Reflection: “Icelandic Folk Song Suite” live 8 years later.

I just had awesome night. Like, positively spell-binding.

The University of Manitoba Concert Band just performed ALL FOUR movements of Icelandic Folk Song Suite at their concert on March 31st, 2023 at Centre-Culturel Franco Manitobain (or CCFM, for short), conducted by Dr. Jacquie Dawson.

So, Dr. Dawson conducted the premiere of this piece eight years ago in my hometown of Gimli, MB; but even better, she conducted in the gym of my alma mater where my own band concerts were. At that point, it felt like a full-circle moment, but this concert had even more full-circle moments.

This was the last concert of the year for the ensembles and, for some of them, the last concert of their degree, as they’ve fulfilled their ensemble requirements for their program. One of them was a flute player that was my former student who graduated in 2017 (I think). Alongside her was another former student who graduated in 2014, plus another who just graduated last year.

Also, the tuba section were my two first composition students EVER and they absolutely crushed it. I had them in 2019 and 2020 – one over Zoom and one coming to my place once per week for a lesson.

It was such a full circle moment that seemed to show the malleability of time because, of course, I had all just had them in my band like… yesterday. They were all playing a piece that I remember writing so vividly, except that I lived in a different house and it was eight years ago.

And the premiere was eight years ago, but here is the piece again, living and breathing. Time is so weird. I think I’ve grown as a composer–I mean, I finished grad school and have written probably hours of new music since then. But, when I hear IFSS, it still rings true to me in a way that some of my old works feel very raw and unpolished–not bad or anything, just in a way that I don’t write anymore. For instance, I still like Filum Vitae and We Are Stars, but I’m not sure if I write like that anymore. That being said, Icelandic Folk Song Suite is very traditional in a lot of ways and purposefully so, but there are grains of that even in my current pieces. My thoughts about energizing every part with rhythm, about voicing, about countermelody, etc. The seeds of the things that I’ve been working on for the last ten-or-so years have their roots in this piece, I think.

Anyway, it’s given me a lot to think about. Time, people, stories, music…

Some stray thoughts about the show tonight:

– Huge thanks to Dr. Dawson for preparing the band so well and handling the music so artistically and gracefully. She is an absolute master conductor and educator.
Rylee – you knocked that tambourine part out of the park! Way to go!
Brady – incredible job with that alto sax solo in Movement II. SO GOOD.
Kelly and Dylan – way to hold down that tuba section!
Michelle – outrageously good conducting tonight! All of Lincolnshire? Shut the front door. You were brilliant, especially that second movement. Dynamite!
Aemelia – Michael Daugherty’s Labyrinth of Love. The entire chamber work and soprano solo was riveting. What an outstanding performance.
Fraser – beautiful piece for Dr. Lonis, absolutely striking.

When it comes to Band, I’m so grateful to live where I live. What incredible community we have here.

Here is the concert. IFSS starts at 34:36, and the chamber work with solo is at 1:18:08 (which is off-the-wall incredible, and my favourite movement of it is at 1:28:40, which is spell-binding):

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