Monday, March 20, 2006

"Tower"ing work of patriotism/charm

Saturday evening brought Joan Tower to York, PA for her Made in America. We met up earlier for lunch and some good discussion, then again later at the York Symphony Orchestra concert.

Joan and John

Made in America fit between Mendelssohn's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture and Vaughan-Williams' lengthy Sea Symphony (No.1). M.i.A. stood out as Joan pointed out in her witty remarks beforehand that Mendelssohn (she teased later that perhaps "that punk" was appropriate) wrote his piece at the age of 17, and that Vaughan-Williams penned his at the age of 36-37, and her's was written at 65! (She also joked that neither of the other composers could make it tonight.) The audience warmed to Joan and was quite attentive - later I heard an uncommon amount of post-concert discussion about her, her piece and her comments - all very positive from my "eavesdropping." I wrote a note for Joan (she's asking three people at each performance to write something for her as part of a scrapbook) and will share the very last part of what I wrote in it: As for tonight's performance, not a cloud in the shone between the Mendelssohn and Vaughan-Williams; but I suspect and know that it would shine on any program.

Conductor Robert Hart Baker and Joan Tower

M.i.A. is a brilliant work, capitalizing on the tune, America the Beautiful. It allows for great lyrical lines and for thoughtful harmony, all within a framework as an "easier" orchestral work - it's being done by 65 orchestras in all fifty states. There are wonderful passages for each section and even some solos for the concertmaster. M.i.A. is also good for the audiences coast to coast, allowing them to hear new sounds with a tune that they are familiar with, making it a bit more comfortable/palatible for many audiences (and the musicians too) who may not be typically open to a modern (new?) orchestral piece.

I'm also very geniunely proud that Joan Tower was the composer selected for this unprecendented collaboration of orchestras. Typically a sort of corporate/business approach might be taken to the lowest common denominator or handled in a bungling screwed up manner...that's not the case, and Ford's Made in America should be honored with the high level of art that is going across our country right now. I hope to see further commissions along these lines, and wish them the success of this first (and hopefully not last) one!

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