The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), ends its 2005-2006 concert season with "Big Band." BMOP is one of the few professional orchestras in the United States dedicated exclusively to performing and recording music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Since it's founding in 1996, BMOP has programmed 46 concerts of contemporary orchestral music, released ten world premiere recordings, and won eight ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming.
The "Big Band" program features R.A.P., a brand-new work by William Thomas McKinley. McKinley wrote his new piece for BMOP and the clarinetist Richard Stoltzman. Also being preformed in this program are works by George Gershwin, featuring pianist Steven Drury, Milton Babbitt, and Leonard Bernstein. The common thread—apart from the geography—is the presence in these works of the influence of that most American of musics, jazz.
The interplay between jazz and "classical" concert music has been fertile ground for composers. It's no coincidence that the rise of jazz and its subsequent acknowledgment by American concert composers corresponded to the development of a genuinely American "voice" in classical music, firing the imaginations of such composers as Aaron Copland, Wynton Marsalis and John Alden Carpenter.
George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue was originally commissioned by bandleader Paul Whitman, in 1924. The spontaneity and the infectious melodies and rhythm combine to keep the extended, "rhapsodic" form of the piece on its toes. The piece was an immediate success at its premiere, and, in a single, fifteen-minute span, jazz was firmly established in American "classical" concert music.
Milton Babbit's All Set is a ten-minute piece written for a jazz ensemble in 1957. All Set takes a classic Babbitt title referring both to the phrase "everything's fine" as well as to the piece's use of pitch set construction. The makeup of the ensemble is alto and tenor saxes, trumpet, trombone, vibes, drum kit, double bass, and piano.
William Thomas McKinley's world premiere of R.A.P. (2006). McKinley's music makes use of an extended twentieth-century tonality and occasional minimalistic and atonal colorings, which is melodic, and has a clear jazz influence throughout. McKinley lives in the Boston area, and is on the music faculty at New England Conservatory.
Leonard Bernstien's Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs was originally written in 1949 for clarinetist Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd. Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs, a nine-minute piece, has and the energy of pure jazz. In addition to the solo clarinet, the scoring is for two alto saxes two tenor saxes, and baritone sax; five B-flat trumpets; three trombones and bass trombone, piano, two percussion, and double bass.
"Big Band" begins at 8 pm on Friday, May 26, 2006 at Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory (30 Gainsborough St., corner of Huntington Ave.) in Boston, MA. Pre-concert Program Notes with William Thomas McKinley begin at 7 pm in the hall and is free for all ticket holders. Ticket prices are $10 for students with valid ID. Regular admission tickets are $19, $28, $38 based on seat selection. Seniors and members of partnering organizations receive a 10% discount. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 617.363.0396 or visit www.bmop.org. Jordan Hall is handicapped accessible.