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Three Questions Before the First Night, by Carson Cooman

Meira Warshauer -- Symphony No 1,
'Living, Breathing Earth'

Meira Warshauer (born 1949) is an active American composer based in South Carolina. She studied composition with Mario Davidovsky, Jacob Druckman, William Thomas McKinley, and Gordon Goodwin. Her works have been performed and recorded to critical acclaim throughout the United States and in Israel, Europe, South America, and Asia. She has received numerous awards from ASCAP as well as the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and the South Carolina Arts Commission. She was awarded an Artist Fellowship in Music by the SC Arts Commission in 1994, and in 2000, received the first Art and Cultural Achievement Award from the Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina. She is a graduate of Harvard (magna cum laude), holds three degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music, and earned her doctorate from the University of South Carolina. Warshauer is an associate music faculty member at Columbia College, Columbia, SC. Her innovative course, The Healing Art of Music, is a cross-cultural, multidisciplinary approach to the experience of music as a source of healing.

Warshauer has received commissions from the Dayton (Ohio) Philharmonic, the South Carolina Philharmonic (three orchestra works), the Zamir Chorale of Boston in consortium with the Rottenberg Chorale (NYC), Zemer Chai (Washington, DC), Gratz College (Philadelphia), and Kol Dodi (New Jersey); the Wilmington (NC) Choral Society, Congregation Children of Israel (Augusta, GA), Temple Israel (Natick, MA), Columbia College, University of South Carolina, Upton Trio, Cantors Assembly, clarinetist Richard Nunemaker, violinist Daniel Heifetz, and flutist Paula Robison. Her CDs include the soundtrack to the documentary Land of Promise: The Jews of South Carolina and Spirals of Light, chamber music and poetry (by Ani Tuzman) on themes of enlightenment, on the Kol Meira label, and Revelation for orchestra, included on Robert Black Conducts, MMC. Paula Robison and percussionist Cyro Baptista recorded Warshauer's Bati l'Gani ('I entered my garden') on Robison's CD, Places of the Spirit, released by the Pucker Gallery, Boston, in 2003. YES! for clarinet and orchestra, written for and recorded by Richard Stoltzman and the Warsaw Philharmonic, is scheduled for release on MMC.

Meira Warshauer
Meira Warshauer

Warshauer's Symphony No 1, Living, Breathing Earth will receive four performances, a première from each member of the commissioning consortium. On 3 February 2007, the Western Piedmont Symphony under the direction of John Gordon Ross will perform the work in Hickory, North Carolina. On 24 March 2006, the South Carolina Philharmonic and Nicholas Smith will perform the work in Columbia, South Carolina. The final two initial performances will take place on 26 and 28 April 2007 by Neal Gittleman and the Dayton Philharmonic in Dayton, Ohio.

OneCarson Cooman: You've written many orchestral works before but this is your first 'symphony'. What made you decide to call the work that, and what connotations does it have to you?

Meira Warshauer: 'Symphony', to me, means a major work for orchestra. The closest thing I have to that is my Jerusalem, Open Your Gates, which is in three movements, about sixteen minutes long. My other orchestral compositions are shorter (Like Streams in the Desert is eight minutes, Revelation is eight minutes, As the Waters Cover the Sea is eleven minutes, and YES! is ten minutes). Some use chorus as well as orchestra (Shacharit, Ahavah). I felt I had matured enough in my orchestra writing to attempt writing a 'symphony'. It seemed more significant to actually call it a symphony. This one turns out to be about 25 minutes long. It also has four movements, although I didn't consider that as defining a symphony -- it just happened to work best that way.

In calling it Symphony No 1, I may be implying there are others to follow. I hope so!

TwoCC: In the program notes for this work, you discuss a message that the work has of seeking healing for the earth. Do you find yourself coming often to these sort of subject when writing music?

MW: Yes. My music is inspired by my living. In this case, I was very moved by the image of the rainforests as 'lungs of the earth', and began to imagine the earth breathing. I felt I wanted to really honor the amazing experience of living on the earth, being part of this huge ecosystem, and I wanted the music to be a vehicle for the audience members to connect with their own love of the earth. The healing image accompanies the hope that by recognizing what is precious to us, we will be moved to protect it.

ThreeCC: Has having three orchestras in the première consortium made you think about the work any differently than you would have otherwise?

MW: I wanted it to fit each orchestra, and was in close contact with the conductors when making decisions about orchestration. These three conductors, Neal Gittleman, John Gordon Ross, and Nicholas Smith, took on what felt like roles of guardian angels. They really tried to say 'yes' whenever they could. I am so grateful to them for the trust they put in me. They had each performed my music before, but commissioning is still a risk. I hope they'll find it worthwhile!

Having three orchestras waiting for this symphony was tremendously motivating. It helped sustain me to know that all the work of writing (and it was a huge amount of work, even though a labor of great love), would be rewarded by four performances (one each in Hickory, NC and Columbia, SC, and two in Dayton, Ohio). Although any performance is great, it can be a let-down to have only one performance of such a major work. Of course, I hope there will be more performances after this season. But at least I know there are four performances waiting for this new baby.

Copyright © 25 January 2007 Carson P Cooman, Cambridge, MA, USA







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