These are troubled and troubling times but one distraction for me is music. Last week I went to three concerts: two young musicians at the Yellow Barn; the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and our local Windham Orchestra. Three distinct venues and three kinds of players.
The Windham Orchestra is a community enterprise that has been going for 65 years. I’ve been attending their concerts for many years and have seen them get better and play more challenging music. Made up of a mix of music teachers, retired professionals, and talented amateurs they have really made progress under their relatively new director, Hugh Keelan. (I should note that my sister has been principle flute for a number of years.) Last Sunday they did a stunning Scheherazade.
I was privileged to hear two works making their premieres. There is something magical about knowing that you are listening to a piece of music that no one has ever heard before. The first was a Yellow Barn residency concert; the second, a BSO commissioned work.
The Yellow Barn in Putney, VT is primarily a summer music festival but in the last few years they have expanded to occasional winter residency concerts. Musicians come for a week to develop a new work or to polish working as an ensemble. In this case a pianist and violinist, Lee Dionne and Brigid Coleridge put together a new work consisting of music and recitation. Based on an interpretation of Homer’s Iliad by poet Christopher Logue titled War Music, Dionne and Coleridge recited excerpts and then matched them to music. The music included works by Bach, Gyorgy Kurtag, John Cage, Manuel de Falla, and Richard Strauss. What we saw and heard was a first performance, not without flaws, but fascinating. They had to play music, do dramatic recitation and sing – quite a stretch for classical musicians! I had never heard of War Music and immediately ordered a copy.
The BSO work, Express Abstractionism, by Sean Shepherd is a work in four movements. Each expresses emotions illustrated by an artist or artists. My husband loved it, but I was taken only with the first and last movements. That might be because I was familiar with the artists. Movement I is titled “dense bubbles, or: Calder, or: the origin of life on earth. Movement IV. the sun, or: the moon, or: Mondrian.
I’d like to hear both of the new works again. I love hearing music no one has heard before. Listening intensely takes me away from the troubles for just a little while.