The Composer’s Workshop, an innovative new project by Burmer Music giving local composers the opportunity to hear their works played live in an intimate salon setting, was launched in February. The workshops are part of the creative process leading up a new concert to be sponsored by Burmer Music in the fall.
The first workshop, held Feb. 4, featured original pieces by composers Nan Avant, Barry Dowsett and Glenna Burmer written for a string octet with solo piano, clarinet, guitar or mandolin. Musicians were Madeline Woodward, Glenna Burmer, Nan Avant, Barry Dowsett, Sarah Ison, Sandra Layman, Dawn Corl, Annmarie Sewell and Bruce Kulander.
The Composer’s Workshop offers a unique opportunity for young symphonic composers. “My goal was to create a friendly environment that allowed composers to hear their music live during an early phase of the composition process,” explained Burmer. “This gives them the chance to stretch their skills and explore different instrument combinations and new musical genres before they go into a recording studio or concert hall.”
Nan Avant contributed two works during the February workshop: “Sonore” (French for “resonant with rich tone”) and “Musica Bella,” a Latin work for guitar, strings, percussion and piano. Composer Barry Dowsett wrote a piece entitled “Bluest Ice,” for string ensemble and clarinet.
Burmer wrote three pieces that were performed: “Winter Dance” for bowed psaltery and chamber ensemble; “The Puppy Dance” for piano and strings; and “The Reindeer Riders,” a chamber piece with solo clarinet inspired by the hunter-gatherers of the Kamchatka peninsula and Sakhalin Islands.
“It’s so important for someone composing music to hear it performed by live musicians early in the process,” said composer Avant. “That kind of feedback is invaluable to a composer.” Barry Dowsett agreed: “This is a fantastic way for a composer to work through the instrumental techniques and textures of a composition in a relaxed and supportive environment. From this experience, we gain valuable insight into what is effective musically and what is not.”
Burmer, managing director of Burmer Music, has produced several sold-out symphonic concerts at Benaroya Hall, including Symphonic Stories, Celebrate World Music, and Origins: Life and the Universe.
She plans to host a Composer’s Workshop every few months, exploring different instruments combinations and genres at each session. The next session will include jazz and torch songs, and will feature vocalists as well as chamber ensemble with solo instruments. The Composer’s Workshop is sponsored by Burmer Music and powered by Shunpike.