Kindertotenpolkas at John Mackey's Blog

February 25, 2005

Kindertotenpolkas

I played the new piece, “Sasparilla,” for Rick Clary last night, and his first reaction concerned programming. The piece has such a light tone that Rick felt — correctly, I think — that the piece doesn’t work as a concert opener. (When Lamar first approached me about the commission, they requested a concert opener, if possible.) It seems that “Sasparilla” is probably a closer, because, as Rick put it, “anything after this would sound awfully stern — like Hindemith.”

AEJ joked that it would probably be inappropriate to put Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder right before (or after) “Sasparilla.” For those who don’t know German, kindertotenlieder is “songs on the death of children.” Not a particularly lite piece. Thus came about my terribly inappropriate brain storm this morning — a band piece called “Kindertotenpolkas: Polkas on the Deaths of Children.”

I’m still optimistic that “Sasparilla” is a crowd-pleaser — but I hadn’t given any thought to how it might be programmed. Fortunately, that’s out of my hands.

The CBDNA convention is off to a good start. Texas A&M University-Commerce and Rutgers Wind Ensemble gave great performances yesterday to kick things off. My favorite pieces on the program were Jeff Gershman’s arrangement of Frank Zappa’s “G-Spot Tornado,” and Jonathan Newman’s new piece, “The Rivers of Bowery.” Both pieces had colors that I’m not used to hearing in wind ensemble pieces, and they both made me want to throw out the “Sasparilla” orchestration and start over. I think Newman’s piece is wonderful — so good that it needs to be about three times longer. If anybody wants to organize a consortium to commission a longer version of the piece, let me know.

This afternoon are concerts by the Goldman Band and the Small College Intercollegiate Band. Tonight is the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble and Michigan. I’m particularly excited about the Michigan program — Bright Sheng, a new Michael Daugherty piece, and a premiere by Susan Botti, whose music I don’t know yet.

Tomorrow, Ithaca performs “Redline Tango” at Hunter College. I just learned that the concert is in the Hunter Assembly Hall — not the smaller Kaye Playhouse. This means it’s going to look pretty empty if a whole lot of people don’t come. So — please come! (The concert is at 1:30. The Univerisity of Louisville Wind Ensemble plays until 2:30, when Ithaca will close the show.)

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