January 10, 2011
What it’s all about.
Well, no one threw me into the drink after last week’s Atlantic Ocean premiere of Current Events, and I certainly enjoyed one after the concert. Ok, maybe even two. The piece was played beautifully by members of the orchestra that’s been contracted for this Symphonic Voyages cruise on the Celebrity Mercury, which after less than a week at sea has begun to feel very much like music camp for happy, well-fed, and newly relaxed geeks like me.
The final night of our 12 day voyage will feature a still-recent piece of mine for strings and woodwinds aptly titled Archipelago. I had no idea when I composed and then named this dectet just how apt it would be a little over a year later.
A particularly charming moment in my life as a worker bee composer occurred in the Chicago area one afternoon during a November 2009 rehearsal of this music with the Fifth House ensemble. After the first run-through, Nick Yasillo, who had joined us to hear how the piece he had generously commissioned for the group was going, pulled out a large bag and began distributing ball caps he’d had custom made for the occasion of the premiere. To say the least, we were all very touched and proudly wore the caps (as modeled by a table, above in St. Kitts) for the rest of the rehearsal. I even popped it on my head during my talk to the audience the next evening before the performance, pointing out just how special the relationship between a patron, a composer and an ensemble can be.
As I type this, I’m on my wonderful deck balcony watching large frigate birds soar against the sunset sky and tease me as they buzz the stern. I’m hopeful that they’ll avoid bombing my laptop, since I don’t think the Applecare protection plan includes a clause for guano. The ship’s engine has rumbled to a start, and we’re backing out of the dock here at St. Kitts and making our way to tomorrow’s port on Antigua, where I’ll spend the day sailing around this amazing archipelago in a chartered excursion boat that’ll allow me and just five others some helm time on a Farr 65 racing boat (see updated pic, below, for proof of a great time and even greater wind). One of the two snorkeling trips I’ve taken in as many days got us all to a reef via a 48 foot catamaran, and it felt terrific to ride the waves and free up some musical notes that had been clinging too tightly to the side of my brain. I knew I needed more sailing time!
This is not the boat I skippered. But at the helm, mine felt almost as large!
THIS is the boat! Notice the arm holding on for dear life as I get her heeled over for speed! Wheeee!
Assuming I don’t go flying overboard and bonk my head on a poor unsuspecting sea turtle, on Tuesday I celebrate the beginning of my 50th rotation around this fiery orb in the sky that has brought some much needed color to my face this week. I’m overjoyed for such an extraordinary year of bookends. To have composed this piece in one stunning archipelago, and just 13 months later hear it again at sea in another one thousands of miles away, is the very best birthday gift a composer-in-flotation could ever ask for. All the more fittingly ironic is that both Nick Yasillo and Symphonic Voyages’s impresario Eric Stassen each happen to be from the Chicago area, and each happened to stumble upon me out of the blue via the internet. And now, here I am a long way from my studio, using the internet in the middle of an ocean to communicate this joy with anyone who happens to stumble upon this blog. I may be only partway around the world from my home, but the story of this piece has come full circle. Wow!
“Archipelago,” page 1, Antigua. Who’d have guessed?