A Message From our Quarantined Conductor

Is there anything sadder than a conductor with nothing and no one to conduct? I walk around the neighborhood, waving my arms at an invisible orchestra. People stare and shake their heads in sympathy...I think. Standing before the bathroom mirror, I raise the toothbrush, inhale, and give a commanding downbeat and what do I hear? Nothing but the slap of toothpaste on the mirror. My baton collection languishes...somewhere. Scores of scores sit on my shelves, forlorn, unread...music trapped on the mute pages between muffling covers.

I'm being facetious - even if you're not so much as smiling, dear reader, at my furious attempts at humor. There are plenty of things sadder than a conductor without a current. Scores are not quite so still on the bookcase as I do take the time to re-acquaint myself with a masterpiece or study something new to me like a map of an exotic, as yet unvisited land.

And then there are those exotic lands of my own making. I count my blessings that I am healthy and have time to pursue compositional projects - some that have been on "to do" lists that are older than my children. One of these is a fantasia on Veni Emmanuel to round out a suite of Christmas-themed settings entitled Ancient Yuletide Carols. Christmas in July - it's a thing. Actually, it has been a fairly common thing in my life as summer has often been the time when I would be writing something new to feature on our Yuletide Celebration. This piece is not intended for that program (and more about plans for the 85th season of the TuscPhil later), but working on it keeps me off the streets, waving my arms and distressing the neighbors.

In May, the project was to compose some new pieces for double string orchestra - a commission from the Tuscarawas Philharmonic itself. Two string orchestras for the price of one! Actually, it was immense fun and the theme and variations I composed to meet the due date are objects of pride and affection. That creative vein I hit continues to gush as I've added some more variations to the set just because the music stirs in me and won't let me think about much else.

Composing music in these days of disruption is a genuine act of hope and faith. One of the things one becomes aware of with classical music (and with all art disciplines) is that there is music that has been around and seen a lot - written and played as societies were upended, personal and public disasters unfolded, economies and demographics shifted and technologies evolved. Art is an urge inside us that seems to be eternal and, like life, "it finds a way" as the character Ian says in Jurassic Park.

The management and board of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic are committed to efforts to "find a way" and step into the future with all of its pending changes. The safety and health of all participants is the over-riding concern, of course, but there is, in this highly-charged atmosphere, a kind of enticement in the prospect of creating and performing music that speaks in ways that are maybe even more communicative, powerful and consoling. We'll keep you apprised. In the meantime, here is a synthesized orchestra rendition of one of the pieces I composed in May.