“Doom-begotten Music” makes world premier at LU

Reid Stratton

This Saturday, the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra performs an original composition by our very own Joanne Metcalf.Ms. Metcalf is currently professor of composition at Lawrence, though that is only one of many feathers in her cap. She has received awards from ASCAP, the American Music Center, and even won a prize that allowed her to live and work in American composer Aaron Copland’s home. Her studies include time at Duke University with Scott Lindroth, and in Holland with Louis Andriessen as a Fulbright Scholar. Add to these credentials a fistful of commissions from some of the world’s top soloists and ensembles, including marimbist Nancy Zeltsman and the Hilliard Ensemble, and you’ve got one highly gifted composer.

The piece to be performed this Saturday is “Doom-begotten Music”, for string orchestra and tenor soloist. The piece is based on the Pulitzer prize-winning epic poem “Tristram”, by Edwin Arlington Robinson. The story of Tristram is one that has been used many times in a musical setting, perhaps most famously in Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde”. However, Metcalf notes that her piece does not attempt to retell this familiar story. Rather, she has extracted nine meditative scenes that reflect on love, death, fate, and time. Prof. Metcalf explains the piece as “a small opera for one, or what would be left of an opera if all of the action were removed, leaving only the arias”.

The soloist for this performance is the very gifted British tenor, John Potter. He has been a member of many ensembles, including the BBC Singer and the Hilliard Ensemble, and was a founding member of the avant-garde ensemble, Electric Phoenix. He can be found on some 140 recordings, including an album of John Dowland pieces that was named one of the best recordings of 2000 by the New York Times. John Potter currently teaches at the University of York, and is the author of “Vocal Authority” and “The Cambridge History of Singing”.

John Potter commissioned “Doom-begotten Music” and premiered it in 2002 at the York Festival of Contemporary Music. At that time the piece was written for voice and piano, but has been expanded to its present version including orchestra since then. The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra will give the world premiere of the new “Doom-begotten Music”.

The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Bridget-Michaele Reischl, will also perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 on this concert. Joanne Metcalf will lead a pre-concert discussion Saturday, the 10th at 7 pm in the Chapel, and the concert begins at 8 pm.