The day began with a dress rehearsal of Blown Away
, the most recent piece of mine on the festival. Blown Away
was conceived for wind ensemble, one to a part. A few weeks before the festival, Scott Boerma
, the conductor of the EMU Wind Symphony (and also a composer), contacted me to ask if I would mind having the piece performed with several players to a part. The thought had never occurred to me, so I was intrigued to find out how it would sound. I told him to go ahead.
The rehearsal was excellent. Boerma has a real mastery of the medium, and he knows how to get the best from young musicians. The expanded scoring traded some clarity for overwhelming power, and I warmed up to it very quickly. I left the rehearsal feeling very confident about the upcoming final concert.
Tony and I had lunch at a Greek restaurant across the street. One of the students was a waitress there, and when she told the owner who I was, he sent over a complimentary dessert: a delicious baklava, in a rather generous portion.
Ah, the perks of celebrity.
At 2:00 we headed over to Alexander Recital Hall for a panel discussion. There were three composer panelists in addition to me: Anthony Iannacone
, Whitney Prince
and Scott Boerma. Max Plank,
the co-organizer of the festival, was the emcee, taking questions from the audience and addressing them to the four of us, each of us taking a turn. It was interesting to hear our responses -- where they converged and where we differed. There were questions about style, questions about compositional process, questions about music and culture, and one question directed to me that is particularly pertinent here: “How does your blog impact your professional opportunities?”
The fellow who asked that question came up and introduced himself to me afterwards –it turned out to be none other than Fred Himebaugh, creator of the renowned Fredösphere
, one of the first composer blogs I became aware of, back in 2004. We got into a quick conversation about the world of composer blogs. Oddly enough, Anthony Iannacone was not aware of my blog – in fact, I found out he had yet to read any blogs at all. That may be changing, as of this week.
After a break for dinner, we returned to Pease Auditorium for the final concert of the festival. Again, attendance was good. This concert featured EMU’s large ensembles: the Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Choir, the Percussion Ensemble, the Symphonic Band and the Wind Symphony. I was treated to very nice performances of Amadeus ex machina
and Blown Away.
The concert also had some great music by Christopher Rouse, Ernst Toch and another Iannacone student: Brian Michael McCloskey. (I really appreciate the way the student works were featured alongside established composers, by the way) But the outstanding work of the evening was Iannacone’s A Whitman Madrigal
– a gorgeous setting of Whitman’s The Voice of the Rain
for chamber choir and piano. I’ve been aware of Iannacone’s music for some time, but hadn’t been exposed to much of it. I have a distinct feeling that will be changing in the near future – this was really a great piece of music.
Free baklava, unexpected encounters, wonderful new music – what a fantastic day. And all this attention has hardly made my head swell at all.
And that wraps up my report on the 2007 Music Now Fest. Again, I was struck by the difference between festivals that try to cover all of the bases and this one, where the focus was on one composer. I really believe that the participants – myself included – came out of Music Now Fest 2007 with a more substantial understanding of composition than is often the case.