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by Jarrett Hoffman

A live gerbil as compositional material—it’s the most recent suggestion for a “secret musical ingredient” on the Iron Composer competition’s Facebook page, and contest director Joe Drew, for one, is open to it. “People say stuff, and they think it’s too crazy, but I could see a scenario where that would work,” said Drew over telephone as we talked about the upcoming 8th installment of Iron Composer, a project of Analog Arts. The competition will take place September 26 and will culminate in a free public concert at 8:00 that evening at the Great Lakes Science Center on Erieside Avenue in downtown Cleveland. Emceed by Mark Satola of WCLV, the concert will also be broadcast live on the station (104.9 FM) and on wclv.com.

If you’re not familiar with Iron Composer, the Iron Chef-inspired composing contest unveils an instrumentation and a secret ingredient in the morning, then gives five composers just five hours to craft compositions around those specifications. After receiving thirty minutes of rehearsal each, the pieces are performed that same night and judged based on a set of criteria including their use of the secret ingredient and their originality. This year’s winner will come away with $500 in cash as well as a $500 commission by Blue Water Chamber Orchestra for a new work to be performed during their 2014-15 season.

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by Guytano Parks

JOHNSTON-KenBlue Water Chamber Orchestra concluded its 2013/2014 season on Saturday evening at Plymouth Church in Shaker Hts. with a concert billed as “Iron Composer and Iron Violinist”. Conducted by Carlton R. Woods, the program featured BWCO concertmaster Kenneth Johnston as soloist in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and included Two Pieces for Small Orchestra by Delius and Around the Blue-S by 2013 Iron Composer Competition winner Jakub Polaczyk.

Iron Composer is an instant composition contest held at Baldwin Wallace. Five composers are invited to compete in person. On the morning of the event, the finalists are assigned an instrumentation and a secret musical ingredient. They have just five hours to write a piece of music that incorporates those two elements. Their work is then performed and judged on a public concert that same evening. Blue Water Chamber Orchestra and the Iron Composer Competition have a collaborative venture in which works by competition winners are given a performance on its regular concert series. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway & Mike Telin

STRAUSS-MichaelEven before the Labor Day weekend, many of Northeast Ohio’s universities, colleges and conservatories were already up and running. Because students have only just moved in, concerts at the beginning of the term usually feature faculty recitals and performances by visiting ensembles, and there are several of them scheduled for the early days of September.

The first faculty event at the Oberlin Conservatory this fall will feature violist Michael Strauss (left) and his colleagues Alexa Still, flute, and pianists Monique Duphil and James Howsmon in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata, op. 147, Maurice Duruflé’s 1928 Prélude, Récitatif, et Variations for Flute, Viola, and Piano, Op. 3, and Paul Hindemith’s Viola Sonata, op. 11, no. 4, in a free concert in Kulas Recital Hall at the Oberlin Conservatory on Saturday, September 7 at 8.

The staff discussed who would perform the first recital of the semester”, Strauss told us by phone. “I said, yeah, I can do that. I’m sure that many of the faculty would have been fine with the slot, it’s just that no one had made the move.”

Now in his second year as associate professor of viola and chamber music, Strauss admits that opening with Shostakovich’s last work is a little risky. “It’s quite a dark piece and it is a big test in keeping your wits about you. I started looking at music that would fit and I thought of going heavy and then lightening up.” Read the rest of this entry »

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