Celebrating Living Composers and their Individual Voices

By Barry Kempton

Every once in a while – sometimes more often – I run into people who are adamant they don’t like contemporary music, period.  Yesterday evening’s Schubert Club Mix recital (at Aria in Minneapolis) featuring pianist Anthony de Mare served as a great reminder that the single category of “contemporary music” shouldn’t really be allowed.  Tony’s program included music by 13 living composers.  And the only real common traits between those 13 composers are (i) they are all living and (ii) Tony had invited them to write re-imaginings of songs by Stephen Sondheim.  The variety of sound worlds, emotion, character and crunch (a term for which I am indebted to friend and former colleague Bruce Coppock) was wide.  I can’t imagine there wasn’t something for everyone in that program – unless, I suppose, you don’t like the sound of the piano.  Anyway, for the listener it was highly entertaining.  For the pianist (and page-turner) it was a monster of a program, but extremely well performed.

This is an especially full week of new music for The Schubert Club.  At this coming Thursday lunchtime Courtroom Concert (noon at Landmark Center), we get to hear music written for wind quintet by the four young composers who have been involved in this year’s composer mentorship program.  Spencer Hammersten, William Decourt, Isaac Roth Blumfield and Jacob Dominguez-Nelson have been mentored by one of The Schubert Club’s two composers-in-residence, Edie Hill since last September.  Edie has met with them regularly as a group and one-on-one, providing guidance and encouragement on their composition skills as well as insight into the life of a professional composer.  The wonderful Pavia Wind Quintet will perform new pieces by each of the student composers.  Though I haven’t yet heard the music that will be performed, I am looking forward to hearing it and highly recommend this free performance for you to experience, too. Not only is the concert free, but the composer mentorship program is itself free to high school-aged composers.  We owe thanks to the HRK Foundation and the McKnight Foundation for their financial support of this program and our composers-in-residence.  

photo above: Mary Ellen Childs introduces her piece “Now” at The Schubert Club Mix concert featuring pianist Anthony de Mare.