Saxophonist Phil Pierick and cellist Audrey Q. Snyder present their program, “1reed4strings” to close out the first night of Impromptu Fest 2021.
BLACK MARY – Shelley Washington (b. 1991)
Walk on Water – Dorothy Chang (b. 1970)
Fault-Line – Samantha Fernando (b. 1984)
reflected air – Jeffrey Mumford (b. 1955)
Shelley Washington‘s music draws elements from jazz, rock, American folk and other musical spaces, new and old. She wants a listener to somehow move, for their emotions or imaginations to be altered, or even just be moved to tap their toes. In works confronting social injustices, she aims to create a space for public dialogue while personally reclaiming power for her own experienced inequalities. Shelley is a founding member of the composer collective Kinds of Kings and lives in Brooklyn with her dog Rodeo. Shelley studied at Truman State University (BA, MA), NYU (MM), and is currently completing a PhD in Composition at Princeton University.
I’ve always been fascinated by the incredible stories of the cowboys who tamed the Wild West. Mary Fields, also known as “Black Mary” and most famously, “Stagecoach Mary,” was a former slave born in Tennessee who was one of the first black women to be awarded a Star Route contract with the United States Post Office. In addition to that, Mary was the fastest to hitch a full team of six horses, liked to smoke cigars, curse, and fight, she carried two loaded guns, had a “foul reputation for a woman” with “the temperament of a grizzly bear,” and was the only woman allowed to drink publicly in the local saloons. Mary was a respected public figure who fearlessly created her own path during a time when many African-Americans were shamed for even trying, and the path she blazed for herself from liberated slave to celebrated local heroine is one of my all-time favorite true historic stories. She was a strong, powerful, and deeply multifaceted woman. BLACK MARY is a galloping, roiling jaunt with pumping twists and turns meant to engage the performers entire body throughout the piece.
Described as “evocative and kaleidoscopic,” the music of composer Dorothy Chang reflects an eclectic mix of musical influences ranging from popular and folk elements to traditional Chinese music. Her works are often inspired by place, time, memory, and personal histories. Dorothy’s catalog includes over seventy compositions with a particular interest in cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration, including works for mixed Chinese and Western ensembles as well those involving staging, movement, theater, and dance. Dorothy’s music has been featured in concerts and festivals across North America and abroad. She is currently a Professor of Music at the University of British Columbia.
The movement of water is often used as a metaphor for time: the flow of time, the stream or tide of time. In Walk on Water, I explore the idea of movement as it relates to the flow of music unfolding. Although the work evolves in one continuous line, there are sudden surges and hesitations; phrases take unexpected turns in character and dramatic intensity, and elsewhere remain more static, creating circles through repetition. This erratic pattern of push and pull creates the perception of elasticity in the flow of time, with unpredictability propelling the piece forward.
As with the reflection of images in water, the musical material appears in varying degrees of distortion, moving through turbulent, aggressive passages as well as tranquil, meditative lulls. These abrupt shifts create an overall atmosphere of restlessness that carries through until the final cadence of the piece.
Walk on Water was written for Paul Bro and Kurt Fowler, with funding provided by an Indiana State University Arts Endowment Grant. –Dorothy Chang
Samantha Fernando has worked with numerous ensembles including the Philharmonia Orchestra, Riot Ensemble, The BBC Singers, LOD Muziektheater, Silbersee Vocal Ensemble, and The London Sinfonietta. Her music has been performed at festivals in the UK and abroad such as Aldeburgh Music, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Sounds New, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, York Late Music, and The Oxford Lieder Festival. In 2013, she was awarded an RPS Composition Prize. Samantha’s music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and released on labels NMC and Coviello Classics. 2021 sees the opening of Current, Rising, a new hyper-reality opera, directed by Netia Jones and produced by the Royal Opera House.
Composer Jeffrey Mumford has received numerous honors, including the “Academy Award in Music” from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an ASCAP Aaron Copland Scholarship. He was also the winner of the inaugural National Black Arts Festival/Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Composition Competition. Recent premieres include let us breathe by cellist Dan Culnan on the Cincinnati Symphony’s “Fanfares” project and fleeting cycles of layered air by violinist Miranda Cuckson, as part of the Fromm concert series sponsored by Harvard University. Jeffrey served as Assistant Professor of Composition at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. He is currently Distinguished Professor at Lorain County Community College.
Inspired by the beautiful work of Paris based photographer and violinist, Nathalie Wizun, reflected air was commissioned by and written for Duo Denisov, an ensemble which is also based there. Cast in three short movements, the work celebrates the expressive possibilities and timbral combinations that result from the combination of alto saxophone and ‘cello, often highlighting aspects of reinforcement and divergence. The third movement initially references the first, but then quickly moves in a variety of other directions, often punctuated by the ‘cello’s chords which create resonances in the alto sax. The middle movement is primarily concerned with attacks, differing registers, and syncopation.