In late 2013, I wrote some sea shanty music for the Premiere Brass Quintet to perform at the Edendale Branch of Los Angeles Public Library as part of a month-long citywide focus on Herman Melville's novel, Moby Dick. Even after the concert, I just couldn't stop adapting traditional sea shanty tunes into classical chamber music works for brass quintet. One shanty led to another until I had a set of five. The original shanty tunes upon which my works are based are The Maid of Amsterdam, Goodbye My Love Goodbye, Clear the Track and Let the Bulgine Run, Shenandoah, and Blow the Man Down. [These shanties are now published by Premiere Press for brass quintet under the title, Five Sea Shanties.]
Only after my work was mostly finished did I learn that the British composer Malcolm Arnold (1921-2008) composed his youthful Three Shanties for Wind Quintet (Op. 4) exactly sixty years before. It's nice to be in such company, especially since Arnold was a trumpet player, too. Perhaps I'll adapt my five shanties for woodwind quintet someday. Arnold's three movements are based on What Should We Do With A Drunken Sailor, Boney Was A Warrior, and Johnny Come Down to Hilo.
An Unusual Idea
Knowing my five shanties would make a great publication, I cast about with friends to find if someone might want to commission the music after the fact. It was an unusual idea, but I was sure someone would have commissioned the music, if only they had thought of it. Then in 2014, not yet having found a commissioning party, it occurred to me to bring Five Sea Shanties to publication as a Kickstarter project. [My Five Sea Shanties Kickstarter page]
Commissioning music is great thing to do, with a long, important, and glorious history. If YOU want to commission a composition from me, I would love to hear from you. Please write: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The KS Project
I developed the project over a couple of weeks in early March and launched on March 13, with an end date of April 7. Almost immediately, I was contacted by Althea Kifer, a long-time family friend, who wanted to commission the piece. Other pledges ranged from $5 to more than 100 times that amount. Most, but not all, of the supporters are acquaintances of mine. At the KS deadline, the goal had been well surpassed, especially since some supporters preferred not to put charge card info online (something I had not anticipated) and snail-mailed me their support instead.
Additional support is still coming in. If you want to support the project at this time, please visit my Kickstarter page to read about the project, then contact me privately (email@example.com).
To find out even more about the Kickstarter project, I recommend you visit my Five Sea Shanties KS page and my introductory blog on the project. You'll find many more details, sound clips, a brief video by me, and even samples from the score and parts.
The Commissioning Party
Althea Kifer, who commissioned the music, and my mother were both raised in Eagle Rock, a district of the City of Los Angeles. They attended the same schools, but were not in the same class, and they eventually cemented a lifelong friendship as fellow students at UCLA. Their friendship continued, even flourished, after each married and as their teaching careers progressed. Althea and her husband Jack had business to attend to each year near the small Northern California town of Red Bluff, where my family lived after 1968, and annual visits from the Kifers were highly anticipated in our family. I have many fond memories of their visits. Jack and Althea were also world travelers; Althea still is. They never failed to send our family a postcard every summer from some faraway locale, and these communiques helped to stir my interest in the world and travel. In time, I became a stamp collector, and the postcards took on even greater meaning. When I composed Italian Postcards, the title and concept of the piece arose out of these memories, as if the piece were based on three picture postcards from three popular Italian tourist destinations. [See blog.] I dedicated Italian Postcards to Jack and Althea. And now, I thank Althea deeply for commissioning Five Sea Shanties, which I think will become as popular as Italian Postcards.
I have dedicated Five Sea Shanties to my friend, David Newbern, who is a long time legal eagle in the state of Arkansas (including former Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas); a strong proponent of folk music and an outstanding folk musician and recording artist (voice, mandolin, guitar, and banjo); and an avid and able amateur tuba player. It is through his tuba playing that we met and became friends at the Humboldt State University Brass Chamber Music Workshop many years ago, and for his friendship I am most grateful. If you know David, if you have any interest at all in folk music, or if you're just have an inquisitive nature, I recommend you read Brooks Blevins' interview of David as part of the oral history project on the creation and development of the Arkansas Folk Festival and Ozark Folk Center.
I am deeply grateful to every one of this project's supporters for their generosity. Since each bit of support represents a kindness that is unquantifiable in dollars, I have listed the supporters alphabetically. If your name has been left off or requires correction in any way, please let me know. And if your support arrives after this blog is published, I can easily add you to it!
I offer my sincerest thanks to these kind supporters:
Richard Ashmore, Douglas R. Barnett, Philip Beard, Wayne Bennett, William Bing, Diane and Bob Boisvert, Heather Frederick Brown, Bill Bunyan, Patti Brugman, Noel Collins, Robin Collins, David Cornell, Chris Cox, Annette Dutenhoffer, Chelsea Dutenhoffer, Terry Farmer, Harry Fix, Gregory Franklin, Dale Frazier, Noah Gladstone, Frederick Greene, Honor and Walter Haase, Randall Jones, Althea King Kifer, Stephen Klein, John Klinedinst, Karolyn Labes, Audrey Lamprey, Geoff and Lisa Marshall, Jim McGlynn, John Monroe, Suzette Moriarty, Kristin Morrison, Tyler Morse, David Nicholson, Anthony Noble, Annabelle Nye, Stephanie O'Keefe, Emilie Pallos, Jay Perry, Clint Phillips, Chris Popperwell, Richard L. Rapp, Ridgecrest Brass Ensemble, Jayne Sawyer, Chuck Schroeder, Grace Sheldon-Williams, Kathy Silbiger, Harry Smallenburg, Lynne Snyder, Robb Stewart, Nancy Stone, Larry Tallant, Brian Taylor, John R Taylor, Fred Tempas, Jim Tidwell, Gary Tirey, the Thiel Family, Carolyn Tiernan, Jim Walker, John J. Walsh IV, the Wiegand family, Sheila M. Upham, and Adriana Zoppo.
Thank you all.