Concert of the WPI Orchestra at Mechanics Hall | News
The seeds for the WPI Orchestra November concert were planted in Palestine in 2010.
At the time, Professor Doug Weeks spent two weeks teaching at the Al Kamandjati Music School near Ramallah. Her roommate was Douglas Metcalf, a young American clarinetist who lives and performs in Germany. As they began to talk, they learned that they were not only from the same small town in western Massachusetts — Southwick — but also from the same street.
“We grew up two doors apart in two different generations,” recalls Weeks, music coordinator and deputy director of the humanities and arts department.
Over the years the two have kept in touch, Weeks has always wanted to bring Metcalf to WPI to play and mentor the students.
On November 20, it will happen.
Metcalf will be the main actor in the WPI Orchestra concert at Mechanics Hall, performing Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. With Gabrieli Sonata VIII by the WPI Brass Ensemble, the concerto will occupy the first half of the concert.
The other two pieces will be Katahdin (Great Mountain), written by Tom Myron, of Northampton, for a documentary on the majestic Peak of Maine, and Short trip in a fast machine, a rapid musical explosion from John Adams, a renowned contemporary composer of classical music and opera, born in Worcester.
Myron also has a personal connection to Weeks. The teacher taught composer at Foxboro High School. Myron showed up at a WPI Orchestra concert a few years ago to introduce himself again, Weeks said.
Metcalf and Myron will both be artists in residence at WPI for the week leading up to the concert in addition to working with the 65-member student orchestra.
“Doug Metcalf will be working with our clarinetists, our instrumentalists, our performers,” says Weeks.
Metcalf is an acclaimed performer and educator who has played the clarinet with symphony orchestras and chamber music ensembles in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He also teaches music in several schools in Germany and the Middle East. He graduated with distinction from UMass Amherst in music education and clarinet performance; he did postgraduate studies at Indiana University.
“Here is this wonderful teacher and great player,” says Weeks. “It’s something we’ve talked about over the years and it finally clicked.”
Myron is a composer, arranger and conductor who has worked in concerts and independent films. His work is regularly heard at Carnegie Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he wrote charts for singers Marilyn Horne, Rosanne Cash, Andrea McArdle and Phyllis Newman, among others.
Katahdin (Great Mountain) is an orchestral suite that Myron wrote for wild nature and spirit; A mountain called Katahdin, a documentary film about the mile-high peak that graces Baxter State Park in central Maine. The work’s grand sweep underlines Katahdin’s slender majesty, while the jerky rhythm of the drums pays homage to the Penobscot Indians, who gave the summit its name, which means “the greatest mountain.”
“Tom Myron will be working with composition students, music theory students, and music writing students,” Weeks explains. “It’s a wonderful educational opportunity to have a composer there when you perform his piece. You can’t guess. You have it there to tell you what he meant.
Weeks says the pieces were selected to enhance the experiences of student players and audiences. He was looking for balance in the selection, he adds.
Mozart’s concerto is what Weeks describes as “classical music’s top 40”.
“Most people who know classical music know it,” he says. “It’s something they would like to see done live.”
The piece was not performed by the current group of members of the WPI Orchestra. “It’s a university and you want to expose people to big rooms,” Weeks says. “Something that a person studying music would want to know and, of course, it can occur in a large hall with a great clarinetist. It’s winning, winning, winning all around.
While the first half of the concert will be more traditional, the second half will be decidedly modern.
Myron’s play adds majesty to the program. “Katahdin is just very pretty, very reminiscent of the mountain, ”says Weeks. “I am a mountaineer. I climbed Katahdin.
Adams’ piece, which has won multiple Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize for his work, is a quick musical journey of just four and a half minutes. Adams, who is deeply rooted in minimalism, called it a “orchestral fanfare” and in a proposed commentary: “You know what it’s like when someone asks you to get in a great sports car and you wish you hadn’t. “
Weeks called Short trip “Very unique, very exciting” and said that despite its brevity, “it’s going to take hours to prepare, it’s a difficult piece. “
Weeks says many musicians in the orchestra see it as a way to meet WPI’s requirements for a project in the humanities and the arts. Some choose music as a double major along with engineering or biochemistry or some other scientific endeavor. They like the idea that at WPI, music is part of the academic mix, he says.
“Music is very serious for them,” he says, “and they’re looking for schools where they can explore music beyond extracurricular activities. It’s actually part of our academic program.
The WPI Orchestra concert is scheduled for November 20 at 3 p.m. at Mechanics Hall, 321 Main Street, Worcester. The concert is free and open to the public.
– By Thomas Coakley