This morning, I am home while schools across North Carolina closed in preparation for the arrival of hurricane Florence. Here in the Triangle area, it looks like we will spared the damage of what was predicted to be a category 5 hurricane. Now like it will be more like a category 2 and will miss our area for the most part. That said, students at the North Carolina School of Science and Math will not have classes today and tomorrow. Many went home for the weekend and those who stayed at the school are hunkered down and ready for a wet, windy weekend. So, this seems like a good time to reflect on the first month of school and to start thinking about the upcoming fall season.
Orchestra at NCSSM is off to a great start. We would have had our annual Family Day on Saturday. It, of course, was cancelled due to the hurricane. Our plan was to play the classic string orchestra work, Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance, by Percy Fletcher. I was first introduced to this piece by my friend Dorothy Straub in 1988 at the Central Connecticut State University String Pedagogy Workshop It has been a staple of my repertoire sense that time and I was pleased to pull it out this fall. My new students at NCSSM have embraced this work and were clearly ready to perform it. At one time I heard that all music is either a love song or a pirate song. This two movement work definitely fits that description. The first movement, the Folk Tune has elements of both a love song and a swash-buckling pirate tune. The second movement, Fiddle Dance also swashbuckling pirate feel to begin and then finds its way to a love song in the middle "B" section. It is such a great work and there is so much one can teach an intermediate string orchestra contained within the work. It was the perfect selection for early in the year with my kids.
The other string orchestra piece we have spent a good deal of time on is Howard Hanson's Variations on Two Ancient Hymns. This, too, has been a staple of my repertoire and is a really strong fit for my Orchestra this year. The work conjures up images of medieval cathedrals throughout. The ending of the work is very large and features a huge ending with divisi celli. I have a huge cello section this year and truly the orchestra sounds like a plane taking off during this powerful ending of the work.
We have also begun putting together some full orchestra repertoire. I will be focusing on Brahms throughout the course of the year. So, how else would we begin the year but with Academic Festival Overture. My intention is to perform Brahms' Symphony No. 1 during the second term of the with my group. In addition the Brahms, we are preparing the beautiful piece entitled Wondrous by Karel Butz. It is absolutely gorgeous and provides lots of opportunity for the mallet percussionists and keyboard players. I also have John Williams' Cowboy Overture and March to the Scaffold in the folders. I think that we may employ a large brass sections from our Wind Ensemble to participate in these pieces. Stay tuned for the final decisions for our fall concert in October!
Other highlights of the past month or so include a wonderful start to all three of the sections of my Classical Piano and Guitar course. I have students with a wide range of backgrounds and musical experience in the class. I find this class to be challenging on a daily basis in all the right ways. In addition, I have been hard at work with the board of the American String Teachers Association . We had our first Content Development Committee meeting this week and I was pleased with our strong start. Additionally, I have been performing a great deal around Durham. It has been wonderful to pull my looping technology for solo performances back out and get it in front of the public with a performance at the Iron Gate Winery in Mebane NC. We had a great crowd for a very hot Sunday afternoon! I'm looking forward to conducting All County events in Anderson South Carolina and Calvert County MD in coming weeks. Also, I will be making an appearance at Kennesaw State University in early November. So, there is a lot going on and a lot coming up. As we move through this wet and windy weekend in North Carolina, I wish all of you safety and protection from the crazy weather we are having. And, I wish you each inspiration and happiness as you move through the upcoming fall.