Britt Orchestra: Opening Night - West Coast Composer Celebration

Friday, July 28, 8 p.m. • 2017


JOHN ADAMS: The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra
MASON BATES: Cello Concerto
DARIUS MILHAUD: La creation du monde (The Creation of the World)
KENJI BUNCH: Song of Sasquatch - World Premiere Commission!
JOHN WILLIAMS: Adventures on Earth from E.T.

TICKETS: Reserved $49 | Lawn $25 | Child/Student Lawn $10 
GATES OPEN: @ 5:45 Early Entry | 6:00 General Public
PRE-CONCERT TALK: 7:00 p.m. in the Performance Garden

Opening Night: West Coast Composer Celebration
Program: West Coast Composer Celebration - Joshua Roman, cello

John Adams – The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra
Andrew Norman – Unstuck
Mason Bates – Cello Concerto
Darius Milhaud – La creation du monde (The Creation of the World)
Henry Cowell – Ballad
Kenji Bunch – Song of Sasquatch (World Premiere Commission with support from the Oregon Community Foundation's Creative Heights Initiative)
John Williams – Adventures on Earth from E.T.

John Coolidge Adams (born February 15, 1947)
The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra

Commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts for the Milwaukee Symphony
Premiered January 31, 1986 by the Milwaukee Symphony; Lukas Foss, conductor

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (both double piccolo), 2 oboes, clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bell tree, castanets, claves, crotales, cymbals [crash, hi-hat, suspended, suspended sizzle], pedal bass drum, snare drum, glockenspiel, sandpaper blocks, tambourine, triangle, vibraphone, wood blocks, xylophone), harp, piano, and strings

West Coast Connection - John Adams calls Oakland, California his home, and is a close personal friend of Teddy Abrams!

2017 marks John Adams’ 70th year on this earth, and in that time, he has become one of the most prolific American composers, either living or dead. His output includes chamber, orchestral, and solo works, but he is best known for his numerous operas, including Doctor Atomic, El Niño, and Nixon in China.

Around 1985, Adams was in the throes of composing Nixon in China. As one can surely imagine, working on an opera quickly becomes an all-consuming process, but Adams had also put off completing a commission from the Milwaukee Symphony for an orchestral work. As Adams describes it himself:

“The Chairman Dances was an ‘out-take’ of Act III of Nixon in China. Neither an ‘excerpt’ nor a ‘fantasy on themes from,’ it was in fact a kind of warmup for embarking on the creation of the full opera. At the time, 1985, I was obliged to fulfill a long-delayed commission for the Milwaukee Symphony, but having already seen the scenario to Act III of Nixon in China, I couldn’t wait to begin work on that piece.”  

Adams lays out the scenario for The Chairman Dances in the score as follows:

“Chiang Ch’ing, aka The White-Boned Demon, aka Madame Mao, has gatecrashed the Presidential Banquet. She is first seen standing where she is most in the way of the waiters. After a few minutes, she brings out a box of paper lanterns and hangs them around the hall, then strips down to a cheongsam, skin-tight from neck to ankle and slit up to the hip. She signals the orchestra to play and begins dancing by herself. Mao is becoming excited. He steps down from his portrait on the wall and they begin to foxtrot together. They are back in Yenan, on the Long March, dancing to the gramophone…”

The Chairman Dances is a sort of minimalist dance work that exemplifies Adams’s musical output at that point in his career, with jazz influenced lines rubbing up against pulsing repetitions, all swathed in a comfortably consonant harmonic language. In regards to the style of the work, Adams later added: “it was a parody of what I imagined Chinese movie music of the '30s sounded like....[a] vast fantasy of a slightly ridiculous but irresistible image of a youthful Mao Tse Tung dancing the foxtrot with his mistress Chiang Ch'ing…”


Andrew Norman (born October 31, 1979)

Commissioned by the Orpheum Stiftung (Zurich, Switzerland)
Premiered September 9, 2008 by the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich; Michael Sanderling, conductor

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (toms, snare drum, suspended cymbals, tam-tam, crotales, bass drum, temple blocks, bongos, ratchet, washboard, tin cans, metal tins, cowbells), piano, and strings

West Coast Connection: Andrew Norman is based in Los Angeles, having been raised in southern California, and attended school at the USC Thornton School of Music.

Andrew Norman has quickly ascended the ranks of living American composers as one of the most important voices in the field today. His award-winning instrumental compositions have been performed frequently throughout the world. Norman’s work highlights his interest in “the ways non-linear, narrative-scrambling techniques from other time-based media like movies and video games might intersect with traditional symphonic forms.” One of his earlier pursuits of this interest in alternative narrative forms in music is tonight’s work, Unstuck.

The title of this work was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s landmark novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Andrew Norman was experiencing some writer’s block when first working on this piece, and encountered this quintessential sentence from Vonnegut’s book (“Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.”) Thinking of this sentence led Norman to a revelation:

“...the lack of coherence in my ideas was to be embraced and explored, not overcome.

I realized that my musical materials lent themselves to a narrative arc that, like Vonnegut’s character, comes “unstuck” in time. Bits and pieces of the beginning, middle, and end of the music crop up in the wrong places like the flashbacks and flashforwards that define the structure and style of Slaughterhouse-Five.”

Unstuck is a wild ride of orchestral color, a seemingly disjunct series of musical events that ultimately surprise in their coherence. As Norman alluded to in the above note, this work does not use your standard linear narrative devices employed in most other music. Musical moments sometimes linger in time, while others flash by in an instant. As you listen to this work, try to imagine which musical phrase belongs where, if one were to layout the musical events into their “proper” chronological order. And to borrow from Kurt Vonnegut again, remember this: “It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever.”

Mason Bates (born January 23, 1977)
Cello Concerto

Commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and written for Joshua Roman (our soloist tonight)

Premiered December 11, 2014 by the Seattle Symphony; Joshua Roman, cello, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, conductor

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo & alto flute), 2 oboes, 2 B-flat clarinets (2nd doubling Bass Clarinet), 2 bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba , timpani, percussion (finger cymbals, triangle, crotales, vibraphone, kalimba, almglocken, glockenspiel, tam-tam, suspended cymbal, piccolo snare drum, tambourine, bass drum, marimba, low Asian drum, woodblock, hi-hat, sandpaper blocks, flexible switches, crash cymbals), piano (doubling celesta), harp, strings

West Coast Connection: Mason completed his PhD in Music Composition at the University of California, Berkeley. He established his career as both a composer and DJ in Oakland. He has also done extensive work with Michael Tilson Thomas, the Music Director at the San Francisco Symphony.

With his background in electronic dance music, Mason Bates’s music always has its listener in mind. In each of his works, he manages to find an exquisite balance between the rhythmic pulsations and colors of electronica, and the language of western art music inflected with a bit of jazz, world, and folk idioms. Only a highly skilled composer can marry such seemingly disparate musical elements in such a crafty and ingenious way that Mason pulls off in his many instrumental works. At Britt, we’ve heard two other works by Mason: his Anthology of Fantastic Zoology in 2016, and Mothership (which featured Mason himself performing as a DJ with the orchestra) in 2015.

Tonight’s work was written specifically for the soloist on the program, Joshua Roman. In his notes about the Cello Concerto, Mason recalls, “This cello concerto began with a friendship. Josh Roman is beloved by just about everyone who meets him, and I am no exception. Immediately apparent is his unusual combination of enlightened prodigy and everyman approachability (he's from Oklahoma).” Unlike most of Mason’s oeuvre, this concerto does not have an underlying narrative structure to hold it together. The cello serves as the driving force here, with a wistful character in the first movement, heightened lyricism in the second, and all-out virtuosity in the final movement. The work follows a standard three-movement concerto structure (fast-slow-fast), but any other comparisons to standard concerti end there, as the music itself bears Mason’s trademarked blend of jazz harmonies and techno rhythms. At one point in the final movement, the cellist sets aside his bow to play his instrument with a guitar pick, much like a punk rock bassist. In all, Mason’s skill as a composer and Josh Roman’s virtuosity as a cellist combine to make a highly accessible work that is sure to please.


Darius Milhaud (September 4, 1892 - June 22, 1974)
La création du monde (The Creation of the World); Op. 81a

Ouverture (Overture)
Le chaos avant la création (Chaos Before Creation)
La naissance de la flore et de la faune (The birth of flora and fauna)
La naissance de l'homme et de la femme (The birth of man and woman)
Le désir (Desire)
Le printemps ou l'apaisement (Spring or appeasement)

Commissioned by Ballet suédois in 1923
Premiered in 1923 as a ballet

Instrumentation: two flutes, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, alto saxophone, horn, two trumpets, trombone, piano, percussion (tambourine, cowbell, wood block, cymbals, snare drum, tenor drum, Provençal drum, bass drum), timpani, and strings (two violins, cello, and bass)

West Coast Connection: Upon leaving France in the run up to World War II, Milhaud began teaching music at Mills College in Oakland, California (with esteemed students such as Dave Brubeck and Burt Bacharach). Even after he was able to return to France, Milhaud would teach every other year at Mills, until poor health prevented his travels in 1971.

Much like the rest of the western world, post-World War I life in France saw a huge spike in nationalistic thought. This nationalism played out in the musical world in overt ways, with each European nation championing their particular brand of music. In France, pride in French culture also meant a disdain for Germanic culture. Since much of the rise of western art music had taken place in Germany (see Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, et al), French music at this time took a decidedly different turn. In the early 20th century, composers like Debussy and Ravel reacted strongly against the post-Romantic leanings of the German world, setting the stage for the next generation of French musicians to further identify their music as “not German.”

Enter Les Six, a group of six composers from the Paris Conservatory in the late 1910s and early 1920s. The group included Francis Poulenc, Germaine Tailleferre, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Louis Durey, and the composer of tonight’s work, Darius Milhaud. Aesthetically speaking, nothing really tied this group together, but in 1919, a concert that featured works by each of them was presented in the Salle Huyghens. The critic Henri Collet was present, and penned a review of the concert that referred to the group as “...les six Français.” Thus was the ‘Les Six’ label born for these six composers. Milhaud later commented:

“Collet chose six names absolutely arbitrarily, those of Auric, Durey, Honegger, Poulenc, Tailleferre and me, simply because we knew each other and we were pals and appeared on the same musical programmes, no matter if our temperaments and personalities weren't at all the same!”

Milhaud is a self-described “Mediterraean lyricist.” He had a deep interest in polytonality (the use of two or more keys simultaneously), South American folk music (in particular, Brazilian music), and perhaps most famously, jazz. Milhaud traveled to the US in 1922, where he received his first in-depth exposure to the jazz clubs in Harlem. The experience affected Milhaud profoundly, as he later said, “This authentic music had its roots in the darkest corners of the Negro soul, the vestigial traces of Africa, no doubt. Its effect on me was so overwhelming that I could not tear myself away.... When I went back to France, I never wearied of playing over and over the Black Swan records I had purchased in a little shop in Harlem.”

Upon his return to Paris, Milhaud immediately got in touch with a designer and writer to begin work on a new ballet inspired by his new revelations in jazz. The writer hoped to use African creation myths as the basis for the scenario of the ballet. Milhaud was quickly on board and began composing a new work using instrumentation he had encountered in Harlem: two flutes, oboe, two clarinets, E-flat saxophone, bassoon, horn, two trumpets, trombone, much percussion, two violins, cello, and bass. In his own words, Milhaud “... made wholesale use of the jazz style to convey a purely classical feeling” in this new ballet, a work entitled La création du monde.

The five-movement, continuous work begins with what might be the most fascinating use of a simple Baroque form this writer is aware of - the prelude and fugue, fully tinged with jazz harmonies and blue notes one wouldn’t expect to find in such a place. The other seemingly out of place element is the addition and prominence of the alto saxophone. Since the saxophone was a relatively new instrument in the early 20th century, it was often overlooked as a concert instrument, but had found a home in military bands and in jazz. Milhaud’s inclusion of the saxophone (and exclusion of the viola) signals his intent to elicit the sound of a jazz band.  Yet he manages this new sound in a distinctly classical manner, utilizing techniques and textures reserved for the concert hall (rather than the dance hall).

La création du monde shows off Milhaud’s prowess as a composer with a cosmopolitan taste. The work is the first true integration of jazz elements into a “classical” composition, and thus stands as an important stepping stone in the development of the avant garde in western Europe. Though he probably would have hated this analogy, one might describe Milhaud’s music as a curious amalgam of Gershwin and Ravel. Post-Romantic French music, tinged with jazzy harmonies and melodies, couched in traditional classical forms, and overall, well-wrought music that stands above that of his peers.

Henry Cowell (March 11, 1897 - December 10, 1965)

Instrumentation: strings

West Coast connection: Cowell was born and raised in Menlo Park, California. He studied at UC Berkeley before moving to New York to complete his studies, but promptly moved back to California.

Henry Cowell’s legacy as a musician lives on in a variety of different ways, aptly reflecting his varied career as a composer, writer, music theorist, teacher, pianist, and impresario. He wrote one of the seminal texts on 20th century compositional technique in New Musical Resources (published in 1930), taught numerous prominent students (including Burt Bacharach, George Gershwin, John Cage, and Lou Harrison), founded a musical periodical called New Music, championed the music of several of his peers (including Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Edgard Varese, and Heitor Villa-Lobos), and even had a hand in inventing new musical instruments with famed inventor Leon Theremin. Most of all, Cowell was a prolific composer, especially creating works for solo piano.

Cowell is also considered an ultra-modernist. His aesthetic was extremely progressive compared to some of his more popular and famous peers. Cowell pioneered the use of tone clusters (playing three or more adjacent notes on the piano simultaneously); famously, in an early piano work, Cowell instructs the performer to use their forearms to produce a massive tone cluster. Cowell also was fascinated by new rhythmic concepts, and developed a complex pitch-rhythm system (detailed in New Musical Resources) that correlated the mathematical ratios of the pitches of the overtone series with rhythmic proportions. Sounds complicated, right? That’s because it is…

Tonight’s work features none of the above features, and is in fact quite plaintive. The ultra-modern, experimental nature of much of the rest of Cowell’s oeuvre is nowhere to be found in this Ballad, but you will find his interest in non-western music present. It begins in a contemplative, slow manner, and maintains a rather subdued tone throughout. A lovely folk-like melody pervades the work, with a simple accompaniment that moves when the melody stays still, and vice versa. Alternative sections of this slower, plaintive music and a slightly faster, more lively figure fill out the short work. It is unexpectedly beautiful, words that can be used to describe Cowell’s entire catalog of works.

Kenji Bunch (born July 27, 1973)
Song of Sasquatch

I. Sasquatch in Love
II. Sasquatch’s Lament
III. Sasquatch Runs Free

Instrumentation: piccolo, 2 flutes. 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (3 players: crotales, glockenspiel, marimba, triangle, siren whistle, wood block, claves, suspended cymbal, gong, bongos, snare drum, 4 tom-toms, bass drum), piano, harp, strings

West Coast Connection: Kenji was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. After attending Julliard and spending some time on the east coast, he has since moved back to Portland, where he is the Artistic Director of the new music ensemble Fear No Music, and a freelance violist and composer.

Kenji has this to say about tonight’s world premier, “although the subject may sound rather silly, I intend the piece as a sincere examination of universal experiences, from the perspective of the fabled beast. The underlying intention, as with several of my works, is to look at unlikely characters with empathy.”

John Williams (born February 8, 1932)
Adventures on Earth from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

West Coast Connection: John Williams’ family moved to Los Angeles when John was 16 years old. He ended up studying music at UCLA, before moving to New York to attend Julliard. When he completed his studies there, he moved back to LA to pursue a career as a studio musician, working with Henry Mancini in particular. He continues to reside in LA to this day.

Let’s take a moment and imagine that iconic scene in E.T.  You know, the big chase scene at the end (no spoilers here!).  It is such an emotional and tense moment for the viewer, and certainly is one of the most memorable scenes in cinema. Now imagine that same scene without John Williams’s dramatic score. Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Just google “E.T. without music,” and you can experience it for yourself.  

John Williams has built an entire career giving a musical voice to our collective emotions in cinema. His output is stunning, having composed the scores for numerous hit films over the years. Virtually every memorable film score in the past 30-plus years was written by John Williams (no offense intended to fans of other film composers, but none of them come close to Williams). Of all of his film scores, E.T.’s is probably one of the best from a purely musical perspective. This particular film score garnered an Academy Award, three Grammys, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, and a Golden Globe.

Guest Artist: Joshua Roman, cello

Joshua Roman

Joshua Roman has earned an international reputation for his wide-ranging repertoire, a commitment to communicating the essence of music in visionary ways, artistic leadership and versatility. As well as being a celebrated performer, he is recognized as an accomplished composer and curator, and was named a TED Senior Fellow in 2015.
During the 2016-17 season, Roman will play Mason Bates’s Cello Concerto with four different orchestras beside the Britt Orchestra: the Portland, Berkeley, Spokane, and Memphis Symphonies. The concerto is dedicated to the cellist, who gave its “world-class world premiere” (Seattle Times) with the Seattle Symphony in 2014, and has since performed it with orchestras around the U.S., including as part of a residency last spring with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In the second of two performances with the Omaha Symphony, he plays Dreamsongs, a cello concerto written for him by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, after a concert featuring Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso and Variations on a Rococo Theme. He will also play a solo recital at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Halloween concert (in a New York crypt) featuring the music of composer Gregg Kallor.

Recent seasons have seen Roman premiere Awakening, his own Cello Concerto, with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, and subsequently perform it with ProMusica Chamber Orchestra; make his debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra playing Dvorák’s Cello Concerto; give a solo performance on the TED2015 main stage; perform a program of chamber works by Lera Auerbach at San Francisco Performances with Auerbach and violinist Philippe Quint; and make appearances with the Columbus, Fort Worth, New World, Seattle Symphonies as well as with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. He also served as Alumnus-in- Residence at the prestigious Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara.

Roman has demonstrated inspirational artistic leadership throughout his career. As Artistic Director of TownMusic in Seattle he has showcased his own eclectic musical influences and chamber music favorites, while also promoting newly commissioned works. Under his direction, the series has offered world premieres of compositions by some of today’s brightest young composers and performances by cutting-edge ensembles. In the 2015-16 season at TownMusic he presented his own song cycle, … we do it to one another, based on Tracy K. Smith’s book of poems Life on Mars, with soprano Jessica Rivera. He has also recently been appointed the inaugural Artistic Advisor of award-winning contemporary streaming channel Second Inversion, launched by Seattle’s KING-FM to cultivate the next generation of classical audiences. The cellist additionally took on a new curatorial role last summer, as Creative Partner of the Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts. The same organization sponsored him in April 2016 at the 68th Annual Conference on World Affairs on the University of Colorado campus, where he contributed his innovative ideas about how classical music is conceived and presented. Roman performed at the Kennedy Center Arts Summit that same month and is a member of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors artists committee.

Roman’s cultural leadership includes using digital platforms to harness new audiences. In 2009 he developed “The Popper Project,” performing, recording and uploading the complete etudes from David Popper’s High School of Cello Playing to his dedicated YouTube channel. In his latest YouTube project, “Everyday Bach,” Roman performs Bach’s cello suites in beautiful settings around the world. He has collaborated with photographer Chase Jarvis on Nikon video projects, and Paste magazine singled out Roman and DJ Spooky for their cello and iPad cover of Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” created for the Voice Project. For his creative initiatives on behalf of classical music, Roman was named a TED Fellow in 2011, joining a select group of next-generation innovators who show potential to positively affect the world. He acted as curator for an outdoor amphitheater performance at the TED Summit in Banff in the Canadian Rockies this past summer.

Beyond these initiatives, Roman’s adventurous spirit has led to collaborations with artists outside the music community, including his co-creation of “On Grace” with Tony Award-nominated actress Anna Deavere Smith, a work for actor and cello which premiered in February 2012 at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. His outreach endeavors have taken him to Uganda with his violin-playing siblings, where they played chamber music in schools, HIV/AIDS centers and displacement camps, communicating a message of hope through music.

Before embarking on a solo career, Roman spent two seasons as principal cellist of the Seattle Symphony, a position he won in 2006 at the age of 22. Since that time he has appeared as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, New World Symphony, Alabama Symphony, and Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Ecuador, among many others. An active chamber musician, Roman has collaborated with established artists such as Andrius Zlabys, Cho-Liang Lin, Assad Brothers, Earl Carlyss, Christian Zacharias and Yo-Yo Ma, as well as other dynamic young soloists and performers from New York’s vibrant music scene, including the JACK Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Derek Bermel and the Enso String Quartet.

A native of Oklahoma City, Roman began playing the cello at the age of three on a quarter-size instrument, and gave his first public recital at age ten. Home-schooled until he was 16, he then pursued his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Richard Aaron. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Cello Performance in 2004, and his Master’s in 2005, as a student of Desmond Hoebig, former principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra. Roman is grateful for the loan of an 1899 cello by Giulio Degani of Venice.

Visit these sites for more information on Joshua Roman:
Ted Talks


Pre-concert music: Ensemble 2+1

Begins in the Britt Performance Garden at 6:00 p.m.

Pre-concert talk: Host Geoff Riley interviews Josua Roman

Begins in the Britt Performance Garden at 7:00 p.m.