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World Premiere: November 9, 2013. Erie Philharmonic, Daniel Meyer, conductor. Warner Theater, Erie, PA.
The composer offers the following on Sun Chanter:
When I was asked to create a new work commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Erie Philharmonic, I considered several possibilities: making the music trace the chronological history of the orchestra, writing a piece that would reflect the geography of the Erie region, or paying tribute to works such as Dvorak's New World Symphony which have appeared regularly on the orchestra's season programming over the years. In the end, I abandoned the idea of something descriptive or referential, and decided on a simpler concept: my composition would take the form of an aural slice of birthday cake-a confection in sound designed to give immediate gratification to the listener in the way that a double chocolate layer cake might set off pleasure regions in the brain and induce a mood of celebration so palpable "you can taste it." Such a concept, of course, comes with risks: not everyone is a chocolate lover; some people choose to skip sweets altogether; some have their fill after only a few bites; and a "sugar high" inevitably leads to a "sugar low." Still, I hope that my creation will be palatable to most listeners, and, consumed with an imaginary glass of champagne, will serve as a toast to the birthday of a great institution.
The musical inspiration for Sun Chanter arose largely from the natural beauty of Erie. In particular, the iconic sunsets at Presque Isle which have ignited my inspiration in the past (and which no doubt inspired generations of Erie Philharmonic conductors and musicians over the years as well) became a central image as I composed the piece. The symbol of the sun-around which 100 orbits of the earth have taken place since the founding of the Erie Philharmonic-is contained in one anagram of the title: Sun Chanter = Cent Has Run (Century Has Run), and another, in celebratory mood: Rah Cent Sun (Rah Century Sun).
The harmonic language of Sun Chanter is largely derived from popular music styles: rock, folk-rock, jazz, and musical theater. But these sonic dialects are spoken within the context of a purely classical concert piece. They are not overt references, but part of the very language of the rhythm and harmony itself. Structurally, the piece is a series of variations on a single theme (first heard in its entirety at the beginning of the initial slow section of music), and, like a verse and chorus-style pop song "writ large," is structured around a series of episodes (verses), and recurrences of the main theme (choruses). Sun Chanter is also an orchestral showpiece-a sort of celebration of pure orchestration itself-commemorating the very notion of an orchestral centenary. Happy Birthday Erie Philharmonic! Here's to Maestro Daniel Meyer and the musicians, administrators, audience, and supporters of the Orchestra, all of their distinguished predecessors, and a century of great music!
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