This weekend I headed to North Louisiana for two great music festivals. Saturday I was in Monroe and Ruston for the very first New Music on the Bayou; Sunday I was in Shreveport for the 40th Annual Shreveport Summer Music Festival. The two festivals were as different as could be. New Music on the Bayou featured chamber and electronic works – some quite experimental – all written by contemporary composers; the Shreveport Summer Music Festival featured orchestral music by Mendelssohn and Czech-American composer Václav Nelhýbel, plus a new concerto by Louisiana’s own Kermit Poling. New Music on the Bayou bounced between six venues in northeast Louisiana ranging from recital halls and an art museum to the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge; Sunday’s opening concert of the Shreveport Summer Music Festival was held at the Church of the Holy Cross in downtown Shreveport. Despite the differences, both festivals were incredibly enjoyable!
Organized by Gregory Lyons and Mel Mobley, New Music on the Bayou featured the music of twenty-seven composers over the course of four days. I was able to attend the festival’s final concerts on Saturday where I also had the chance to meet several of the composers – most of whom were my age or only slightly older. Those composers included Charles Corey (Director and Curator of the Harry Partch Instrumentarium), Peter Dayton whose Cello Sonata was performed by my friend Paul Christopher, Sarah Wald, Zhaoyu Zhang, and others. The closing concert at Ruston’s Dixie Center for the Arts featured the works of several of these composers – Sarah’s intensely-rhythmic percussion quartet Pas de Quatre, Zhaoyu’s electronic Nothing is Lost with its manipulation of everyday sounds, as well as the Cello Sonata I mentioned by Peter Dayton. I did not get a chance to hear Charles Corey’s Excursions which had been performed Thursday, but I did have the chance to discuss with Chuck his work at the Partch Instrumentarium, composing with microtones, and the music of György Ligeti. It was great meeting these young composers, hearing their music, and trading ideas with them – we had much in common, and next year I plan to submit a work of my own to the festival!
Sunday’s concert in Shreveport featured music old and new. Like Saturday though, it was the new music which made the greatest impression on me. Composer Kermit Poling, guitarist John De Chiaro, and the festival orchestra premiered a great new work – the Concierto de Chiaro written by Poling expressly for Mr. De Chiaro. I think this was my favorite work I have heard by Poling yet! There is a constant pulse throughout the concerto, linking each of its three movements. The first movement begins stormy and almost in medias res. Its second movement, although slow, never drags with nice alternations between the solo guitarist and the oboist who becomes somewhat of a secondary soloist; their melody returns at the end of the second movement as if a refrain. The third movement summarized and concluded what had come before (just as last movements should), building up to a powerful finale for the combined forces of guitar and orchestra. The standing ovation the new concerto received was well-deserved!
It was a great weekend all around! Congratulations to all involved, and thank you for bringing classical music to life in our community!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a composer, music scholar, and advocate of music. Jackson graduated summa cum laude from the Louisiana Scholars’ College located in Natchitoches, Louisiana in May 2013 after completing his undergraduate thesis “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” As series director of the successful Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series from May 2014 to April 2016, Jackson played a vital role in the renewal of interest in chamber music across Central Louisiana. This interest has encouraged the creation of the annual Sugarmill Music Festival and the new series Nachtmusik von BrainSurge, both of which Jackson will remain active in as concert annotator and creative consultant. Jackson has in fact written program notes for many of Central Louisiana’s key music presenters, including the Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Arts Council of Central Louisiana, and Northwestern State University. He also blogs at MusicCentral where he shares concert experiences, gives listening recommendations, posts interviews with contemporary composers, and offers insights into his own compositions. Jackson has followed classical music around the world, including trips to Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival and the BachFest Leipzig in Germany. As a composer, he has worked to integrate a modern vocabulary into established classical forms in ways that are not only innovative but also engaging to the general listener. His four-movement Suite for solo guitar, Op. 21 received its world premiere on November 5, 2015 and has also been aired on public radio. In fall 2016, Jackson will begin graduate studies at the University of Louisville with the ultimate goal of earning his doctorate in musicology. Learn more about Jackson Harmeyer, his scholarship, and his compositions at www.JacksonHarmeyer.com.