Michael Daugherty

Michael Daugherty (1954-)

“Red Cape Tango” from Metropolis Symphony (1993) 13 minutes

Flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, piano, and strings

This is the first performance of this work by the GJSO

Michael Daugherty was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa into a family of musicians. His father was a dance band drummer and all five of Daugherty’s brothers are professional musicians. Daugherty studied music composition at the University of North Texas, the Manhattan School of Music, and earned a doctorate from Yale University. He also spent time studying at the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music founded by Pierre Boulez. He also worked with jazz arranger Gil Evans in New York City and studied with György Ligeti in Hamburg, Germany. Daugherty began his teaching career at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1986. In 1991 Daugherty became a professor of composition at the University of Michigan.

Daugherty has served as a Composer-in-Residence for numerous orchestras and music festivals during his career, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Eugene Symphony, and the Winnipeg New Music Festival. He has completed commissions for orchestras, bands, and wind ensembles including the San Francisco Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the University of Michigan. Daugherty has also written music for student ensembles including in the Chicago public school system and for the centennial of Ann Arbor High School Bands. As an educator, Daugherty has taught and guided many talented young composers. Over his career, Daugherty has received a Fulbright Fellowship, the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award, and several Grammy Awards.

“Red Cape Tango” is the final movement of the Metropolis Symphony which uses the imagery and characters from Superman comics as a basis. Although the work is not strictly programatic, ideas from the comics are used throughout. Daugherty wrote about the work, “…I draw on my eclectic musical background to reflect on late-twentieth-century urban America. Through complex orchestration, timbral exploration, and rhythmic polyphony, I combine the idioms of jazz, rock, and funk with symphonic and avant-garde composition.”

“Red Cape Tango” depicts the aftermath of the battle between Superman and the villain Doomsday. The main melody is presented by the bassoon and features the Dies Irae from the Requiem Mass. Throughout the work Daugherty utilizes different groups from within the orchestra, including a string quartet and brass trio. The bassoon and percussion, especially the use of the chimes and castanets, help portray the tango idea. There is highly thematic musical technique, especially the juxtaposition of legato and staccato sections to suggest a bullfight, extended glissandi in the strings and brass, and the use of mutes to create different sounds in the brass. A large battery of percussion instruments helps set the tango rhythm and further the story of this battle to the death and its aftermath. This highly entertaining and evocative piece presents a familiar comic book story in an entirely new and enjoyable way.

 

Vince Guaraldi

Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976), arranged by Dick Tunney (1956-)

Peanuts Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2019) 20 minutes

Flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, strings, and solo piano

This will be the first performance of this work by the GJSO

Vince Guaraldi was a jazz pianist and composer who is best-known for his compositions for the Peanuts television specials. He was born in San Francisco and attended high school and college in the Bay Area before serving as cook in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. An early musical influence was his uncle, Muzzy Marcellino, who was a singer and well-known for his whistling skills. Guaraldi began recording Latin jazz with Cal Tjader in 1953. By 1955, Guaraldi had his own trio, although he continued recording with Tjader in two other bands. In 1959 Guaraldi left the groups to focus on his own projects. He wrote the piece “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” which appeared as the B-Side to the album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus. Guaraldi’s composition, even though it was not the featured song on the album, became a hit, earning a Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition. Guaraldi’s relationship with the Peanuts television shows came through Lee Mendelson, the producer of the specials. Mendelson heard “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” during a cab ride. He liked the song and contacted Ralph J. Gleason, the San Francisco Chronicle’s jazz columnist to find out more about Guaraldi. Gleason was able to connect Mendelson with Guaraldi. After a phone call, Guaraldi accepted the job to write the music for the Christmas special completing the signature song, “Linus and Lucy” in two weeks. He and his trio recorded the score and Guaraldi went on to compose the scores for seventeen television specials and the film A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Guaraldi died unexpectedly at 47. He spent his penultimate evening at Mendelson’s home and his last evening performing at a nightclub. The music from the Peanuts specials was played at the church during his memorial service. Mendelson said it was one of the saddest days of his life.

Dick Tunney, along with his wife Melodie, are popular Christian musicians and songwriters. They have toured throughout the country for many years performing in churches. Dick has been involved in many aspects of the music industry in Nashville, serving as an arranger, pianist, studio musician, and producer. He has arranged many versions of popular rock songs to be played in symphonic settings.

The Peanuts Concerto is based on the beloved music by Vince Guaraldi and was arranged by Dick Tunney in 2019. This three movement concerto utilizes Guaraldi’s music from the Peanuts television specials and transforms them into a symphonic experience. The Peanuts Concerto was a dream of pianist Jeffrey Biegel who wanted to utilize Guaraldi’s iconic music in a classical setting. Following two successful collaborations with Tunney (the Monkees Concerto and the Bacharach Concerto), they began work on this piece. After obtaining permission from the Guaraldi estate, Tunney set to work listening to Guaraldi’s music and finding inspiration in the few available video recordings of Guaraldi playing. In these videos, Tunney was inspired by Guaraldi’s artistry and ability as a fine jazz pianist. In the concerto, Tunney sought not only to arrange the music, but to capture the feeling of Guaraldi’s artistic expression. One of the biggest challenges was finding the best way to meld jazz harmonies and stylistic elements into an orchestral setting.

The concerto features three movements in the usual fast-slow-fast tempo scheme. Tunney weaves Guaraldi’s well-known melodies throughout the orchestra, sometimes accompanying them with new countermelodies and utilizing the colors of the orchestra to allow us to hear them in a new way. “Linus and Lucy,” the most recognizable of Guaraldi’s melodies, serves as the overarching theme throughout the work. Snippets of the melody can be heard several times throughout the work before the melody is fully realized in the last movement. This joyful piece is a loving tribute to the musical legacy of a gifted artist and allows the audience another way to enjoy music that for so many of us, conjures happy childhood memories.

 

George Gershwin

George Gershwin (1898-1937)

Rhapsody in Blue (1924, orchestrations by Ferde Grofé, 1942) 16 minutes

Flutes, oboes, clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, alto saxophones, tenor saxophone, banjo, timpani, percussion, strings, and solo piano

The GJSO last performed this work in 1999 with Kirk Gustafson, conducting and Jeffrey Biegel, soloist

 George Gershwin was born in New York City, the son of Ukrainian and Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. His father worked in various factories and the family moved often but stayed within the Yiddish Theater District in the East Village of Manhattan. Gershwin and his older brother, Ira, played with their gang of friends on the streets. In 1908, ten-year-old George found his calling after hearing a friend’s violin recital. The music captured his attention and George began piano lessons, eventually studying with Charles Hambitzer who became his mentor. At fifteen, George went to work in Tin Pan Alley, writing, arranging, and recording music. Soon some of his works, a ragtime, “Rialto Ripples,” and the song “Swanee,” performed by Al Jolson began to attract notice. In the early 1920s, Gershwin met music director William Daly, with whom he collaborated on his first few Broadway musicals. Rhapsody in Blue was Gershwin’s first classical work which established his signature style, combining classical forms and jazz in a revolutionary new way. He also continued to write for the stage, including a one-act opera Blue Monday, which was a forerunner to Porgy and Bess. Gershwin completed several more stage musicals collaborating with his brother Ira. He traveled to Paris in the mid-1920s, hoping to study with either Nadia Boulanger or Maurice Ravel. Both refused to teach him, afraid that classical instruction would ruin his jazz style. Ravel wrote, “Why become a second-rate Ravel when you’re already a first-rate Gershwin.” Although disappointed with the lack of training, the trip wasn’t a total loss, while there he composed An American in Paris, which, after initial mixed reviews, became one of his most popular compositions. After returning to New York, Gershwin again collaborated with his brother on several new musicals and his opera Porgy and Bess. Although now critically acclaimed, Porgy and Bess was a commercial failure. Gershwin decided to try something different and moved to Hollywood to write music for the new Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, Shall We Dance. In early 1937, Gershwin began complaining of severe headaches, his coordination was bad, including when playing the piano, he suffered blackouts, and wild mood swings. His brother and sister-in-law, with whom he was living, thought he was having a nervous breakdown. In July, he collapsed at a friend’s home and fell into a coma, emergency surgery revealed a large brain tumor. He never regained consciousness and died at a tragically young thirty-eight.

Rhapsody in Blue is one of the most recognizable pieces of American classical music. The work combines jazz influences, improvisation, and classical structure into a joyful musical expression. In November 1923 Paul Whiteman, a jazz bandleader, asked Gershwin to write a concerto-like piece for an all-jazz concert the following February. Gershwin turned down the commission because he felt there wouldn’t be enough time to complete the work. On January 4, an article appeared in the New-York Tribune stating that Gershwin was already at work on the piece for the concert. After speaking to Whiteman, the next morning, Gershwin finally agreed to compose the piece with only five weeks until the concert.

Gershwin began work on January 7 and completed the work a few weeks later. Ferde Grofé, Whitman’s arranger, orchestrated the composition for the ensemble, finishing his work only eight days before the premiere. Gershwin later said the idea for the piece came to him while traveling to Boston, inspired by the rhythms and sounds of the train. Due to the length of the concert and a malfunctioning ventilation system, the crowd was rather restless by the time Gershwin’s piece began. The opening glissando in the clarinet (which was initially a joke by the clarinet player) caught the audience’s attention. Gershwin performed the piano part, largely improvising the solo, which was not written down until after the performance. The audience went wild at the end of the work and saluted the piece with thunderous applause. The critical reviews were a little more mixed, with some finding it repetitive and inexpressive, while others thought it was an important contribution to music history because of the use of jazz in the concert setting. The original arrangement used the instruments available in Whiteman’s band. Grofé arranged the work for full symphony orchestra in 1942. This is the most performed version.

Rhapsodies feature an improvisatory character and less formal structure than concertos. In Rhapsody in Blue Gershwin introduces all of the main melodies and motives in the first few measures of the work. These melodic ideas are then used throughout the work in various forms in both the piano and the orchestra. All of the themes rely on the standard blues scale, rather than traditional major or minor. Harmonically, Gershwin often uses modulation based on thirds which is traditional in the Tin Pan Alley songs he was famous for. Jazz, ragtime, Latin, and other dance music rhythms are used throughout the work. Gershwin also included a variety of piano techniques that were borrowed from popular music, such as the stride bass which is often found in jazz and ragtime. Rhapsody in Blue also features the use of rubato, a chance for the soloist to change the rhythm for dramatic effect. Since its premiere, Rhapsody in Blue has often been imagined as a musical portrait of New York City, featuring a variety of musical influences, styles, and rhythms. Gershwin was able to combine jazz, blues, and popular music into a standard classical form fusing the styles to create an instantly recognizable work of American classical music that has become a much beloved concert staple.

 

Ferde Grofé

(1892-1972)

Grand Canyon Suite (1931) 36 minutes

Flutes, piccolo, oboes, English horn, clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas, timpani, percussion, harp, piano, celesta, and strings

This is the first performance of this work by the GJSO

Ferde Grofé was the son of German immigrants and was born in New York City. His parents and grandparents were all musicians; his father was an opera singer, and his mother was a cellist and music teacher. Following his father’s death when Ferde was seven, he and his mother went to Europe for a while where Grofé studied piano, viola, and composition in Leipzig. Although piano was his favorite instrument, Grofé played numerous instruments which helped him become a better arranger and composer. At age fourteen Grofé left home and supported himself by taking a variety of jobs, including milkman, newsboy, and as an accompanist in a piano bar. He started playing with local dance and brass bands and wrote his first commissioned work, a two-step, at age seventeen. In 1920 Grofé joined Paul Whiteman’s band playing piano and serving as the group’s chief arranger, adapting hundreds of songs for the band over the next twelve years.

Grofé not only arranged music but wrote his own compositions. Many of his works are suites, based on the American landscape, including the Mississippi Suite, the Niagara Falls Suite, the Death Valley Suite, and his most famous work, the Grand Canyon Suite. Beginning in the 1930s Grofé began arranging and writing music for films, eventually moving to Los Angeles to continue this work. Although he wrote in a large variety of styles, most of Grofé’s works contain elements of jazz and are deeply influenced by the American landscape. His facility with instruments allowed him to utilize the orchestra to paint vivid pictures and bring to life the wide variety and beauty of the American countryside.

The Grand Canyon Suite was written between 1929-31 and features five movements, each portraying a different image of the Grand Canyon. Grofé based his musical portrait of the landscape on a trip he had taken to Arizona when he was in his 20s. He felt he could not adequately describe the moment when the sun rose over the canyon in words, so he used music. Throughout the work, Grofé uses the instruments to create sound effects to depict the landscape using coconut shells to imitate the donkey’s hooves and a thunder sheet for the dramatic storm. By combining ingenious orchestration, elements of jazz, and lush orchestral colors, Grofé vividly depicts the beauty of the Grand Canyon and the awe-inspiring emotions of the natural wonder of the American west.

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