A Celtic Summertide: The Art of Collaboration

This summer we’ll celebrate the rich tradition of music across the Celtic realm with tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and Nova Scotia.

Collaborating artist Emily Curtin Culler, soprano, will premiere a new collection of Irish songs and join us in other traditional works specially arranged for this concert.

If you’ve attended a Manitou Winds concert, recently, you’ve no doubt experienced the wonderful voice of Emily Curtin Culler. Whether singing an aria from a Baroque cantata, a classic German lieder, or a traditional Irish lullaby, Emily’s voice has tremendous dynamic range and is tirelessly light on its feet. She is a consummate chamber musician who brings sensitivity and musicality to every performance.

Emily came to northern Michigan by way of Boston. A soprano Choral Scholar with Boston University’s Marsh Chapel Choir, she performed weekly services for audiences throughout New England and around the globe via WBUR.

She’s also an original core member of the Lorelei Ensemble. Emily CullerThe ensemble specializes in performing lesser-known early music while also collaborating with living composers to produce innovative programming. (Hear recordings of Emily performing with Lorelei HERE!)

An in-demand performer and avid interpreter of new music, Emily is also a non-profit and arts management professional. Presently, she is Leadership Annual Giving Manager at Interlochen Center for the Arts and Interlochen Public Radio.

Last fall, when I began creating repertoire for “A Celtic Summertide”, I knew the program’s central element would be juxtaposing our instruments (most of which are not Celtic folk instruments) with traditional Celtic tunes. Since many of the tunes are also beloved folk songs, I couldn’t resist including a few of these. For a new collection of Irish Gaelic songs, I knew Emily was our ideal collaborator!

Trí Amhráin as Éirinn (Three Irish Songs) is a suite of three traditional Irish songs in modern settings for soprano and wind quintet. The opening song, Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn (We Brought the Summer with Us), is a centuries-old tune sung to celebrate May Day (Bealtaine) and the beginning of summertime.

Bábog na Bealtaine, maighdean an tSamhraidh,
Suas gach cnoc is síos gach glean.
Cailíní maiseach go gealgháireach gléasta,
Thugamar féin an Samhradh linn.

Doll of the May, maiden of Summer,
Up every hill and down every glen,
Beautiful girls brightly dressed,
We brought the Summer with us.

Though sources claim the text and tune originated in early 15th-century Ulster in what is now primarily Northern Ireland, we can’t be certain. The precise age of the text and whether it was always married to this tune is also a matter of speculation as Ulster Summerother versions exist alongside completely different tunes.

The song was sung by young women and men performing as “Mummers” or beggars during the Bealtaine celebration. Roaming door to door singing, they would have offered garlands of hawthorn, holly, and flowers in exchange for food and other gifts. Their garlands were believed to ward off fairies (mischievous little people) and thus bring good fortune to the recipient when placed at the entrance of their home.

I was inspired by the summery images in the stanzas (“yellow summer from the sunset…”, “the cuckoo and the lark are singing with pleasure…”) which were particularly inspiring in the dead of a northern Michigan winter. I also fell in love with the tune — it’s lilting phrases, for me, painted a lovely landscape of rolling hills and flowery glades. I employed the vivid colors of the wind quintet to bring these landscapes to life while parading the soprano’s line through them, spreading summer tidings.

The second song, Seoithín Seo Hó (Hushaby), is a lullaby whose tune is believed to predate its text. The 20th-century song collector Eileen Costello noted in her 1919 anthology (Amhráin Mhuighe Seóla) that many believed the tune was sung by the Blessed Virgin to lull the Christ Child, and so it was traditionally sung without lyrics. Costello credits the text to a Rev. O’Kelly of Galway. In keeping with tradition, alternate stanzas of the Irish lullabies are often hummed rather than sung.

While at first glance the lyrics are sweet and sentimental, one stanza warns that children are at risk of being abducted by fairies (a common theme in the folklore). Apparently, the fairies steal a child’s soul, exchanging it with an old or sickly fairy (a “changeling”) who inhabits the child’s body and soon dies.

Ar mhullach an tí, tá síogaí geala
Faoi chaoin ré an earraigh ag imirt is spoirt.
Seo iad anair iad le glaoch ar mo leanbh
Le mian é tharraingt isteach san lios mór.

Atop the house, there are bright fairies
Playing sport under gentle rays of the spring moon.
Here they come to call out my child
Wanting to draw him into their mound.

Lullaby, Mother & Baby (Roseland)A number of Irish lullabies make mention of fairies as a way of coaxing children to close their eyes — it’s believed sleeping children can’t be lured away by wily fairies. Still, it’s hard to imagine easily falling asleep knowing your only protection is that your eyes are closed!

In my setting of the lullaby, rather than capitalizing on the sinister fairies lying in wait on the roof, I chose to focus on the love poured out by this mother as she shares an intimate moment with what I imagine is her first child.

Seoithín seo hó, mo stórín, mo leanbh.
Mo sheoid gan cealg, mo chuid den tsaol mhór.
Seoithín seo hó, is mór é an taithneamh,
Mo stórín ina leaba, a chodladh gan brón.

Hushaby, my treasure, my baby.
My jewel without deceit, my share of the big world.
Hushaby, it is the greatest sight,
My treasure in his bed, asleep without care.

Unlike most lullabies, the chorus of this tune has a “soaring” quality, naturally drawing out a crescendo (the opposite of what you’d want when lulling someone to sleep!). Rather than working against this natural tendency, I set the music so that the mother becomes so caught up in her joy she accidentally wakes the baby and then coaxes him back to sleep.

The third and closing tune, Beidh Aonach Amárach (There Will Be a Fair Tomorrow), is a “dandling” song. Rather than telling a story, dandling songs are meant to be Doolin County Claresimply entertaining to sing due to the sound or rhythm of the lyrics. These are often used to amuse or distract children (in the US, popular examples of dandling songs might be “Pat-a-cake” or “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”).

Appropriately, the text in this song is a back-and-forth disagreement between daughter and mother. The daughter wants to go to the fair where she intends to marry the town’s shoemaker, but her mother won’t allow it… and the daughter’s pestering ensues!

A mháithrín, an ligfidh tú chun aonaigh mé?
“A mhuirnín ó, ná héiligh é!”

Momma, will you let me go to the fair? (repeat 3 times)
“Darling, don’t ask again!”

In my setting, I wanted to highlight the playful quality of the lyrics and tune rather than presenting the entire text (which traditionally contains ten or more verses). I also interjected a bit of theater by adding awkward pauses and some mocking on the daughter’s part.

I crafted this entire song set with Emily’s voice in mind, and so I’ve dedicated it to her. Coaching her in the Irish Gaelic pronunciation as she painstakingly translated each syllable into IPA characters was great fun and a provided further encouragement for me to learn more about a language that has always fascinated me. Manitou Winds is honored to have her premiere this new work with us, adding her special signature to the performance!

We hope you’ll join us for the premiere!


Don’t miss



Friday, August 17th, at 7:00pm

Oliver Art Center
132 Coast Guard Road


Admission is free.
Freewill donations will benefit Manitou Winds’ debut recording!


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

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

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

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

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.

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

Admission is free.

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

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.


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

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

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

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