New student-composed music was debuted as the first event of this year’s Contemporary Music Festival at Gaertner Performing Arts Center on April 7.
This annual festival is in its 54 year and features a different guest composer each year.
With the exception of one piece, all of the music performed that night was written and composed by Sam Houston State University students.
Two awards were presented that evening for outstanding student compositions.
The lights dimmed and the audience of about thirty people quickly grew silent as six students holding trumpets walked on stage. They performed the piece, Sketch: for Trumpet Sextet by Kevin Bailey. It was a busy piece and at times it almost felt stressful.
For the next piece, the doors on stage left were opened and a marimba was wheeled out. Alyssa Neeley was the only person on stage for this performance of Adventurous Splinters by David Busch.
This piece began slow and simply but quickly began to add layers onto itself until, by the end, it became a high energy performance.
While the marimba was wheeled off stage after the performance, Professor Kyle Kindred came on stage and welcomed the audience to the first concert of the Contemporary Music Festival and introduced them to this year’s guest composer.
“We’re excited to have a very special guest with us, Mr. Christopher Theofanidis,” Kindred said. “He is currently on staff at Yale and actually drove all the way down here from Yale.”
Theofanidis conducted several events throughout the course of the festival, including a lecture and composition master class.
The next performance, Trio for Flute, Clarinet, and Bassoon by Jordan Ricks had many lighter elements and while the second movement was a bit slower, the piece overall felt as though a playful fantasy novella had been condensed into three movements.
If the last piece was a jaunt into a light and playful story, the next piece was a grand adventure into an epic world of high fantasy.
The piece, Introduction and Allegro, had four parts: cello, viola and two violins. It had a darker more serious tone than the previous piece, yet still felt like a story that had been adopted from a different medium.
Kindred returned to the stage alongside Jordan Ricks to perform Quixotic, which was a very calm and smooth piece for piano.
Kindred remained on stage and played the piano for the next piece as well. Ahavat Olam by Travis Redden was far bleaker than any of the other pieces in the concert. It was dark and interesting in the way that it blended violin and piano to form a sinister atmosphere.
Immediately after, Kindred announced the winners of the two composition awards.
Redden was awarded the 2016 Phi Mu Alpha Fisher Tull Student Composition Award for his piece Ahavat Olam, and the Carson Thomas Miller Texas Emerging Composers Competition Award was given to Harrison Collins.
Collins’ award winning piece, Ecstatic Noise was performed after the presentation.
The inclusion of brass instruments added an element of excitement to this piece. Considering its composer had just won an award, it sounded appropriately triumphant.
The concert concluded with the performance of What About the Rest of Us?. The creation of this piece involved the colorful quotes from this year’s presidential race and the inclusion of music students’ short compositions for them.
Some of the candidates featured in the piece included Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The performance had the audience laughing at some of the more interesting moments in this election season so far.
This New Music Recital began the Contemporary Music Festival in an exciting way and left both the audience and performers looking forward to the rest of the weekend’s festivities.