......are going quite well at Edmond Memorial High School. In case you do not know, the orchestra commissioned me to write a string piece for them. The orchestra's parents group wrote a grant to the Edmond Arts Council who generously provided funds. The motivation was to give the kids a chance to work with a real flesh-and-blood composer by rehearsing and premiering a brand spanking new piece of music.
The result is "Oklahoma Trails", a seven minute piece inspired by the native creatures and landscapes of Oklahoma, as represented by the OKC Zoo exhibit bearing the same name. I will post the program notes soon. The premier of the piece will be May 11 at Edmond Memorial. The concert starts at 6 with the high school portion beginning at 7.
Rehearsals have been fantastic so far. David Koehn, the director and idea-man behind this project, called me after the first rehearsal. The kids dutifully played the piece albeit with a couple of raised eyebrows (after all, this isn't Mozart!).
By the time I attended my first rehearsal a couple of weeks ago, the group had rehearsed it a few times. I was greeted with some smiles, and I was absolutely blown away by how well the orchestra was already playing the piece! I received a couple of compliments, and I gave out many more. It really got me excited.
Last week, David let me lead the rehearsal, and we had a great time searching through the music for the themes and working on playing them expressively. I use the term "macro-dynamics" to describe overall volume levels specified for different sections of a piece (forte, piano, etc.). But to play a phrase expressively, one must usually employ "micro-dynamics" - a natural sounding rise and fall in volume, similar to the expressiveness we use in our speech. These micro-dynamics are not usually specified by a composer. Rather it is up to the performers to utilize them in their effort to play expressively. Dynamics are the Z axis of music. X is rhythm, Y is pitch, and Z is the dynamic level employed to reach out to your audience and then back away. It is what makes music 3-D! I listen to music in the car like everyone else, but the volume compression and distracted listening have taken something away from our sensibility about live music's dynamic possibilities.
The young musicians of Edmond Memorial's orchestra have responded beautifully and are capable of playing very expressively!
I look forward to another rehearsal tomorrow. We will continue to follow the melodic lines and play them expressively as they are passed around and developed between the sections.
If you are not busy on May 11, and you live close by, I would love to see you at the concert! These outstanding young musicians will be playing a variety of musical pieces and a world premiere is a pretty unique accomplishment for a high school group - for any group really!