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by Daniel Hathaway

Octavio-Más-Arocas_#4818833There’ll be a festive fanfare when Spanish-born conductor Octavio Más-Arocas conducts his first concert with the Baldwin Wallace Symphony Orchestra on Friday, September 26, but that new piece by Kevin C. Thompson is only the first of several curtain-raisers BW’s new orchestral maestro has planned in a continuing series he calls “The Symphony Orchestra Fanfare Project.”

Más-Arocas comes to Berea with an impressive dossier, including conducting posts at Interlochen Arts Academy and the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music. Among his other credits, he has served as assistant to Kurt Masur with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. In a telephone conversation, he told us that he’s looking forward to working with his new musicians. “Baldwin Wallace has a very good group of students, very talented and hard-workers. This is an exciting period at the University with many changes. It’s the right moment to be here.”

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by Daniel Hathaway

Theofanidis---ChristopherBaldwin Wallace University is in the middle of a busy week celebrating and performing the music of one of our century’s most popular composers. Christopher Theofanidis, whose best-known work, Rainbow Body, has been performed by more than a hundred symphony orchestras, is the subject of the University’s most recent “Focus Festival,” an immersive experience recently revived by its new composition professor Clint Needham, himself a BW graduate.

“It’s the first thing we talked about after I arrived,” Needham said in a phone conversation. “We hope to do a Focus Festival every two years.” How did BW arrive at its choice of composer this time? “Chris immediately came to mind. I’ve known his music for a long time and he mentored me with an Orpheus Chamber Music Commission. We wanted someone who could communicate and make new music engaging and interesting for undergraduates. Chris has taught at Juilliard, Peabody and Yale. It was almost a no-brainer.”

Theofanidis will find BW to be a hotbed of young composers. “I have twenty-one composition students!” Needham exclaimed. “We auditioned last year and I thought that half of the people we invited would accept, but they all came. That’s a good problem to have!” Read the rest of this entry »

by Robert Rollin

CCS-at-BW-WellerThe Cleveland Chamber Symphony conducted by Stephen Smith resumed its Verb Ballets collaboration last Thursday evening, June 13, in Baldwin Wallace University’s Gamble Auditorium. The concert, titled “Music that Dares to Explore,” presented four interesting and relatively new pieces, one of which was a world premiere. Two of the performances involved the Verb Ballets.

The most ingratiating piece was BW composer-in residence, Clint Needham’s Urban Sprawl. The only piece utilizing the full ensemble complement, Urban Sprawl is, in the words of the composer, “a funky, jazzy, kitschy, and hopefully fun ode to suburban life.” Needham got the idea for the piece when he and his wife were house hunting and viewed the insides of strange houses with crazy wallpaper, hideous paint colors, abortive do-it-yourself projects, and oddball tobacco smells. He wrote his piece visualizing the inhabitants dancing a quirky new dance he called the “Urban Sprawl.”

The raucous, yet transparently-bright textures using intervals and harmonies evoking Copland’s Americana works, proved a fertile mine for the six Verb Ballets dancers’ talents. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CCS-at-BW-WellerNearly a quarter-century ago, composer-conductor Edwin London founded the Cleveland Chamber Symphony at Cleveland State University. With the directive of performing “music of our time that dares to explore”, CCS developed a reputation and a dedicated following for offering professional performances and recordings of new works, and, along the way, copped an impressive list of awards including a Grammy.

After London retired, a series of hosting, leadership and funding vicissitudes left the organization essentially homeless but doggedly determined to keep itself alive through new relationships with the Cleveland Music School Settlement and Baldwin Wallace University. Its “Meet the Composers” and “New and Emerging Composers” series have continued on an annual basis, and last season CCS teamed with Verb Ballets for performances at Cleveland Public Theater.

The Verb Ballets relationship will be renewed on Thursday, June 13 at 7:30 pm in Gamble Auditorium at Baldwin Wallace, when music director Steven Smith will conduct the premiere of James A. Hirt’s Chromatophores, Clint Needham’s Urban Sprawl, and Michael Leese’s Harp, Percussion and Strings. Also on the program is Smith’s own String Quartet. Smith talked about some of the repertory by phone from his home in Richmond, VA, where he serves as music director of the Richmond Symphony. Read the rest of this entry »

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