New music by Nevada County composers |

New music by Nevada County composers

Four local master composers are featured at this year’s annual Wet Ink Festival of new music, and each will have their composition performed by the visiting world class Portland, Ore., ensemble, Third Angle.

Third Angle performs Mark Vance’s ANAWAN 1938 for clarinet and piano along with Jay Sydeman’s QUINTET for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, Howard Hersh’s The Pony Concerto, scored for flute clarinet, piano, violin, and cello and finally Jerry Grant’s Changing Light for alto flute, bassoon, cello and piano. Each of these composers brings a unique background to the world of music composition, although each has degrees in music composition.

Born in Sacramento, Mark Vance has made Nevada City his home for over 35 years. He has played an extensive role as a composer, conductor, educator, arranger and indefatigable advocate of new music with original compositions in every musical genre: Vocal, choral, chamber and orchestral. Vance received his education at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He is the Education Coordinator for Music in the Mountains: Maintains, develops and implements their impressive list of education programs i.e. Classics for Kids, Music Live, Young Composers Program, Designs for Listening (adult ed), Young Musicians Competition. Vance serves as a member of the board of directors for the Gold Country Piano Institute. GCPI is an international master class program focusing on piano literature interpretation. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Nevada County Composers Cooperative. Recent works include For Whom the Bell Tolls for choir, piano, brass quartet and percussion (2010), premiered at Wet Ink June 2010, and Five American Haiku for voice and piano (2011), a setting of five “American haiku” from poet Steve Sanfield’s The Perfect Breeze. 1. That First Narcissus 2. None More Bewitching 3. Their Beauty is Clear 4. Crickets Singing 5. Twenty-Five Years Later.

Vance has been the recipient of grants from the American Composers Forum. He has received numerous commissions from Music in the Mountains, Twin Cities Concert Association (now InConcert Sierra), and Nevada Union High School Choral Program. One of Vance’s pet projects is that the public can be, and are indeed, responsible for commissioning new music. This important concept has led to the formation of the new commissioning group, Tangible Applause, an ongoing commissioning group that understands the importance of supporting the artist over a period of several years. This enables artists to create a body of works, take on projects with no scheduled performances, and create works for influential musicians who cannot afford to commission.

William Jay Sydeman is one of America’s most prolific and inventive composers. In an era in which many of his colleagues have defined their careers through a handful of brief works, he has produced an output whose scope and variety are absolutely unique. His work is a prominent part of late 20th century American music. There is a fluency and inspired craftsmanship illuminating Sydeman’s more than 400 compositions that is reminiscent of the Baroque and Classical eras. When asked recently if there are some forms he has yet to examine, he responded that he has written for just about every medium: “… two operas, scads of chamber music, 10 orchestral pieces. There’s nothing that I still want to explore. But,” he continued, “it’s like every new piece is an exploration.”

W. Jay Sydeman’s life mirrors the breadth and variety of his music. Born in New York and educated at Manhattan’s Mannes School of Music, receiving commissions from such prestigious groups as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Tanglewood Music Center, and the Boston Symphony, which premiered his orchestral work in memory of John F. Kennedy in 1966. “Sydeman uses a whole battery of far out techniques,” wrote the New York Times, “but he has an uncanny ability to throw in the whole avant-garde machinery as if it were the simplest, most normal way of making music in the world …”

In 1970, after a heady period that included awards from the National institute of Arts and Letters, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and library of Congress, Sydeman left New York – and composition – to begin a journey of personal and artistic exploration before settling in Hawaii, where he composed liturgical music for a Tibetan Buddhist temple. “I was looking for a new way of being, and the musician just came on the heels of that.”

In 1981, Mr. Sydeman returned to the mainland and finally returned to composition as the defining aspect of his life. The works that emerged reflected an enormous stylistic change, and projected a sense of inclusiveness that allowed him to draw freely from experimental and traditional idioms. “Around 1980,” he has written, “I returned to composition – at first a large number of choral works which reconnected me to the source of all music – the human voice. Out of this new lyric impulse have evolved all of my works since that time.”

Howard Hersh studied piano in Los Angeles and composition at Stanford University, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Hersh has composed concert and dramatic works for voices and instruments ranging from solo violin to full orchestra. His major works include Shrapnel in the Heart for soprano and seven instruments. After the 1993 premiere of his song cycle Earthly Prayers, the critic for Sacramento’s National Public Radio station called the work “an important contribution to the music world. Hersh has always given us thoughtful music of great depth that is filled with drama and beauty. Earthly Prayers … should be heard around the world.” Other recent works include, The History Lesson, a theater piece for soprano, tenor, chamber ensemble and high school choir, commissioned by the 2001 Festival of New American Music. Mr. Hersh has also composed graphic scores; his three-part graphic composition Three Songs on Poems of Apollinaire is in the collection of Middlebury College.

Hersh’s music has been presented at venues that include the Tanglewood Festival, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Monday Evening Concerts, Florida State University’s Festival of New Music, UCLA, the Stuttgart State Theater, and the Bavarian Radio. His awards include grants from Music Alive, a national composer-in-residency program administered by the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer, the American Music Center’s Composer Assistance Program, Meet the Composer’s Creative Connections Program, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the American Composers Forum. He currently is Music Director of Music Now, a Sacramento-based performing ensemble.

Composer/conductor Jerry Grant spans the music world as a creator of music for television and film, with works for chorus and chorus with ensembles, jazz orchestra, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra and wind ensemble. He blends jazz, symphonic and dramatic influences into an eclectic style that speaks with compelling imagery.

International musical reviews include: “A fresh voice in composition,” Lalo Schifrin, film and jazz composer. “Every color in the musical rainbow is on display and the results are highly inventive.” Pat Williams, film and television composer.

Grant attended Wayne State University in Detroit. While serving in the U.S. Army, Grant was chosen to be musical director and arranger for the Rolling Along Show (a 25 member variety review), which toured the world entertaining military personnel. Relocating to Los Angeles he became a studio performing musician on saxophone and flute and vocal, string and horn arranging for records as well as songwriting. In addition to dramatic film music, concert music has been woven throughout his career in a variety of commissions. Recent works include But Have Not Love for Choir and four percussion, 2010, and Celsius 961 for solo flute, 2010. He has spent 25 years composing film music with many recognized titles to his credit, in addition to 60 works for the NUJazz Alternative, jazz/rock orchestra, the music being an eclectic blend of dramatic music, jazz, rock and symphonic techniques. Grant taught composing and conducting for film at UCLA for 12 years as well as teaching at the Dick Grove Music School. He was a visiting professor for three years at CSU Chico and co-teaches the Young Composers program for MIM. His music is performed in the U.S. and Europe and his film music throughout the world. Currently, he is credited with the performance and production of the music for The Full Monty musical at the Nevada Theater.

The Wet Ink concert opens the MIM Summer Festival at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20, where you will be called upon to be an active listener to a unique collection of new music.

For tickets and information call (530) 478-0983 or visit

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