Monday, July 31, 2017

Sunset Colors, by Alejandro Bernard-Papachryssanthou

This summer, the Interlochen Intermediate Concert Orchestra has had several unbelievable opportunities to meet composers and perform their works. It has been a particularly strong learning experience for students to hear the words of the composers themselves and to learn the motivation behind the works which they are performing. This is one of the great benefits of coming to and  performing at Interlochen. We have such a wonderful community of musicians that do so many things. And, for one group to be involved in two world premieres in the same 3-week session is simply unheard of. But, that is what is happening this session. The Intermediate Concert Orchestra will be performing another world premiere at our Saturday concert in Kresge Auditorium, 4 p.m.

Last summer I became friends with Alejandro Bernard-Papachryssanthou over lunch down at the waterfront.  We were both eating alone and struck up a conversation. We hit it off as friends right away and it was truly my pleasure to feature him on the last piece of the summer in of 2016, Bossa Rojo, by Bert Ligon, as a keyboard soloist with ICO. This summer, we met up again and following the first ICO concert, he asked me if I might be willing to play a piece that he was interested in composing. He has been working on Sunset Colors throughout the summer and it is our pleasure to perform it this week.

He came to class today and spent about an hour with the orchestra, discussing the motivation behind the piece and several specific performance practices. It was a thrill for us to have him at the rehearsal and a great deal of work was done.

He began by explaining the motivation for the piece. It is intended to conjure up the image of the beautiful sunsets that we experience here in Northern Michigan, particularly those that are seen over a lake where mountains do not encumber the view. The sunsets in this region are absolutely beautiful and it is a perfect inspirational vehicle for a piece of orchestral music.

Sunset Colors begins with a quiet Andate section. It is in a major but really travels between a number of keys throughout the work. The opening features the viola section right out of the gate. There is a beautiful melody and tight, jazz inspired harmonies throughout the work. The opening eventually gives way to a beautiful piu mosso so that features moving 16th notes in the first and second violins and a syncopated rhythmic pattern in the viola, cello, and bass. This section certainly presents the image of the brightest, most glorious sunset. This moving passage eventually gives way to a heroic section which culminates on a beautiful, sustained C sharp major chord. We spent a good deal of time in rehearsal today dialing in that chord and even discussed what color it sounds like. We had some students say orange, others felt it was pink, and I felt like it was a deep purple.  (All were correct!!) Following a grand pause, it returns to the "A" section and winds down to a beautiful ending which conjures up the image of the last little bit of color in the sky as the sun finally goes down for the night.

This  work is a perfect challenge for the Intermediate Concert Orchestra. I would say that it is probably a Grade 4. There is a little something for everyone and every section must be rhythmically and tonally independent. The kids are really committed to this work and have rehearse with great maturity. Their work today was admirable. Mondays are always tricky for ICO because Monday afternoon is usually "beach day" for the kids. They were certainly ready to look ahead to the fun of the afternoon during rehearsal today. Instead, they gave their full attention and had a wonderful rehearsal.

We are really excited to give the world premiere of this piece and I look forward to performing it many more times both here at Interlochen and in my various travels around the United States. I'm pretty sure that I will program it at NCSSM this fall!

We hope to see you at the concert on Saturday afternoon. I believe it will be live streamed as well.



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