The 4:00 hour on Wednesday, July 30 featured the Chattanooga Clarinet Choir, an ensemble of 21 clarinetists from the Volunteer State. The ensemble includes members of a variety of ages and from many walks of life, but the group is unified by a consistently high level of performance. Conducted by Jonathan B. McNair, the group opened with the world premiere of a work by Roger C. Vogel, City Scapes. The group performed four movements of the piece: I Morning Traffic, II A Walk in the Park, III Skyline at Sunset, and IV Night Life. This new work features busy, exciting motives traded between all parts, with some attractive solo moments for the E-flat, principal B-flat and bass clarinet. The second piece on the program, “A Wood Carved River,” was written by the group’s conductor. It began with dark, whirling chromatic lines in unison and octaves with all the parts, and gradually calmed to a chorale-like finale. The performers often sounded like a single super-charged clarinet in the many unison passages. Finally, the group closed their portion of the concert with a charming fantasy on My Funny Valentine by Raymond Decancq. It began wistfully with a lovely cadenza by Nicholas Hartline, but became more jazzy as the piece progressed.
The second half of the program was to have been performed by the Baylor University Clarinet Choir. The Baylor group cancelled their performance after one of the vehicles transporting members of the ensemble to the conference was involved in an accident, claiming the lives of two students. Jonathan McNair dedicated the Chattanooga ensemble’s performance to the Baylor ensemble and its director, Jun Qian. In addition, Victor Chavez, the professor of clarinet at The University of Tennessee-Knoxville and a Baylor alumnus, offered the audience green ribbons that members of the Chattanooga ensemble had made as a memorial. Dr. Chavez had bags of over 1,000 ribbons, to express the ICA’s sorrow at this tragic turn of events. He played the Baylor alma mater and a verse of Amazing Grace, and the performance ended with a moment of silence in memory of those whose lives were lost.
–Notes by Michael Rowlett
Michael Rowlett is assistant professor of clarinet at the University of Mississippi. You can find his CD Close to Home: Music of American Composers on Amazon and Albany Records.