University of Michigan – Major Bolcom Presentations This Month (and Beyond)

Composer William Bolcom taught at the University of Michigan for 35 years and continues to live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His music is frequently performed at the world-class musical institution, as well as recorded and archived. It was the U-M Symphony Orchestra and Chorus who made the recording, under the direction of guest conductor Leonard Slatkin, of his watershed Songs of Innocence and of Experience which participated in four Grammy awards in various categories in 2005, including bringing two home for the composer.

Curiously, Bolcom’s major operas have never been staged at the University (his A View From the Bridge was, however, produced by the Michigan Opera Theater in Detroit in 2014, and the U-M recorded his Casino Paradise); that is, until now. The U-M Opera Department will be presenting his latest opera, Dinner At Eight (libretto by Mark Campbell), on November 9-12. This will be only the opera’s second performance after its recent premiere by he Minnesota Opera in February-March of this year, and provides an opportunity for composer and librettist to introduce a revised ending that both felt it needed. This will cement the work’s form, as it progresses to future performances in 2018 and 2019 by the Wexford (Ireland) and Atlanta Opera companies.

Of perhaps greater significance is the work done over the last 20 years by the U-M Symphony Band, who have been instrumental in commissioning and otherwise bringing the music of William Bolcom to the band world, where it did not previously reside. Bolcom’s Concert-Suite for Alto Saxophone and Band in 1998 (composed for Donald Sinta) and Song for Band in 2000 (for then-retiring band director H. Robert Reynolds) are U-M commissions, and his First Symphony for Band (2008) was commissioned by a consortium of Big 10 bands, spearheaded by then- and now-director, Michael Haithcock. When not directly involved in commissioning, the Symphony Band has been active in recording works, such as the aforementioned commissions and the Graceful Ghost Rag transcription and Concerto Grosso for Saxophone Quartet and Band. They also recently recorded the band transcription of his Clarinet Concerto with faculty soloist Chad Burrow. On November 21, the band will be Premiering the latest “band-scription” of a major Bolcom concerto, the hot-off-the-presses Trombone Concerto, premiered in 2016 the New York Philharmonic and soloist Joseph Alessi. Alessi will be the guest soloist with the U-M Symphony Band under Haithcock, and the concert has another treat in store when singer Joan Morris will present the remarkably popular Cabaret Songs in their band arrangements by Ian Frenkel, including a new addition to the set by Bolcom. All of this will be recorded.

Kudos to both William Bolcom and the University of Michigan, a match made in….Michigan.

November 2, 2017