Christin Webb, Heather Millette, Michelle Matsumune
In January 2016, Ceora Winds' clarinetist Heather Millette was appointed Co-Principal Clarinet of the Orquestra Sinfonica de Guanajuato in Mexico. As a result of this wonderful news, Ceora Winds has had to disband and the members have moved on to new musical adventures.
1. Les Tisserandes
Mat Matsumune (b. 1961)
In 1996, Michelle was asked to play flute for the opening of an art exhibit at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles. The works of Native American women weavers were being featured at this exhibit, curated by Rebecca Hernandez, a friend of composer (and Michelle's husband!) Mat Matsumune. Mat decided to write a short solo flute piece for Michelle to play at the opening, inspired by the idea of weaving as an art form. In 1997, after moving to France to study with composer Eugene Kurtz, Mat Matsumune expanded on the piece and completed it as a flute and piano composition, entitling it “Les Tisserandes,” which means The Weavers. That version was premiered by Michelle in Paris in 1997. The trio version began in 1999 for flute, oboe and bassoon, but later became the flute, clarinet and bassoon version that you hear here.
Originally written for piano solo
Miguel Bernal Jiménez (1910-1956)
Arranged by Trío de Alientos Revueltas
I. Volantín (Kite or Carousel)
The more common meaning of volantín is "kite" -- but I've read a description of this piece where volantín can also mean the rudimentary carousel you find in children's playgrounds. I like this definition better, but I suppose "kite" could work, also. This piece definitley depicts a playground scene because you can hear the univeral playground theme song: "nyah nyah!" played in the beginning by the flute and clarinet. The middle section is when the children get on the carousel and run around until their feet lift off the ground...OR this could also be where they play with their kites that lift off the ground. Either way, they return to teasing each other on the playground until the end of the piece.
Sandunga is a traditional Oaxacan Waltz. It also means charm, wit, and all things feminine. (Perhaps this is why it suits Heather's clarinet playing so well!)
III. Pordioseros (Beggars)
You can hear the sadness and desolation in this piece.
IV. Hechicería (Witchcraft)
The alternating duple vs. triple rhythms and modal harmonies give this piece a mystical feel.
This word is part of a Mexcian tongue-twister. Bernal Jiménez turned it into a finger twister for the pianist and now for Michelle on flute!
7. Prairie Dawn
Amy Jo Duell (1959-2010)
Completed by her husband, composer Enrique Gonzalez-Medina, soon after her death.
After the poem by Willa Cather
Amy Jo Duell spent most of her career living and composing in Sierra Madre, California with her husband, composer Enrique Gonzales Medina. When I met the pair, we were all teaching at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, and we became fast friends. Now I've noticed, as a clarinetist, that when I befriend a composer, she suddenly begins writing more music for the clarinet. So, over the years, Jo would occasionally hand me a piece of music to play. Her music was often hauntingly beautiful and always a treat.
In 2010, Jo passed away at the age of 50. When Enrique was sorting through her papers, he found a score for Prairie Dawn. Jo had fully written it on a grand staff, and was just beginning to score it for flute, clarinet, and bassoon! Enrique completed the work himself and gave it to me. I know in my heart that she meant for this piece to be for Ceora Winds. It is truly a gift I received from a friend who is already gone, and every time we play it, I think of her.
Prairie Dawn is inspired by a poem by Willa Cather of the same name. It evokes a sunrise in the Great Plains and is both peaceful and poignantly reminiscent at the same time. I always like to recite the poem when we play the piece live, but on this recording we borrowed the voice of the amazing Shakespearean actress, Melissa Chalsma.
Giant thanks to both Melissa and Enrique, and of course, Jo!
8-12. Spider Suite
Jenni Brandon (b. 1977)
I was commissioned in 2010 by the California Association of Professional Music Teachers to write a new chamber work for their state conference. What I wanted to write was something both programmatic and spoke of my love of nature and the natural world. Spiders are incredible in their work as weavers of webs, and I thought their story would translate well into music.
The whole work tells the story of the adventures of a spider and her daily activities. We are first introduced to the world of spiders through the fast and many-legged theme in “Along came a spider…,” full of skittering, racing, and lurking. In movement two a young spider takes flight – baby spiders will spin a balloon out of silk and fly away from their mother’s web to embark on their own journey, letting the wind take them wherever it might. I thought the bassoon’s lyrical quality could tell this story of the spider floating away.
Our spider lands gently and immediately begins to make her web in “Spinning Song.” Once the web is spun, it is time to wait for dinner to come along. Our spider (represented by the clarinet) dances “A Wicked Waltz,” laughing manically as she waits for the “Happy Bug (unsuspecting)” to get stuck in her web. As the bug flies and sings, he gets increasingly stuck in the web – listen as the trills in the piccolo become more and more frequent as he is unable to free himself from the spider’s web. In the final movement the spider reflects on her day (flying, spinning, and hunting…), tearing down her web, as spiders often do, to begin again the next day.
I am so grateful to Ceora Winds for making the first professional recording of this work and for being included on their debut CD. And I hope the next time you see a spider on a web, you’ll take a few moments to admire their delicate and incredible work!
Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)
Robert Muczynski was an American composer from Chicago, who spent much of his career at the University of Arizona as Professor and Head of Composition. He was also a gifted pianist who, at the age of 29, gave a Carnegie Hall recital concert consisting of all his own piano compositions.
The piece Fragments for Woodwind Trio was written in 1958 and is made up of five very concise pieces: Waltz, Solitude, Holiday, Reverie, Exit. Each piece seems to represent a moment in a typical American lifestyle – for example, Waltz recalls a first dance, where the dancers stumble a bit and then get back on; and Holiday, which sounds like a hectic Fourth of July picnic, complete with bees buzzing around. We think this is a great companion piece to the five movement Carteles, which captures images of life in Mexico.
We were disappointed to learn that just as we were memorizing Fragments and performing it in many of our concerts, Muczynski passed away of leukemia (in 2010). We wish we had gotten to talk to him about his piece, or had the chance to perform it for him.
Lee Morgan (1938-1972)
Arranged by David Hill
This beautiful piece obviously holds a special place in our hearts. Heather and I played this piece in a quartet many years ago with Heather's husband, Harold Aschmann (horn), and our dear friend Tom Williams (tenor sax). Tom's arrangement of the piece was fantastic and fun, making it one of our favorite pieces to perform.
After forming Ceora Winds, I tried my hand at arranging the song for our trio -- but to no avail. While talking to my good (and extremely talented) friend, woodwind doubler and composer Dave Hill, I mentioned my frustration at not being able to arrange Ceora successfully for its namesake ensemble. He agreed that it was an impossible task.
A week later I received a phone message from Dave declaring that, unbeknownst to me, he had been working steadily on a Ceora arrangement for us and that it was almost finished!
We love this arrangement because it doesn't try to recreate Lee Morgan's recording of Ceora, but rather explores the beautiful melodies of the song. The result is a musing on Ceora that stays true to the voices of our instruments, giving each of us a chance to sing.
19-23. Cinco Canciones Para Niños
Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940)
Arranged by Trío Alientos de Revueltas
This piece was originally written as a set of songs for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra. The songs are settings of popular children's poems, mainly by the famous Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Especially well-known is "El Lagarto" which is memorized by all Spanish elementary school children. (Look it up on YouTube! Hundreds of adorable Spanish children dressed in white aprons recite the poem.)
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)
Arranged by Christin Webb
I arranged this piece after falling in love with it and obsessing over all of the numerous versions of it available online. I stumbled across a video of a piano version by Vika Yermolyeva, and was struck by how perfectly she captured the mood and pacing of the piece. In fact, I was so impressed that I used her version as a launching pad for the version I arranged for the trio. (Please click on her name above to visit her webpage and hear more of her truly inspired piano arrangements and performances!)
26. My Funny Valentine
Richard Rodgers (music) & Lorenz Hart (lyrics)
Arranged by Christin Webb
This is one of my absolute favorite songs, so it was my first foray into arranging for the trio. Once I began, I realized I would be able to make whatever changes I wanted, so first I changed the meter to a jazz waltz (one of my favorite forms), and then I gave the bassoon the melody!
I was also heavily influenced by my favorite recording of this song by Chet Baker. (This was recorded two weeks before Chet died....prepare to shed a tear.)
When we started performing with T.J. Troy, he decided to accompany the song on tabla -- how cool is that?? -- and it still blows me away how well it works.
Ray Pizzi (b. 1943)
"Having followed Ray Pizzi's legendary career as a multi-instrumentalist, his admirers must now consider him as a serious and talented composer."
Leonard Feather, L.A. Times
Doodley-Doo is a charming jazz waltz -- once you sing along to the melody, the title of the piece makes sense!
Linguine is fun for the trio because we get to try our hand at something a bit jazzy. It is especially fun for me because of the bassoon "easter eggs" that Ray has masterfully placed in the piece. Listen up for the two famous bassoon excerpts that make special appearances!