Category Archives: news

Ithaca Happenings and Tour Update

After a rather long silence since the last post, here’s an update. My first performance of the Concord, on October 4 at Ithaca College, was a fun night. It was really satisfying to be able to share both my thoughts about the music and to play the music itself for a community of musicians that have become close friends. Attendance was surprisingly high, and included visits from Dr. Timothy Johnson, a great mentor and Ives scholar (check out his book Baseball and the Music of Charles Ives), and Dana Wilson, my composition professor. I even saw some students from the music theory labs I teach! My friends and acquaintances seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the music, the lecture, or the whole package. That was encouraging to hear as I look ahead to future dates.

improv

I’ve been a witness to some musical highlights since then. On Wednesday the 8th I heard a concert of faculty/student musical improvisation. It was the largest, most diverse improv program I had seen, and each ensemble, whether trumpet and piano, voice and jazz combo, solo viola, or other, offered a unique and thoughtful musical moment. The overriding feeling of the concert was a spirit of newness and freshness. Improvised music has the benefit of being developed on the spot, coming from intuition and gut reactions to other musicians. It is not overthought or overworked. It seemed to me that everyone left that concert happy and satisfied.

On Saturday the 18th I had the privilege of attending another significant musical event. My friend Lynn Craver has put together an opera company, Opera Ithaca, and their inaugural production is Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. I enjoyed experiencing this music live for the first time, in a production that made good use of limited resources, anchored by extremely strong singers, and appropriately full of dread.

Then on Sunday I drove to Elmira to see Hal Holbrook’s legendary one-man show Mark Twain Tonight! The script is comprised solely of quotations from Twain’s writing, but I was amazed at the scope and consistent brilliance of the man’s thoughts. Some of his statements on politics, religion, and human behavior seem totally fresh and hilarious. I found myself wondering if Twain’s work had the same effect on Charles Ives as the Transcendentalists referenced in the Concord Sonata. Apparently Mark Twain was a close friend of Ives’ wife, to the point that she even called him “Uncle Mark”. With that in mind, I can imagine a few interactions between Charles Ives and Mark Twain, with those two bold, independent men cracking jokes and talking about America.

Speaking of Elmira, I’ve added a new tour date:

Thursday, October 30, 7:30 pm
Lake Street Presbyterian Church
300 Lake Street
Elmira, NY

Announcing the Concord Sonata Tour

Have you ever discovered a piece of music that then became an indispensable part of your life? A piece that marked a turning point in your study of music itself? A piece that you wanted to study, reflect and obsess over?

Charles Ives’ Sonata No. 2 “Concord” is that piece for me. Since my first listening back in high school, I’ve become fascinated with unraveling its mysteries and living with it as a piece of repertoire. As I face the end of my graduate education and the question of What To Do Next, I’ve decided to take this music on the road and see what happens.

As I travel from Ithaca to parts of New York, the Chicago area, and Toronto, I will be starting my recitals off with a lecture to introduce the themes (both musical and philosophical) that inform the piece. This is dense, weighty music that really requires some explanation. Ives himself addressed this concern by writing his Essays Before A Sonata, but I will be adding my own thoughts and insights.

There’s another important reason that I’ve chosen this piece for my first attempt at a recital tour. Ives grew up in Danbury, Connecticut, just a stone’s throw away from my own hometown. I’ve climbed the mountain where Ives used to sit and compose (in a shack he built himself), and I’ve followed his paths through the quiet woods. I connect deeply with the New England nostalgia in the Concord Sonata and the sense of something great hiding just beyond the clouds, the electricity of inspiration and the beautiful terror of life.

Finally, since I have now been studying this piece in some capacity for about five years, I think it represents my truest musical self. It was the piece that made me want to take composition seriously, and I love it more than just about any other music. My only hope with this tour is that some seasoned fans will get an opportunity to hear it live for the first time, and that curious newcomers will have an unforgettable encounter with this tour de force.

Here’s the list of dates so far. I may be announcing more soon, and I’ll post links to the venue sites as the dates draw closer.

Saturday, October 4, 8:15 pm
Nabenhauer Recital Room, Ithaca College
953 Danby Road
Ithaca, NY

Sunday, October 26, 3:00 pm
171 Cedar Arts
171 Cedar Street
Corning, NY

Monday, January 12, 7:30 pm
College Church
332 E Seminary Ave
Wheaton, IL

Wednesday, January 14, 8:00 pm
Fine Arts Building, Suite 825
410 S Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL

Friday, February 27, 8:00 pm
The Firehouse Space
246 Frost St
Brooklyn, NY

Thursday, March 12, 8:00 pm
Gallery 345
345 Sorauren Ave
Toronto, ON