BOLD AMEN IN OREGON, ORGAN SYMPHONY IN NYC!
There is some fine music coming your way! November brings uncommon gems to Oregon and in December we engage the organ at Queens College! Below are my notes for the upcoming Rogue Valley Symphony show, featuring music of William Dawson, Carlos Simon and Keiko Abe. (More info on upcoming concerts can be found here.)
It all started with Dvořák’s prophecy. A genuine American music should claim African-American spirituals as its foundation, the master said. A few noticed when this occurred, albeit by a more complicated path. The spirituals, along with ragtime and blues birthed an incredibly exciting, completely novel, and very much American form called jazz. Gershwin and Bernstein embraced it. Copland’s hallmark syncopated rhythms would not exist without it. Modern American music was born.
However, a more straightforward path also took shape, and it is a real loss that it has not been explored and acknowledged more widely. Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony is the best representative of this trend. The work indeed borrows freely from spirituals but the connection with Dvořák runs deeper. So deep, in fact, that I became convinced the work should be marketed as America’s New World Symphony. Yes, it sounds more modern than Dvořák. However, the way Dawson works with motives, his approach to orchestration and the pulse of this music is straight from Dvořák’s workshop. Most importantly, Dawson inherited from Dvořák the ability to make the music instantly likeable. When you borrow, borrow from the best! Dawson took the essence of Dvořák’s craft and created a work that is fabulous, original and deserves to be heard regularly.
Speaking of composers with a natural gift for big orchestrations: Carlos Simon. He is among the most exciting new voices on today’s scene. In AMEN!, Simon alludes to the “call and response” feature of the Black church (we heard some of it also in “From the Mountaintop” back in September), offers us his treatment of a spiritual he grew up with and then closes with an exuberant, life-affirming amen. I cannot wait to share this vivacious music with you!
How did the Japanese virtuoso and composer Keiko Abe first encounter marimba? Why, thank you for asking – it was while attending a sermon. A chance encounter led to a life in music. Abe standardized marimba as an instrument, introduced new techniques and pushed them to their limit. Along the way, she wrote a plethora of music for the instrument.
Prism Rhapsody is a cinematographic score – in turns dramatically driven, evocatively atmospheric and sweetly tuneful. With Britton-René Collins at the helm, you will not want this music to stop because what she does on marimba borders on otherworldly. I am so happy you are here with us to experience it!
QSO, RVS, and MM in the press!
We put a most varied, colorful and interesting season together at the Rogue Valley Symphony. For the final show - Holst's Planets with a movie - we will even have a NASA scientist on hand! Read more in Medford's Mail Tribune.
I had a very enjoyable chat with Andrea Serečinová from Slovakia's Hudobný život (Musical Life). The overarching theme was the cross-section of music and immigration. Some things we discussed: How does it compare rehearsing an orchestra on the West Coast vs. East Coast vs. Slovakia? Are there permanent changes to orchestras' repertoire post-pandemic? And why were some European composers successful upon their immigration to the U.S. but many were not?
After the interview was published in print this summer, I decided to translate it for my blog. It took a while but now you can read the entire conversation here.