Septet, Opus 77 ... "Variations On A Shaker Tune" (1998) for flute, clarinet, horn, violin, viola, cello and double bass

Thomas Oboe Lee

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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 turns out Deborah Leath Rentz, a mezzo-soprano who is Mark's assistant at the Terezin Music Foundation, has been researching and transcribing a Shaker Hymnal, ca. 1850, created and compiled at the Hancock Shaker Village.  (Deborah's project is 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.  In this performance, Deborah will sing the hymn a cappella in the beginning.  Then, seven variations will follow.

Instrumenatation: flute, clarinet in Bb, Horn in F. violin, viola, cello and double bass.

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!!!


Year composed: 1998
Duration: 00:14:30
Ensemble type: Unspecified Instrument(s):Ensemble
Instrumentation: 1 Flute, 1 Clarinet, 1 Horn in F, 1 Violin, 1 Viola, 1 Cello, 1 Double bass

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