The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Conductor to receive musical gift

Meadows’ DeLaney honored by long-time friend, colleague

SMU’s wind ensemble conductor Dr. Jack Delaney has longbeen an advocate for new music.

Where other conductors would shy away from the unknown, Delaneyembraces the chance to introduce fresh manuscripts fromcontemporary composers.

It is no surprise that he found a true friend and fellow musicaladvocate in Augusta Read Thomas, composer-in-residence for theChicago Symphony Orchestra.

This Friday evening, Thomas will give Delaney the ultimateexpression in thanks, as the SMU Wind Ensemble and Dallas Symphonyprincipal horn Greg Hustis will premiere Thomas'”Silver Chant The Litanies,” written for solo horn andchamber orchestra.

A proponent of Thomas’ works, Delaney has programmedseveral of her pieces on various wind ensemble concerts and toursin recent years.

“Her sincerity for the music is real,” he said.”[Thomas is] the real deal.”

“We became friends through [my] music,” Thomas said,adding that Delaney is a “very generous supporter.”

In addition to the significance of a world premiere, Thomas hasdedicated her composition to Delaney.

“It’s just an incredible honor,” Delaney said.”I love and admire her and her music so much.”

Thomas has done much in the compositional world to garner suchpraise and admiration.

Composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony through the 2006season, Thomas has written for the orchestral elite, including theNational Symphony and New York Philharmonic.

World-renowned conductors, such as Pierre Boulez, DanielBarenboim and Lorin Maazel have conducted her works.

Through her award-winning music, which has taken her around theworld, she has built a resume that is paralleled by few.

SMU approached Thomas and her publisher with the commissionearly in 2003, but she admits it was Delaney’s “forceof nature that made the whole thing happen.”

The idea for writing a horn concerto also came from Delaney, whoconveyed Hustis’ interest in playing a new piece. Thomaseagerly accepted.

“I was a trumpet player, so writing a horn concerto waskind of natural,” she said. “The chance to write forGreg [was] exceptional.”

Thomas explained that the compositional process involves muchwriting, editing and rewriting.

“The second I get a commission, I start writing it in myhead,” she said. “I revise while I write … pareit down. … I like [the piece] to be concise.”

“Silver Chant The Litanies” is just that. Thoughsome may believe new music is bombastic, dissonantly unpleasantand, well, unmusical, Thomas’ work is intense, dramatic,haunting and elegant.

It is a blend of percussive agitation, strength, mysterious calmand aching beauty. The solo horn line is graceful and gymnastic,electric yet controlled.

Thomas also enhances the visual element of the work. The smallensemble, composed of woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings, isflanked by two, open pianos.

The pianos, along with the creative use of string bows slippingalong percussion instruments, add to the novelty of SilverChant’s overall effect.

She describes the work as having five distinct sections, akin to”five panels with hinges, where [the audience] can see eachpanel distinctly.” She feels that “as a listener, it isvery easy to follow this piece.”

These are comforting words to those who are intrepid abouthearing something new. Delaney and Hustis agree.

“There is a balance of virtuosic playing, but it’svery easy to listen to,” Delaney said.

Hustis acknowledged that as the ensemble and soloist becamefurther acquainted with the work, their admiration andunderstanding of it grew.

“You get a new work like this [and] as we get to know itbetter, we become more conversive with it,” Hustis said.”I feel bad that the audience only hears it once.”

Delaney is no stranger to premieres, having introduced audiencesto over 30 new compositions during his conducting career.

Hustis, a veteran soloist, orchestral musician and teacher, canboast a similar familiarity with solo premieres.

In the fall of 1999, he performed Joseph Schwantner’sBeyond Autumn “Poem” for horn and orchestra with theDallas Symphony Orchestra and Eric Ewazen’s Concerto for hornand string orchestra in the fall of 2002 with Dallas’ ownmodern chamber orchestra, Voices of Change.

He has also premiered and recorded various compositions by SMUmusic professor Simon Sargon.

Hustis said “Silver Chant” is demanding for allinvolved.

“Everyone in the group has an integral role. … Howmany people are in the group are how many soloists thereare,” he said.

“This is the kind of piece that makes everybody in theroom better, from soloist to ensemble to conductor.” Delaneysaid. “[It’s the sort of] challenge that, as EmerilLagasse would say, ‘kicks it up a notch.'”

Thomas wrote her piece in memoriam of renowned Italian composer,Luciano Berio, who died last summer while she was writing thispiece.

In homage to Berio, Thomas gathered inspiration for Silver Chantfrom the E. E. Cummings’ poem No. 5 from the series”Impressions from Tulips.”

This same poem provided the inspiration for Berio’s ownCircles, one of his more celebrated works, she said.

Friday’s program features two additional works by Thomas.”Magneticfireflies,” commissioned by a group of highschool bands is “anything but easy,” Delaney said.

Her short fanfare, “Ring, Flourish, Blaze!” is whatDelaney describes as “90 seconds of pedal to themetal.”

Thomas’ works are also being recorded with the windensemble and Hustis on Saturday for eventual release on compactdisc.

“[The recording] brings SMU into an internationalforum,” Thomas said.

Both Delaney and Hustis agree that an opportunity like this isan exceptional one for all involved.

“I’m really impressed with the level of preparationon this piece,” Hustis said. “It’s just a niceexperience in every way.”

Rounding out the concert are two pieces by Percy Grainger and athird by Morton Lauridsen.

“Every piece of [Thomas’] has a companionpiece,” Delaney said. “It gives the audience a chanceto catch their breath.”

Friday’s concert should prove to be a landmark moment inthe history of the wind ensemble.

“People will look back on this and remember how AugustaRead Thomas came to Dallas and hung out with the wind ensemble fora few days,” Delaney said.

He added “For many years, I’ve heard her describedas a Pulitzer Prize winner in waiting.”

Does he feel her waiting days are soon to be over?

“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” hesaid.

Friday’s concert is at 8 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium in theMeadows School of the Arts.

Admission is free.

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