It’s Showtime!

I woke up to snow falling in Minneapolis. I knew the 70-degree-and-sunny weather wouldn’t last the whole week, but we almost got there. Today, though, I’ve got bigger fish to fry and can’t stop to contemplate the snowstorm outside; today, the Minnesota Orchestra will play my music in concert.

Yesterday, they rehearsed my piece Patriot for the first time, and for only 45 minutes. (Some of my fellow composers got even less time.) Yet, they totally killed it—in a good way. The focus and professionalism of this group is truly at another level—something I’ve never experienced and probably won’t for a long time if ever again.

Across the board, difficult passages were nailed on a first reading. My piece has a lot of difficult rhythmic flute writing. Coming into the rehearsal, I was worried about how the flutists would react, and I guess I thought it would take a substantial amount of rehearsal time to get their parts right. Instead, they were just awesome the first time around. For the first time ever, I had to tell the percussionists to tone it down a little bit—they just completely rocked it; I’ve never heard a marimba ring out in an orchestra so brilliantly. It made my heart jump to hear so many people play what I wrote.

Furthermore, the orchestra vastly improved each time they heard a passage. The second time through any passage, the musicians added infinitely more shape and expression—astoundingly, often entirely without any words from the conductor at all. By merely saying “Let’s rehearse it from bar 80,” the orchestra knew what they had to do to make it better—time was of the essence, and all words were chosen very carefully.

Not to sound like a cheerleader, but this program is unlike anything else I’ve heard of. Here, all the ups and downs of composing for orchestra are brought out into the light, and together composers and orchestral musicians are leading the way toward a more communicative future. I am lucky to have this kind of support, and I know the other composers here feel the same way. Aaron Jay Kernis and Beth Cowart have done an unbelievable job making this experience sincerely rewarding.

Listen tonight? We’ll be webcast on Minnesota Public Radio at 8 p.m. central time.

3 thoughts on “It’s Showtime!

  1. Ann Millikan

    Not to sound like a cheerleader, but this program is unlike anything else I’ve heard of.

    Oh but you should! The Composer Institute is an enormous gift, not only to the composers who attend, but to the community at large. I walked around last night in the lobby thinking, if this was happening in every major orchestra across the country (or even a handful), it would change the place of new music in society. For audiences to get to hear a whole program of new orchestra music, enter into a question and answer session with the composers, then talk with them afterwards over champagne (!), makes it less strange, foreign, and unfriendly. The seminars and rehearsals are also open to the public.

    MN Orchestra’s commitment to the Composer Institute is the model for the future of the orchestra. Osmo Vanska’s generosity of spirit cannot be overstated. There’s nothing obligatory in it at all. He conducts every piece with enormous care and precision, and audiences respond by opening their ears. Future Classic, the public concert that is the culmination of the Institute, has only been happening for 3 years. The first year there were about 500 people, last year it doubled, and this year they put it on their regular subscription series and the hall was packed. It’s my favorite new music event of the year in the Twin Cities, the energy is electric.

    Congratulations to you Ted, and the other composers. Keep cheerleading, spread the word! Hopefully other orchestras will be inspired to start their own Composer Institutes.

    Reply
  2. dancigers

    Re: Cheerleading
    Agreed, please cheerlead the heck out of it. The program is fantastic and composers, audiences, and musicians would be well served if it could happen elsewhere. The commitment of the orchestra and administration is top-notch, and their decision to play the pieces in concert is really welcome. The people who make it possible deserve huge thanks for their efforts.

    Reply

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