31 March 2018

Another workaday post

Good and productive — as always, really — rehearsal with Peter yesterday, of both the Gresham Miniatures and the Leichtling Bárðarbunga.  We shall build upon those gains with another rehearsal this afternoon.

Some while ago, I was introduced (via email, so perhaps introduced needs to be in scare-quotes) to a talented young euphonium player, to whom I sent music, upon which his intense level of activity prevented him from remarking to me.  Or, it may just have failed to make any impression.  This sometimes happens.  I was reminded of this musical powerhouse yesterday, and so, Why not? I thought — I took the brass version of Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road, and swapped euphonia in for the trombones.  And what a delight to receive a prompt response.  So, indeed, there may be hope.

It will be no more than half an hour’s work, but today is the day to mark the handbell parts for the “Ode to Joy” hymn for tomorrow morning.

Workaday, did I say?  No, it is more.  I am learning how good for the soul a three-day weekend is.  The first day is necessarily “lost” to the need to rest, recover from the energy outlay of the workweek just concluded.  So on day 2, I awake properly refreshed in the morning — but the morning belongs to me (and thus, I was able, while essentially coasting, to address the new Op.149b arrangement) because my church duties are deferred to the third day.

There is hope.  But I need rest, apparently, in order to be alive to it.

30 March 2018

Further, on Minerva Road

henningmusick: Because I do not shirk from splitting certain hairs:
Now, in this quietly tense interval between having finished Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road, and our first rehearsal, I already have the thought of arranging it for (say) brass quartet.
And, because I did not post that thought in mere idleness, this afternoon I have seen to this (a quartet of two each, trumpets & trombones).

And, because there was an immediately practical reason for this, I have sent the new arrangement right on, to two separate trumpeters (who do not, so far as I can determine, play in the same quartet).

The original scoring for the Op.149 was C flute, bass flute, A clarinet, horn in F.  Because my bass flutist (Peter H. Bloom) is going to be traveling for a while, right before the 17 April concert, I had the thought of providing an alto flute alternative to the bass flute line, to ease instrument carriage logistics.  At our rehearsal Tuesday evening, we played the piece with both instruments.  We all found that the alto flute was so entirely preferable, for reasons of both tone and balance, that I have simply struck the bass flute from the score, and the instrumentation is simply C and alto flutes, clarinet & horn.

Let no one say that I don't learn the lessons which spring up right before my eyes.

29 March 2018

Unlike the lilies, toiling (but not spinning)

Where has the week gone?

Tuesday at lunchtime, I had the pleasure of listening to Aaron Larget-Caplan play a program of mostly Bach at King’s Chapel.   Mostly, because three preludes from the WTC Book I (in Aaron’s own arrangements) were paired with corresponding pieces by Vineet Shende, from his Carnatic Preludes after JS Bach.  Although (I freely confess it) I had gone to King’s in order to investigate the house P.A. system, I was (in the first place) planning to listen to the concert, and (in the second) enormously pleased that it was another occasion to hear Aaron play.

Tuesday evening’s k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble rehearsal was all we might wish, getting the two quartets – Pamela Marshall’s Birds on the Harmonic Plain and my Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road – in good order (well ahead of the concert date, as it is).  Peter & I meet again tomorrow to work on the duets (GreshamLeichtling).

I have my folder in order for this Monday evening’s Triad rehearsal, the first for our June concerts.  I shall again be conducting Sarah Riskind’s Hariyu.  One of the ideas behind the concert is, to revisit some pieces from our first concert, hence the inclusion both of Hariyu and of my Agnus Dei.  The thought was, in part, greater ease in preparation;  yet, perhaps about half of the group were not yet part of the group back at its inception.  Still, there will be a quorum of singers already familiar with about half the program.  Which is one way of saying, I have about half of the music to learn, as a singer, myself.

How wonderful not only that the University of Michigan players have again performed Out in the Sun, but to reflect that the piece has now seen three performances in Ann Arbor.  I have Charles Peltz to thank for it all, as he passed the score around in his warm enthusiasm for the piece.  Of course, I have Charles to thank for the occasion to complete the piece, as well – before his furnishing the opportunity to proceed with composition, Out in the Sun existed as a five-minute exposition, waiting for its next cue . . . .

I feel reasonably sure that, at the time of an earlier Ann Arbor performance, I reached out to see if any other pieces of mine might be considered.  I am not sure that I ever received a response.  I tried again this time, and a true conversation is in progress . . . and thus I have had occasion to revisit In the Artist’s Studio (There’s a wide world in there), Ear Buds (The dream of a young man in the woods, listening) and the mixed winds version of the irrepressible Saltmarsh Stomp.  Still no knowing, as yet;  but it is nice to have the chat go live.

Last night, and at last, I saw to the last of my Holy Week/Easter-related compositional tasks, and created handbell supplements (for five ringers) to the LvB Ode to Joy item in our Hymnal (the text here is “Sing With All the Saints in Glory”).  Technically I have just a little more work yet, as I need to mark up the five parts.  There are four verses;  I provided two verses for the handbells.

Tonight is our Maundy Thursday service, and a brief choir rehearsal after (at the conclusion of this evening’s service, we shall have only the two choral anthems to touch on for Sunday morning).

So – there it is.

28 March 2018

The Sun Out in Michigan (Again)

Yesterday I learnt to my delight that Out in the Sun, Op.88 received another performance by the University of Michigan Symphony Band Chamber Winds (its third Ann Arbor performance in 6-7 years), this time under the direction of Giovani Estéfano Briguente.

23 March 2018

Traurigkeit (&c.), Bárðarbunga and Nuhro

Very good, productive choir rehearsal last night. What with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday & Easter herself, our talented young flutist plays along with the choir on four anthems ... and I created the flute obbligato for three of the four.  (Fair disclosure:  I had already created an alternate flute part in O Traurigkeit for Paul.  I may have said that, already.)  She’s doing a terrific job, and having her as a “guest” last night meant that my choir were on their best behavior.

The hour prior to choir rehearsal, I practiced many of my numerous notes in the Leichtling Bárðarbunga dreymir undir ísnum.  It’s beautiful music, and they’re all good notes ... and I am yet closer to being in command of them all. It is perhaps an irony (but an entirely enjoyable one) that the need to conquer all these notes will compel a regular practice regimen for four weeks—so that my clarinet will be in its best shape since, perhaps, my last Atlanta trip. (To be sure, I was all right for last March’s full concert; but I ought to have been better, still.)

Marking lots of fingerings (so that there is visual confirmation of what I may already be doing intuitively – or not), and, here and there, note names for the enharmonic equivalents which would have been an easier read.  And now, happily, I need to transfer these inscriptions to a fresh part with improved page turns.

So, more clarinet practicing tonight (big k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble rehearsal tomorrow morning) and ... I need to mark up handbell parts for the Easter hymns.

I was reminded yesterday of Nuhro.  It is a very pleasant memory, especially today with the blizzard we recently managed to evade . . . I remember vividly the day I finished composing it.  I was up bright and early on a summer’s Saturday, and worked a storm, pressing to reach the final double-bar before I was called downstairs to get ready to ship off for a beach day.  Of course, I wanted very much to get the piece done, and I wanted very much to cavort on a sunny warm beach.  And I was given both.  And especially because my inner ear was full of the piece I had just finished, it played on and on in my mind as I waded in the gentle surf, and the rhythm of the surf affirmed my confidence that the piece was just as I should wish it.

22 March 2018

Because I do not shirk from splitting certain hairs

Now, in this quietly tense interval between having finished Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road, and our first rehearsal, I already have the thought of arranging it for (say) brass quartet.

I wonder if the time will come (this side of the grave) when my pieces are regularly performed, as I write them, so that I shed the subconscious habit of trying to improve their chances, by a multitude of instrumentation options.  I am not think so much of Minerva Road in this regard (since we shall perform it in April) but, of course, of pieces like Counting Sheep, Nun of the Above, Things Like Bliss, Ear Buds, It’s all in your head (not that that’s a bad place for everything to be), just what everyone was expecting, &c.

This April concert is a musical-muscle-flexing exercise in another regard.  I have so habitually played (nearly) only my own music, that I am unused to preparing – not difficult music, since I do write myself sufficient challenges (Irreplaceable Doodles, Blue Shamrock, the Clarinet Sonata, e.g.)  But I know my own language.  It is some while since I needed to address a challenging piece, on the clarinet, from the pen of another.  The piece is entirely achievable, and is beautiful music;  so dadgummit, I’ve just got to roll the sleeves up, and practice.

In case that sounded like a complaint – I find, all over again, that I do simply love playing.  Maybe if I had all the time through the week for musical activity, and played/practiced more faithfully/rigorously, the bloom would fade from the rose.  (But maybe it would not.)  In any event, time spent with the clarinet is (at the risk of sounding sentimental) a gift.  The clarinet has been a part of my life for 50 years now.

Which, considering that I am not a professional instrumentalist, astonishes me, at any rate.

Minerva Road is where I lived when I was at my youngest.  Whenever my family went for any extended drive (visiting grandparents in Jersey, vacationing in Montréal), the sight of the canal on the return trip signaled to me that we were nearly home.  I do not say that the musical style into which my piece reaches, was familiar to me in those early days (I rather doubt it was), so consider that aspect of the piece figurative, and “dramatically true” without being documentary.  The piece is an affectionate view of, rather than an exercise in, nostalgia.

19 March 2018

Back in the pool

Late Saturday morning, Peter Bloom I rehearsed both Mark Gresham's Miniatures and Avrohom Leichtling's Bárðarbunga dreymir undir ísnum for the first time.  There's work yet for us ahead, but the vibe is already good.

The program for King's Chapel will be:

Avrohom Leichtling | Bárðarbunga dreymir undir ísnum (Fantasy Piece № 10, Op. 137)
Mark Gresham | Three Miniatures
Karl Henning | Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road, Op. 149
Pamela Marshall | Birds on the Harmonic Plain

The flow of the program works almost like a symphony:  dramatic opening;  ScherzinoAndante;  grand finale.  Curiously, the order is also that in which each piece was completed.

Peter & I rehearse again tomorrow evening.  The full quartet will band together this Saturday morning.

For our young flutist at church to join in, I have added a flute obbligato to O Traurigkeit and Kingsfold.  In fact, I had prepared (for Paul Cienniwa, whose choir includes a flutist) a flute version of O Traurigkeit;  so all that is novel at present is, I have decided that the flute and clarinet will play in unison, for the combined color.  The flute is an entirely new (and entirely happy) addition to Kingsfold.

This April, Ensemble Aubade will take the Oxygen Footprint on tour (again!) to the Middle-West:

6 Apr | St Mary in the Woods College, Indiana
7 Apr | St Paul UCC, Columbia, IL
8 Apr | Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, Mt Vernon, IL
10 Apr | Lewis University, Romeoville, IL

18 March 2018

Wondrous Carillon Game Love

Very pleased with my choir and handbell ringers for their performance of my (modified) arrangement of What Wondrous Love this morning.  And what a trip, getting their heads around the improvisatory element of the Paschal Carillon Games, but that went beautifully in rehearsal after the service.

More to say for the day's work, but let it wait until tomorrow.

17 March 2018

Games of Four, Not of Fear


Act I: Over three months, I meet sporadically with the director of a community chorus, the meetings seem to go well, and I am made welcome to send samples of my work. No reply is ever made to my sending, nor acknowledgment, although when I actually meet the chap, he is pleasant, and one does not believe there is any dissembling. Nevertheless, Act I drew to a pleasant conclusion. My Man on the Inside of the chorus applied diplomatic pressure, simply to listen to my work. I decided that I should attend their 3 March concert, even though it was a choral Pops event and therefore not (as we might say) my first choice. (It was good fun.) I arrived early enough, that I figured I would step in the back (the parish hall of the church, that is) and greet my friend (thanking him for his pains, and for the comp). I found (barged in upon, I might say, without exaggeration) both Eric and the M.D. finishing with their suitings-up. Eric and I withdrew (for I really did not mean to engage the conductor in conversation, so shortly before a performance), and I heard to my delight that Adam has, indeed, listened to my work, and likes it. The plan is a bit longer-scale, to allow for a possible commission.

So, I await the opening of Act II.


Paul Cienniwa is playing a concert down yonder in Delray Beach with a violinist of the Delray String Quartet, on the 19th August. They will revive my duet, Plotting (y is the new x).

Ever the impertinent composer, I found the violinist on Facebook, logged a Friend request, and sent a brief introductory message. Shortly after she accepted, and replied with her phone number, making me welcome to call to talk about my piece.  (Questions of layout / page turns.)

For a dozen small reasons, but thankfully no great horrible reason, 1Q18 has been no friend to my musical activity/work. I had not meant for so long an interval before trying Mei Mei, but I did at last call this morning. (A little bird told me to have my music under my gaze during the call.) She had some layout/page-turn requests – and only reasonable. (Offhand, I am not sure how EmmaLee worked around the part . . . probably printed it all out at a reduction.) The call went swimmingly. As I know of the string quartet, naturally I went on to ask if I might send some music for the SQ, specifically (of course – pretty much the only quartet music I have Game Ready at present) the suite of short pieces, It’s all in your head (not that that’s a bad place for everything to be). She warmly accepted, and as the quartet have a September concert, and my pieces are short, she is already considering using one as an encore to their program.

This morning I worked at a better-flowed violin part for Mei Mei.


In a separate development, EmmaLee Holmes Hicks (who played the première of Plotting (y is the new x), above, together with Paul) has asked for music for four violins.  I originally composed It’s all in your head (not that that’s a bad place for everything to be) – in the case of the first movement, arranged – for a cello ensemble in four parts, and found afterwards that it translated quite readily to string quartet. And for EmmaLee’s piece for four violins, well, transpose a piece for four cellos up a twelfth, and . . . .


The k a rl h e nn i ng Ensemble will ride again on 17 April at King’s Chapel;  and it is time to get to work in earnest.  We have two duets composed specifically for us by Mark Gresham and Avrohom Leichtling (and we have a rehearsal later this very morning).  Our own Pam Marshall is working on a piece (Birds on the Harmonic Plain) for the four of us plus fixed media;  and I began my new quartet, Down Along the Canal to Minerva Road, on the 19th February.

And did no work on it since.

Well, technically, there has been nothing since to show for any work on the piece.  I have mulled.

No, really.

So, here I set to a bit more work on this, before heading to Somerville to rehearse with Peter.