Coming up March 23rd,  7:30pm in Sheslow Auditorium

Thomas Oboe Lee’s Variations on a Shaker Tune

Leos Janacek’s Mladi

Featuring: Leos Janacek signature

Elizabeth Deutmeyer, voice

Sarah Plum, violin

Zo Manfredi, viola

Ashley Sidon, cello

Patricia Weitzel, bass

Leslie Marrs, flute

Jennifer Bloomberg, oboe

Clarence Padilla, clarinet

Guinevere McIntyre, horn

Timothy Gale, bassoon

Joyce Wheeler, bass clarinet

Septet, opus 77 … “Variations on a Shaker Tune” was commissioned by Mark Ludwig for his educational series in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.  When he approached me about writing a “theme and variations” work for the purpose of illustrating musical form, texture and orchestration to a young audience, I thought what better thing to do than to use as a theme a Shaker hymn from nearby Hancock Shaker Village.    As it turned out Deborah Leath Rentz, a mezzo-soprano who is Mark’s assistant at the Terezin Music Foundation, had been researching and transcribing a Shaker Hymnal, ca. 1850, created and compiled at the Hancock Shaker Village.  (Deborah’s project was sponsored by the Hancock Shaker Village and the Richmond Performing Series.)  So I asked her to put on DAT tape a number of these hymns for me.  I immediately fell in love with the very first one on the tape: “Grateful Remembrance.”  It had a soulful, melancholic core; an almost “bluesy” feeling to it.

  – notes by Thomas Oboe Lee

I. Grateful Remembrance An instrumental version of the hymn.

II. Grateful Chanting Featuring the B-flat clarinet in a pentatonic “chant” setting.

III. Grateful Funk The “bluesiness” of the hymn is transformed into a funk riff.

IV. Tango Remembered A four-note fragment from the hymn is transformed into a sultry tango.

V. Sambinha agradecida The yearning “flat 6th” in the hymn is transformed into a samba Carmen Miranda would’ve loved.

VI. Canonized Remembrance The hymn is treated to a canonic transfiguration.

VII. Grateful Groove The pentatonic nature of the hymn is spun out in an Afro-cuban razzle dazzle finale!!!


It is good to know the striking fact that Leos Janacek (1854-1928), the great Moravian composer, wrote his suite “Youth” in July 1924, when he was eighty.  He was inspired by happy memories of early days passed within the walls of the Royal Clerical College at Brno where as young chorister and student he contributed along with the other boys to a lot of mischief and musical jokes.  The suite “Youth” is full of that wild, boyish, and careless mood, varying from extreme gaiety to melancholic dreaming, as in the second movement.