by Maggie Molloy
With the Winter Solstice rapidly approaching, the days are shorter and the nights are colder. Daily temperatures hover just around freezing and the sun sets before most people even leave the office.
It’s been a trying year in more ways than one, and as winter winds blow us straight toward the end of 2016, it’s easy to feel that the world is dark and cold—both literally and figuratively.
But the North Corner Chamber Orchestra (NOCCO) is combatting that coldness with music that is warm, radiant, and bursting with light. Their annual Winter Solstice Celebration this weekend offers a sonic respite from the cold and dreary December temperatures with performances Sunday at Magnolia United Church of Christ and Monday at the University Christian Church.
The celebration pairs classics by Stravinsky, Respighi, and Bach with a West Coast premiere of a new work by Seattle composer and clarinetist Angelique Poteat. Titled Floral Interactions, the piece is a garden of swirling melodies composed for eight wind players and two percussionists.
And since this is its very first Seattle performance, we asked Poteat to give us a sneak peek at what’s in store:
Second Inversion: How would you describe your compositional style? What are some of your major influences?
Angelique Poteat: As a performer of a melodic, or linear instrument (clarinet), my music tends to be fairly melodic and very thematically oriented. There is a great deal of layering of lines, which in turn influences my use of harmony.
I grew up listening to a plethora of musical styles, from country music and rock ‘n roll to church hymns and jazz. A lot of this has found its way into my music, aside from classical influences like Bartók and Messiaen. I feel that my music and style is constantly evolving.
SI: What was the inspiration behind Floral Interactions? What does it sound like, and how did you choose this instrumentation?
AP: I wrote Floral Interactions in 2006 for the 21/21 New Music Ensemble at Rice University. The instrumentation was requested by the ensemble. My inspiration for the work came from several friends of mine, who at the time were reassessing their relationships with one another. I wanted to capture some of the emotions involved with feeling like a friend is drifting away because of the introduction of a significant other. With the exception of the climax, much of the piece is dynamically understated, with swirling, dense textures that are juxtaposed with moments of awkwardness and solitude. The title is a play on Florid, which describes the writing for each instrumental part.
SI: Women are extremely underrepresented in musical leadership roles, and especially in composing. How has being a woman shaped your experiences in this role?
AP: In a society that promotes ideas like Affirmative Action, extra effort is being made to assure that female composers are given opportunities to have their music recognized. As a composer in the “minority,” I have felt extra pressure to create music that is significant not only within my gender, but compared to all contemporary classical music that is being written today.
I don’t want to be categorized as a good “female composer,” or programmed as the “token female composer,” but instead thought of as an “outstanding composer,” period. It is not so easy to cross that gender line, and maybe that means that my music has to be better than better. I think all women, to some extent, feel that they have to put forth more effort than they should in order to be taken seriously.
SI: What advice do you have for other women who are fighting to have their music heard?
AP: Writing music is not easy! Music has a great potential to affect people differently in very strong ways; someone out there will love what you write, and someone out there will hate it. With that in mind, write what YOU love.
If you’re writing music for live musicians, remember that you’re writing for people, and put care into writing each part. Share your music with as many people as possible, and your excitement about it! In today’s world, you have to be the greatest advocate for your music, especially in the face of adversity. Your enthusiasm about your music will be contagious, and others who hear and like your music will also fight to have it heard again.
SI: What are you most looking forward to with the NOCCO Solstice Celebration, and what do you hope audiences will gain from it?
AP: This weekend’s NOCCO performances will be the first time Floral Interactions will be performed without a conductor! I’m excited to hear the difference that a more “chamber music” approach to performing the piece will have on how the music is interpreted and coordinated. I made a few small revisions to the work earlier this year, so we could call this the world premiere of the updated version and, at the very least, the West Coast premiere of the piece.
I love NOCCO’s idea of creating light during the darkest time of the year by sharing warmth and beautiful music, and this program will certainly feature plenty of that! I’m grateful to be included in the Celebration, and I hope that audiences will feel inspired and moved by the experience.
Performances of NOCCO’s Winter Solstice Celebration are this Sunday, Dec. 18 at 7:30pm at Magnolia United Church of Christ and Monday, Dec.19 at 7:30 at the University Christian Church in Seattle. For tickets and additional information, please click here.