Spindrift Commissioning Guild Project for 2006
Black Bear Dance for Esprit de Cor
Esprit de Cor is a group of Boston-area horn players - amateur and professional - who present an annual concert on the First Parish Summer Series in Lexington. Erik Svenson is the founder and organizer and David Archibald conducts. I have been playing with the group and composing pieces for them for several years. In 2004 Esprit played Echoes of Golden Brass for horns and organ, and last year we played "wild horn whose voice the woodland fills" for eight horns, in memory of our dear friend and fellow horn player Jeanne Traphagan.
In 2006 we played Black Bear Dance for horns and drumming group, played African-style. Members of the community drumming group from First Parish joined us. Rehearsals began at the end of April and the concert was June 2, 2006 at noon at First Parish Church in Lexington, MA. Check out the concert photo gallery!
4 horns, drum - horn quartet or horn choir
Spindrift Commissioning Guild
Written for Esprit de Cor, Erik Svenson, director
Friday June 2, 2006
First Parish Summer Series, First Parish Unitarian, Harrington Road, Lexington, MA USA
Update 2010: I've made a clarinet choir arrangement of Black Bear Dance for the Indian Hill Clarinet Choir in Littleton, MA. They are Guild supporters too! They did a energized, wonderful performance at their Spring concert in 2010. You can hear a computer-audio performance at SoundClick.com
clarinet choir in 5 parts
Indian Hill Clarinet Choir, directed by Paul Surapine
Friday June 17, 2010
Indian Hill Music, Littleton, MA
Check out the music - listen, look at, purchase:
- Black Bear Dance for horns in the Spindrift Catalog
- Black Bear Dance score - for perusal, not printable
- Black Bear Dance mp3 - premiere by Esprit de Cor in Lexington, MA
- Black Bear Dance for clarinet choir in the Spindrift Catalog
This project is completed.
Read about the Guild.
The following friends and supporters have contributed to support the composing and performance of Black Bear Dance for horns and drumming group:
Green Mountain Horn Club, Alan Parshley, Director
Anonymous - 4
Members of the Indian Hill Clarinet Choir
Paul Surapine, ensemble director
My thanks to everyone who has supported Black Bear Dance!
- February 2006 - I've started working on the music for horns and drums. It's turning out to be a little jazzy and less primitive-sounding than I expected to write, with syncopation against the regular beat of the drums. I feel compelled to vary the drum patterns, but that may not be a good idea. African-style drumming repeats the same pattern for many measures - that's what the performers will be used to - and I need the drum part to be easy to fit with the ensemble.
- March 2006 - I haven't had a lot of time to work on the horn music, because of the premiere of Weaving the World. However, attending those rehearsals has given me a name. There's a line in that text that reads "and black bears roam the woods unseen". The choral director rehearsed it a lot, looking for a natural declamation and in-tune intervals. I worried that the name might imply American Indian, which the music is not. Then on the Internet I found the Bear Dance painting of William Holbrook Beard. Aside from the fact that he was mocking stock-market bears, the image was just right. For viewers of Comedy Channel's Colbert Report, you might want to know that these are happy bears!
- April 11, 2006 - The composing is just about done (there will always be more changes as we rehearse, so I hesitate to call it actually done). I've made copies for our first rehearsal.
- April 13, 2006 - I met with the drumming group at First Parish to introduce them to the project. They graciously expressed an interest and we rehearsed a bit to show them what the piece would be like. My early thoughts of keeping the patterns simple were right on the money. I need to revise the parts so that each section sticks with a particular rhythmic pattern. I will prepare a practice tape for them.
- April 27, 2006 - I met with the drummers again, and my first cut at a practice recording was not adequate. It needs some spoken cues and variety of timbres so the drummer can keep track. We also simplified the score so that there are 6 patterns and no variation. My mind's ear wants to hear variation, but in the actual performance the power of the drums is in the repetition. The tones vary as the hands strike the drums and the sound fills the hall. We also had a horn rehearsal later that evening, which went really well. If we have enough horns to cover the parts, i will conduct.
- May 1, 2006 - I was busy over the weekend with a concert for Mahler's 2nd, among other things, so I am finally finishing the drum practice material today. I think the notation of the patterns and the schema for repeats will be clear for those who don't read music and even for those who do.
- May 18, 2006 - We had the first rehearsal with the horns and one drummer. The original group found the structure of a prewritten piece did not fit with their skills. So I need to redo the part for a couple of drummers who can read music. Still cues from the conductor (for the first performance, that will be me) will be important to keep the horns and the drums synchronized since it's easy for the drummers to lose their place in the repeated patterns. I'd like the drummers to feel freer to improvise a bit, as long as they don't play too loud and overpower the horns. But the important thing is for both groups to stick to the same beat.
- June 4, 2006 - Concert postscript: Our 2006 Esprit de Cor concert was a lot of fun and members of the audience were struck by the varied textures that group of horns can make. Black Bear Dance went well, with the drums adding a high level of energy. I really enjoyed the whole concert - playing our dramatic arrangements of Egmont and Elsa's Procession from Lohengrin, and especially our conductor David Archibald's extended arrangement of excerpts from Freischutz. I made my local conducting debut leading Black Bear Dance. It's always a kick to find out how much the audience enjoys our imperfect but enthusiastic and fun performances. There's a recording of Black Bear Dance.