Winter Songs & Carols: Our 2017 Concert Program

Thank you to everyone who came to hear Manitou Winds’ 2017 Winter Songs & Carols program. Each year, we put together a unique collection of songs in various styles performed on many different instruments to inspire you to embrace the entire season of winter.

2017 Winter Songs & Carols

2017 Winter Songs & Carols

This year, our theme examined winter as a gateway to hope and renewal. We incorporated music and the spoken word to present an emotional but uplifting program — a message of hope to those who may be having trouble feeling jolly this season.

Our concert was performed Saturday, December 2nd, at Grace Episcopal Church, Traverse City and Friday, December 8th, at The Leelanau School, Glen Arbor. For both performances of this extra special program, we were honored to be joined by three very talented guests: Jan Ross, reader; Christy Burich, soprano; and Emily Curtin Culler, soprano.

To make the concert feel more intimate and personal, we chose not to list the musical selections in the program. Now that our performances are completed, we’re delighted to share all the details with you.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PROGRAM LISTING

We’re so very excited to announce our December 2nd performance will be broadcast on Interlochen Public Radio on Christmas Day at 4:00pm (Eastern Standard Time). Follow this link to listen to the broadcast. Just follow the link on Christmas Day, and click the button at the top to listen live!

If you have any questions about this or any of the programs we present, please contact us or send us a message on Facebook. Or, just come up and talk to us after a performance! We hope to see you in one of our concerts in 2018!

 

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Winter Songs & Carols: What the Stars Saw on the Prairie

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

— Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
from The Rest is Noise

When my paternal grandmother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in December 2005, I had recently moved to Chicago and was unable to travel back to Louisiana to attend her services. Having been Jason, his father, and his grandmotherdenied the chance to say goodbye was probably what sharpened my grief the most.

Her bear hugs were now out of reach, but it was a comfort to know our hearts could still communicate across any distance. She lived her whole life in Louisiana, rarely traveling more than 2 hours from home. Now freed from her earthly entanglements, I envisioned her flying effortlessly with her angel wings all the way to Chicago to say goodbye — a beautiful, healing journey before rising to take her place in the stars to watch over us.

A few years later, I was listening to music in my cubicle at work when I suddenly realized I was holding back tears. From an album entitled “A Handfull of Quietness” by Kathleen Ryan, a piano solo named What the Stars Saw on the Prairie instantly brought me back to that vision of my grandmother’s journey. I bought the mp3 and listened to it frequently; each time, it brought more comfort to me.

WinterNight

Eventually, I decided to take a bold step and try to perform this piece. I went to Kathleen’s website, but to my dismay the sheet music was not offered. Checking back several times over the course of a year, I finally built up the courage to write to her personally to ask for the music:

“… For some reason — perhaps the combination of the sound of this piece and its programmatic title — this music brings me back to that time when I had to reconcile the death of a close loved one with the knowledge that she would still be looking down on me from above. It’s a very healing piece for me, personally. Her powerful but gentle presence, I feel, is within those harmonies you put together. If you could please consider releasing the sheet music someday, I’d be very grateful.”

To my delight and surprise, Kathleen wrote back the very same day:

“Thank you so much for your very kind words. I am very touched that you find What the Stars Saw on the Prairie to be healing and to be a reminder of your grandmother. It is a very special piece for me, too, possibly my favorite of everything I’ve created. “Powerful but gentle” is indeed what that piece means to me; your grandmother must have been someone quite special.

… I’m just lazy about writing music down (happily I have a good memory!) and What the Stars Saw on the Prairie is just complex enough that I haven’t faced it yet. But since I know you would like to play it, I’ll make it the next one to be notated, how’s that?”

And so began a very meaningful collaboration with Kathleen. She wrote to me, occasionally, giving me updates on her progress of notating the piece. A rather big complication arose when just a few months after we got in touch she broke her left wrist and was unable to play for some time. Being unable able to play, notating it became impossible.

Thankfully, Kathleen persevered. Then, when Jason McKinneythe music was finally in front of me, I became faced with a tall task of my own: learning what turned out to be quite a complex piano solo — the most technically-challenging piece I’d ever attempted to play! Learning to perform it became another way of connecting with the music and with my grandmother’s memory. It took over a year, but I eventually got up the nerve to perform it for a small home recital in 2013.

Honestly, I figured this was the end of my relationship with this piece of music: I’d faced the challenge and successfully performed it. But, when I began compiling pieces for this year’s Winter Songs & Carols concert with the theme of “grief, loss, healing, & renewal” in mind, I gradually came upon the idea of arranging Kathleen’s piece for winds and piano. I saw it as an opportunity to draw out even more of the colors What the Stars Saw on the PrairieKathleen had put into the work while reconnecting with the deep meaning the piece holds for me.

I wrote to her to explain my idea, and she kindly consented to let me tinker with her creation. Over the course of a few weeks, we passed drafts of the score back and forth until we were both pleased. The new arrangement is now officially available for sale (an exciting first for me), and will have its premiere at our concert this December!

I’m deeply grateful to Kathleen for her support and generosity during this entire experience: it’s no trivial matter to turn your music over to someone else’s imagination! I’m also grateful to Manitou Manitou WindsWinds. Rehearsing this has been an intense, emotional delight; their musicianship bringing these lines to life.

Collaborating for this project reminded me what little control we have as composers, arrangers, and musicians over the effect our music will have on each listener — and how wonderful it is to not have control of that! Music reaches out to each of us in unique and surprising ways, touching our hearts even amidst times of grief when words remain hopelessly out of reach.

I hope you can join us for this year’s Winter Songs & Carols concert — a special evening we’re dedicating to those who may be experiencing difficult times this holiday season.

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Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

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Saturday, December 2nd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

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Friday, December 8th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

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

Winter Songs & Carols: Listening for Silence

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents a program of music, poetry, and prose

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inspiring you to embrace winter.

Embracing winter can be tricky for some of us as it tends to arrive on our doorstep with a significant amount of baggage, doesn’t it? As the days grow shorter and the weather becomes a daily challenge, we tend to spend a bit more time indoors ruminating over another year almost gone. Suddenly we’re also faced with the holidays — bringing a host of traditions, obligations, and (perhaps like Ebenezer Scrooge) “ghosts” from the past.

Finding the ability to embrace winter requires us to venture somewhere beyond the reaches of our comfort zone (or at least what presently seems comfortable). We have to step away from the inviting warmth of the fireplace, out-of-range of the familiar, hypnotic hum of our modern gadgetry. We have to shut out the ceaseless chatter of 24-hour news, the invasive ads, the mountainous junk mail, the screens of e-mails … Winter invites us outdoors to find a silence hard to find in our 365-days-of-summer lifestyles. In our harried world, could there be a sound more profound than silence?

Winter Uplands

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The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
I sit in the great silence as one bound;
The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
Across the open fields for miles ahead;
The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
A tender line upon the western red;
The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
So wonderful, so many and so near,
And then the golden moon to light me home–
The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
And silence, frost, and beauty everywhere.
— Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)

Canadian poet Archibald Lampman grew up in the countryside but spent much of his adult years in cities, only visiting the country for extended trips. He found simplicity and grace in the natural world when urban life proved to be utterly dehumanizing. An avid hiker and camper in the wilds of Ontario, Lampman’s poems are awash in sounds and imagery from nature and all four seasons.

Sadly, his life was cut short by a heart weakened by rheumatic fever; he died at 37. In his short life, however, he wandered along the banks and fields finding wonder in nature’s ordinary beauty. Even later in life, beset with sorrow from the sudden death of his infant son, he found solace in nature and the cycle of its seasons.

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“The evening deepens, and the gray
Folds closer earth and sky;
The world seems shrouded far away;
Its noises sleep, and I,
As secret as yon buried stream,
Plod dumbly on, and dream.”
— from “Snow”, by Archibald Lampman

Celtic-New Age composer, Loreena McKennitt, set Lampman’s poem “Snow” to music for her 1987 album To Drive the Cold Winter Away. For our first-ever Winter Songs & Carols performance in 2015, I created an arrangement for piccolo, flute, clarinet, bassoon, lever harp, and soprano. Because the lyrics speak so perfectly to this year’s theme of peace, IMG_6154healing, and renewal, we’re dusting off the arrangement and are excited to perform it featuring Emily Curtin Culler, soprano.

Lampman’s poetic lines, McKennitt’s lyrical music, and the colorful combination of winds, harp, and Emily’s beautiful voice combine to create a heartwarming invitation to embrace winter as a welcome guest. Within winter’s blustery cold and hush lies a peaceful space to find quiet and time to dream.

We hope you’ll join us, this December, for an inspiring evening of music, poetry, and prose exploring the season of winter.

___________________________________________________________

Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

______________________________________

Saturday, December 2nd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

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Friday, December 8th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

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

Autumn Colors: Touring & Tasting Itinerary

Sunday, October 22 at 4pm, the Manitou Winds NEO Trio will unveil their first concert-length program with “Autumn Colors”, an afternoon of soothing autumnal music and poetry to usher in our most colorful season in Northern Michigan.

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We invite you to turn October 22nd into a memorable fall color tour complete with wine tastings and nibbles from the heart of Leelanau County. Our trio (Sam Clark, Anne Bara, & Jason McKinney) has gathered up some of their favorite Suttons Bay area destinations to give you tons of options for soaking in a beautiful autumn day in Leelanau County and then topping it all off with an inspiring concert.

 

EATERIES:
Fig’s Breakfast & Lunch (Lake Leelanau)
Hearth & Vine Café (Suttons Bay)
Martha’s Leelanau Table (Suttons Bay)

Please click the restaurant links to check restaurant hours
and see sample menus.

WINERIES:
45 North Vineyard & Winery (Lake Leelanau)
Black Star Farms (Suttons Bay)
Laurentide Winery (Lake Leelanau) – Jason’s pick
L Mawby Vineyards (Suttons Bay) – Sam’s pick
Willow Vineyard & Winery (Suttons Bay) – Anne’s pick

Fall season hours for most of the wineries include
Sundays 12-5 according to their websites.
Click the links for specific tasting room information and prices.

CIDERS & SPIRITS:
Northern Latitudes Distillery (Lake Leelanau)
Tandem Ciders (Suttons Bay)

Fall season hours include Sundays 12-5 according to their websites.
Click the links for contact info.

SCENIC TOURS:
Clay Cliffs Natural Area (Lake Leelanau)
Whaleback Natural Area (Leland)

Admission to all Leelanau Conservancy natural areas is free.
Click the links for directions and trail information.

Autumn Colors Tasting & Touring Itinerary

Copy the URL to create your own customizeable map to plan your adventure: https://goo.gl/maps/cpRySpVyDQF2

Depending on when you set out and your appetite for adventure, you can visit as many or as few of the destinations as you’d like — maybe even discover a few of your own along the way!

Start with breakfast or brunch at Fig’s in Lake Leelanau or Martha’s Leelanau Table in Suttons Bay. Then go for a color tour through the heart of the county to see sweeping views of Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau from two of the Leelanau Conservancy’s most popular preserves.

Even if the weather turns damp and dreary, you can still make the best of it. If you’ve worked up a thirst, you can visit one of the excellent wineries or distilleries in the area. One of Jason’s Photo Jul 29, 8 08 47 PM (1)favorite ways to unwind after a performance is a single glass of Riesling from Laurentide Winery. They have a full selection of whites and a few reds for you to try. Sam says her favorite Leelanau County winery is L Mawby Vineyards for all their sparkling varieties. Anne says the wine (especially the Rosé) and the setting are beautiful at Willow Vineyard & Winery.

We hope you’ll join us at Sunday, October 22nd, at 4pm, at Suttons Bay Congregational Church for an inspiring concert — colorful music interwoven with poetry and prose to set your fall aglow. Admission is free. A freewill offering will be taken to benefit ShareCare of Leelanau, providing much needed care for seniors in Leelanau County.

Variety: It’s the Spice!

Our September 24th concert was an experiment: a test to see just how much variety could be crammed into a single concert program performed by a single ensemble. To up the ante, we also added an element of chance; allowing the audience to play a game to randomly select the concert order.

Twelve different instruments and one guest musician later (Eric Olson, alto & tenor saxophone), we wound up with a concert that ran the gamut from Handel and Mozart to Hoagy Carmichael and Stevie Wonder! Here’s a list of the selections in the order the were performed:

Overture from “The Barber of Seville”           G. Rossini/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Playground           H.A. Curtis
piano solo

Contradanza from “Three Pieces for Clarinet & Piano”           P. D’Rivera
tenor saxophone

I. Allegro from “Horn Quintet in E-flat Major”, K. 407           W.A. Mozart/arr. B. Holcombe
flute, english horn, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Royal Garden Blues           C. Williams & S. Williams/arr. Ken Abeling
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

Sir Duke           S. Wonder/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

The Nearness of You           H. Carmichael
tenor saxophone & piano

III. Brazileira from “Scaramouche”           D. Milhaud/arr. D. Stewart
piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone, horn, & bassoon

Ancient Pines           L. McKennitt/arr. J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

I. Natalie Fraser (hornpipe) from “A Suite of Cape Breton Tunes”           J.T. McKinney
flute, clarinet, & lever harp

Summer Waltz           L. Hood
flute, clarinet, guitar, & lever harp

Cranberry Island           D. Tolk
piano solo

Overture from “Music for the Royal Fireworks”           G.F. Handel/arr. T. Cramer
flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, & bassoon

To facilitate this colorful program based purely on variety and fun, we enlisted the aid of Jan Ross (aka Janice B.), voice-over artist, and our production manager, James Deaton (aka. J.D), to co-host the concert as a game show. Janice B. and J.D. selected audience members at random to come forward and randomly select the concert order. Those audience members were then entered into a special prize pool for a chance to win one of three prizes.

Adding even more flair to the event, we were joined by guest artist, Lori Feldpausch, who brought a dazzling array of paintings from her home studio to create an elaborate exhibit in the church’s narthex.

We were honored to be a part of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church’s “Concert on the Hill” series, and we’re delighted to have played a part in raising funds for Habitat for Humanity of Benzie County and Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing.

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.

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Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

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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.

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Don’t miss

Music Speaks…

,

______________________________________

Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

____________

Admission is free.
A freewill offering will be taken

Winter Songs & Carols: St. Basil’s Hymn

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

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Saturday, December 3rd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

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Friday, December 9th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

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

Winter Songs & Carols: A Manitou Christmas Medley

In our annual winter concert, Manitou Winds presents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason's Harp Sam's Flute

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

Laura's Horn Christina's Bassoon

Laura's Guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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Don’t miss

Winter Songs & Carols

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Saturday, December 3rd, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

___________________

Friday, December 9th, at 7:30pm

The Leelanau School
1 Old Homestead Rd.
Glen Arbor

____________

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

Summer Fantasies: Three Fiddle Tunes

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

“The Secret Life of Barns (Cedar)” by Ellie Harold, 2016 Collaborating Artist

For our Summer Fantasies concert, we invite you to join us in a colorful journey for the imagination as we visit the themes of summertime and all of its fantastical elements. In this series of brief articles, you can learn more about the pieces on the program; the composers who penned them and the events that inspired them.

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

Jason McKinneyA Suite of Cape Breton Tunes

— Jason McKinney (b. 1979)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jason McKinney

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

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

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

Admission is free.