Daniel Gilliam – World premiere
Edward ‘Duke’ Ellington – The River, Suite
Surprise encore and guest artist
Join us at the panoramic RiverLoop Amphitheatre in downtown Waterloo for our annual open-air evening on the Cedar River! Take in the riverfront’s sights and sounds as they mix with Duke Ellington’s The River and a world premiere inspired by the colonial-era hymn tune Sweet Rivers. This performance opens our Sounds American Festival.
This year we are excited to offer for-sale dinner options from several local restaurants, drinks and popcorn from Friends of the Art Center, and desserts from Friends of wcfsymphony. The RiverLoop Amphitheatre and our box on-site box office will open at 6pm, with food available from that time until shortly after the concert ends.
Waterloo Center for the Arts has a large parking lot adjacent to the RiverLoop Amphitheatre, and street parking is abundant around the south side of the river. Be advised that several other events will be going on in the area on September 6 and parking may be more limited than normal. Passenger drop off is located near the corner of 3rd and Cedar. View map.
This year we’re taking a new approach to program notes. Each program will be accompanied by insights from Jason into how pieces were selected and what’s most intriguing about their presentation together. Then we’ll feature notes and quotes from our guest composers and artists about their work.
Jason Weinberger: Our 85th season opens with a special festival comprised of two all-American programs showcasing American musical traditions and highlighting our ongoing efforts to promote the creation and dissemination of music of our time and place.
I approached my friend and colleague Daniel Gilliam to create a brand new work for the start of our 85th season and our first-ever Sounds American Festival for a few reasons: Daniel's background includes living in river cities for nearly his entire life; his work as a composer and radio host/programmer reflects a serious interest in African-American music; and finally, Daniel and I have worked closely together over a number of years and bring a shared passion for American music and cultural life to this project. Responding to the choice of Ellington’s The River as the centerpiece of the concert, Daniel delved into other native musical works with connections to rivers, ultimately settling on the southern hymn tune Sweet Rivers as the thematic basis for his new work of the same title. His notes on the piece are below.
Like many of Duke Ellington’s later and, regrettably, underperformed ensemble works, The River has been on my wish list for wcfsymphony; it took the occasion of a new American music festival kicking off here at RiverLoop to make it a reality. If you haven’t already placed Duke Ellington in your pantheon of the greatest American composers, I have no doubt you will once you hear his sophisticated, expansive reflection on the life of rivers. His thoughts on the piece are below.
Daniel Gilliam: The opportunity to write a new work, Sweet Rivers to be premiered on the banks of a river offers a composer many opportunities for associations, from history to religion and spirituality, as well as the works the water has already inspired (Ellington’s own The River on this evening’s program, The Moldau, Deep River, On the Beautiful, Blue Danube, etc). I could also draw on the cities where I have lived, almost exclusively built on major rivers: The Bío Bío (Chile), The Ohio and The Mississippi. This new work is at the same time all and none of this.
Sweet Rivers takes its name from a shape-note hymn (printed in The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion), but this isn’t an arrangement. This music is a meditation on all rivers, their persistent flow without regard for human events, their functional purpose and importance for our environment. The hymn provides some of the musical glue, pervading the music without being obvious - it’s the trees in the proverbial forest, occurring most prominently with horns heralding a moment in the hymn with the words, “I’d rise superior to my pain, with joy outstrip the wind.” Sweet Rivers is dedicated with gratitude to Jason Weinberger and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and its 85th season.
Learn more at http://danielgilliam/com
Duke Ellington: In retrospect, it seems that 1970 must have been a busy year, because I was also working on a ballet score that had been commissioned by the American Ballet Theatre. Choreographed by Alvin Ailey, the ballet was premiered at the New York State Theatre on June 25, and it received enthusiastic reviews from, notably, Clive Barnes in the New York Times. It was entitled The River, and this is what the various movements mean to me:
The River starts as …
The Spring, which is like a newborn baby. He's in his cradle … spouting, spinning, wiggling, gurgling, squirming, squealing, making faca, reaching for his nipple or bottle, turning, tossing, and tinkling all over the place. When he hits the floor the first time out of the cradle, he is about to go into …
Meander, where he is undecided whether to go back to the cradle or pursue his quest: in the wake of the big bubble. There he is, rolling around from one side to the other on the floor, up and down, back and forth, until he sees the door, the kitchen door, and looks out into that big backyard. “This must be the biggest world in the world, he says. Look at all that space out there!" So he dashes out of the door, and now he is into …
The Giggling Rapids, and he races and runs and dances and skips and trips all over the backyard until, exhausted, he relaxes and rolls down to …
The Lake. The lake is beautiful and serene. It is all horizontal lines that offer up unriddled reflections. There it is, in all its beauty, God-made and untouched, until people come - people who are God-made and terribly touched by the beauty of the lake. They, in their admiration for it, begin to discover new facets of compatibility in each other, and as a romantic viewpoint develops, they indulge themselves. The whole situation compounds itself into an emotional violence that is even greater than that of the violence of the vortex to come. The lake supports them until, suddenly, they are over the top and down …
The Falls. The falls always looks the same at the top and always sounds the same at the bottom. You can always hear the voice of the spirit that has gone over the falls and into the whirlpool, yelling and reaching to get back up the falls to regain the place of serenity that is the lake. But what is to follow is …
The Vortex itself, an experience in which, of course, you must really immerse yourself to appreciate the hazards. From the whirlpool we get into the main train of …
The River (Riba), which gallops sprightly and, as it passes several inlets, broadens and loses some of its adolescence. Becoming ever more mature, even noble, it establishes a majestic wave of monumental cool as it moves on with rhythmic authority. At the delta, there are two cities, one on each side, and there is always something on one side of the river that you cannot get on the other. Sometimes it’s bootleg booze, or hot automobiles, or many other things. For our cities, we have picked the neo-hip-hot cool-kiddes community and, on the opposite bank …
The Village of the Virgins, whose riparian rights are most carefully preserved. The river passes between these two cities and goes plunging into the mother, her majesty the seas. At this point, the river is no longer a river. The mother, in her beautiful romantic exchange with the sun, gives up to the sky that which is to come back as rain, snow, or fog on the mountains and plains. So the next time we see it, it is like a newborn baby … The Spring.
Daniel Gilliam is a composer from Louisville, Kentucky. He is currently working on commissions from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and Jason Weinberger, Kentucky Center Chamber Players, and violinist Rob Simonds. Gilliam has been commissioned and performed by bass Nathan Wilson, Center City Opera Theater, Arsenal Trio, The Phoenix Concerts, Seasons Music Festival, Louisville Youth Choir and Turin Philharmonic Orchestra. He was composer-in-residence of Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville, Kentucky, from 2008-2010, and has been a composer fellow at The Seasons Music Festival (2010 & 2011). He has served on the boards of VocalEssence’s ¡Cantaré! and H.E.A.R. Projects, and is a past panelist of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. He is currently a board member of The Phoenix Concerts. Gilliam has worked at Minnesota Public Radio, and is the Program Director of WUOL, in Louisville.
Learn more at danielgilliam.com