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Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and a World Premiere

The MTSU Wind Ensemble, the MTSU Concert Chorale and a host of special guest artists are teaming together to present one special afternoon of music featuring Igor Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and the world premiere performance of Earthrise by Nigel Clarke at 3 p.m. April 15 in Hinton Music Hall of the Wright Music Building on the MTSU campus.

            "Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms is one of the most challenging and creative miracles of the 20th Century, said Dr. Raphael Bundage, director of MTSU Concert Chorale.  "I am so very pleased to combine our Concert Chorale with our wonderful Wind Ensemble to perform this deeply devotional work."

            Dr. Reed Thomas, director of the MTSU Wind Ensemble remarked, "Dr. Bundage and I have worked together on a choir and wind ensemble piece several years ago and while discussion the ensemble calendar last year decided it was time to do it again. We exchanged several ideas over the semester and summer, finally deciding on the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms."

            Thomas is bringing in additional professionals to assist the wind ensemble with this work:  MTSU faculty members that will join in are Laura Ann Ross (oboe), George Riordan (English horn), Christine Kim (cello), Tim Pearson (double bass), and Gil Perel (bassoon) who also plays with the Nashville Symphony.  Other special guests include Jared Hauser (oboe)  and Laura Hauser (bassoon) both of the Blair School of Music and Pat Gunter (contra bassoon) a freelance musician.

            "People do not equate (Symphony of Psalms) as a 'wind band piece', said Thomas, "but the instrumentation is winds, brass, percussion with cellos and double basses. There are extended double reeds employed in the orchestration requiring 4 oboes plus English horn and 3 bassoons plus contra bassoon.  Additionally there are two pianos and a chorus."

            Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, another momentous work on the program, will feature MTSU faculty pianist, Arunesh Nadgir, as a soloist.

            "Growing up, I always loved listening to Rhapsody in Blue, but I never had the opportunity to perform it, said Nadgir. It has been a real treat to work on it with the MTSU Wind Ensemble as they bring so much excitement and energy to the work.  It's such a joyous and uplifting piece!"

            In addition to afore mentioned works the world premiere of Earthrise by Nigel Clarke will be performed by the MTSU Wind Ensemble.

            "Clarke has been a composer in residence at MTSU on two previous occasions and one of the results of this partnership is this piece and world premiere, said Thomas. "After hearing, working with, and really enjoying our ensemble, he told me that he wanted to write a piece for us to premiere. This is the end product."

            Thomas describes the work, "Earthrise is Nigel Clark's musical description of Apollo 8's unscheduled photo of the earth as is 'rose' from behind the moon; the earth being the only object with any color in our monochrome universe. The piece, written in one continuous movement, has three sections (fast – slow – fast) each depicting a different part of the flight. Beginning with the launch and all the power emitted from the rockets into space, the middle section settles down into a slow quasi ensemble cadenza portraying the Astronauts floating on the dark side of the moon.  This cadenza section serves as a prelude to the moment when the earth first comes into view.  "The final section paints a picture of Apollo 8 hurtling back to earth covering the quarter of million miles at over 25,000 miles per hour, ripping through the atmosphere and finally splashing down into the pacific ocean. The differing moods of the piece are reflected and captured in a specially commissioned poem that is to accompany the piece written by Martin Westlake."

            Concerning composer Clarke, an Englishman currently living in Belgium, he began his musical career as a Military Bandsman in the Queens Army. Through that experience he gained an interest in composition eventually studying composition at the Royal Northern Academy of Music with Paul Patterson. While at the academy he earned several awards including the Queen's Commendation for excellence,the Royal Academy's highest distinction. He furthered his study in Poland under Penderecki and Lutoslawski and in 2008 he received his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Salford University. Clarke has served on the faculty at Royal Academy of Music, the London College of Music and the Royal Military School of Music. Besides writing for wind bands, he has written many works for British Brass Bands and is an active film composer working with the London Symphony Orchestra.

            The April 15th concert is free and open to the public.   For further information on this and other concerts at the MTSU School of Music please call 615-898-2493 or visit the "Calendar of Events" link at MTSUMUSIC.COM.

            In Fall 2011, the MTSU Wind Ensemble and conductor Thomas released a commercial CD “Angels in the Architecture” on the Naxos label;  the recording has generated a great deal of critical and commercial success.