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Program Notes

FAMILY CONCERT, NOVEMBER 2011

Overture to Candide (1957) by Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990)

Candide was Leonard Bernstein’s third Broadway musical, following On the Town and Wonderful Town. It opened in New York in 1956, but, unlike its predecessors, was not a commercial success. Adapted by Lillian Hellman from Voltaire’s 18th-century satire on blind optimism, the story concerns a young man, Candide, who has been led by his tutor, Dr. Pangloss, to believe that everything is for the best “in this best of all possible worlds.” Taking with him his sweetheart, Conegonde, and Pangloss, Candide journeys to Lisbon, Paris, Buenos Aires, and even the legendary El Dorado, only to discover reality in the forms of crime, atrocity, and suffering. He returns to Venice with Conegonde, stripped of his idealism. His ultimate emotional maturation concludes in the finale with “And let us try before we die/To make some sense of life./We’re neither pure nor wise nor good;/We’ll do the best we know.” The sparkling overture captures the frenetic activity of the operetta, with its twists and turns, along with Candide’s simple honesty.

© 2011 Roy Stehle, http://www.windband.org/foothill/pgm_note.htm. Used by permission.

Lullaby (1996) by Lorin Alexander

Lorin Alexander, a native of Los Angeles, began composing at the age of eight, shortly after beginning piano lessons. As a teen, she studied composition with Roy Harris. She went on to receive her Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Piano Performance at the USC School of Music. After graduation, she continued composition studies with Walter Scharff at UCLA, and orchestration with Albert Harris.

A composer of orchestral, chamber music and solo works, she is the recipient of several commissions by new music groups. Her music has been praised for being “lyrical, rhythmically driven” and for “using the colors of the orchestra brilliantly.” Several ensembles, most recently the Calico Winds, have performed Woodwind Quintet, originally commissioned by the Great Notes ensemble in 2001. Prologue for orchestra was commissioned by Ransom Wilson to open the New Music Concert at the Idyllwild Arts Academy in 2002. It was performed by the Redlands Symphony Orchestra to open their concert season in 2004-2005 and by the Santa Cruz Symphony as the opening of their 2006-2007 season.

Ms. Alexander lives in Idyllwild, a mountain community outside of Los Angeles, where she teaches and composes.

- Bio and photo reprinted courtesy of Ms. Alexander, www.lorinalexander.com

STAR WARS Suite for Orchestra (1977, revised 1997) by John Williams (1932 – )

During 1997 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of George Lucas’ classic film Star Wars. All of us connected with this phenomenal movie have been greatly gratified to see an entire new generation of very young film-goers enjoy the Star Wars trilogy and relate so strongly to its story, characters, and music.

Also, I am personally delighted to have this new edition of the score available to orchestras and the public. It includes the “Imperial March” and “Yoda’s Theme,” both of which have not been available until this present printing.

I have always felt privileged to have had the opportunity to compose music for these landmark films, and the ongoing interest in the films and their music has continued to be one of my greatest joys.

– John Williams (Notes from the conductor’s score)


SPRING CONCERT, MAY 2011

Aaron Copland (1900-1990): FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MAN (1942)

Aaron Copland is known as the quintessential composer of Americana, with grand, folk music-inspired melodies of sweeping intervals evoking the nation’s geographical vastness and philosophical liberties. His Fanfare for the Common Man is no exception. One of the most recognizable works of the modern era, it has been quoted in film and popular music. One may ask: why is a women’s orchestra playing a work written for the “common man”? Composer Joan Tower even ‘winked’ at it in her Fanfare For the Uncommon Woman. Copland’s Fanfare was composed for Cincinnati Symphony during World War II, and was one of a series of fanfares commissioned from 18 composers by their conductor Eugène Goossens during the 1942-‘43 season. Copland toyed with such titles as Fanfare for a Solemn Ceremony and Fanfare for Four Freedoms, and finally set upon the “Common Man.” In a less politically correct era almost a century ago, it was the norm to say “man” in referring to “humankind.” As such, the brass and percussion players of CWO suggested re-titling the work for today’s audience: Fanfare for Humanity.

- Kathleen McGuire


Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): PAVANE (1887)
Fauré composed the haunting Pavane, op. 50, in late summer 1887 at his home in a Paris suburb. It was originally intended for one of the lighter concerts offered by Jules Danbé and his orchestra, but the work took on a different focus. Fauré dedicated the work to the Countess Greffulhe and together they conceived of a danced version with invisible chorus. The text, added by Robert de Montesquiou (the countess’s cousin), was intended to be in the style of French poet Paul Verlaine (1844 – 1896). It speaks universally of the hopelessness and helplessness one feels when struck by love’s passions. The Pavane was first performed (sans chorus) on November 25,1888. The premiere with chorus took place several months later, in April 1889.  Fauré’s Pavane grew immensely popular, with and without chorus, and was soon danced during a party given by the countess in the Bois de Boulogne (July 1891), in a “choreographic spectacle of ancient dances” at the Opéra (December 1895), and as a sturdy repertoire piece for the Ballets Russes from 1917.

While there are numerous arrangements of the Pavane for women’s chorus, they tend to be vocalizes of the orchestral melodies. This three-part re-voicing returns to the composer’s original setting. This arrangement was created for Vox Femina Los Angeles, directed by Dr. Iris S. Levine, in their San Francisco Bay Area debut (May 14 and 15, 2011), accompanied by the Community Women’s Orchestra, conducted by the arranger.

Faure translation

- Program note and translation by Kathleen McGuire, copyright 2011

Georges Bizet (1838-1875): L’ARLESIENNE SUITE NO. 1 (1872)

Georges Bizet, born in Paris, was the only son of musical parents. He learned his music notes and scales right along with the alphabet, and could both sing and play the piano proficiently at an early age.  He was only 10 years old when he entered the Paris Conservatoire. At age 17, he wrote the delightful Symphony in C Major, which he never heard performed.  Bizet was invited to write the incidental music for the 1872 production of Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne. While Daudet’s play was not successful (the upper class Paris audience was offended by the story’s unsophisticated background), Bizet ensured the survival of this music by selecting four numbers from the original score of 27, and fashioning them into the concert suite now known as L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1.  The suite was an instant success. Bizet’s music reveals his remarkable gifts for melody, orchestration, rhythmic energy, and an ability to capture regional flavors, and was held in high esteem by composers such as Brahms, Mahler, Massenet, and Strauss. Bizet’s final masterpiece, Carmen, was the crowning glory of his brief but vital creative life.

The Play

Daudet’s dramatic play, L’Arlésienne, based loosely on a true story, is set in Provence, a southeastern region of France.  The play tells the tale of two young peasants, Fréderi, and his simple brother, Janet, also known as “L’Innocent”.  Fréderi falls desperately in love with a woman from Arles, the title character who never appears in the play, but soon discovers that for two years she had been another man’s mistress.  Although he is loved by the country girl Vivette, with whom he is betrothed in an arranged marriage, Fréderi, filled with jealous rage over the loss of L’Arlésienne, throws himself from a high window on the eve of their wedding as the villagers dance a farandole in the streets below in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Eloi.

A secondary story revolves around the chance meeting of the widowed Mère Renaud, Vivette’s grandmother, and the wise old shepherd Balthazar.  The two had once been deeply in love, but Mère, by her parent’s arrangement, had been promised to another.  Now, seeing each other for the first time in 50 years, they reminisce about old times and share a tender kiss.

The Suite

The Prélude is presented in three sections; a set of variations on the March of the Kings, derived from an old French Christmas carol familiar to most audiences of the day; an expressive saxophone melody characterizing the simple minded ‘l’Innocent’; and the impassioned, chromatic music associated with Fréderi’s hopeless longing.

The Minuetto, a rural country-dance, is said to denote the tender affection of the old shepherd for Vivette’s grandmother, and is gracefully filled with Gallic lightness and energy, in contrast to the stately Austro-Germanic minuet.

The Adagietto, scored for strings alone, was written to underscore one of the most moving scenes in the play, where the old shepherd and the widowed grandmother, once childhood sweethearts, re-united after half a century of separation, admit how each had longed to see the other, and share a tender kiss.

The Carillon suggests the village church bells resonantly ringing out (sounded by French horns) in celebration of the festival, which serves as the setting for the drama’s tragic climax and brings the suite to a vigorous and dynamic conclusion.

- Sandra Noriega

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896): PIANO CONCERTO IN A MINOR, OP. 7 (1833)

Child prodigy Clara Wieck began performing piano in her native Germany at the age of 8, and first toured Europe at age 11. At age 9 she met 18-year-old Robert Schumann, who took piano lessons from her father Friedrich. Clara and Robert fell in love, but Friedrich was vehemently against the match. Clara and Robert took Friedrich to court when she was 19. They eventually married, and Clara composed, toured, and raised seven children (an eighth child died in infancy). Tragically, Robert died after struggling with mental illness when Clara was only 23. Their dear friend, composer Johannes Brahms, moved in with the family to assist Clara with the children. He and Clara remained friends for life.

Clara composed many works from a young age through the middle of her life, she devoted herself to interpreting her husband’s music, and she also championed Brahms’ piano works. She taught piano on the faculty of Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt Am Main, and is said to have contributed significantly to modern piano playing techniques. As a performer, she is known as the first to have played regularly from memory, creating a new standard for concertizing. Her success as a performer overshadowed her work as a composer, but critics today argue that her compositions rival, if not better, those of her husband’s.

Clara composed her Piano Concerto when she was only 14, and she first performed it at age 16 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus, conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Robert assisted her with the orchestration of the piece. The concerto embodies Clara’s pianistic style, and an extended cadenza encompassing the second movement (paired with a cello solo) is a unique feature of the piece.

Sadly, Clara lost interest in composing (perhaps due to her busy life or the tragic loss of her soul mate). Her last composition was penned at the age of only 36. She said: “I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?” In spite of this unwarranted lack of confidence, Clara Schumann is known today as one the finest composers of her time, highly respected by her contemporaries. She remains an inspiration to women musician of all eras.

- Kathleen McGuire


International Women’s Day Concerts, March 2011

World Premiere:

FANFARE FOR TRADESWOMEN by June Bonacich

Fanfare for Tradeswomen is dedicated to women in the nontraditional trades, such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians.  While real power tools are a part of the score, the orchestra itself evokes a giant table saw. The switch is turned on and as the motor kicks in, quickly climbing fourths rise as the spinning blade gains momentum; the motive being introduced at the very start and then repeating itself periodically throughout the piece.  The brass enters to proclaim the strength and dignity of women in the trades and the honor that they deserve, the motive in equidistant fifths.

The chorus represents women from the past that have rebelled against the status quo and despite many obstacles, have entered the fields once reserved for men.  This phantom chorus sings from the underworld, joining in the fanfare. A ghostly figure steps forward as the ruckus recedes into the background and mysteriously starts telling the story of the Deo sisters: two girls that dared to take woodshop in junior high in the 1970s. Joined by the chorus, we hear of the bravery and the ridicule that these girls had to endure. Cordless drills, and other power tools, maneuvered by these unearthly beings, punctuate the story.  One can imagine bolts of lightening and cracks of thunder as they emphatically stress the seriousness of it all.

Once the story is told the fanfare returns and the chorus exuberantly proclaims the girls’ names to the heavens a la Magnificat. The table saw and brass fanfare is heard one last time as the chorus returns to the underworld amid the roar of the spinning blade and a cloud of smoke…..

- June Bonacich


SYMPHONY OF GRACE by Gwyneth Walker
Commissioned by The Brevard Symphony Orchestra (Melbourne, FL), The Carson City Community Orchestra (Carson City, NV), The Holyoke Community Orchestra (Holyoke, MA), The Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra (Allentown, PA), The Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra (Bel Air, MD), and The Women’s Philharmonic (San Francisco, CA).

The title Symphony of Grace was chosen with several definitions of grace in mind. Grace may be defined simply as thanks. And this is indeed a symphony written in thanks for the beauty of life — nature, friends, animal friends and abiding faith. Grace may also mean the favor and love of God, freely given to us on earth. And it is this grace which inspires the four movements of the Symphony of Grace.

“For the Beauty of the Earth” is based on the Protestant hymn tune of that title. The initial sonorities are sparse and open, perhaps reflecting open fields and sky. After introductory rhythmic pattern are formed in the strings, the hymn tune enters, exchanged between flute and trombone. The tune is expanded upon by all instruments. Interwoven with the melody are cascading motives, perhaps suggesting waterfalls. An interior section (perhaps nightfall) features solo oboe and bassoon accompanied by piano. Then, a single ray of light (violin) dispels the darkness. The hymn tune returns joyously to conclude the movement.

“Companions for the Journey” is composed for strings only. This is a strongly diatonic melody, with homage to the American folk music idiom. Whereas the primary theme is gentle and graceful, the contrasting section features energetic and rough textures influenced by the fiddling genre. The opening section returns briefly. The final chord suggests the friends drawn together in closeness.
“Many Creatures” is inspired by a wide variety of animals. This movement is a rondo in form, with the opening tango (”Animals in the Barn”) serving as the refrain. The contrasting sections of the rondo are “Birds” (hopping and flying), “Animals Who Run or Gallop” (no explanation required!) and “Fish in the Ocean” (whales, dolphins and schools of small fish). It is during the Ocean section of the movement that the “Predator” arrives (a shark or alligator, portrayed by the closing jaws of a Slapstick in the Percussion section). The “Predator” chases all of the animals, and has the last word (bite!).

["Many Creatures" has been enhanced in performance by showing slides of the various animals depicted in the music. If the hall is darkened during the slide projection, the conductor might use a "glow stick" (illuminated baton) for visibility. The use of slides or other visual elements has delighted audiences.]

“The Spirit Within” is composed in thanks for abiding faith. This is therefore a movement with a single theme — the first five notes of the ascending C Major scale. The theme is introduced by a solo oboe — one voice alone. Another single voice (flute) answers. And then the energy of life (the spirit within, faith) surrounds the solo as the orchestra enters, with rhythmic patterns and then the theme. Various tonalities and thematic transformations are explored. The music grows in speed and dynamic strength. And the final statement is celebratory.

- Gwyneth Walker


CD: Women’s Work And Play

CWO CD Cover

CLICK HERE to purchase CD

WOMEN’S WORK AND PLAY includes four exciting new orchestral works by established and emerging women composers. The works were premiered and recorded by the Community Women’s Orchestra during its 25th season in Oakland, California, 2009-2010. REIBO by Hilary Tann, PARADE OF LIFE by Mary Watkins, and ORCHESTRAL SUITE FOR THE YOUNG OF ALL AGES by Martha Stoddard were commissioned by the CWO in honor of its 25th anniversary. The fourth selection is the new orchestration of June Bonacich’s RUMPLESTILTSKIN, which she had originally composed for chamber ensemble in 2008. Each of the composers worked closely with the orchestra, attending rehearsals and the performances heard on the recording.

Composers: Bonacich, Stoddard, Tann, Watkins

Composers: June Bonacich, Martha Stoddard, Hilary Tann, Mary Watkins

REIBO by Hilary Tann

Program Note: “The word, reibo, appears in the titles of many solo pieces for the Japanese vertical bamboo flute – the shakuhachi.  Rei means “bell” and bo means “yearning”, so a rough translation is “Yearning for the Bell”.  The tone poem, Reibo, takes the idea of “bells” and applies it to the bells of journeying (opening section), the bells of prayer (slow middle section), and the bells of meditation (closing section). Composed in 2009-2010, Reibo was commissioned by the Community Women’s Orchestra directed by Dr. Kathleen McGuire, for its 25th Anniversary Season, with funding provided by the Open Meadows Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation, Jacqueline Hoefer Fund.” – HT

Dedication: Reibo is dedicated to intrepid conductor and women’s music advocate, Karla Lemon, 1954-2009.

Biography: Welsh-born composer, Hilary Tann now lives in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York where she is the John Howard Payne Professor of Music at Union College, Schenectady. Her early musical studies were with Alun Hoddinott at the University of Wales, Cardiff, and with J. K. Randall at Princeton University, USA.

Her music continues to be influenced by her love of Wales and by her strong identification with the natural world. A deep interest in the traditional music of Japan has led to private study of the shakuhachi and guest visits to Japan, Korea, and China.

Numerous organizations have supported her work, including the Welsh Arts Council, New York State Council on the Arts, Meet The Composer, and National Endowment for the Arts.

Ensembles that have commissioned and performed her works include the European Women’s Orchestra, Knoxville Symphony, North American Welsh Choir, Tenebrae, Presteigne Festival, American Guild of Organists, North American Saxophone Alliance, Louisville Symphony Orchestra, Women’s Philharmonic, Meininger Trio, Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Thai Philharmonic, and KBS Philharmonic in Seoul, Korea.

PARADE OF LIFE by Mary Watkins

Parade of Life was commissioned by the Community Women’s Orchestra to honor its 25th Anniversary Season.

Program Note: “For me, even when the most simple of a certain melody or harmonic passage can and often does produce a flash of an ancient memory, unspeakable, and elusive stirring deep within that defies description to the conscious mind.

As a composer I am compelled to compose the music from my heart that the mind agrees with; this is my gift to the listener hoping that upon hearing, she or he experiences that flash of joy, peace, mystery of self knowing that expands the soul.” – MW, Feb. 2010

Biography: Mary Watkins is a composer and pianist with a vision. Although her training is classical, she moves fluidly and masterfully within and between the classical and jazz traditions, blending them seamlessly and incorporating other styles of music into her original works. You will hear strands of blues, gospel, folk and jazz in her compositions. At the piano, she becomes a master improvisationalist, giving a huge range of emotion, form and substance, and composing many works spontaneously. All of this has led her to write with equal skill for different media, including symphony orchestra, chamber and jazz ensembles, film, theater and choral groups. She has written many songs. She has also made her mark as an accomplished arranger and producer of numerous albums. She currently composes, performs, teaches and conducts Music workshops in Oakland, California.

ORCHESTRAL SUITE FOR THE YOUNG OF ALL AGES by Martha Stoddard

Orchestral Suite for the Young of All Ages (2009) by Martha Stoddard was commissioned by the Community Women’s Orchestra to honor its 25th Anniversary Season, with funding provided by Roy and Ayako English.

Program Note: “It was composed for [CWO's] Family Concert, and I strove to  make it accessible to young audiences, though I believe listeners of all ages will enjoy the playful, direct character of this work.

The suite comprises five movements: Parade Day, Windsong Variations, Hop- Skip-Jump, Cowgirl Rondo and Waltz for the Fun of It. The individual movements are designed to display the uniqueness of each section of the orchestra, as well as to unite its full instrumental forces.

Parade Day begins with a brief orchestral introduction. This is followed by brass and percussion in extended soli episodes, a lyrical interlude featuring solo trumpet and horn, and a return to the orchestral tutti. Windsong Variations introduces the woodwind section one instrument at a time in a simple chorale melody, weaving the instruments together in a rich texture with simple variations. A contrasting middle section rejoins the winds with brass, percussion, and strings in an energetic but somewhat dark and mysterious interlude.

This segues into Hop-Skip-Jump, a playful modal tune in triple meter juxtaposed with a 6/8 accompaniment (heard first in the clarinets), then passed around the entire orchestra. A second theme featuring the strings offers melodic and textural variety. The return of the first theme is pronounced and dramatic, building to a driving rhythmic cadence for the full orchestra.

Cowgirl Rondo, for strings only, is a series of episodes in the style of a fiddle tune. A few familiar musical turns of phrase are woven into the fabric of the rondo, and a singularly odd variation in 3/8 interrupts the otherwise traditional flavor of the movement, as if to say, “it IS the 21st Century, after all.”

The Waltz for the Fun of It is just that. Based on two primary themes, major and minor, a  series of thematic episodes present these short melodies in several different settings, some deliberately comical, and others more formally crafted. A more expansive coda brings the waltz to a shimmering finish in grand orchestral style.” – MS

Biography: Ms. Stoddard earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Humboldt State University and her Master of Music degree from San Francisco State University, where she studied flute, conducting and composition. She is a 2009 Recipient of the ASCAP Plus Award and her music has been performed for the San Francisco Chapter of the American Composer’s Forum, by the Avenue Winds, in London, UK, by alto flutists Carla Rees and Lisa Bost, the San Francisco Choral Artists, San Francisco Composers’ Chamber Orchestra, Schwungvoll!, the Community Women’s Orchestra, Oakland Civic Orchestra, Womensing, on the New Directions Series of the Bakersfield Symphony, in the Trinity Chamber Concert Series and the New Music Forum Festival of Contemporary Music. Her most recent commissions include today’s premiere and her Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano for the 2009 San Francisco Chamber Wind Festival at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

She has held the position of Artistic Director of the Oakland Civic Orchestra since 1997, and is Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Composers’ Chamber Orchestra and Director of Instrumental Music at Lick-Wilmerding High School. Other recent conducting activities include engagements as Conductor for the John Adams Young Composers’ Orchestration Workshops at the Crowden School, Musical Director for the operas Belfagor and Trap Door by Lisa Prosek, Guest Conductor for the San Francisco All–City High School String Orchestra and the Santa Rosa Youth Symphony Summer Academy Orchestra. She has also served as an adjudicator for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Santa Cruz Youth Symphony Concerto Competitions.

Ms. Stoddard is founding member and director of Chamber-Mix, and is a featured performer on alto flute in John Bilotta’s Shadow Tree (Capstone Records CPS-8787) and in John Thow’s Cantico (Palatino label #1001), Marika Kuzma, conductor, and as conductor for Janis Mercer’s, Voices (Centuar Recordings, CPS 2951).

RUMPLESTILTSKIN by June Bonacich, narrated by Dr. Betty L. Sullivan

Program Note: Rumplestiltskin is a character in a fairy tale of the same name that originated in Germany. The story was collected by the Brothers Grimm, who first published it in the 1812 edition of Children’s and Household Tales. It was subsequently revised in later editions until the final version was published in 1857. The story has been re-told in other countries, and translated into many languages like Swedish, Arabic and Slovakian. In the story, Rumplestiltskin strikes a bargain with a young maiden to give him her first born in return for spinning straw into gold. Heartbroken when she must fulfill her pledge, he offers to recant the bargain if she can guess his name.

This setting of the work by June Bonacich was originally composer for a chamber ensemble and narrator in 2008. In 2009, she re-worked the piece for full orchestra. CWO’s concert master and CU Berkeley professor, Anne Nesbet, edited the narration heard on the CD recording.

Biography: San Francisco Bay Area composer June Bonacich graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a Master’s degree in Composition. She currently teaches Musicianship, Composition, and Early Childhood Music classes in the San Francisco Conservatory’s Preparatory Program, and has worked with the San Francisco Boys Chorus since 1997 as Training Chorus and Preparatory Director. Her hilarious musical, Group Therapy, was premiered by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco in 2005, and was also performed in Chicago in 2006. Ms. Bonacich newest project is a work she is preparing for International Women’s Day 2011, which CWO will premiere.

 

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