A musical farewell to Gary Green is among the rich plethora of April UM Frost events
Contemporary music takes center stage at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music in the final month of the school season with a series of upcoming concerts and a free opera performance. Gary Green, director of the Frost Wind Ensemble and chair of musical performance, is retiring and his farewell concert on April 26—appropriately titled “A Joyful Celebration”—will feature no less than four world premieres.
Since his arrival at the Coral Gables campus 22 years ago, Green has been an enthusiastic champion of contemporary composers. and his efforts have significantly enlarged the wind band repertoire. Green has commissioned forty works and taken part in over 50 consortium commissions in which UM participated with other universities’ music schools. (This school term alone Green has premiered works by Scott Stinson, Paul Dooley and Joel Puckett.)
“I have enjoyed nearly every moment teaching at conducting at the Frost School of Music,” said Green. “This has been a gift.”
When he first joined the UM faculty in 1993, there was no formal wind ensemble program and it was sometimes difficult in those early days to interest students in playing the wind band repertoire. Even then, however, he found that his players had tremendous passion for music making and many of those students are now teaching and playing in ensembles.
“The wind ensemble program has gone through a maturing process, enabling the performance of more complex scores that may not have been possible some years before,” said Green. With the program now firmly established, he has found rehearsing new and challenging scores “exciting and invigorating.”
Green’s colleagues voice great respect for his accomplishments and dedication. Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg says Green is “a champion of contemporary music, beauty and student achievement. We will replace him but he is irreplaceable.”
“Gary is an exceptional human being, musician and teacher,” says friend Thomas Sleeper, conductor of the Frost Symphony Orchestra. Sleeper joined the Frost faculty the same year as Green and says his colleague has “brought the wind program up to an international level” while keeping the students’ educational experience as the paramount goal.
For Green’s farewell program, Sleeper has composed his Chamber Symphony No. 5. The work is scored for string quartet, woodwind quintet, piano and winds which will allow several members of the Frost faculty to play with Green at this special event. Sleeper wants the score “to be our tribute to Gary rather than mine alone.” Green calls Sleeper’s symphony “a terrific piece with a deeply searching, angst-ridden first movement.” Green also noted that the fast finale relates to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, a work he has conducted at the school.
Two of the other new scores are by composers who have special resonance for Green. Soon after he began teaching at UM, former music school Dean William Hipp decided to commission original works for each of the school’s resident ensembles. Among them was Michael Colgrass’s Urban Requiem, which has since achieved repertoire status, receiving many performances around the globe.
Green has put together a consortium of five commissioning schools for the premiere of a new work, Colgrass’s Urban Nocturnes, bringing him full circle back to the creator of his first Miami commission.
Composer David Maslanka has enjoyed a decades-long relationship with Green as a friend and working partner, ever since Green led a performance of Maslanka’s A Child’s Garden of Dreams. Along with Ingolf Fahl’s Sinfonietta for Concert Band, Green regards his experience performing Maslanka’s score as the catalyst for his desire to expand the available repertoire for wind ensemble.
Green became a fervent champion of Maslanka’s music and, by the composer’s count, has conducted eleven of his scores, two of which he commissioned. In an e-mail, Maslanka says his friend “has a great heart and love for young people.”
Maslanka’s newest work, Hosannas has seven brief movements. The composer notes that the title means “shout for joy” and an awareness of the divine nature of everything. The composer describes the score as “a prayer for joy and the ability to be thankful” with sections that range from quiet and interior to exuberantly energetic. “Gary and I are both past the age of 70, and each of us has a clear sense that every mood and attitude can be one of praise.”
Looking back on his years of rehearsing and performing new music, Green finds it intriguing that he “can go about continually learning more about music.” Maslanka posits that Green may be retiring from Miami but his career is far from over. Reflecting on the future, Green notes that every point in his career when something unknown brings a challenge, there is hope that it will bring joy. He is deeply grateful to the school of music, patrons and contributors and his students whose gifts have helped to commission the new scores for his farewell.
While the premieres on Green’s program comprise the most new music on a single concert, two other events on UM Frost’s end-of-school-year performance calendar are equally noteworthy.
On Saturday, March 18, Sleeper conducts the Frost Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Elegy, Soliloquy and Epilogue for flute and orchestra. Sleeper saved up his orchestral budget for the past five years in order to set up a consortium of 11 universities and conservatories to commission Zwilich, a Miami native and Pulitzer Prize winner, to write a work for faculty member Trudy Kane, former principal flute of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He praises Zwilich’s “exquisite string writing full of passion from the first note” and brilliant scoring for solo flute. The concert will also include the American premiere of Rashid Kalimulin’s Symphonic Fresco, plus familiar works by Tchaikovsky and Elgar.
The enterprising Frost Opera Theater under the artistic direction of Alan Johnson will present a free concert performance of Michael Dellaira’s 2003 opera The Death of Webern on April 23. Five months after the end of World War II, Austrian composer Anton Webern, a disciple of Arnold Schoenberg, was shot and killed by an American soldier. The opera delves into the mystery surrounding the incident through the research of musicologist Hans Moldenhauer and Webern’s own lectures. Members of the Frost vocal faculty, students and alumni will take part in the performance.
Thomas Sleeper conducts the Frost Symphony Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Rashid Kalimulin’s Symphonic Fresco and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Elegy, Soliloquy and Epilogue with flute soloist Trudy Kane. 8 p.m. Saturday April 18 at UM Gusman Concert Hall.
The Frost Opera Theater presents Michael Dellaira’s The Death of Webern 7:30 p.m. April 23 at UM Clarke Recital Hall. The performance is free and open to the public.
Gary Green conducts the Frost Wind Ensemble in Thomas Sleeper’s Chamber Symphony No. 5, Michael Colgrass’ Urban Nocturnes, David Maslanka’s Hosannas and Mason Bates’ Side Man with percussion soloist Svet Stoyanov. 4 p.m. April 26 at UM Gusman Concert Hall. music.miami.edu
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Tue Apr 14, 2015
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