A new view of orchestra


Saturday, April 11 // 7:30PM - 9:30PM

Aaron Copland – Fanfare for the Common Man
Joan Tower – For the Uncommon Woman
Samuel Barber – Adagio for Strings
Charles Ives – Variations on ‘America’
Daniel Bernard Roumain – Woodbox Violin Concerto
Daniel Bernard Roumain – A Young Person’s GPS for Our Orchestra; Themes and Variations on Haitian Folk Song (World Premiere)

Violinist and 2015 composer-in-residence Daniel Bernard Roumain offers a whole new way of looking at the orchestra and American music. In addition to performing his own concerto – which melds his classical music roots with a multicolored spectrum of popular music – Roumain will present the world premiere of a new version of Britten’s famous guide to the orchestra. Complementing Roumain’s symphonic explorations are a set of American classics highlighting different aspects of the orchestra.

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Additional Info

This year we’re taking a more personal approach to program notes: insights from Jason into how and why pieces were selected, followed by notes and quotes from composers and artists about their work.

Jason Weinberger: This remarkably diverse and entertaining program was co-conceived with our 2014-15 artist-in-residence Daniel Roumain (his thoughts are below). Daniel and I began with a very specific premise: that orchestral music should belong to its listeners. This idea of ownership in the broadest sense inspired us to create a concert whose music reflects our audience, rooted in American history and culture but also increasingly and meaningfully impacted by contemporary ideas and global influences.

Our set list of classic and new works represents the range of the American experience. Copland’s Fanfare, Barber’s Adagio, and Ives’ Variations are emblematic of our patriotism and culture while connecting us with distinct moments in our collective history. One the flip side, new works by Joan Tower and Daniel himself give contemporary voice to populations like women and people of color who may not have had the opportunity to share as equally in that history. Furthermore, offering a mix of new music encourages issues and ideas of today to intersect with the past and help shape a vision of the future.

Another noteworthy aspect of this program is the way in which it highlights how our orchestra serves as a community resource through educational engagement with young people. This week’s world premiere and concerto performances by Daniel (including three more on April 14 for over 4000 students) represent the culmination of a major residency this spring in the Waterloo schools. In featuring Daniel and his music, our hope is to shape students’ perceptions of the arts as relevant, exciting and meaningful to their world.

Read more about our residency with Daniel at: wcfsymphony.org/youth-concerts

Aaron Copland on Fanfare for the Common Man: Eugene Goossens, conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, had written to me at the end of August about an idea he wanted to put into action for the 1942-43 concert season. During World War I he had asked British composers for a fanfare to begin each orchestral concert. It had been so successful that he thought to repeat the procedure in World War II with American composers.

Henry Wallace, Vice president, whose famous 1942 speech was a major influence on Copland’s piece: Some have spoken of the "American Century." I say that the century on which we are entering - the century which will come out of this war - can be and must be the century of the common man. Perhaps it will be America's opportunity to suggest that Freedoms and duties by which the common man must live. Everywhere the common man must learn to build his own industries with his own hands is a practical fashion. Everywhere the common man must learn to increase his productivity so that he and his children can eventually pay to the world community all that they have received.

Read the whole speech here: americanrhetoric.com

Joan Tower on her series of Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman: All four fanfares are dedicated to women who are adventurous and take risks. The first Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman was inspired by Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and is scored for the same instrumentation of 3 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones, tuba and percussion. The second fanfare is the same instrumentation as the first with one added percussion. The third is scored for double brass quintet. The fourth fanfare [which is officially entitled ‘For the Uncommon Woman’ and which we are playing tonight] is scored for full orchestra.

Charles Ives on Variations: A boy’s work, partly serious and partly in fun!

Daniel Roumain on Woodbox: I thought many of the themes and ideas on the [electric, 6-string violin album Woodbox Beats & Balladry] could be re-imagined and arranged for orchestra and acoustic, 4-string violin … Upon receiving a commission from the Boston Pops to both compose and perform a new work for them, [I wrote] the concerto while I was in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts … More than an arrangement, Woodbox Violin Concerto is a musical extension of the themes and ideas of a recording, transformed for large symphonic forces. The term ‘woodbox’ refers to my violin and to the many extended techniques I employ, including striking the instrument like a small drum.

Daniel Bernard Roumain on A Young Person's GPS for Our Orchestra: A work for children and their parents, A Young Person's GPS for Our Orchestra; Themes and Variations on Haitian Folk Songs, is a compositional response to Benjamin Britten's seminal work from 1946, A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell.

As a child, I remember hearing (and seeing) Britten's work for the first time in South Florida. I was a young violinist with aspirations of becoming a composer. That work had a profound effect on me, especially its sense of cooperation, collaboration, and community (which is ever-more important now). As a composer of Haitian descent, I felt it was important that I include melodies and culture from my childhood and memory that continue to linger and inform all that I do as an artist.

A Young Person's GPS is composed upon two Haitian folk songs, well-known to my parents, and sung to me by father: Merci Bon Dieu (Thank you, God) and Souffle Vent (Blow wind, blow). These folk songs form two themes, and I composed 15 variations that explore the complex, tonal and timbral possibilities of a large, symphony orchestra. From the high pitched agility of the piccolo, to the deep resonant colors of the bass, the music here is meant to inform, explore, and most of all, delight!

My five-year old son, Zachary, listened to this work as I was creating it. He can use an iPad, navigate a global positioning system, and---as most young people are prone to do---he offered his own ideas on all aspects of the work. As nation, we are far away from the trials and tribulations of 1946, and indeed, the world now, is a better place than it was. I often refer to an "orchestra of life" in my work within the community, referring to my hopes and dreams for my son and our shared world-community. An orchestral experience is an opportunity for anyone to come into a sacred space, sit, share, and be moved, and feel inspired.

In this, A Young Person's GPS speaks and sings to the child still in all of us!


Guest Artist

Composer and violinist Daniel Roumain is wcfsymphony’s 2014-15 artist-in-residence. During a special two week residency Daniel performs his own music and introduces a brand new guide to the orchestra composed especially for this occasion. He also brings his imaginative music and electrifying personality to local elementary schools ahead of our Youth Concerts. In featuring Daniel and his music – much of which draws on contemporary themes from race to hip hop – we hope to shape perceptions of the arts as relevant, exciting and meaningful to their world.

Daniel Roumain’s acclaimed work as a composer and a performer has spanned more than two decades, and has been commissioned by venerable artists and institutions worldwide. Proving that he’s “about as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets” (New York Times), Roumain is perhaps the only composer whose collaborations span the worlds of Philip Glass, Cassandra Wilson, Bill T. Jones, Savion Glover and Lady Gaga.

Roumain made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2000 with the American Composers Orchestra performing his Harlem Essay for Orchestra, a Whitaker commission. He would go on to compose works for the Albany Symphony (Harvest for Baritone Voice and Orchestra); the American Composers Orchestra (Call Them All: Fantasy Projections for laptop, orchestra, and film); the Boston Pops Orchestra (Woodbox Violin Concerto); the Dogs of Desire Ensemble (Grace for Two Sopranos and Chamber Orchestra); Carnegie Hall (Five Chairs and One Table); the Library of Congress (Numerical Music); and the Stuttgart Symphony (We March!: Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra premiered by Eliot Fisk).

Roumain was the first artist to be awarded Arizona State University’s prestigious Gammage Residency, “a three-year commitment to an extraordinary performing artist that includes performance, creative time and resources, intensive training for ASU students and local artists and engagement with many of the local communities.” His outreach and residencies have garnered extravagant praise and long-term relationships with countless universities, orchestras, and performing arts centers.

Read more at danielroumain.com.

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