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Dear Students: You may believe that your professors are at the French Riviera basking in the sun while you toil away on those papers. Surprise! They are celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Southeastern Composers League Forum at North Carolina State University. In the course of three days, music professors from the greater ACC region will have attended concerts, lectures, engaged in shop-talk and listened (and sometimes performed) as their art became realized. On the evening of March 14, Concert 2* featured works by Michael Young, Gordon Ring, Harvey Stokes, Roger Vogel and Gilbert Trythall. The event, part of Arts NOW Series, was brought to us by the Music Department and Arts Studies Program of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Rodney Waschka, Professor of Music and Composition, served as host.
Waschka introduced the evening's virtual guest composer, Cindy McTee, and her synthesized electronic composition, "Metal Works" (1989), the first of two imaginative pieces that framed the concert. The other was a theater piece by Gilbert Trythall, "sit.com" (2010), written for Virginia Thompson and performed by Thompson (horn, laptop) and James Miltenberger (piano). Inside were two world premieres — Piano Sonata No. 3 by Harvey Stokes and "Pas de deux" by Roger Vogel — as well as compositions by Michael Young and Gordon Ring.
To witness the birth of new art is sometimes surprising, occasionally intimidating, but always inspirational. Award-winning composer and Professor Harvey J. Stokes (Hampton University) presented Sonata No. 3, a world premiere. Considered a sequel to Sonata No. 1 (1999) and a substantial work for the piano, it was written for Eun Kyong Jarrell, also a member of the Hampton music faculty. Mrs. Jarrell, trained in South Korea (Yeungnam University) and in Paris, France (Ecole Normale de Musique), is an internationally sought-after recitalist and collaborator.
Not easy for the listener and demanding for the performer, this composition is densely populated with relentless drive and vivid colors. As when listening to Berio, I was quickly pulled in — and remained in my seatbelt. There are marvelous jazz-like riffs and swinging rhythms that zipped by like a high speed train. I found myself catching whiffs of Bill Evans' playing in one moment and Shostakovich in the next. There was just enough glue to keep it together but without descending into familiar musical structures. Jarrell's playing made the experience extraordinary, like a first encounter with Messiaen — mystifying and wonderful. Stokes looked pleased and Jarrell beamed following her stunning performance.
The second world premiere, "Pas de deux" (2010) by Roger Vogel (U. of Georgia), was written for and performed by Lisa Hanson Bartholow (flute) and Maureen Horgan (trombone). In his notes, the composer likens the players to dancers coordinating their efforts yet making it seem so easy. This is a delicate, well crafted, balanced composition that will stretch the repertoire for players in search of a new piece. Bartholow and Horgan work together like hand in glove — they gave a fine performance.
Michael Young performed his Prelude and Fugue No. 12 in C Major ("Pentatonic"), for piano. It's beautiful to hear: the sound harkens back to Debussy. Threre's nothing earth-shattering. It was meticulously and artfully played. Gordon Ring's "All Interval Suite," intended for students, serves as an entertaining substitute for the dreaded interval exercises familiar to many of us. Thank you, Dr. Ring! (I'm secretly hoping this will adapt to violin and 'cello.)
And finally, for students too young to have read Europe on $5 a Day, among the ways truly to discover the riches of life are through art, friendship, creative work, and life-long learning. There were no fancy light shows or "operabots" in this concert, but there were fine compositions, worthy of recognition. It's through art work of the kind demonstrated on this occasion that we are compeled to look at life's ambiguities and to find reflections of ourselves and the world in which we live. So thanks and congratulations to our talented Southeastern composers. Well done!
*Concert 1 composers were Ken Davies, Mark Lee, Mark Francis, Greg Carroll, Mickie D. Willis. Concert 2 was followed by two more performances with works by Laurent Esopey, John Mac Lean, Kenneth Jacobs, David Caudill, Joe L. Alexander, Bruce Mahin, R. Kevin Paul, Jonathan McNair, Paul Schreiber, Rodney Waschka, Arthur Gottschalk and Richard Power. Dr. Randolph Foy conducted the Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra's performance of Richard Power's "Shadow Play."