I am very happy to report that the Eastman Wind Orchestra gave a beautiful world premiere performance of my October Sunrise on the 21st of October, 2009.
Conductor Mark Davis Scatterday programmed the work for the Eastman Wind Orchestra, the first- and second- year students at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, rather than the Eastman Wind Ensemble because the work is less challenging than the repertoire typically studied by his student musicians in later years of their undergraduate studies. Mark Scatterday said he would consider October Sunrise a work of difficulty level 4, meaning that it would be appropriate for the stronger high school wind ensembles. He had very complimentary things to say about the work and had clearly bought into it long before putting it on stage, as the group sounded very well prepared when I was invited to eavesdrop on their rehearsal.
On the morning of the performance I had a couple of free hours. I wandered into the music library at Eastman and discovered a large display of ephemera from the early history of the wind program at Eastman. The idea of a virtuoso Wind Ensemble, as distinct from a large military-style band, was pioneered by Frederick Fennell, starting with his establishment of a band program during his student days in the late 1930s and evolving into the first modern Wind Ensemble by the early 1950s. (Continued after the jump.)
I admit it: the placement of the word OCTOBER on this large banner near the entrance to the hall was not, in fact, to announce the performance of my OCTOBER SUNRISE. The Eastman Theatre, built in 1922 by Kodak founder George Eastman as a concert hall and movie palace, had its grand reopening just a couple of weeks prior to my performance there. The restored hall, renamed Kodak Hall, is breathtaking. The acoustics are a bit bright for wind ensemble, favoring the percussion more than might be ideal, but of course the hall is also home to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra whose complement of strings is probably very well served by the rich high-frequency reverberation. Still, the Eastman Wind Orchestra are settling into their remodeled home and I very much enjoyed the beautiful, rich sound palette they create in that space.
Ironically, there are signs prohibiting photography in Kodak Hall! No one seemed to mind my taking a few snapshots of the group, the conductor, and myself before and after the event, so I will assume that is intended to discourage photography during performances. I will post a few small interior images here. In any case, my blurry snapshots could not do justice to the space. For better photos, I would refer the reader here.
I express my thanks to Mark Scatterday and every member of the Eastman Wind Orchestra for an excellent performance of October Sunrise, and to a very gracious Rochester audience for welcoming the piece into the world.
I also want to thank Dr. Harlan Parker and the Peabody Wind Ensemble for reading through the work in rehearsal shortly after I wrote it; your reading gave me a better sense of scale that led me to clarify the pulse at the beginning, and was very musical and rewarding in its own right.
October Sunrise is friendly, accessible music; my friend and fellow composer Samuel Burt teasingly accuses me of being a populist. Perhaps it is telling that my least experimental composition to date has also earned the highest-profile performance to date, and I have no complaints about that. I built a series of unfolding musical ideas into this little piece that I find interesting, and wrapped them in what I consider an appealingly honest, straightforward sound. I am very grateful to have heard that sound realized in a public performance.
And, for the record, I am slightly taller than Maestro Scatterday; he stood on his toes just before the photo was taken.
(More snapshots can be seen on flickr.)