On Wednesday, Sept. 6th, my Music Alive Composer-in-Residence activities had a wonderful kickoff event to welcome me to the community! Maestro Stephen Alltop, string and brass CUSO musicians, and soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg presented three of my works to a packed ballroom at the I Hotel in Champaign. We called the concert LEGENDS, which fit in very nicely with our Greek Mythology theme for this first year of my residence.
After maestro Alltop introduced me to the audience, my Athena Triumphant for string quartet was performed. This short work depicts Athena, the Greek goddess of war, who is marching into battle and emerges victorious. As she shines in her moment of glory, she looks over the bloodied battlefield where her enemies lay slain. Violinists Sun-Young Shin and Aaron Jacobs, violist Robin Kearton, and cellist Barbara Hedlund performed the piece marvelously, and with great gusto!
Next, soprano Josefien Stoppelenburg and Stephen Alltop (playing piano) performed two of my vocal works: Dawn, with text by Paul Laurence Dunbar, and We Real Cool, with text by Gwendolyn Brooks. Josefien’s jaded portrayal of disaffected youth was riveting to watch, as was her gentle depiction of the moment dawn strikes the earth’s horizon.
Our concert ended with three movements of my Legends of Olympus for brass quintet. Each movement portrays a different Greek god or goddess. I have composed a total of five movements; for this performance, we heard Helios (god of the sun), Aphrodite (goddess of love), and Hermes (the messenger god between Olympus and mankind). Each movement is set up with narration about the god or goddess, which I read from the side of the stage (my first time doing so). This is a strenuous piece, and the CUSO brass players were more than ready for the challenge! Trumpet players Jenny Brown and Tracy Parish, hornist Marc Zyla, trombonist Elliot Chasanov, tubist Mark Moore, and Stephen Alltop (conducting) made these Greek characters jump off the musical page with their strong performance.
We followed the concert with a reception in the lobby. Several audience members asked me great questions about what a composer does, which I’ll make the topic of an upcoming blog.
Thank you to Maestro Alltop, Executive Director Gerri Kirchner, and all of the musicians for putting together such a wonderful event. Thank you as well to all of the Champaign-Urbana community who came out to welcome me at the beginning of my residence with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra. I feel very welcomed! I am so thrilled to be serving as Composer-in-Residence for the next two years, and look forward to meeting everyone in our future activities. I’ll keep the community updated about when I’ll be in the region via this blog, and see you around town.