"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.

Visit Lawrence Dillon's Web Site

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

William Bolcom was in town last week for the premiere of his Four Piedmont Choruses. The Piedmont Chamber Singers, some twenty strong, commissioned the piece for their 30th anniversary. Besides the commission, PCS sponsored a competition for young composers in honor of the occasion, which my student James Stewart won, so the evening also featured the premiere of Stewart’s The Desert.

Bolcom’s piece was performed twice, which is always nice in a premiere, but it was particularly nice this time, because Bill was the pianist in the first performance, and sat in the audience for the second (Ivan Seng, PCS’s regular pianist, played beautifully in the encore).
Four Piedmont Choruses uses wonderful texts by Kathryn Stripling Byer, who was also present. The music is classic Bolcom – craftsmanship, versatility, wit, beauty -- all in fine proportion.

Stewart wrote most of
The Desert as he was completing his Master’s here a year ago, so it was nicely familiar to me – I felt like a long-lost uncle encountering his successful, grown-up nephew. James’s music is courageous; he’s not afraid of taking aesthetic risks, and he has the good taste to find elegant ways to present his most unusual ideas. The piece is very strong, but I couldn’t help noting one small weak spot, sending him an email the next day with a gentle suggestion – which I know he is mature enough to accept or ignore.

I spent a lot of time with Bill Bolcom five years ago, when we commissioned his eleventh string quartet to commemorate the opening of our new chamber music hall. I’m still not sure if his social awkwardness is general, or if he is especially uncomfortable around other composers. I suspect it is a combination – he is always a little stiff with me, but comments he’s made about unpleasant encounters with other composers back up the impression that he is on his guard, protecting himself from attack.

The program was all American works: Billings, Beach, Dello Joio, Chadwick, Hadley, Bolcom, Stewart and local composer William Stevens, whose
Three Not Very Old Ballads was very attractive. The mayor was on hand to issue a proclamation in honor of the PCS’s 30th anniversary, and the chorus responded with well-wrought performances of challenging rep.