I was chatting with the wonderful composer, Russell Peck. We were actually very happy to see that commissioning new music has grown amongst the orchestral community. Back in 2000, Russell’s tympani concerto, ‘Harmonic Rhythm’, was commissioned by 39 orchestras. I was totally unaware of this project, and in 1998, I had organized the Ellen Taaffe Zwilich ‘Millennium Fantasy’ project which brought in 25 orchestras. Somehow, we were thinking the same thing: making new music accessible to more consortium members for a lower price, rather than make one or two organizations fund the whole tab. This not only made our projects affordable, but it also provided a chance for new music to be heard much more frequently over time, in more cities, which might have helped to pave the way for other projects to be developed utilizing the same concept of joining many members together to form a whole.
We shared our mutual joy that the ‘Made in America’ has thus become a success–and I am looking forward to hearing Joan Tower’s new piece next week. Curiously enough, in early 2001, I remember that after putting the wraps on the Zwilich project, I wanted to double the effort and go for all 50 states. Charles Strouse had begun his work composing ‘Concerto America’ for me, which became a collage of his musical style from pop, classical, Broadway and television–a unique timepiece that combines many facets of American music. The ‘Concerto America Project’ was designed to attract one orchestra per state, however, 9-11 struck the world in an instant, and all plans changed. Charles witnessed the attack from his apartment window, and wished to complete the piece, however with an added musical memory: he added a central section which immortalized the horrific scene of 9-11–with ‘America the Beautiful’ heard in poignant fragments in the orchestra. How I hope this piece might be recognized at some point as one of the historical glimpses into one of the worst days in our history–although there is indeed 95% joy and jazz in the piece. For its World Premiere with the Boston Pops in June 2002, Keith Lockhart absorbed the score quickly and pulled together the most amazing 2 hour rehearsal–same day as the concert–that I have ever witnessed. Ditto for Sam Wong in Honolulu, when we performed the piece in November 2002.
However, my 50 state project was diluted, understandably so, and I am personally thrilled to see the ‘Made in America’ project born. Russell certainly has hopes that we’ll both be remembered perhaps as the pioneers of large consortiums at the turn of the 21st century, to help foster new music and create new projects. Russell’s web site is www.russellpeck.com.