Thursday, June 14, 2012

Premiered: "Isle of Colours," A New Composition for Brass Quintet

Isle of Colours, my new composition for brass quintet, was premiered on May 19, 2012 in Stanford, California, practically in the very shadow of Stanford University. It was a wonderful event, and I thank the many people who contributed to the success of its first performance.


Isle of Colours is a three-movement suite for two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba. The title is a reference to the great art of Great Britain. Each of the movements is titled for one of my favorite British artists: JMW Turner, John Constable, and David Hockney. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the work of these wonderful artists, and if they're already familiar to you, then you know what fun it will be to renew old acquaintances. Many of their finest paintings can be viewed online, if you can't get to the right museums right away!


The first movement of Isle of Colours ("Turner") is vigorous and heroic music. None of my movements were composed in response to specific paintings, but I feel that many of Turner's works embody the bold qualities I present in my first movement. See his "Sunset," "The Slave Ship," and "The Burning of the Houses of Parliament," for instance. The second movement ("Constable") is a set of variations on an original chorale tune. Its peaceful, warm nature comes the closest of the three movements to evoking a specific painting. I hope its grand and timeless feel brings Constable's scale to mind, and while Constable is not known particularly for his religious scenes, this music seems to fit well his "Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds." The third movement ("Hockney") is a bossa nova that features solos for trombone, horn, and trumpet. David Hockney is a living artist who has divided his life largely between England and Los Angeles, and the cool, hip feel of the bossa nova seemed a perfect fit for his highly popular style.

(L-R) Kevin Brown, Loren Marsteller, Sam Gubins, Raymond Burkhart,
Beth Zare, Richard Zare, and David Holben






















Isle of Colours was commissioned by the non-profit scientific publisher, Annual Reviews. I thank Sam Gubins, Annual Reviews' President and Editor-in-Chief, and Richard Zare, Chairperson of Annual Reviews' Board of Directors, for their generous support of this commission. Richard and Susan Zare were most gracious hosts for the event. And I'm deeply grateful to my friend, hornist Beth Zare, for offering the idea of the commission!

The Premiere Brass Quintet premiered Isle of Colours on a concert devoted entirely to my compositions. Naturally, I hope it was but the first of many such concerts! The Premiere Brass Quintet has performed in California since its founding in 1984. The members for the premiere of Isle of Colours were trumpeters Ray Burkhart and Kevin Brown (co-founders of the quintet), hornist Beth Zare, trombonist Loren Marsteller, and tubist David Holben.

The program opened with my palindromic fanfare, TOOT, followed by Sophie's Waltz, The Y2K Bug Blues, Italian Postcards (another three-movement suite), and Isle of Colours. Isle of Colours will be available soon in print for purchase. The other compositions are already published. See my website, RaymondBurkhart.com, and navigate to my Online Store to find my brass quintets and other music publications.

The online store also features Watercolor Menagerie, a CD of the Premiere Brass Quintet playing many of my compositions, including those above (except Isle of Colours).

You can see some photos from the event at my Facebook page. Some videos might become available soon on Youtube, also!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Roper Remembers

The Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, once said, "Musicians talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art." My experience has been different.

Sibelius was not entirely wrong; he just made a statement that's more absolute than I have found the truth to be. Every so often in the music world, one runs into a deep-thinking artist. I think of my friend, William Roper, as one of those.

William Roper

Roper (he much prefers 'Roper' over William or Bill) is a composer and tubist in the Los Angeles area. At least, those are two sides of the man. He's also a chef and a painter. Visit his website HERE.

I have worked with Roper many times. Currently, he's a regular member of my brass quintet, and his participation is always valued, both for his musicianship and for his various perspectives on things, including music and life. He has the wry and dry sense of humor often found in deep thinkers. This comes out in his compositions, of course. His musical aesthetic and mine differ a good bit, but I enjoy his music very much and find it interesting and thought-provoking. I think the latter point might please him most. He'll let me know. When there's time, we'll talk about it. In fact, I always enjoy talking to Roper, because he's just so interesting. He says he likes my music, too, which – coming from an artist and thinker like him – means a lot.

I blog about Roper because he's the latest subject in a series of short documentaries by Los Angeles filmmaker Joe Santarromana. You can find some of Santarromana's work HERE at Vimeo. The video about Roper is the fourth in a series entitled, "The Rememberers." It runs about 17 minutes, and I think it's very well done. He shares important observations on his life, cooking, composing, and racism. It interests me, of course, since it reveals much about a colleague. I think you'll be interested, too, because Roper is a fascinating person.

My favorite element of the video is his paintings. Roper doesn't talk about painting much, but I think his paintings are terrific. I think he should paint more. For me, his visual art has that blend of ideas and craftsmanship that signifies greatness and enduring value. Or maybe I just like the colors.

If you get the opportunity to talk with Roper – really talk, not just meet-and-greet or chat – do it. He's definitely interested deeply in music and art. I'm pretty sure Sibelius would have changed his tune (at least one of them), had he met Roper.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Premiered: A New Hymn of Mine

On Monday, June 4, 2012, a new hymn of mine was performed during the Annual Meeting of The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. I am very pleased and honored that my music was selected to be part of this important event. 
The new hymn is an original setting of the poem, “Feed My Sheep,” by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the worldwide Christian Science church. The music was performed as a vocal solo with piano accompaniment by Seattle (WA) jazz musicians Jay and Tessa Frost. 
In recent years I have devoted more time to composing sacred music, including solos, hymns, and Christmas music. See RaymondBurkhart.com for more about my work and to access the sheet music and recordings in my online store. Click HERE for my three sacred solos: "Psalm 23," "Whither Shall I Go?," and "Come Unto Me." "Come Unto Me" is also available for SATB and solo trumpet (or other solo instrument). Click HERE for links to my Christmas music, which includes my Christmas cantata, "The Little Child," and other choral and brass works. 
My compact disc, Watercolor Menagerie, includes my "Easter Fanfare on Llanfair" (for brass quintet) and instrumental versions of "Psalm 23" and "Come Unto Me." The CD is available for purchase on my site and at CD Baby and iTunes. Other compositions, "Fanfare Processional" and "Rejoice!" (both for three trumpets and organ), are suitable for church (sheet music HERE – recordings at CD Baby and iTunes).