Friday, December 05, 2008

"Chasing Light"

While we're on the subject of amateur classical musicians, I'm reminded of a story NPR did last month on a program whose purpose is to bring a new classical composition to municipal orchestras that could never afford to commission a piece on their own:

It isn't every day that a small community orchestra gets to play a new work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. But that's what's happening now — and over the course of the next year and a half — in all 50 states. First up was the Reno Chamber Orchestra.

The audience after the concert was buzzing in the lobby of the Nightingale Theater on the campus of the University of Nevada in Reno. Sure, audience members had heard their local orchestra play the always-stirring Fifth Symphony by Beethoven, but what really excited them was hearing the first performance — ever — of Joseph Schwantner's Chasing Light..., with the composer in attendance. Ashley Stein was excited to be at a world premiere; the 17-year-old is a drum major at her high school and plays piano, flute and oboe.

"I thought it was seriously amazing," she says. "Like, I've never been to one before, and it really means something to be one of the first people to ever hear it. And it was the most beautiful thing I've ever heard, and I'll never forget it."

As a former amateur musician myself, I can tell you that I would have jumped at the opportunity to perform a new piece written by a noted American composer. As it is, all we got were the end of semester efforts by kids in the music composition classes at school (some of which weren't bad, I must admit...but most were bad.)

The story has a local connection as well. The Irving Symphony Orchestra was one of two Texas symphonies selected to play the new piece, which they did on Nov. 8th. I don't have audio of that performance, but you can listen to the Reno Chamber Orchestra perform the piece at the NPR link above.

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