CCPA’s Chamber Orchestra receive unique opportunity in support of new music

By Daniel Johanson

Viaggio - Photo by Daniel

CCPA’s Chamber Orchestra and Composition Professor Stacy Garrop are involved in an extensive artistic endeavor. The orchestra will perform two of her works, entitled “Thunderwalker” and “Shadow.”
This allows the orchestra a very unique experience. Not only are they performing new music, but material that was conceived by someone they see on a daily basis. Of course, this has its challenges.
“I think playing new music is very difficult,” said Hilary Butler, a senior performing viola with the Chamber Orchestra. “Especially since there are limited recordings to listen to.”
This performance is only the beginning of a much larger project. Garrop is also in the process of finishing the composition of an entire symphony which will be premiered by CCPA next year.
Both the performance on Tuesday night and the symphony’s premiere will be recorded by Cedille Records, an independent classical music label based out of Chicago. A CD will then be manufactured, which will showcase all parties involved.
“A couple years ago, Dean [Henry] Fogel came into my office and said, ‘We want to record a CD of your music,’” Garrop said. “They saw that if you have a student orchestra, you don’t want to just put out another Mahler or Beethoven recording, because they will just be compared to other recordings.”
The music actually spans a significant chunk of Garrop’s output. It includes pieces from her formative years as a composer, significant works in her career and compositions yet to be finished.
“‘Thunder Walker’ was actually my doctoral dissertation,” Garrop said. “‘Shadow’ was written for the CCPA Orchestra tour when they went to Japan. I wrote it for exactly the size orchestra we were going to take to Japan. Then, I was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to write a piece, and I called it ‘Becoming Medusa,’ and eventually the Albany Symphony commissioned me for some more music, and the conductor of that group, David Alan Miller, asked me for some companion pieces for ‘Medusa,’ and so suddenly, I had this mythology symphony growing.”
All of these developments afford a significant perspective into the growth of a composer. Sometimes works are revised and different versions are made over a span of many years.
“It became an interesting problem, because ‘Becoming Medusa’ was written in 2007, and the last movements were finished in 2013,” Garrop said. “My style as a composer actually shifted dramatically during those years, so I actually looked back at my earlier style and wrote in that mode rather than trying to write now.”
“Becoming Medusa” is one of the works that will be performed next year. Although this work has already been premiered, it will become part of a “Mythology Symphony” with movements that have not yet been performed.
Garrop may not have had this finished product in mind, but she now sees the project’s goal and impact.
“The whole ‘Mythology Symphony’ are all female characters,” Garrop said. “I wanted characters that weren’t really the top of the line, in the sense that they don’t get all of the glory. The idea of ‘Becoming Medusa,’ we all tend to think of her as the gorgon with the heads of snakes. We don’t think of her as a beautiful woman who seduces a god and gets a goddess angry at her, who then changes her into the gorgon. So, that’s what the piece is about, it’s all of these stories that don’t always get told.”
The expanded nature of this project is a representation of what CCPA has to offer. This smattering of possibility is realized by the variety of artistry available. The hope is these innovations will be visible from every perspective.

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