Our Own Backyard! performances will be on Saturday, September 10th at 8 p.m. and Sunday, September 11th at 3 p.m.
Article by Karen Rifkin
Music director Les Pfutzenreuter and the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra will kick off their 37th season on September 10th and 11th at Mendocino College Center Theatre with an offering of symphonies created by musicians whose proclivities lean toward the gift of compositional precocity: Simple Symphony by Benjamin Britten, Fantasy Suite for Orchestra by Jeff Ives and The Score by Clovice Lewis.
At the age of two, Benjamin Britten (1913 –1976), an English composer, conductor and pianist, was scrambling onto the piano stool; at the age of five, before he could write words, he started putting notes of music on paper; and before he was nine he had written real music.
His Simple Symphony, opening the USO season gala concert, written between 1933 and 1934, is based entirely on material he wrote for the piano between the ages of nine and twelve and was completed when he was 20.
The first movement, Boisterous Bourrée, dances vigorously; the second and most famous, Playful Pizzicato, is a “delightful dazzler” plucked throughout and played as fast as possible; the third, Saraband, sounds like a modal British folk song; and the fourth, Frolicsome, is a movement of varied textures and dynamics that brings the symphony to an emphatic close.
Violist Jeff Ives, a Lake County resident, picked up his first instrument, the violin, at the age of ten and was writing music as soon as he could read it; he says the ability “was always there.”
His Fantasy Suite for Orchestra grew from a composition he wrote for a string sextet that premiered in Lakeport in March but he says, “It was itching for orchestration.”
The orchestral ensemble for the symphony includes the five parts of a full string section, three brass parts, five woodwind parts and three percussion parts. Although the piece is divided into the traditional four movements, the ideas float seamlessly from one to the next.
The first movement, Overture, is vigorous and rhythmic; the second movement, Pavane, is a slow stately dance whose origins date back to Renaissance Europe; the third movement, Cetvorno, is a Bulgarian folk dance in an atypical, odd meter; and the fourth movement, Fantasy, an orchestration inspired by Baroque fantasies, begins lush and lyrical and moves into a livelier pace reminiscent of the third movement.
Cellist Clovice Lewis, also from Lake County, grew up in a house of music, was directed toward the cello at the age of ten and within a few weeks was composing music, teaching himself how to orchestrate.
“As soon as I knew where the notes were I started composing what was in my head. It seemed perfectly natural to me,” he says. He wrote The Score as a hit musical, to accompany a movie that doesn’t exist with the idea that the listeners will create their own movies.
The first movement, The Hero’s Journey, big with strings and brass playing off each other and woodwinds in between, moves through different landscapes as the hero heads off on his adventure.
The second movement, The King’s Court, begins quietly and segues into the drama of a coup, a palace revolt complete with intrigue, and the king’s restoration of order.
The third movement, Going Home, provides reflection on the first two movements and the fourth movement, Love’s Embrace, incorporates a cello solo—performed by Lewis—lush and sweet, with the hero returning to his love, the place where his heart resides.
Pfutzenreuter says of his highly regarded colleagues, “Ives and Lewis, both of whom have played with the symphony for many years, are two of the finest musicians in our orchestra and I am delighted to provide a venue for them to present their original work here in our local community playing with the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra.”
The concert is sponsored by: In Memory of Dr. Hugh Curtis, Charles & Wanda Mannon, & In Memory of Esther Stirling.
Our Own Backyard! performances will be on Saturday, September 10th at 8 p.m. and Sunday, September 11th at 3 p.m. at Mendocino College Center Theatre.
Tickets are available at www.ukiahsymphony.org; Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah; and Mail Center, Etc. in Cloverdale. Prices: $25 for adults and $20 for seniors; children under 18 or those with ASB card free.
For further information leave a message at 707 462-0236.