Tag Archives: Helena Symphony

And Seeing the Multitudes

And Seeing the Multitudes is a cello concerto commissioned by the Helena Symphony as part of my 2014-15 residency with them for their 60th anniversary. It was written for Ovidiu Marinescu. The music director, and the driving force behind this project and the entire residency, is Allan R. Scott. The work is dedicated to Ovidiu and Allan. It was premiered January 31st, 2015 at the Helena Civic Center, Helena, Montana.

IMG_0266

rehearsing And Seeing the Multitudes, Ovidiu Marinescu and Allan R. Scott

It is in one movement, 20 minutes long. The instrumentation:

2+pic, 2,2,2—4,3,3,1—timp+3(incl marimba)—piano, harp—solo cello—strings

The title is taken from the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount passage in the Gospel of Matthew. It is built upon the Beatitudes, with the chorale Herzlich lieb’ ich dir, O Herr following. It is not a well-known chorale, even among those who sing chorales, but if it is known in America, it will be in its Catherine Winkworth translation: “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.”

When I began to compose this in earnest, news of police shootings and angry riots was inescapable. Wondering what a composer’s response might be, “Blessed are the peacemakers” kept coming to mind. I considered a work hanging on the Beatitudes as a framework, but soon realized that a response to them was needed, which is when I turned to the chorale tune to end the work. I then used that as material for the eight Beatitude sections—sometimes obvious, sometimes not—so in effect the piece is a theme and variations, with the variations coming first.

IMG_0268

Ovidiu Marinescu, concertmaster Stephen Cepeda, associate concertmaster Allison Elliott

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came to him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Gospel of Matthew 5:1-10

“Lord, Thee I love with all my heart” translated 1863, Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878), from Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dir, o Herr (c.1567), Martin Schalling (1532-1608), based on Psalm 18; Bernhard Schmid, Orgelbuch, Strassburg (1577)

IMG_0252

rehearsal

Advertisements

Cello concerto parts are finished

HelenaMarinescu

Almost as good as hitting the double bar on the full score of the new cello concerto, And Seeing the Multitudes, is to hit the double bar on the last part to be extracted. They’re all finished now and off to the orchestra librarian. As if composing isn’t obsessive enough, copying parts is a preciously inner delight. Of course, the software “makes” the parts automatically, even as you construct the score, but the parts are never good. They’re quite awful, actually, out of the box, so there’s a good bit of manual labor needed to get them into shape.

Which I love doing, ever since I did this, with ink and paper, when I started at the Fleisher Collection. People who do this for a living—engravers—have my unfettered respect. Figuring out page turns, cues, overall spacing, whether to place phrases on one stave or where to split them… goosebumps, I’m telling you. And did I love putting the music for all three percussionists into one part, or what?

Now, okay, now I can get the Christmas tree.

Cellist Ovidiu Marinescu performs this with the Helena Symphony, conducted by Allan R. Scott, on January 31st. And Seeing the Multitudes is based on the Beatitudes, is for full orchestra, is in one movement, and is 20 minutes long. More information about it is here.

The cello concerto is finished

HelenaMarinescu

…and a good thing, since they’re playing it on January 31st. They are cellist Ovidiu Marinescu and the Helena Symphony, conducted by Allan R. Scott. I am honored to have been commissioned to compose this in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Helena Symphony.

The name of the piece is And Seeing the Multitudes, the opening words of the passage relating the Sermon on the Mount. It is built upon the eight Beatitudes, with the chorale Herzlich lieb’ ich dir, O Herr following. It is not a well-known chorale, even among those who sing chorales, but if it is known in America, it will be in its Catherine Winkworth translation: “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart.”

It is in one movement, 20 minutes long. The instrumentation:

2+pic, 2,2,2—4,3,3,1—timp+3(incl marimba)—piano, harp—solo cello—strings

Each of the eight sections is based somehow on the chorale, so it works as variations before the theme.

My friends who allow me to talk about composition—these are a select few, self-effacing, withdrawn, and so shy that they are always changing phone numbers and would rather not inform me—know that I have a firm, one may almost say unshakable, rule about orchestration, and that is that the worth of any piece is in indirect proportion to the appearance of the glockenspiel. I confess to using a glockenspiel in this. It plays eight notes. I tried to cut it to six, but failed.

More later, as we get closer to the premiere and as I write up program notes.

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came to him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Gospel of Matthew 5:1-10

“Lord, Thee I love with all my heart” translated 1863, Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878), from
Herzlich lieb hab’ ich dir, o Herr (c.1567), Martin Schalling (1532-1608), based on Psalm 18; Bernhard Schmid, Orgelbuch, Strassburg (1577)

Premiere of Gold and Silver in Helena

[First published in the Broad Street Review, 22 July 2014. Reprinted by permission.]

1500_Sport_true_blue

The president of Carroll College told me that when he arrived in Helena two years ago to begin his new job, they informed him that they’d leave a car for him in the airport parking lot. “But where will the keys be?” he asked. “In the ignition, where else?” was the reply, and so he learned right then and there how special Helena, Montana is.

Allan R. Scott, music director of the Helena Symphony, who commissioned me for Gold and Silver (for program notes, complete score, and MIDI audio, click here), premiered Saturday at Carroll College as part of Symphony Under the Stars, left his car for us at the airport. A connection in our flight from Philadelphia was delayed, he was in a last-minute meeting with funders, the rental car place would be closed by the time we got there, so his assistant met Jackie and me at the airport and handed me the car keys, because, of course, what else would you do?

The next morning we picked up the rental car. Tom the rental guy, who, along with waiters and candy shop owners and everyone else I met was going to Symphony Under the Stars, walked me outside, and started to circumnavigate this Dodge Ram Sport 1500 5.7 Hemi. I don’t know what one Hemi is, let alone five point seven of them, but a friend who knows about these things tells me that this puppy has 16 spark plugs, two for each cylinder.

I looked around for the rental car, like, you know, a car. “It’s all we have right now, trucks,” Tom said, “will that be okay?” Will that be okay, are you kidding? I tooled around in town at precisely 35 or 40 miles per hour, or on the interstates at 75, exactly what the posted speed limit was, because driving the exact speed limit in a huge truck is surprisingly exhilarating. I nodded at the other truck drivers with whom I was now in communion. Of course they didn’t look at me but no matter. I was in Helena, at the first of my official acts as Composer in Residence, driving a Dodge Ram with seven-tenths over five liters of hemi, and the Helena Symphony was playing my piece in front of 18,000 people, will that be okay.

Symphony Under the Stars was in this, its eleventh year, all Disney movie music and one work called Gold and Silver, the piece they requested for the 150th anniversary of the founding of Helena, and the 60th anniversary of the Helena Symphony. So it was Disney, me, and fireworks. In May 2015 they’ll play Gold and Silver again, on a program with Beethoven’s 9th. I’ve now been up against fireworks and popcorn vendors, so sharing the evening with Beethoven doesn’t seem, I’m thinking cavalierly, so daunting now. We’ll see about that, but in the meantime the performance was fantastic.

Children were dancing in front of the outdoor stage at the return of the main theme, the hymn-like tune I set up against the fanfare-y brass opening. If you feel a connection to children dancing unreservedly, by the way, it’s because children dance exactly the way you dance, if you don’t know how to dance. They do the two-styrofoam-cups-of-coffee-thrown-back-over-the-head dance, the elbow-swing-stop-poking-me-in-the-side dance, and of course the crouching-boxer-via-Heisman-trophy dance, just the way you do. But you don’t wear glow-in-the-dark necklaces when you dance, nor do you laugh when you fall down.

The crowd appreciated the significance of the piece, introduced by the Helena mayor, as a celebration of the city and the of state, whose motto Oro y Plata presented me with the title Gold and Silver. They cheered in the middle of it. After careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that cheering in the middle of a piece is a good, is a really good, thing.

Allan was, to the last ounce, all about making music. He never calls these pops concerts. He invests in them the same commitment he reserves for Helena’s Mahler cycle or a Jennifer Higdon Concerto for Orchestra. The Disney works are—as many film scores are—incredibly difficult to play well. I looked at the parts, full of turn-on-a-dime tempo changes and sound-effect sparkles, and saw how much work goes into an evening of Pirates and Poppins and Mermaids and Lion Kings and Toy Stories. The well-known tunes and well-settled harmonic sweeps belie the workout this is for the musicians on the stage. The tuba player is a rancher, raises Black Angus cattle, drives 100 miles to play here, has wiry arms and a big smile and a frame that has bent under real work at 15 below or a hundred and five. He sounds good. They all sound good.

As we walked from Carroll College to our truck (it seems to me that I like saying that) parked six blocks away, surrounded by happy Helenans who had just heard a wonderful orchestra playing live under stars and fireworks and that big Montana sky, I thought that I was blessed. Blessed, I thought, to have my music share the stage with these musicians, blessed to share the lawn with these people. I drove nice and slow.

Symphony Under the Stars, Gold and Silver, announced in Helena

HelenaPosterUnveiling

photo: Eliza Wiley, Independent Record

My new orchestral work Gold and Silver got a shout-out as Helena Symphony music director Allan R. Scott met with Helena mayor Jim Smith and others for the Symphony Under the Stars announcement yesterday. Here’s the complete article in Helena’s Independent Record. The concert is 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 19, on the grounds of Carroll College.

“Gold and Silver” is Oro y Plata, the Montana state motto. A new poster (pictured, left), symbolizes a fire tower, symbol of Helena. There will be a canned-food drive at this free concert; last year they collected over 15,000 pounds.

The program includes lots of Disney movie scores. They’re expecting upwards of 16,000 people to show up for this free concert. Reserved seats are already sold out. There will be fireworks. They play Gold and Silver right before the fireworks.

No pressure!

 

Helena Symphony Composer in Residence

HelenaSymLogoThe Helena Symphony proudly announces the appointment of Kile Smith as Composer in Residence for the 2014-2015 Season. In addition to performing works by Mr. Smith, the Helena Symphony has commissioned him to compose two works celebrating the 150th birthday of the City of Helena and the 60th anniversary of the Helena Symphony.

The first work, Gold and Silver, will be premiered July 2014 for an audience of over 15,000 people and performed again in May 2015. The second commission, for orchestra with the internationally renowned Romanian cellist Ovidiu Marinescu, will be performed in January 2015.

In October, music director Allan R. Scott will conduct the Helena Symphony Orchestra and Chorale in Mr. Smith’s 2004 work Psalm 46, with baritone soloist Ron Loyd.

Founded in 1955, the Helena Symphony Orchestra is a 75-member regional professional orchestra in Helena, Montana, and is one of the leading symphonic organizations in the Rocky Mountain region. Noted as one of the “best small arts communities in the United States,” Helena is the Capital City of Montana.

Kile Smith lives in Philadelphia, where he composes full-time, following 18 years as Curator of the Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music. He also hosts the weekly American contemporary music radio program Now Is the Time and co-hosts the monthly Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection, both on WRTI-FM and wrti.org, and is a classical announcer on WRTI. He is a contributing editor to the online arts and culture magazine Broad Street Review. In addition to the Helena projects, he is composing new works for The Crossing and other ensembles.

Gold and Silver

GoldandSilverp1,jpgGold and Silver, overture for orchestra

3*223*(opt cbn)-4231-timp, 2perc (incl glock)-str. 7′

Commissioned by the Helena Symphony for its 60th anniversary, and in honor of the 150th anniversary of the City of Helena. Premiered 19 July 2014, Helena Symphony, Allan R. Scott conducting, Carroll College, Helena, Montana.

The Montana state motto is Oro y Plata, “Gold and Silver.” The two-trumpet fanfare opening may be seen as depicting both gold and silver, but more than that, I wanted to capture the joy of discovery that accompanied the founding of Helena and indeed, all new ventures. The later hymn-like tune uses the fanfare as its genesis, and suggests, as do all hymn tunes, the community as one, singing together.

Click on the first page of the score to the left and you can view or download the full score. For a MIDI or synthesized recording, which is all I have now, hit the audio player below.