Goodbye, Seattle

My residency with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra has come to a close. This afternoon was the season’s final concert at Benaroya Hall (and the Music Director, Huw Edwards’s, final concert as their conductor). As much as I grew increasingly homesick with all of the travel this season (Seattle, Tallahassee, Phoenix/Tempe, Dallas, San Antonio, Seattle again, Los Angeles, Lawrence (Kansas), Beaumont, and back to Seattle — each with a trip back to New York in between), I’m going to miss Seattle. I think I had a hard time here in the beginning because I didn’t know my way around at all, but once I figured out places to go running, where to get great coffee, where to get free WiFi, and where to get the best sushi, I started feeling a little more comfortable.

What really made the difference, though, was the orchestra. I’ve had two performances in as many months where the final dress rehearsal of my piece nearly brought me to tears. (It doesn’t ever happen in concerts, because I’m far too nervous during actual performances.) The first time was at Lamar University, where a very light piece — Sasparilla — was played with such dedication that I was sincerely moved. The same thing happened today. “Antiphonal Dances” isn’t an easy piece, but the group played damn near flawlessly. That wasn’t what made it so special, though, because I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of amazing performances this year. What was so amazing was that this group seemed to really love playing this piece.

Whenever Huw would say during rehearsals, “next up, The Mackey,” I’d hear an audible expression of true excitement from the group. Then, when they played, you could hear (and see) that positive energy. Watching them work, I could totally tell what parts of the piece really “worked,” just based on the facial expressions and body language of the players. And after they nailed something, the section would look at each other with a “yeah, we kicked ass on that” glance. This group just completely “got” this piece.

And the dress rehearsal was crazy. Maybe it was the amazing hall, and finally hearing all of the antiphonal players balanced just the way I wanted, or maybe it was knowing that the residency was coming to a close, but something in the way they played the piece felt like they wanted to give me the best sendoff they could. It was like 90 musicians were all saying “we love you!” at quadruple-forte. Anyway, I started to cry. Fortunately, I was able to regain my composure by the time the last measure arrived. Otherwise, they’d never again see me as the jaded New Yorker I pride myself in being.

Several people after the concert told me that the performance had brought them to tears, too, but I truly don’t think it was the piece — it was the performance. I’m not being modest; the reason this piece worked tonight was because of each of those musicians. It was the kind of performance that makes me feel incredibly fortunate to be a composer.

I couldn’t have asked for a better close to the concert season, or a better send-off from this residency in Seattle.


Paul says

First of all, it was hilariously funny that you actually told the audience our plot line. That was so great.

Second, we were all pretty annoyed that we couldn't end the season with your piece. The Harris was such a boring piece, and my stand partner honestly said the Antiphonal Dances were the coolest piece he has ever played.

You made this concert enjoyable. You deserve a medal for that.

Anonymous says

This is Isaac (pauls stand partner)((the one who sends you e-mails)) And I would have to agree that lots of people wanted to play your piece last simply because its so damn good.

Anonymous says

That made me smile.

Anonymous says

That made me smile!

Elisabeth J. says

((This is a cellist from the YSO section, 4th))

As it has been said before, Antiphonal Dances really made the concert. It is a pity we could not play yours last, especially concerning the excellent audience reaction (as compared to that of the Harris). We (speaking for the cello section) really LOVED the first movement, if you couldn't tell. : ) We also wanted to tell you that we added a slide/gliss, if you did not notice, in measure 51 from the f to the a. Once in a rehearsal the front stand just added it on a whim, and we decided it was a justifiable change. After all, you can't give all the slides to the violins- that would be just plain wrong.

I really hope you look into doing some more orchestral or string orchestra pieces- they are some of my favorites of your work. That and Wrong Mountain Stomp- I love the blend of fiddle with modern rhythm! You music is a joy to play, and hope to perform your work as a professional some day as well. Thank you!


p.s.- Is it possible to get a recording of Wrong Mountain Stomp? I think I'm wearing out the connection on iTunes...

Anonymous says

I also agree that we should have played Antiphonal Dances last!

Anonymous says

P.S. You're cute! bwahaha

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