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Minnesota Suite
For Chamber Orchestra

17 minutes

(2,2,2,2   2,1,1,0   2perc. Piano  Strings)

In Three Movements:

I. Pinus resinosa
II. And Still, She Calls

III. Lily of the West


Commissioned by Cannon Valley Regional Orchestra. 

The final movement was performed by the Minnesota Orchestra for its 2021 Gala Video. Watch it here.

Program Notes:

This suite is inspired by the landscape and geography of the state of Minnesota, a state that has become my home for the last 8 years. Each movement is based on a particular aspect of the Minnesota landscape.

I. Pinus resinosa: This is the scientific name for the Red Pine (sometimes also known as Norway Pine), the state tree of Minnesota. This tree is mainly found on the Northern forests in the state. The music is meant to depict a journey through this environment, full of thick vegetation, but also to show the grandeur of these majestic trees.

II. And Still, She Calls: The title refers to a poem by Minnesota native Melissa Richards:

Her waters are legendary, holding the unwary who spill
from their ships, unaware of her power. And yet this Superior lake,
when days are warm and sunsets, late, sends a powerful call.

Wise voices say, stay ashore; so we stop to breathe
wave freshened air and listen for hawk, and owl, and bee. Her wisdom, drawn from sources unseen by this day's eye,

is clearly there in faint paths, rustling grass, white topped swells
as fearsome as when native men walked her shores and braved her waters. Governments change but she does not.

Unafraid to be herself, her sad, beautiful history is known
by wild tales told around campfires to impressionable youths, though many of her own ancient voices have been lost -
lost in the sound of wave and bird;
lost to the sounds of progress.

And still, she calls. And still, we come.

This movement is a depiction of not only Lake Superior, but also the (more than!) 10,000 lakes that are found within the state of Minnesota. Liquid textures give way to a section that opens up like the big lakes, where one thinks one is looking out at the sea. A gurgling middle section shows the image of a smaller lake, intimate, mysterious and alluring, before the image of the large lake returns once again before the close of the movement.

III. Lily of the West. This movement is meant to depict the prairies in the state. The inspiration for this piece came from an old pioneer song called “Lovely Minnesoty.” The melody comes from the singing of Ezra “Fuzzy” Barhight who was recorded by song collector Ellen Stekert at his home in Cohocton, New York in the 50s. The text is primarily one of the texts published by Stanchfield that she found in the Saint Peter Courier of June 26, 1857. The simple melody is heard at the beginning in the solo clarinet, with light accompaniment, after which the music launches into an exciting finale that is entirely based on the “Lovely Minnesoty” melody.

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