially. I thought, perhaps, a few audience members may find the presence of an artist and a canvas distracting or feel it was some form of artistic non sequitur. Still, though, I found the idea irresistibly refreshing. After polling the rest of the group members to be sure they wouldn’t find it distracting to their own performance and okaying it with the concert host, I gave Ellie the green light.

Ellie arrived to set up her exhibit in the narthex — a very exciting sampling of the contents of her gallery. Then, she brought in the very blank 30″ x 40″ canvas that was to be her part of the performance. “How on earth is she going to fill up a canvas that size?” I wondered, “And will she feel nervous with a live audience or be rushed by the clock and the program as it sweeps by?”

IMG_6429

IMG_6420 IMG_6445

“I had located my gear off to one side in the area occupied on Sunday mornings by the choir. I squeezed out some paint and placed the blank canvas on my easel. With no particular image in mind, I simply responded to the music as I was hearing it in the moment,” Ellie recalls. “Deliberately setting aside my thoughts, as in meditation, I painted intuitively, allowing the brush or palette knife, this color or that, to make their way to the canvas without thought, according to impulses arising both from the music and within me. Within a short time, I found myself at one with the music, in a sort of fearless, inspired, altered state I’d previously only experienced when speaking or teaching in church.”

IMG_6457“As a whole, the painting seems to have come from a space that includes me, but also transcends me.”

— Ellie Harold

By intermission, you could tell our audience was intrigued by the joint creative process they were witnessing. The music we were performing was less than 20 years old and certainly not familiar to most concertgoers. The titles and composers listed on the program did not provide many clues. Only the performance itself could reveal the intent and direction of the music. Meanwhile, Ellie’s painting was even newer — each color and shape an unfolding mystery for the eyes.

Following the concert, audience members gathered around Ellie’s canvas to see her creation up close. For the members of Manitou Winds, it was especially exciting because we’d been completely unable to see the canvas during the performance. Ellie dubbed the painting “New Voices” (the theme and title of the concert).

New Voices ©2016 by Ellie Harold

“To me the painting speaks of the reality of how Art Ideas can find expression when there’s openness and trust in the process of consecrated action,” Ellie says. “I can recognize familiar elements in this work, but I also see lyrical passages that seem directly related to the music. As a whole, the painting seems to have come from a space that includes me, but also transcends me.”

Speaking personally, I find the landscape Ellie brought to life during the performance a very intriguing piece — at once welcoming and foreboding. There’s an apparent direction to the forms, but throughout there’s also a very open and improvised feeling, not unlike the mystifying pattern of falling raindrops. I feel drawn into this landscape to explore and discover the mysteries hiding behind those forms.

You can find Ellie’s painting (“New Voices”) on display in her gallery at 402 Forest Avenue, Frankfort, alongside her other paintings newly created this summer. Also among her summer’s bounty is the painting selected to promote our upcoming concert entitled “The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar)”. We’re looking forward to our performance with this magnificent landscape as a colorful backdrop.

Summer Fantasies Poster

On September 30th, Ellie will join us once again on-stage at the Oliver Art Center in “Summer Fantasies” as we explore the many moods and colors of summertime. Ellie says the canvas will be even bigger, this time! We’re all excited to see where her brush will take us as the music guides us along an uncharted, fantastic journey.

For more information about Ellie’s home studio and gallery and to view many more examples of her work, 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.

New Voices: Jason McKinney

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

“I did not sit down, one day, and decide I would write Three Narratives,” says Jason McKinney (b. 1979). “The piece just happened to come together during a very difficult time in my life. Jason McKinneyThe structure of the piece, the melodies inside the structure — these were all comforts to me, a way of coping.”

Three Narratives (for flute, clarinet, bassoon, and piano) tells of the composer’s very personal journey of coming out to his family and friends — a journey that led him through fear, self-hatred, and finally joy.

He began writing the piece in 1999 (originally scored for oboe, mezzo-soprano vocalise [no lyrics], and piano) and performed an early version as part of his 2001 junior recital. Still, Jason insists Manitou Winds’ performance on May 1st will be the true premiere. “I have revisited and revised the piece many times over the years — adding lines, refining sounds, creating entirely new sections. In many ways, it’s only now the piece I truly meant for it to be” he says. “I think I’m ready for the music to speak to other people who may be having similar struggles.”

Many of the composer’s favorite lines in the three-movement piece were conceived in one particular practice room of his university’s music annex. “I think a lot of people picture a grieved artist staying up all hours of the night, baying at the moon,” he says. “For me, it was usually early morning. I would wake up from a fitful night of sleep, grab a tall coffee, and make my way to my favorite piano long before classes were to start.” It was during these early morning solo piano sessions that the lines of each movement began to take shape. Jason eventually committed those lines to paper.

“Once I started putting the melodic lines onto the staff paper and sketching the underlying supporting material, I began to get the sensation that the music was something of a narrative — telling a story with characters coming and going with the Jason & Brendaphrases,” he says. “I’d never written anything quite like it before and I’ve not since.”

Movement one, entitled “Once”, is dedicated to Jason’s mother, Brenda, whom he credits for his having been allowed to pursue music. “Mom not only encouraged us to succeed, she was a kind of force behind us.” he says. “She was determined we would have opportunities she missed out on. So, when I showed musical aptitude, she did everything she could to see that I had an opportunity to take lessons.” The movement also depicts Jason’s childhood and adolescent memories of musical exploration.

The joy of the first movement ends very abruptly without harmonic resolution, segueing into movement two, entitled “In the Dark”. Jason identifies its first melody as the theme of utter self-hatred. “It’s a melody without any real direction or resolution; persistent and unwilling to be ignored. The drone in the clarinet is like a ghostly reflection in a mirror.” The self-hatred Jason wrote about in his score was also being written down in his personal journals which he’d kept since early high school.

Three Narratives“For years, I’d prayed almost nightly that God would make me not gay anymore. I thought if I tried hard enough not to be gay, one day I would be rewarded and it would be completely erased. Eventually, I began praying that I would die — specifically, that I would not wake up the next morning. It was a prayer I said often for about three and a half years. Every sunrise was like a reminder that I was doomed.”

As the theme of self-hatred reappears in many forms throughout the movement, we hear depicted Jason’s struggle to move on with his outward life at university while his inner life was falling apart. He says it was his close friend, Amanda, who helped him eventually heal. “We talked for hours about our fears and our self-hatred. It was the first time I’d ever talked to someone who had the same ‘sickness’ as me.”

As the second movement nears its close, the composer’s anguish resolves into peaceful epiphany as the music shifts from a very discontented, climactic atonality to a relieved Eb major. “I don’t like to call it an epiphany, but it was like rays of light came tearing through the darkness I’d been wandering in for ages. In that moment, I knew the change I Jason & Amanda (2005)needed to make was to stop trying to change — to stop hating myself. I’d been trying to go in the wrong direction,” he explains.

“Tired of asking why. Tired of reasoning… I was just hanging my head there in silence. And then, like reading for the first time words I’d overlooked a hundred times, a voice in my mind: You can’t be fixed because you aren’t broken. You are who you were made to be; stop trying to be someone you aren’t.

Movement three, entitled “Turning”, depicts Jason’s eventual acceptance and coming out to his friends and family. Though the movement’s final theme was actually penned years before they met, Jason insists the music depicts the moment he met his husband, James. “I told him during our vows (five years later) that it was like that cheesy Savage Garden song: I knew I loved you before I met you, I think I dreamed you into life.”

“It’s strange that I don’t really journal much anymore. I used to spend hours writing in journals, unloading so many thoughts. I’ve tried picking it back up, but it somehow doesn’t seem to be necessary for me anymore. I guess it’s because my life is no longer ‘closeted’. I’m able to be honest with myself and this allows me to be honest with everyone around me. I don’t have to guard things behind the covers of a journal, scrawled in nearly illegible handwriting… or encoded in music.”

Three Narratives

Can music tell a story completely independent of language? Our audience on May 1st will be the judges of that when Manitou Winds premieres Three Narratives.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.

New Voices: Laura Hood

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

Not only is our concert made up of very recently composed music, our audience will actually hear two premieres featuring the composers as performers. One of these premieres is a remarkable, Laura 01refreshing quartet written by our own Laura Hood (b. 1961).

Although she’s never had a single lesson in composition, Laura has always had a penchant for writing songs. Though a horn player through-and-through, her favored composition medium has always been voice and guitar in the singer-songwriter and folk style rather than classical horn. When the lyrics won’t come to her, she simply makes the piece instrumental!

At our summer potluck and mini concert back in 2015, Laura and her guitar regaled us with a solo performance of one of her beautiful songs (with lyrics!) romanticizing our four seasons in Northern Michigan. Having outed herself to the entire group as a composer, I hoped it would only be matter of time before she was brave enough to put some of her music on paper and slip it into the hands of her fellow Manitou Winds members! To my delight, she presented me with First Flight in January 2016 and gave me a guided tour of the score.

Wings of Wonder

Laura composed First Flight to honor her friend Rebecca Lessard, founder of Wings of Wonder, a raptor rehabilitation center and sanctuary based in Empire, Michigan. WOW has a tremendous impact in Northern Michigan — rescuing countless birds while continuing to house those who are Rebecca Lessardunable to be returned to the wild. Beyond the life-saving force the organization provides with the help of its many volunteers, Rebecca’s efforts to spread the word about these majestic creatures through community outreach in schools and community events makes her a local hero.

Right away, I loved the unmistakable folk vibe that emanated from Laura’s guitar scoring. By adding in flute, clarinet, and harp, Laura’s piece became something truly unique — a combination of timbres that is rare if not completely brand new.

Without being prompted, the next thing I noticed in the music was that it seemed to be telling a story — there was a dialogue between the flute and clarinet, an interplay between all Rebecca Lessardfour parts which seemed to be painting a picture worth thousands of words. A picture not revealed by the one-word titles of the movements.

Laura explains, “Many of the birds are clinging to a tiny thread of life when they first arrive at WOW. Movement one (Waltz) represents the tender care each new avian patient is given.” Rather than the typical steady, dance-like feel we would associate with a waltz, the music begins with a very thinly-scored but hopeful tune that grows and swells as the movement progresses (as the bird begins to heal and grow stronger).

As I learned more about WOW, I uncovered the sad fact that not all of the birds survive their trauma and move on toward recovery. Some are tragically beyond repair and are humanely euthanized. Perhaps more touching, though, are the birds who do recover but are permanently disabled, living Wings of Wonderthe remainder of their lives sheltered in the loving sanctuary WOW provides. Many of these birds are often taken on roadtrips for outreach programs Rebecca provides in the area.

Movement two (Allegro) begins with an energetic, eager guitar ostinato propelling us forward. Laura was inspired by WOW’s 100ft flight pen which offers space for the recovering raptors to begin spreading their wings and gaining endurance. “This is depicted in the running passages and soaring lines of the flute and clarinet,” Laura explains. “Like the flapping of an eagle’s wings, the music eventually ascends until it rises into the sky with majestic glory.”

Not only was this composition a departure for Laura because it required her to completely score and notate her music in a fixed form, but she had never before written for winds or harp! It became a learning and teaching experience for the whole quartet as we discussed the particulars of articulation and phrasing. We’re excited that Laura plans to write more pieces for this unique quartet.

First Flight

Rehearsing this one-of-a-kind work has been a treat for all of us — a chance to break away from the more traditional sounds of a classical chamber ensemble, allowing ourselves to immerse in a completely different acoustic. We are grateful that Laura has bestowed upon Mantiou Winds this unique treasure of chamber music telling the miraculous story of broken wings mended by loving and caring hands. We hope you’ll join us in May as Laura’s piece receives its premiere.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.

New Voices: Daniel Baldwin

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

As creative director of Manitou Winds, I sometimes find it difficult to select pieces to add to our repertoire. Admittedly, this is worsened by the sheer abundance of chamber music in the universe (more is being created every day) and the realization that I’ve never heard most of it! daniel baldwinWhen searching for new music by new composers, the process is perhaps a little more daunting and can often be hit or miss! So, it’s gratifying when I stumble across a great composer completely by accident.

I discovered the music of Daniel Baldwin (b. 1978) while exploring the chamber music listings at Imagine Music. I was intrigued by the uncommon combinations of instruments he seemed to compose for, but I was even more impressed by his unique composer’s voice — long, dramatic phrases with lush harmonies and vivid textures.

Originally from Blackwell, Oklahoma, Daniel holds the degrees of Bachelor of Music Education from Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Master of Music Composition from Kansas State University, and a DMA in Music Composition from the University of Nebraska. Though still early in his career, he’s already an award-winning composer who has been commissioned by top orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra. His music has been presented on National Public Radio, Carnegie Hall, and on hundreds of university stages around the world including the MENC National Convention.

Chatting with Daniel, recently, I asked who he considers to be his biggest musical influences. “I am, of course, influenced by my teachers,” he said. Daniel studied with Eric Richards, Craig Weston, and Eric Ewazen. He daniel baldwinconfesses, “You can hear all of their influence in my music at times.” But, he also cherishes the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Aaron Copland — two composers whose masterful use of folk melodies can also be heard in Daniel’s music.

A large swath of his completed works are chamber pieces, however he also enjoys writing for orchestra, wind ensemble, and recently completed his first film score (a medium he hopes to find more work in). When asked if he has any current projects in the works that he’s particularly excited about, Daniel can list an astonishing number (more than two dozen!) which are in process. After reading his list, the one I’ve got my eye on is a double concerto for oboe, alto saxophone and wind ensemble!

I have to admit I came across Landscapes purely by chance while randomly searching through titles at Imagine Music. Completely judging the book by its cover, it was the title and cover artwork that immediately drew me in. By the time I heard the final minutes of the live demo, I’d already purchased the piece — it was almost as though he’d written it for Manitou Winds! In Landscapes, Daniel employs the uncommon Landscapesquartet of clarinet, horn, bassoon, and piano to bring to life three paintings by legendary American landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900).

The music — more than a tone poem depicting the scenery within the paintings themselves — delves into the life story of the artist, evoking the symbolism of the imagery while translating it into the unique timbres of the quartet. The work is an epic saga exploring the early, middle, and then late career of Church. For our program, we’ll be performing movements one and three but will definitely perform the work in its entirety on a future program.

Movement one (Of Tomorrow’s Promise) is a musical depiction of “West Rock, New Haven” (1849), but is also a commentary on Church’s early professional life. In turn, the music has a “new frontier” feel to it. From the wind-swept motion of the piano score to the brave, heroic lines of the horn, you can feel the limitlessness and timelessness of the New England wilderness stretching out before you while also envisioning a young artist getting his first glimpses of fame and recognition.

Movement three (Of Quiet Reflection) depicts “Mount Katahdin from Millinocket Camp” (1895) as Church was nearing the end of his life, standing on the summit of his accomplishments while reflecting on a life that was full of both triumph and tragedy. The music, here, is at once warm and bittersweet, each member of the quartet shining through in turn.

Landscapes

Each member of the quartet faces beautiful but undeniably challenging music from the score. Christina’s bassoon reaches rare, breathless heights in the long, flowing phrases. Laura’s horn takes flight in the first movement and rarely touches ground — soaring higher and broader with each heroic phrase. Anne’s clarinet both soars and plumbs the depths — shifting rapidly between melody and counter-melody. Meanwhile, I’m navigating the piano score which sometimes takes on the role of “canvas” allowing the other members of the quartet to shine, but also has its own shining, shimmering moments.

Manitou Winds is excited to present this lush and evocative work by Daniel Baldwin for our New Voices concert. We certainly look forward to exploring other works by Daniel in our future programs and hope you’ll join us in May for this one-of-a-kind, musical journey.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.

New Voices: Jenni Brandon

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

Because she is a genuine and warmly personable musical personality, we’ve already highlighted composer Jenni Brandon more than once in our musical explorations. First, we whipped up a heartwarming coffee cocktail with Jenni Jenni-Brandonwhile discussing the surprising connection many composers have to coffee. Later, we talked about the challenges of being a modern-day composer while Jenni shared one of her favorite vegetarian breakfasts.

Now that we’re finally able to program one of Jenni’s works, I’ve recently been chatting with her about her work as a composer, looking for special insights into her unique style. “I come from a background of singing.” she says. “I love singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos who were a big influence as I grew up doing a lot of my own coffee shop performances.” In the realm of Classical music, Jenni says she takes particular inspiration from Samuel Barber, Johnannes Brahms, Randall Thompson, and Morten Lauridsen.

Though Jenni composes music for many different combinations of instruments and voices, she says there’s a special place in her heart for choral music. Like many composers hoping to get their works performed, she often writes for special commissions — choirs or ensembles who present her with a specific request. Though these specific assignments can sometimes stretch a composer’s abilities to work under artistic constraints, she says she takes it all in stride, “I take on each commission with a fresh perspective and enjoy the story I can tell with each new Jenni Brandonproject.” When asked if she has a least favorite instrument or ensemble to write for, she insists she enjoys them all. “I’ll add a ‘most unusual’ to this,” she said, “I recently premiered a work for Flute Orchestra (piccolos all the way down to contrabass flute!) with SATB choir. It was a fun piece to write as I’d never written for so many flutes at once to play!”

At the moment, among other projects, Jenni’s working on an exciting oboe/bassoon duet (another special commission) which will be premiered this summer at the International Double Reed Society Conference. The duet will be a musical depiction of Glacier National Park. Jenni certainly has many irons in the fire — there’s even talk of a new opera!

Naturally, I’m excited to finally perform one of Jenni’s double reed works, On Holt Avenue (2006) for Oboe & Piano, at our upcoming concert. A four-movement sonata, each movement presents a small vignette from Jenni’s memories of daily life in her apartment in a particular Los Angeles neighborhood. Though in our program we only have time for three of the four beautiful movements, I tried to select the most contrasting scenes.

On Holt Avenue

Jenni says she’s recently switched to decaf, but the opening movement (Morning Coffee) is a stimulating, caffeinated experience — the melody shedding beats, growing jittery, and rising higher and higher before hitting that inevitable crash that always follows a caffeine buzz. The third movement (That Mockingbird) is a nod to Jenni’s feathered friend who kept her company ad nauseum just outside the window. The Jason McKinneyoboe’s lines shift, alternating between tender and song-like to harsh and grating — like a mockingbird imitating the songs of fellow birds and then the man-made sounds of the cityscape! The fourth movement (Daisies) paints a calming, beautiful still life of a vase of daisies sitting in a sunny backdrop.

I’m honored to present this evocative oboe sonata and even more thrilled to be working with our special guest, Susan Snyder, collaborative pianist at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Susan’s interpretation of Jenni’s piano score makes the colors of these vignettes truly sparkle. I hope you can join us for a stroll on Holt Avenue this May.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.

New Voices: Bonnie L. Cochran

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

Many composers have the uncomfortable (or some would say blissfully ignorant) task of writing music for instruments they do not themselves play. In terms of music written for full orchestra or wind ensemble, it’s especially understandable considering the number of instruments represented. The most successful of chamber music composers, however, often write music featuring at least one of the instruments they know intimately. Bonnie L. CochranSuch is the case with Bonnie L. Cochran (b. 1975) whose catalog of compositions explores the many voices of the flute.

Bonnie grew up in Georgia and began composing music around the age of 12, but did not formally study composition until attending college and university where she eventually studied with John Heiss, John Clement Adams, Larry Bell, and Ronald Byrnside. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music and Religious Studies from Agnes Scott College (Decatur, GA) and a Master of Music in Flute Performance from Boston Conservatory.

Perhaps the biggest impetus for her composing in recent years has been the formation of the Amaryllis Chamber Ensemble; an ensemble which she founded. The ensemble (a mix of violin, viola, cello, harp, and Bonnie’s flute) performs workshops and outreach programs as well as special events and concert appearances in and around the greater Boston area.

While searching for music for our New Voices program, finding Bonnie’s music was a happy surprise. The flute is capable of so many modern special effects and extended techniques (too many to list here!) that a large swath of modern flute music tends to explore these extra-musical sounds and effects rather than drawing the listener in with an intriguing melody. Bonnie’s music manages to be undeniably modern and yet unquestionably musical and so I knew her Suite for Flute & Piano (2003) would be an excellent fit for our concert.

The suite contains three movements and Bonnie says the melodies and especially the forms within the work evolved into their present form over the course of 6-8 years.

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

— William Blake (1757-1827)

Movement one (A Dying Rose) was inspired by Blake’s “The Sick Rose” — a text which Bonnie says both fascinated and haunted her from the moment she was first introduced to it. She says she originally intended the theme to be a piece for vocalist and piano however she gave into the urge to play it on her own instrument and so she can’t hear it any other way.

Movement two (Meditation) is “reflective in nature, a little sad, yet hopeful,” says Bonnie. Like many aspects of programmatic music, the colors and inflections of the harmony — though interpreted as exactingly as the composer penned them — can sometimes strike the performer or an audience member in different ways.

Sam ClarkSam Clark, Manitou Winds’ flutist, said that the title of “Meditation” originally seemed odd to her since the chromatic melodic lines drawn by flute seemed to suggest anxiety or distraction. Once she was in rehearsal with Susan Snyder, our guest pianist for New Voices, she realized the movement does reach a state of meditative peace in the last few measures with the aid of colors added by the piano.

In contrast to the more enigmatic and somewhat somber themes in the first two movements, the final movement of the suite (Little Dance) is “a light-hearted romp” according to Bonnie. While the first two movements of the suite explore the dark and breathy bottom register of the flute, the third movement travels higher and higher as the dance progresses. Sam and I agree that the third movement is both graceful and spontaneous — not unlike the dancing of an exuberant, young ballerina in training. Oh — and there is a surprise ending: one last flourish as the flutist graces up to a high A (the very highest note in the entire suite).

Three contrasting scenes combined into one fascinating little suite… we look forward to sharing Bonnie’s remarkable piece with our audience, this May.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.

New Voices: Deborah J. Anderson

There’s an undeniable pleasure and pride that comes with reviving classic works written by the masters, but to select a piece of music which has little or no performance history and bring it to life presents a unique opportunity for the musician and the audience. Our May 1, 2016, concert entitled New Voices will be a program full of new music — all written within the past 20 years by living composers.

Compiling and researching the music for this concert has been a rich and rewarding experience for me and the members of Manitou Winds. Since the composers who created the music we’re performing are alive and well, we’re able to correspond with them, learn firsthand about their unique approaches to composition, and ask probing questions about their work. This more personal connection unlocks a new dimension of the musical experience.

I happened across the music of Deborah J. Anderson (b. 1950), last fall, by pure chance. I was searching for a modern piece for our clarinetist, Anne Bara, but was having difficulty finding something that fit the mood of the program. So, as creative director, I Deborah J. Andersondecided to go in a different direction. I read a brief description of Deborah’s Five Songs for Kathleen for oboe, mezzo-soprano, and piano and decided to investigate further. To my delight, I was soon having a very cordial e-mail exchange with Deborah who gave me permission to transcribe the oboe part for clarinet.

Deborah says she began composing music around the age of six while growing up in Tacoma, Washington, but never pursued music or composition in academia. Though her schooling was primarily in French and language instruction, her catalog of compositions reveals a consummate musician with a unique flair for combining musical colors.

Five Songs for Kathleen (2007) is a brilliant song cycle combining the often bittersweet imagery of the poets’ lines with Deborah’s signature warm and graceful melodic writing.

Winter Sun

There was a bush with scarlet berries,
And there were hemlocks heaped with snow,
With a sound like surf on long sea-beaches
They took the wind and let it go.

The hills were shining in their samite,
Fold after fold they flowed away;
“Let come what may,” your eyes were saying,
“At least we two have had to-day.”

— Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Alhambra Summer Palace by Deborah J. AndersonI asked Deborah about the backstory of the song cycle. It turns out it was a surprise gift for a long-time friend from college. “Kathleen is a retired opera singer whom I met many years ago when we were both freshmen at Lawrence University.” Deborah says, “At one point, Kathleen found it difficult to maintain her singing career while balancing family life. I composed Five Songs for Kathleen to encourage her.”

The cycle brings to life the poetry of Sara Teasdale, Emily Dickinson, and Sheila Nickerson with the added bonus of a small poem written by Deborah, herself, entitled “Swift Feet”.

Adding this song cycle to our program has given us a unique opportunity to work with the talented Claire Olinik, soprano soloist from the Traverse City area. Claire says that she’s always loved the poetry of Sara Teasdale and Emily Dickinson. When asked to pick her favorite song from the cycle, she says she would have to choose Dickinson’s “No Surprise”.

Apparently with no surprise
To any happy flower,
The frost beheads it at its play
In accidental power.

The blond assassin passes on,
The sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another day
For an approving God.

— Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Five Songs for Kathleen

“The poetry is so heartbreaking, yet matter-of-fact.” said Claire, “It’s been fun to play with those tones and try to find a balance.”

Rehearsal for this song cycle has also been a rewarding musical opportunity as we’ve enlisted the talents of Susan Snyder, collaborative pianist at Interlochen Center for the Arts, to bring Deborah’s Old World Echoes by Deborah J. Andersonpiano score to life. Susan’s interpretation enlivens the poetry further and allows the colorful duet of soprano and clarinet to soar.

Anne admits she initially worried the timbre of the clarinet would differ too greatly from what was originally scored for oboe, but she’s now in love with her part. While each song offers a chance for the clarinet to shine, certainly the most virtuosic moment is in Deborah’s setting of “Dolphin” by Sheila Nickerson. It features “dolphin calls” for both the soprano and the clarinet along with florid passages running up and down the instrument’s range — a colorful and vivid delight.

It would certainly be remiss to not convey what an inspiring experience it has been to work with a female composer who has set to music the texts of female poets. Likewise, it has also been a unique opportunity to place this special music in the hands of three very masterful women — together, perhaps, giving at least a modicum of long overdue vindication to the countless female composers who were overshadowed or suppressed throughout history.

Anne Bara, Claire Olinik, Susan Snyder

We look forward to sharing Deborah J. Anderson’s lovely song cycle with our audience this May and hope to explore more of her compositions in future programs.

Note: The beautiful watercolor paintings you see in this article were created by the composer, Deborah J. Anderson.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss New Voices
Sunday, May 1st, at 3:00pm
Frankfort United Methodist Church
537 Crystal Avenue
Frankfort

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Benzie Wild Rose Society’s music scholarship program.