ASMAC ‘FIRST WEDNESDAYS’ May workshop highlights women composers

Marlene Hajdu, Elise Michelle, and Carolyn Yarnell addressing the audience at the ASMAC FIRST WEDNESDAYS workshop highlighting women composers on May 4. (Photos courtesy Marlene Hajdu)

Marlene Hajdu, Elise Michelle, and Carolyn Yarnell addressing the audience at the ASMAC FIRST WEDNESDAYS workshop highlighting women composers on May 4. (Photos courtesy Marlene Hajdu)

by Alison Freebairn-Smith

The ASMAC First Wednesdays event on May 4, “Celebrating Women Composers,” did just that. We moved through the evening listening to music from animation to orchestral music from Carnegie Hall to bebop re-imagined.

The evening began with Elise Michelle’s “Prelude in C,” played beautifully by Bryan Pezzone, whose subtle and string tones were woven meticulously through Mr. Pezzone’s hands. This piece is the last of the series and was written 17 years later than the other four. Next was Asuka Ito’s music for animation which couldn’t have been more perfect. Asuka writes for live action film as well.

Bonnie Janofsky, who serves as Trustee on the AFM Local 47 Executive Board, has been associated with big band music (her father was a big band player of note) and Finale teacher and arranger. She clearly has a passion for songwriting and musicals in particular. We heard her arrangement of two bayou songs that she had written (music only). Marlene Hajdu, who hosted the evening, shared her new art song “In the Sunrise.” She was joined in poetic harmony by Sally Stevens and Leslie Soultanian, both exquisite singers in jazz harmonies.

Marlene Hajdu performs a new piece with vocalists Leslie Soultanian and Sally Stevens.

Marlene Hajdu performs a new piece with vocalists Leslie Soultanian and Sally Stevens.

Penka Kouneva shared her passion for the colors of the orchestra, and we saw a scene from “Transformers” for which she wrote additional music (composer: Steve Jablonsky). She also shared her music from “The Woman Astronaut,” which was accompanied by another surprise animation entitled “The Forest.”

Carolyn Yarnell, a Prix de Rome winner, surprised us with an orchestral piece funded by a Fulbright Fellowship and an American Composers Grant. Accompanying this massive piece, “Living Mountains,” were images of her paintings and photographs that she did while in Iceland for a year writing music and painting which reflected volcanoes. (She used volcanic ash in her accompanying paintings.)

Mae Crosby had an opportunity to score an animation piece which was wall-to-wall music. Scored by a small orchestra, she built the music nicely with the story. Very successful!

Susan Hurley, who earned her doctorate of music from Indiana State University, played her song “Silver Moon” from a main title credit which established the retro mood of the movie. She then introduced an opera that she is working on about the Sibyl of Apollo. We were treated to a dramatic sketch of the overture accompanied by a photo that she took in the cave in Italy where her story took place. When the break took place, there was a rousing sound of many composers meeting up for the first time in years. Very special.

Marlene Hajdu, Elise Michelle, and Carolyn Yarnell.

Marlene Hajdu, Elise Michelle, and Carolyn Yarnell.

Marlene Hajdu brought us back from the break with two more live music events with composers Maria Newman and Nan Schwartz. The audience was excited to hear the piece “Appalachian Duets,” which Maria performed with Scott Hosfeld. Their virtuosity was apparent as the two of them delighted the audience as their bows continued to speed up. This piece was originally commissioned and taken from Maria’s original score for the 1919 Mary Pickford film, “Heart of the Hills.”

Nan Schwartz’s stunning arrangement of “Con Alma” by Dizzy Gillespie was played by Michael Stever on trumpet and accompanied by the masterful string quartet: Ben Powell, Maria Newman, Scott Hosfeld and Paula Hochhalter. The song is usually done as a fast bebop tune. Nan said this was an arrangement she wrote for Arturo Sandoval’s CD “Dear Diz,” and shared that Arturo will be performing it with a string quartet at her concert at Vibrato Jazz Grill on June 15.

The evening ended with an impromptu interview of the 10 composers by Marlene Hajdu.

Nan Schwartz talks about her arrangement for Arturo Sandoval.

Nan Schwartz talks about her arrangement for Arturo Sandoval.

 

The next First WEDNESDAYS takes place in the Local 47 Auditorium on June 1 at 7 p.m. – “Jack Smalley Presents Composition Techniques for Film and TV with special guest Perry Botkin. Learn more at asmac.org.

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