From the President – Summer #7

The Here And Now, Christopher Theofanidis

Dear Colleagues,

I do not know if you have heard of the work of this composer; I certainly had not until the end of last school year when The Crane Chorus in Potsdam, New York performed his “The Here and Now.” This work has many moments that are worth hearing, with provocative texts. Theofanidis has had his works performed by many of the great orchestras of the world. He was educated at Yale, Eastman and the University of Houston and has won many prizes and recognitions as well. This particular selection was nominated for a Grammy in 2007. Additionally he has been a former faculty member of both the Peabody Conservatory and the Juilliard School; he presently teaches at Yale.

His web site address is below; there you will find more information about him and his work……… http://www.theofanidismusic.com/

But if you wish to hear a few cuts from this extended work you may go directly to……….
http://www.theofanidismusic.com/audio.html#The_Here_and_Now

Although I do not have a recording of this piece, it does exist on the Telarc Label, The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under Robert Spano. The other selections on this CD are Del Tredici’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Bernstein’s “Lamentations.”

Although I would love to write my impressions, I think that the central thoughts by the composer himself are sufficient to wet the appetite. I would say that as I heard this for the first time, and subsequent hearings as well, what has most struck me was the text, and the composer has said it best below when he remarked “The density of wisdom in this poetry really struck me.” If you take the time to listen and study you will see what I mean!

“I first encountered Jalal ad-Din Rumi’s poetry in Rome seven years ago when I went to hear Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Monsters of Grace. I enjoyed the music enormously, but the thing that really moved me was Rumi’s poetry as translated by the great poet, Coleman Barks. It was at once immediate and vivid, and it had a way of seeing things in which joy, love, and gratitude mingled with an underlying sense of longing and restlessness to return to the divine. The density of wisdom in this poetry really struck me, and I found myself focusing on particular lines in an almost mantra-like way, repeating them aloud over and over and writing musical responses to them.
Robert Spano called me in January 2004 and said that he wanted to commission a new work that involved the Atlanta Symphony Chorus- maybe a ten to twelve minute a cappella work, or possibly a work for chorus with orchestra. I decided to do something with orchestra, but I couldn’t think of many ten to twelve minute pieces in that genre that really stood the test of time, and so I asked permission to write a larger work. One of Robert’s great attributes is his ultimate flexibility in working with composers (which must come from the fact that he is actually a composer himself), and he said yes.
I knew that I did not want to set larger sections of Rumi’s texts whole, but rather to set them in shorter, more compact ways- the way the poetry actually spoke to me. I compiled thirteen short movements from the poetic fragments. These are mostly choral, but are broken up by some very brief movements for baritone solo (nos. 5, 8, 11), all less than a minute. They are like little parables with humor, and I felt provided a kind of sonic relief to the choral movements. There is also a tenor and soprano duet with chorus (mvt. 12).
My deep thanks go to both Coleman for permission to use his marvelous translations, and to Robert for making this whole thing possible.”
—Christopher Theofanidis

I do have the score if you are interested in taking a look. Parts of this could be performed by a good high school choir, other parts are dense, with many divisi’s. The harmony is at times traditional (not often!), but often there is tasteful dissonance. The piece as a whole is rhythmically challenging but easily conducted. I am going to list the titles of the many movements below in case you are interested.

I.   Inside this new love, die
II. Is the one I love everywhere?
III. Taste the here and now of god
IV. All Day and night, music
V. Baritone Solo
VI. Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you
VII. The one who pours is wilder than we
VIII. Baritone Solo
XI. Drumsound rises
X. Spreading Radiance
XI.  Baritone Solo
XII.  The Urgency of Love
XIII. The music of our final meeting

I am sorry not to be able to offer any more to you than this brief synopsis, but I assure you that this music is worth a look, which leads me to believe that this composers other efforts are worth our attention as well. Happy listening!

Sincerely,

Frank Whitcomb

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