Sojourn of Spring: Traveling Mercies

Manitou Winds and guest soloist Thomas Bara will premiere a brand-new work for organ and wind quintet for their upcoming spring concert.

Traveling Mercies, written by Manitou Winds founder Jason McKinney, was completed in January 2018. Composing the work became both an adventure and a learning process.

To tell you more, here’s Jason in his own words:

The idea to write a chamber work for organ first came to me in May 2017 as I sat at Central United Methodist Church, Traverse City, listening to a spectacular organ recital by Bradley Hunter Welch. The organ was not a favorite instrument of mine. I CUMC organ 3had tremendous respect for it (and for organists!), but I had never had a chance to fully understand or experience the instrument.

During the recital, as we were given a tour of the newly renovated organ, I began to connect to the sound. The whole building became an instrument, and we were sitting inside it! I physically felt the raw power of chords, dissonances crashing into consonance, the dynamic contrast from roar to purr. I was amazed how an organist combines timbres as though an entire orchestra were crammed into a single console. Wind players have to come up for air, string players have to reverse their bows, percussionists have to re-strike or keep rolling. But the organ is like a singing mountain, inhaling as it exhales, sending its sound wafting over us like a mist through a forest or cascading down on us like a waterfall. fullsizeoutput_2c3b

The recital had a profound effect on me, musically. It was months before I told anyone, but I left knowing I would write a work for organ someday. Still, there were hurdles to face. For starters, I’d taken it upon myself to write a piece featuring an instrument I’d neither written for nor played before. Frankly, the instrument scares me. Hundreds and hundreds of pipes — some of them quite a bit taller than me!

Before I hoped to compose anything, I had to learn more about this singing mountain. Fortunately, I had the best organ Sherpa anyone could ask for: Thomas Bara! He loaned me reams of organ music and a copy of his album. He fullsizeoutput_2c39performed a personalized organ demonstration, explaining how various musical elements are performed and how all its manuals and stops come into play to create a unified sound. I also learned to speak its language — thumbing a glossary of strange words, discovering what the organ can and cannot do. As I pored over pages of organ repertoire, I realized I needed to understand what the individual organist brings to the music (yet more questions for Mr. Bara!).

The next hurdle was facing the blank page. My last original work was written in 2006 — more than a decade ago! When Manitou Winds came into being in 2014, I delved into my archives to dust off some of my older works, fashioning them into something better than the original. But it had been a long time since I’d faced a truly blank page.

I decided on a gradual approach by first facing smaller blank pages. I sketched musical ideas as they came to me, intuitively. Instead of forcing them into a specific context or direction, I let my mind wander, paying more attention to colors and textures. Once I’d fullsizeoutput_2c34amassed several ideas, I sat down at my piano to play through them, gradually adding harmonies but allowing even those to change whenever I felt them shifting.

Working in this freer style put my imagination into overdrive. Soon, a story about a long journey and a search for deeper meaning began to build itself into the piece taking shape. Before I knew it, I’d reached the final hurdle: sitting at the computer to orchestrate the piece for the entire ensemble (the big blank page)! By this point, I was now more eager than afraid.

The task was akin to inviting friends to a party. Composing and arranging for Manitou Winds, I’ve learned not only the fullsizeoutput_2c37unique qualities each instrument brings to the music, but also each musician’s boundaries. We do occasionally surprise one another, but I’ve come to know by heart what they love to play, what will challenge them, what they will begrudgingly play, and what they cannot play.

While orchestrating, I listened for each part to ring out. Whenever I couldn’t hear an instrument’s distinctive voice, I knew I was likely on the wrong track. I also made certain the organ was an equal part of the ensemble — neither a domineering presence nor merely accompaniment. I wanted it to seem as though Thomas was sitting in a chair next to us, taking part in the conversation rather than far away at a giant console.

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Once finished, I realized this is a tone poem about wanderlust. Hearing the call of adventure, our narrator seeks excitement and wisdom from faraway places, dismissing the concerns and well-meaning advice of loved ones. Life abroad proves to be inspiring and overwhelming, leading our narrator on an introspective journey to find himself. Eventually, the wanderer returns home to find he is forever changed.

The title, Traveling Mercies, came to me while I was still sketching in my notebook. The title has a double meaning: fullsizeoutput_2c35it evokes the special blessing travelers request as protection before embarking on a long journey, and it reminds me of a line from my favorite psalm, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). I’ve always taken comfort in the notion that mercy can be a traveling companion — following us if we allow it.

Rehearsing the new work has been tremendous fun for me. Hearing my friends learn their parts, gathering precision, weaving all the lines together… it’s not unlike watching loved ones open gifts and seeing their unfiltered reaction to what’s hidden beneath the wrappings. After weeks of rehearsing apart, finally getting to add Thomas and the organ to the full ensemble was simply magical.

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Without Thomas Bara and the members of Manitou Winds, this piece would never have been written, and so I’ve dedicated the work to them. I hope you’ll join us for the premiere.

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Don’t miss

Sojourn of Spring

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Saturday, May 12th, at 7:30pm

Central United Methodist Church
222 South Cass Street
Traverse City

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Admission is free.
Freewill offering will benefit scholarships for
Interlochen Arts Academy music students

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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!

 

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.

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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

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 they 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…

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Saturday, May 27th, at 7:30pm

Grace Episcopal Church
341 Washington St.
Traverse City

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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