The Paterson Effect: Reveille!, Gossip and Crisp Whites

It has been a great week at the Reveille! Music Festival! Although, I miss the intimacy of Reveille! taking place at the Elley-Long Music Center at Saint Michael’s College, the main campus is very beautiful, and the weather has been gorgeous so I have no complaints about camp being moved this year.

One of the biggest highlights of the week for me was meeting with Jeffrey Buettner and members of the VYO Chorus. I will be writing a piece for the Chorus (a cappella or with piano accompaniment) for their annual spring concert in 2011. This piece will serve as a “warm-up” of sorts for a twenty-minute composition I will be writing for the VYO and the VYO Chorus. This larger piece will be premiered by the two groups at the end of my third year in residence with the VYOA in 2012.

Jeff had an idea for a piece with the theme of “gossip.” I told him that I would rather see what the chorus members thought first. If they were really interested in this topic, I would pursue it. At first, the choir members were a little reserved, but once they figured out that Jeff and I really wanted their input, they opened up. We devised a whole scenario and even discussed form and a story line, and whether it should be uplifting or dark. They want a piece that is more humorous than not, and since I am known for my humorous work—and there is so little of it in the world of choral music—I agreed. The next step is to find someone to write the text. I have a few excellent poet and writer friends in NYC who might be interested in helping with this project. Once Jeff reviews it to make sure I am on the right track I will compose the music. The whole project will be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to see what the students will think of it.

Another highlight for me was meeting new VYOA Music Director and Conductor Ronald Braunstein.  He seems to enjoy wearing white! I am astonished that he is able to keep his white clothes so immaculately clean, especially in a cafeteria full of people running around with ice cream cones, fries with ketchup, and bowls of pasta and red sauce. Not once have I seen a stain – that alone is impressive. He is definitely unlike any other conductor I have ever met—and the students seem to really like him. I can’t wait to watch him conduct.

The faculty recital was one of the more interesting concerts I have been to in quite a while. It was an eclectic mix of pieces that included everything from a movement of Schubert’s Trout Quintet with the addition of pianist Annemieke Spoelstra, to an avant-garde piece for bassoon and playback recording played by Rebekah Heller. This sounded like a didgeridoo played Punk Rock style infused with amplifier feedback. There were two violin duets that I didn’t get to hear because I was backstage, but they were a big hit; I hope I’ll have a chance to hear them later. There were also interesting pieces for winds, brass, and percussion, a great bass clarinet and tape piece by Beth Wiemann (an accomplished composer and Reveille! clarinet teacher), and a rocking timpani solo played by Jeremy Levine. Art DeQuasie, VYOA Director of Operations, was the rock star of the evening. The hooting reception he received when he walked on stage to perform a lovely piano solo from memory served as a great measure of student love for him.

Although I am not one of the performance faculty members, Anne Decker graciously allowed me to perform a piece I wrote eleven years ago entitled Duo for Flute and Marimba for flute, alto flute, and marimba (played with four, five and six mallets). I performed this with Deborah Boldin, the wonderful faculty flute player at Reveille! It was fun playing this piece, especially since I’d written this originally for another marimba player, so I had not yet played it myself. My favorite moment occurred after the concert when the percussionists had the chance to play my five-octave DeMorrow marimba, which I’d brought with me from New York.  Penual Leavens seemed particularly excited about it. I told the percussion students that they could all play it if they found a chance to get away from camp activities for a moment or two.

Finally, Caroline Whiddon gathered together a few faculty members for an informal chat with students on the grass outside the dorms. There, we each discussed our individual starts in the music business and the progression of our careers thus far. A good conversation!

In my next posting, I’ll talk a bit more about my general observations on the final concerts and the VYO performance, conducted by Maestro Braunstein.

Robert Paterson is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the VYOA. Music Alive is a national residency program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer.

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