Ave again…

Here’s a brief article in the Fairfield County Catholic about the premiere of my newest arrangement of my Ave Maria.

http://www.bridgeportdiocese.com/index.php/fcc/article/concert_highlights_new_faith_center

piusBen

A Reflection on Lourdes

The world premiere of my Ave Maria in Lourdes, France – the Grotto.

As a composer, I have learned that there are good days and bad days as it relates to “feeling the creative” and hearing the music. Indeed, most days I sit with pencil in hand and realize that today is not the day for that great piece of music to be created.

However, one regular day in October of 2011, the notes came flowing like water. Immediately, I had a text in mind- the melody was perfectly suited to Ave Maria. The piece literally wrote itself, and to quote myself from a previous post, I felt like I was connected to that larger musical (and apparently spiritual) conscience.

Then, as if it were scripted, I received an email a few days later from a now dear friend inviting me on the Malta pilgrimage to Lourdes, France to help with the music. Of course, the thematic connection was obvious, but I didn’t give it too much thought.

Months later, while rehearsing with the music director, Lia Carter, I mentioned that I had written an Ave Maria. We ran it quickly, and she was nice enough to want to include it in the program. Just before I left, she mentioned to me something along the lines of “by the way, did you know the title of the pilgrimage this year is ‘Ave Maria?’ ” My hair stands on end.

Just before we leave, the issue of where to place it within the various masses gets answered- at the Grotto, right where Bernadette had her visions.

Yikes! – the circumstances surrounding this composition just kept getting stranger and stranger – or as I came to realize, more and more special.

I arrive at Lourdes and quickly start participating with the music (The whole experience was really mind-blowing- I highly recommend a visit, no matter your faith or creed). This picture on the right is me cantoring at the Rosary Basilica – read into, or don’t, but all the “coincidences” seem to be directed by someone, or something – and this picture really sums up the idea. Is she saying “about time you got here?!”

A few days later, it was time for the mass at the grotto – where we would first play my Ave Maria. Its is a humble place, void of gilded decorations, just the rock cave. For me, I found it much nicer to do it here, then inside a huge church or basilica. I try to be a humble person, and this place just fit my persona.

I had to play it on a rickety old organ, but I must say – playing it THERE, was something special. Again – read into it or don’t, but it was a sunny day when we arrived at the grotto – but the clouds started to fill the sky – and the very moment (and I mean with my downbeat) we started, it began to lightly rain. The moment we finished, the rain stopped and the sun came back out. – Another moment.

When all is said and done, from a composer’s standpoint, it was the most unique premiere of a composition – made all the more memorable by all of the so called “circumstances.” Many people might write-off those weird moments as nothing special and just a coincidence – and it doesn’t bother me in the least. But, as a person of faith (well, someone who tries to be – I’m fail miserably most days) – it was mind-blowing – all the things that happened. I’ll never forget that day in the grotto.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am really back to reality – and have to go change a diaper.

Genesis

No, not a post about the first book of the Bible, or a throw-back to an 80’s rock group. I am speaking about the moment of creation – the initial spark of consciousness. As a composer, I have been grappling with this idea of genesis: Where do my ideas come from?

Did I create the music? I am beginning to feel that I am part of a greater consciousness, or stream of thought of which I am a small part. I am learning to listen to what seems to already be there, to already exist. No, I am not simply writing down what I hear, but describing it through music – and that is the magical part. Of course the interpretation of this, the infinite amount of variables among composers, allow for such a diversity of output. My training, musical taste, life experiences, etc, all effect how I listen to the world, interpret what I hear, and contribute back to the greater consciousness through my music.

The act of contributing back is not possible without performance – and there is an interesting dialogue that occurs here.  A composer interprets the musical soul through writing it down, and the performer is the one who further interprets the idea – This contribution back to the collective musical soul thus alters it by its mere presence. here I speak of influences.

It is easy for me to trace my influences.  While I love music from many composers, I have to say the composer that speaks the most to me, or whom, in my opinion, best communicated the abstract to me, is Ravel. Of course, I have been ‘influenced’ by many composers and styles of music, but the most influential to me would be the ’sound’ that most stirs my soul – and to me, Ravel captures something in his music that speaks to me as clear as day.  I don’t try to understand the abstract part of it, I just listen and enjoy it. Study and analysis certainly help shed light on the music – but usually only formally quantify that which I already felt in the musical soul.

To me, music always has an image associated with it.  In a sort of contrived ‘genesis,’ I decided to set a poem to music in order to get my creative juices flowing.  I picked up a collection of Emily Dickinson, and immediately settled on this one.

 

Will there really be a “Morning”?

Is there such a thing as “Day”?

Could I see it from the mountains

If I were as tall as they?

 

Has it feet like Water lilies?

Has it feathers like a Bird?

Is it brought from famous countries

Of which I have never heard?

 

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!

Oh some Wise Men from the skies!

Please to tell a little Pilgrim

Where the place called “Morning” lies!

 

The irony does not escape me. The search for the ethereal morning (which is an entirely different discussion about the search for heaven in my opinion) is very similar to my longing to learn how to listen to the musical soul. As a student of music, I hope that I can better understand and grasp the process by which the great composers have created such masterpieces. I just need to keep listening – both inward and out – and hopefully that spark, or moment of creation will reveal to me something more – something unknown, yet intimately familiar.

A Benefit in Stamford

A group picture of the performers after the concert. Pictured (L to R) Kirsten Allegri, Elise Quagliata, Amy Buckley, Dmitry Iogman, Michael Cooney.

An old friend from UCONN, Dmitry (Dima) Iogman, found me on facebook and asked me to participate in a benefit concert – and, of course, I was there to lend support in raising money for a family member who is diagnosed with cancer.  Little did I know that it would become a great little UCONN reunion with singers Amy Buckley, Elise Quagliata.  And there was also Kirsten Allegri, whom my wife met at the Aspen Music Festival years ago.  All were there to lend support – it was beautiful. What some thought was going to be a little show, became a concert of masterful musicianship from all. One run-through with each performer, and that was it – show-time! It was great to be able to pull it all together with master musicians!

 

Here is the letter Dima sent to us.

“Hello Guys…. Once again… thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!  I as so very humble by the caliber of people who’ve casually decided to walk into my life and have stayed in touch for years.  Nothing in this world means more that those invisible ties that bind us together.  You all have helped me in a time of need and can expect the same of me any time.   Kirsten and Mac Especially you too have leave me with no other words but humility and true gratitude.

I would like to say that you should all be, as i am extremely proud of what we accomplished on such short notice with no rehearsal time.  We have raised over $7,000 for a family in true need of support, (and the money is still pouring in).  But not only that……, for a whole following week the entire community was buzzing about a concert that they went to out of respect and planed to leave at intermission…. but instead were completely taken by surprise by the high level of performance and musicality that they saw…. and considered themselves Lucky to have seen something so special…… in little old Stamford.

thank you,

Love,

dima.”