Music Augusta

Augusta Read Thomas, the composer of Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity.

A composer based in Hyde Park has written what may be the first work based on the coronavirus pandemic, which has been released on YouTube with a fascinating video.

Augusta Read Thomas is university professor of composition in music at the University of Chicago. She was the longest-serving Mead composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for conductors Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez (1997-2006). In 2016, she founded the University of Chicago’s Center for Contemporary Composition.

Thierry Fischer, music director of the Utah Symphony, phoned Thomas in mid-April, inviting her to create a new, four-minute fanfare for his orchestra. He stipulated that each musician would be performing alone from home. In two weeks Thomas completed the full orchestra score as well as individual parts for each player. The new piece is entitled “Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity.” The work was recorded last month.

In the program notes for the Fanfare, Thomas writes: “I believe music feeds our souls. Unbreakable is the power of art to build community. Humanity has and will always work together to further music’s flexible, diverse capacity and innate power. The magnificence and energy of massed musical resources, such as an orchestra, are humbling, inspiring, and exemplify hope, solidarity and teamwork.”

“The world has momentarily stopped. Our desire for creativity is multiplied,” commented Maestro Fischer, who is known as a supporter of contemporary composers. “New music is a call to look, listen, and guess what is rarely said. New music reveals the gods and demons hiding in the depths of our souls, and then transforms them into a transfiguring beauty.”

“Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity” highlights the brass section of the Utah Symphony, who perform with bright sound bringing a shimmering quality to the music. Some of the lines are simple with elegant textures. The piece is clearly hopeful, yet has nuances that suggest struggle and uncertainty. The music is expressive and shifts with subtlety from mood to mood, ending on a clearly optimistic note. The program notes describe the conclusion aptly: “The composition ends as if reaching skyward – affirming and hopeful – as bells’ resonance hangs in the air like sunlight ripples.”

The video to accompany the music was created by Andrea Peterson. There are stunning images, some appearing to invoke sunlight (corona can, of course, refer to the gaseous envelope of the sun and other stars), others both abstract and compelling. Some of the effects are employed in the video portions of the individual players performing. Peterson’s work beautifully complements the music.

Fischer described his great satisfaction with the work, “How fortunate to have been able to collaborate on the world premiere of a new piece of hope with the dear talented, imaginative, poetic and understanding composer Augusta Read Thomas.”

Utah Symphony musicians recorded the music in their homes, and audio engineering was completed by Stoker White and Funk Studios. “Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity” is published by Nimbus Music Publishing.

View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45gANx1oujY.

• • • •

The pandemic continues to affect classical music and opera organizations here in Chicago and around the world. Hyde Parkers will be disappointed to learn that the Chicago Ensemble, which has been offering concerts in Hyde Park for over 40 years, has had to cancel its last two scheduled events of the 2019–20 season. Ticket holders can visit the Chicago Ensemble website to learn of the various options they have concerning tickets.

The Chicago Ensemble expects to announce its 2020¬–21 season in August. Visit TheChicagoEnsemble.org for more information.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has announced that the

concert featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma, fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer, and mandolinist Chris Thile, with guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan, scheduled for August 13 at 6:30 p.m., at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, has been canceled.

The concert was to feature these performers on their tour of “Not Our First Goat Rodeo,” a collection of all-new music following their 2011 Grammy Award-winning album The Goat Rodeo Sessions.”

Make Music Chicago is part of a world-wide celebration of music that takes place annually on June 21, the longest day of the year. Based on the French Fête de la Musique, Make Music Chicago was first presented in 2011. Chicago has joined 800 cities in 120 countries across the globe, making the Fête de la Musique the world’s largest single day music festival.

This year it will be almost entirely a virtual event. You can view the schedule of events at MakeMusicChicago.org.

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