Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day Two: 2011 ACDA National Conference

My Thursday was a bit wacky at the national conference. Whereas I used to go to every concert on the program, I now know that some choir types just aren't going to wow me (like high school choirs in general) and that I really do have a lot of people I need to connect with for various reasons. One of these is of course trying to meet people who have been so kind as to program and conduct my music but we so far have only had an e-mail or FaceBook relationship. It's important to get to know people face to face and show my appreciation for what they do in the musical world. So my Thursday was about meeting wonderful musicians from all over the country and not much about concerts.

First off, it was important to visit my main publisher the Roger Dean Company and my editor there Scott Foss. Roger Dean is presenting three new releases for me this year and they are all in stock ready to ship (hint hint). Roger Dean (the fancy subsidiary of Lorenz) has been my most supportive publisher by far, and Scott was in fine humor the whole conference, cracking jokes, often at my expense! The Lorenz booth was large and they were giving people perusal scores, not charging folks a dollar a copy like most other booths.

My pal Sarah Graham (Illinois State U) and Scott Foss

So, after admitting above to, in general, dissing high school conference performances, I am forced to eat crow. A choir about to perform handed out their concert material and it sure looked like the group was show choir based. I was thinking this could be scary. Were we about to have some Glee moments? Or jazz hands? But...wow, they blew me away on so many levels-- this was "The Counterpoints" from Indiana directed by Patricia Wiehe. The school has a high standard of performance success both as a show choir and concert choir school. And what I saw was a choir that took the best elements from show choir and transferred them to a great concert presentation. Oh yeah, they could sing up a storm too, and all very healthy production- no tired voices here.

The program wound through Debussy, Bach/Nystedt's Come Sweet Death with an understated choreography of simple arm and hand motions, Memly's Ave Maria, and a folk song from earthsongs series . The two most stunning performances were on "Horizons", the Peter Louis van Dijk tune- I forgot what this title was until I saw the familiar first line "Come my springbok baby...". This was a wonderful performance of a very heartfelt piece, the text ending of which is heartbreaking. This performance stunned the audience in its beauty, depth, and sincerity.

The final piece was a gangbusters all-out wild performance of Ethan Sperry's arrangement of Jai Ho, sung in Spanish and Hindi. I think Ethan was in the room, and I think I heard he was thrilled with their choreography, which was all original. This group brought everyone to a rousing standing ovation, and they deserved every bit of applause and excitement in the room. Thank you Pat Wiehe and thank you to your students for showing that a great high school program, singing quality age appropriate music, can steal plenty of thunder away from the university choirs!

I then had lunch with a very cool, smart, funny, and talented composer- Joan Szymko, who grew up in Chicago-- I would imagine you all know her music. It's my opinion that Joan is writing the best music of her career right now, and we had a blast comparing notes and a bunch of things, and having a good laugh about this and that.

me and Joan

Following that I attempted to attend James Jordan's interest session on breath and center- oops, even thought the session had not yet started attendance was capped off and no more people were being allowed in. I was sorry to miss this, but glad to see that so many people were attending. I think it would be great if more directors would become far more breath conscious-- I saw too many choirs not breathing during the week. Well I guess they were breathing, but you couldn't tell it from their tight singing!

The rest of my evening was devoted to visiting receptions, especially those hosted by universities who have done my music over the past few years, or who are preforming a piece of mine very soon. So, as a bit of a whirlwind I hung out first with the University of Missouri at KC Conservatory people. Chuck Robinson was instrumental in my decision to put regular conducting off for awhile in order to compose more and he was happy to introduce me to Robert Bode who is a recent new addition to the faculty there. Reg Unterseher was with me, and of course he knew Dr. Bode from his years in the Pacific Northwest. After also running into Matt Harden there, I bounced over to the fun reception being held by the children's choir folks, and witnessed the larger than life Nick Page doing a sing along with Doreen Rao.

The photos I took of these two are hilarious.
I had never met Nick, so to get to talk to him for a few minutes and realize what a hoot of a guy he is was great fun. From there it was off to the Walton reception hosted by Gunilla Luboff. The usual suspects were in the room, but also some very interesting Northern European publishers who were manning booths at ACDA for, I believe, the first time. They were asking me all sorts of earnest questions about American composers and I did my best to inform them about a number of things from our perspective and to also tell them that, indeed, Virginia, there are more US composers than just Moses Hogan and Eric Whitacre.

Finally the evening finished up at Mike Scheibe's swanky USC reception where I got to meet a bunch of people including Buddy James, president of NCCO. Mike's receptions are always first class. Another fifteen hour day has flown by!

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