Muskegon, Michigan, February 16, 2018 — Beethoven. Mozart. Sibelius. Tchaikovsky. What do all these great composers have in common? Hint: they were all men.
Ask your average listener to name a prominent woman composer from the classical music world, and most will be stymied. Last month, when the West Michigan Symphony included a work by Fanny Mendelssohn on a concert program, the audience learned how the European culture of the 19th century (when the bulk of the great orchestral repertoire was written) actively excluded women from being professional musicians. And this state continued through much of the first half of the 20th century.
Thanks to groups like Gaudete Brass, all that is changing today. The virtuoso quintet, which appears in concert at The Block in Muskegon at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, is a regular champion of music by women, both commissioning and frequently performing their works. In fact, the upcoming program—titled Daughters of the Muse—will feature exclusively music by women.
The program will open with Copperwave by Joan Tower, the pioneering and Grammy-winning American composer. Tower’s father was a geologist and mining engineer, and her music often depicts minerals and rocks. The piece is particularly appropriate, given that most brass instruments are actually made of copper! The second selection is a set of four motets by the 16th century Italian composer Raffaella Aleotti. She entered a convent in Ferrara with a rich musical life and skilled female instrumentalists, including cornets and the then-newfangled trombone.
The balance of the concert will be devoted to two pieces commissioned by Gaudete Brass: Jessica Hunt’s Colloquy of 2016 and Stacy Garrop’s Legends of Olympus, also completed in 2016.
Jessica Hunt was born on a cattle ranch in the desert mountains of eastern California during a blizzard, and spent her childhood in Vancouver, Washington. She studied music and theater in Vancouver and Portland; composition at Wesleyan University, Columbia College and DePaul University in Chicago;, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Michigan. Her Colloquy (“conversation”) is written as a conversation between the instruments, in which an initial melodic statement—introduced by the trombone—is unpacked, developed, explored and discussed by the entire quintet.
Stacy Garrop earned degrees in composition at the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, and Indiana University. Her music is centered on dramatic and lyrical storytelling. As she explains, “The sharing of stories is a defining element of our humanity; we strive to share with others the experiences and concepts that we find compelling.” Her music takes the audience on a sonic journey. Legends of Olympus depicts five Greek gods and goddesses: Helios the sun god; Aphrodite, goddess of love; Hermes the messenger; Apollo, the god of music; and Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility.
Gaudete Brass—featuring Charles Russell Roberts and the WMS’s own Bill Baxtresser on trumpets; Phil Kassel on horn; Paul Von Hoff on trombone; and Scott Tegge on Tuba—is committed to presenting compelling brass music through new works and adventurous programming. The name Gaudete (gow-day-tay) derives from the Latin word for “joy.” The group believes that chamber music powerfully communicates both the poignant and the exuberant. While keeping a rigorous performance schedule, Gaudete has recorded three albums: Brass Outings (2006), winner of the CDBaby Editors’ Choice distinction and nominee for Just Plain Folks Best Classical Chamber Album; Conversations in Time with organist R. Benjamin Dobey (2011, Pro Organa); and Chicago Moves, produced by Grammy winner Judith Sherman and featuring several of its commissioned works (2012, Cedille Records). The group is currently ensemble-in-residence at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts.
Ticket prices are $25, $10 for students with ID. Tickets and information can be obtained by calling 231.726.3231 or at www.TheBlockWestMichigan.org. The Block is located at 360 W. Western Ave. in Muskegon.