February 27, 2006
Turbine: The Premiere(s)
I arrived in Lexington, Kentucky, rather delayed last Sunday, thanks to the ice in Dallas. Upon arrival, Cody Birdwell, the conductor of the wind ensemble there, picked me up at the airport, and we (and his lovely wife, Cindy) headed to dinner at a great steak house. My steak was great — but not very pretty. Cindy’s jumbo crab legs were much more fun.
Although my steak wasn’t so great on “film,” my dessert looked tasty – and tasted even better. It’s a hot chocolate chip cookie, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and caramel. Wow, I loved it. (I mean, I enjoy hot brownie a la mode, but why don’t more places offer a hot, thick chocolate chip cookie a la mode?)
The next day, on the way to rehearsal, Cody and I stopped for Chinese food. This was my fortune.
I walked into the music offices at the University of Kentucky, and there on the table was a set of parts for Jonathan Newman’s piece, “Avenue X!”
I already wrote a few days ago about the amazing sectional with the percussion players. Here’s a shot of one of the percussionists rigging up a drill rod to use to scrape the tam-tam. (He’s hanging it from a rope so he can get to it quickly for the scrapes.)
A shot of one of the percussion setups. Propane tank, thick steel plate, thunder sheet, and two cymbals.
Another percussion invention — a wooden mallet for the timpani, with a metal wrench taped to the other end (to use to scrape the tam-tam).
Cody rehearsing the group. Where’s the bass player?!
Another shot of four of the eight Turbine percussionists.
Cody and the U. Kentucky Wind Ensemble, giving the premiere of Turbine in Lexington last Wednesday night.
The concert was smokin’. The hall in Lexington had trouble with the mass of sound — the long reverb time caused the hall itself to audibly distort a few times — but the performance was great, and the crowd response was nice. I headed back to my room post-concert and treated myself to room service: a slice of peanut butter pie.
The next morning, we all boarded the bus to Nashville.
In Nashville, Shattinger Music was selling copies of my scores — and they had a section dedicated just to my music! (Thanks, Jim Cochran.) Here, a few people are caught completely candidly on film studying a few of my scores. (I know those guys look like members of the UK percussion ensemble, but I’m sure that’s just coincidence.)
Just before the official world premiere of Turbine at the CBDNA in Nashville, here’s a shot of the percussion again.
The crowd was pretty large for a regional CBDNA. I’d asked Robert Ambrose — the conductor at Georgia State — to please bring his band to the Turbine concert. They were playing Redline Tango that night, so they were around, and Robert graciously brought them. So, in addition to my dad, step-mom, and cousin (who all drove 10 hours from Ohio!), and several band directors from the region, we also had the players from Georgia State, East Carolina University, and I think at least one other band. Good crowd.
The performance was HOT. I warned the audience before “Turbine,” saying, “if you’ve ever suffered from aurally-induced seizures, you may want to leave the hall before this piece.” Fortunately, nobody died during the premiere, and in fact, the crowd couldn’t have been nicer. I’m sure it helped to have so many friends in the audience — people who really wanted to like the piece before they even heard it — and that really showed in their response. And yes, the piece was loud as hell. As Sean Murray described it, Turbine “had the power to reach outer space.” He insisted that was a compliment. I was just thrilled with Cody and his group’s performance.
After the premiere, Gary Green and his gang from the University of Miami took me out to a great dinner. Here’s a shot of my delicious portobello mushroom and goat cheese salad.
Gary and I talked about a really exciting potential collaboration, and I hope it works out, as it would be a dream to accomplish what he’s envisioning. This guy’s a thinker.
After dinner, I went to hear Robert Ambrose conduct his group from Georgia State. It was absolutely amazing. I’ve heard Redline Tango countless times now, and although I always hear something new in each performance, Robert’s performance was refreshing in every bar. Things in the scoring were audible for the first time. The tempi were perfect. Robert told me later that he’d adjusted nearly every dynamic in the piece, and whatever he did was magic. Richard Clary from FSU said it was the best performance of Redline Tango he’s ever heard. I was reluctant to say that out loud — can’t let Robert’s head get too big — but I don’t know. It would be a tough performance to top. And his band is not only just undergrads (as far as I know), but the majority of the players are Freshmen and Sophomores! The guy playing first trumpet — the waa-waa part in the tango — was the best who’s ever played the part — and that includes performances at the Minnesota Orchestra and Dallas Symphony. Just way too good. Shattinger Music sold out of Redline Tango scores the next morning, and it’s entirely due to Robert and the Georgia State Wind Ensemble. I went backstage to meet the group after the concert, and the players were so nice, and asked for autographs!
Here’s a shot of me and Robert Ambrose.
And here I am with the Georgia State trombones. They were the best that I’ve heard do the piece (and if you know the piece, you know how important the trombones are to me).
I went with the Georgia State band to dinner after the concert. Here’s a sad part of the story. It seems that Eric Whitacre‘s most recent band piece, “Noisy Mothra Attacks the Sleepy Train,” tanked, and he’s now bussing tables at this restaurant in Nashville. Eric seemed to be dealing with it well — and his service was great. I tipped him 18%.
So, that’s Lexington and Nashville. It was a blast. I met lots of great people, and had three fantastic performances. Cody and the band at UK recorded “Turbine” today, and as soon as I get hold of it and edit it together, I’ll post it here.
And now I’m in Waco, Texas, rehearsing the Baylor Wind Ensemble for their Wednesday premiere of my other new piece, “Strange Humors.” Quite a whirlwind tour. The best part is that on Wednesday, AEJ flies to Dallas for the premiere, so I’ll finally get to see her — and show her off to the ABA guys. Then on Saturday,
we get to go home together. I can’t wait!