Performance Musings

It is the middle of the summer and the time to start casting eyes onto a hopeful Fall performance season!


On the composing side of things, there have been a couple of nibbles but nothing firm which is a bit disheartening. One orchestral opportunity is still dangling out there a bit to be firmed up in the Fall at this point. We will see if anything comes of it.


Last week I was reflecting a bit on the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Hard to believe, but eight years ago was one of the greater audiences we'd had for my musical The Magnificent Ambersons with an excellent book by my collaborator Brian Vinero. The gestation for that music had come as I first read the novel and sketched some ideas before receiving the final book. The result was some of my best period-shaped music and a very Sondheim-esque second act ballad. I also got to write a little theremin part--should this ever see the light of a full performance. For the Fringe, we presented the opening of Act one (it was part of a showcase of 4 "openings" to other new musicals). It is solid music with early motives and themes that weave their way through the rest of the score. The most humorous thing from the reviews we saw at the time was that it seemed like The Magnificent Ambersons could be expanded into a full show. Ah, the eye rolls one must put up with sometimes...You can here some excerpts from this score on my audio page. I also extracted all the waltzes from the various ballroom moments into a piano suite as well.


This was also about the time I completed my fifth musical, Mark the Halls. This is a parody of those Hallmark Christmas movies. Brian Vinero had created a short play satirizing the elements of such a movie and then set about crafting a fuller musical. The score here has plenty of Christmas carol references as well as a variety of fun musical numbers. Nothing like working on a Christmas show in the midst of summer! I pity the poor Sleigh Bell player though as this important part rarely gets to rest--they will have to change hands! I did switch it up with an egg shaker for a little number which is excerpted as an underscore on my audio page here too.


All of that to reflect on two film music concerts that I am part of this summer. For a boy from North Dakota, playing a concert in the Hatch Shell in Boston was quite surreal--and it was not just because of the 90+ degree heat that Saturday evening! As a bassoonist in the New England Film Orchestra, we presented a concert with a space theme that included some Star Wars and Star Trek music as well as a variety of other space music. Walking down under the stage is again quite strange as you contemplate the many famous musicians who have also been in there. We survived the heat with a good crowd that turned out to hear us!


Coming up Saturday, August 13, @ 7:30 the New England Film Orchestra returns to perform as part of the Lowell Summer Music Series in Boarding House Park (weather permitting of course, or we will be moved to the Lowell Auditorium). It was a lot of fun to be part of this program last summer and it is closer to home here so the drive is not too bad. As is the case with playing through the different selections from the program, I tend to think about the recorded versions of these concert settings. It is also interesting to see the very different scoring approaches from different composers as well. Most fun on this concert will be some music from the delightful Chicken Run. I think there is some Batman on the program and some John Williams too. It was hard not to shed a tear the other evening when we read some music from Schindler's List. The power to meld image with music is a great one and nostalgia will likely come to the memories of those who come prepared for a great concert!



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