Manitou Winds in the media!

2016 was a dynamic year for Manitou Winds — many opportunities to get out into the community and share the intimate quality of chamber music while also spreading imagination, creativity, and inspiration through visual art from our collaborating artist, Ellie Harold.

In April, Jason and Ellie were invited to go on air with the Christal Frost show on WTCM 580 AM in Traverse City’s Radio Center to discuss our spring concert. Jason had never been on the radio before! Microphones and cables everywhere… it was quite an experience.

Manitou Winds & Christal Frost
Manitou Winds at WTCM

In November, Ellie and Jason were interviewed by Allison Batdorff of the Traverse City Record-Eagle. We were gearing up for 2016’s Winter Songs & Carols concert, and also reflecting on the year’s collaboration with Ellie. You can read the full article HERE.

Manitou Winds at the Oliver Art Center
Summer Fantasies Concert

In December, Jason and Ellie were interviewed by MINews 26’s Marlaina Scarbrough, spreading the word about what makes chamber music so unique and describing our efforts to bridge the gap between visual and performing arts.

We’re certainly excited about 2017 — our new collaborating artist (Margie Guyot) plus plenty of upcoming concerts. We hope you’ll be able to join us in May for “Music Speaks…”. Stay tuned for more details!

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Summer Fantasies: The Art of Collaboration

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

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

For our Summer Fantasies concert, we invite you to join us in a colorful journey for the imagination as we visit the themes of summertime and all of its fantastical elements. In this series of brief articles, you can learn more about our collaborative artist and the individual pieces on the program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Ellie Harold

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

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

New Voices ©2016 by Ellie Harold

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

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

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

Summer Fantasies Poster

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

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

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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.

New Voices: Jason McKinney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Narratives

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

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

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

New Voices: Laura Hood

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

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

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

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

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

Wings of Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Flight

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

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

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

New Voices: Daniel Baldwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landscapes

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

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

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

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

New Voices: Jenni Brandon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Holt Avenue

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

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

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

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

New Voices: Bonnie L. Cochran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— William Blake (1757-1827)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Voices: Deborah J. Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Sun

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

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

— Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

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

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

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

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

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

— Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Five Songs for Kathleen

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

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

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

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

Anne Bara, Claire Olinik, Susan Snyder

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

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

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

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

New Voices: The Art of Collaboration

One of the aspects we enjoy most about putting together one of our seasonal concerts (other than the music itself) is the opportunity to collaborate with one of the talented local artists in our area of Northern Michigan. But, what does it mean to “collaborate” with another artist — especially when you work in a completely different medium?

Ellie Harold Art Studio & Gallery Manitou Winds

Honestly, with each collaboration we participate in, it means something a little different; it all depends on the artist, their work, and their eagerness to engage with a bunch of musicians!

For our May 1st concert (New Voices), we were hoping to find an artist in the Benzie County area. Not only would this make their collaboration more accessible to the concert venue, but it would help Ellie Harold Art Studio & Gallerygive our whole program a firmer grounding in the Benzie area. We were very fortunate, then, to come across the artwork of Ellie Harold of Frankfort.

Though Ellie is originally from Atlanta, like so many others, she visited Northern Michigan and quickly gave into its powerful charm. Within a year of her visit, she bought property and began putting down roots in Frankfort! Her home — an 1895 Victorian house in Frankfort’s historic district she and her husband have lovingly restored — is also her art studio and gallery.

Ellie Harold“For me it’s important to have a place to ground myself, but it also serves as a springboard for exploring a larger arena. Likewise, as the music of ‘New Voices’ draws inspiration from a personal experience or a local scene, as an artistic expression it also extends its influence much farther afield.” — Ellie Harold

Grounded in the beauty of Northern Michigan, Ellie’s art recently reached a very large audience in February 2016 when one of her paintings (Morning Light) was selected for the Prince Street Gallery‘s 8th National Juried Exhibition in New York City. Ellie was one of only 64 artists whose work was chosen from over 700 submissions for the juried event.

Though her artwork often has a certain representational quality, the colors and techniques she employs result in an image that goes beyond mere representational art. A glimpse of the Lake Ellie Harold Art Studio & GalleryMichigan coastline, for example, becomes alive with shades of colors and angular figures — evoking not only the image perceived by the eye, but also the colors and shades of human emotion. One can almost hear the music!

We toured Ellie’s gallery earlier this spring, hoping to learn more about her art and to also find one of her paintings that would adorn our concert poster. Finding a work that spoke to our theme of New Voices was not difficult at all. Narrowing our selection down to the perfect choice took some doing, however!

Ellie Harold Art Studio & Gallery

Up North Jewelscape is the perfect visual complement to the music for New Voices because it blends the familiar with the abstract and unexplored. Like Ellie’s beautiful landscape, our concert will guide the audience on a journey — to places both real and UpNorthJewelscape, © 2015 Ellie Haroldimaginary, past and future. According to Ellie, the “painting refers to elements I appreciate in the Lake Michigan shoreline but was also inspired by a trip I took to Paris last year. To me it’s a joyful and intuitive painting that celebrates nature and the visual play of complementary and secondary hues. I like that several birds have landed in the branches of those colorful trees.”

Manitou Winds recently visited with Ellie to unveil our concert poster design and to talk a bit more about art, music, and where our two mediums intersect. Like a few of the composers on our concert program, Ellie has very modest formal training in her art. Instead, her works are the result of patient and careful learning by experience. Her artistic philosophy is rooted in her understanding and experience of art as meditation. It’s proven to be a self-reflective practice, a way for her to understand herself.

New Voices Concert Poster

While putting together the program for New Voices we’ve found a few composers who feel the same: their work is the result of an exploration of their subject, not a mere academic application of composition technique. A textbook, after all, cannot explain how to write a piece of music that will paint a perfect still life of red daisies in a silver vase on a table in a sunny kitchen nook; or tell the story of majestic but broken wings being mended by careful and loving hands.

Ellie Harold Art Studio & Gallery Ellie Harold

Ellie Harold

Ellie Harold Art Studio & Gallery The Art of Collaboration

As a result of our collaboration for this concert, Ellie and Manitou Winds are eager to discuss future projects. Among the possibilities is the creation of a series of paintings inspired by an original composition. Artists of varied art forms have always managed to inspire one another to create. Ellie’s approach to the canvas resonates with me and my Ellie Harold Art Studio & Galleryown approach to composition. As we both love the landscapes of Northern Michigan, I expect our inspiration for a future project will be easy to find.

As part of the collaboration, Ellie Harold will display select paintings in a special exhibition at the concert venue. Come join us for a glimpse of inspiration on May 1st with New Voices.

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

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

Our Virtual Potluck: Part VI

Potluck

The table is set, the buffet dishes are in place, the napkins are neatly folded, the kitties are on their best behavior. It’s time for the Manitou Winds Virtual Potluck!

IMG_3102With everyone here and all the dishes assembled and in place, it’s clear we’re a group with lots to share and contribute! Now that we’ve all discussed the weather and how we feel about winter in Northern Michigan, the conversation could go anywhere!

If you could magically play any instrument without having to take lessons, what instrument would you pick up?

Sam: “I’d love it if I could magically play the piano.”
Jason: “I’ve always wanted to play viola; altos secretly have all the fun.”
Anne: “I’d love to play the cello. I love the rich sound, and… well, I just think I’d look really cool playing it!”
Laura: “I would love to play the violin so I could fiddle.”
Christina: “I’ve always thought the cello would be neat to learn. It’s the same range as the bassoon, and it has the best sound of all the stringed instruments to me.”

So, in magical-musical-fantasyland, Manitou Winds would maybe be more like Manitou Strings?! I wonder if there are any string players out there who wish they could play a wind instrument. Somehow I doubt that!

Photo Aug 24, 7 47 42 PMIn a contest to determine who among us has the most pets, Laura is hands-down the winner. “We’ve got one very big and old chocolate lab, a cat who lives in the barn, two horses on our farm, two horses who live at another farm, and pigs and chickens in the summer months (they’re in the freezer now!),” says Laura.

Comparing our woes with our separate instruments is also fodder for conversation…

Christina says, “Fingerings for bassoon can have up to all of your fingers down for a single note — your left thumb operates 6 keys all by itself… and the reed…”

“Reeds are probably the worst thing about playing clarinet,” says Anne. “A reed can either make or break you!”

“Don’t even talk to me about reeds,” interrupts Jason, putting away his reed knife.

“Staying in shape on the horn is probably the most challenging thing,” says Laura. “It’s a very physically demanding instrument, so if you take too many days off, it takes a while to get back into IMG_8209shape.”

“On the flute, it’s so hard to get a good, solid tone throughout the whole range of the instrument,” says Sam. “You need to have the right embouchure for your individual mouth structure, but also tons of air support to direct the air correctly and overcome the ‘wasted air’ factor.”

“You’ve got wasted air?” says Jason, “I can’t get rid of my air fast enough… turning beet red, over here.”

Needless to say, each of us chose our instruments in spite of the challenges they inevitably bring. In the hands of knowledgeable composers and arrangers, these quirky instruments of a wind quintet can actually form a very unique and uniform sound — the better qualities of each instrument shining through.

Manitou WindsIn our rehearsals, we’re currently working on music for our spring concert. The theme, “New Voices”, aims to explore music written only within the last 20 years. We enjoy highlighting the work of lesser-known composers and so programming new music was a natural way of accomplishing that.

But, to take it a step further, we wanted to demonstrate for our audience that new music isn’t necessarily something to be feared — even though we can all agree that older, familiar music is more comfortable. In order to bridge the gap between old and new, we sought out composers who incorporate modern techniques and sounds into their music, but who also value intriguing melodies and rich harmonies.

In the coming weeks, we’ll begin to share more with you about the music on our program and the composers who penned it.

It looks like everyone cleaned their plates and had their fill… but not too full, I hope! To top off this potluck feast, I’ve got a wintry dessert to make sure no one goes home hungry…

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Pear & Gingerbread Trifle
Serves 8
This recipe is right at home on a wintry Northern Michigan potluck table — our local pears are excellent and for this recipe you can use fresh or canned. The gingerbread can be baked and then frozen months in advance. Except for the whipped cream, all the components can be prepared days in advance and then assembled just a few hours before serving.

Gingerbread Cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pear-Gingerbread Trifle1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup warm water

Pear Filling:
2 pounds ripe but firm Bartlett pears (or 2 15oz cans of pears in light syrup)
1/4 cup pear preserves or jam
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

Custard Cream:
2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs plus one egg yolk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons brandy (optional)

Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the Gingerbread Cake: Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Place flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt into a large bowl and mix well. Place oil and sugars into a separate bowl; beat until creamy. Add molasses, beaten egg and then the warm water, mixing after each addition. Blend the dry ingredients into the wet ones, stirring well.

Pour batter into a lightly oiled 9-inch cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool completely. Tear into small pieces or cut into cubes and set aside.

To make the Pear Filling: In a large , heavy skillet, heat pears over medium high heat. Add jam, sugar and spices and cook until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Remove from heat, cool for a moment or two, and then stir in the balsamic vinegar and brandy. Set aside to cool.

To make the Custard Cream: Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring frequently, just until bubbles begin to form around edges of pan. Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. When the milk is ready, slowly pour half of milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time. Then stir this mixture back into the hot milk. Cook for ten minutes, whisking constantly, but do not allow to boil. The custard will thicken as it cooks, and thicken further as it cools. Remove from heat, add vanilla and brandy to taste.

Pour finished custard into a sieve set over a clean bowl and let it fall through, removing any lumps. Use back of spoon or spatula to help all the custard go through sieve. Cover with plastic wrap, laying the wrap directly on the surface of the custard so it does not develop a Woodwind Gourmetskin. Chill for at least two hours.

To make the Whipped Cream: Using chilled beaters and bowl, whip cream until it starts to thicken. Slowly add sugar and then vanilla, beating until cream is thick enough to form peaks on beaters when removed.

Assembly: In a deep bowl, a large glass trifle bowl, or individual serving dishes, layer the ingredients in approximately half-inch layers this order: 1) custard cream; 2) gingerbread pieces; 3) pear filling; and 4) whipped cream. Continue to layer, using a spatula to press down, or swirl creme as needed, until the serving dish is filled. Be sure to end with a hefty layer of whipped cream! Refrigerate for at least two hours and up to 8 hours before serving.

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Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:

Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds

Series II: Composers & Coffee

Series III: Notable Breakfasts

Series IV: Our Virtual Potluck