A Midsummer Overture (2002)

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This piece was commissioned by Midsummer Musical Retreat, the Northwest's unique summer music camp for adults, to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2002. Roupen Shakarian conducted the premiere, at Whitman College in Walla Walla. The music is a festive overture that attempts to capture the magic of the experience of Midsummer Musical Retreat: its bustling excitement, its moments of exhilaration and of fear, its nurturing, loving spirit.

My earliest ideas for the overture were several short melodies – tunes, really. Writing the piece became a matter of finding pathways between these tunes, but the pathways led to some delicious new discoveries as well. The opening idea begins in a mischievous, Haydnesque manner, playing rhythmic tricks with the basic harmonies I, IV, and V. Then a drum set kicks in with a rock & roll beat, introducing a mix of styles that will continue throughout the piece. The opening music develops into a hymn-like, lyrical second theme in 3/2 time, which is followed by a closing theme energized by dance rhythms inspired by Middle Eastern music (2+3+3+2,  2+3+2+2). In the development section things get more serious, as drums, percussion, and a low, funky bass riff underscore the return of ominous, paranoid distortions of the opening material. This builds to a catastrophic, dissonant chord, after which the solo clarinet gently leads us back to the hymn tune. The  "middle Eastern" dance returns as well, leading to a coda in which members of the orchestra say goodbye to one another.

This performance, by Philharmonia Northwest conducted by Roupen Shakarian, was recorded in Seattle, Washington in Spring 2003.


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