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Jeremy Gill photo by Arielle Doneson
Composer Jeremy Gill was born in Harrisburg and grew up in Mechanicsburg. In the 4th grade he started playing saxophone, an instrument associated with jazz. But he was always drawn to classical music. He remembers getting scores to the Beethoven symphonies and sitting in his room and playing along with the recordings on the saxophone. Since there is no actual saxophone part in the music, he had to transpose the cello part.
Now Gill's own music has become highly regarded. His oboe concerto was premiered last season by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. .And he has had a long association with Market Square Concerts in Harrisburg. He's written several pieces for special Market Square events. So when it came time to plan a concert for the 35th anniversary of the chamber music organization, it seemed natural to get Gill to write a new work for the occasion.
Martin and Lucy Miller Murray commissioned Gill to compose a work to be performed by the current Executive and Artistic Directors of Market Square Concerts, pianist Ya-Ting Chang and violinist Peter Sirotin.
GILL: "I'm pretty sure that the original idea was to explore the history of the sonata."
That may sound ambitious, given that the musical form known as the sonata goes back centuries and contains a huge number of works. But violinist Peter Sirotin has a word to describe Gill's approach.
SIROTIN: "I don't think you often hear words like metadata used in the description of classical music, but I find that Jeremy's music is a great example of musical metadata if you will...this sort of approach of absorbing 400 years of tradition and producing a work that is carefully crafted and very well informed."
GILL: "One of the great things about being a composer right now is that you have this access to music literally from all time. I feel really lucky to be able to draw on all of the various times and styles to fit whatever needs to happen dramatically and expressively at that moment in a piece."
One of the key ideas Gill drew on came from early music by composer Claudio Monteverdi, a movement from his Vespers from 1610.
GILL: "The movement itself has a single soprano voice and she sings 11 times the same phrase, 'Saint Mary, hear us.' Never changes the pitches, rarely changes the rhythm, but all around her the instruments are changing textures constantly."
The section suggested to Gill the feeling of an unanswered prayer.
GILL: "For me there's this implication if you have the soprano singing over and over again the same thing. And it's a request, right? 'Saint Mary, hear us.' Why does she have to say it so many times and in the same way? There's this implication of desperation there. She's not being heard."
Gill expanded on this idea in his new work, making the desperation and longing even more explicit.
GILL: "I used those notes that she sings and the rhythms in which she sings them in the violin part. That, towards the end of the work creates a pretty dramatic climax in which by the end she's just sort of screaming out this invocation. And there's never a satisfying answer."
The dramatic tension in the music speaks to Sirotin, and he believes it will speak powerfully to others.
SIROTIN: "We live at a time where there's a lot of discourse between people who are science and data-driven who believe that it's just a matter of time when we can explain everything ... and people who believe in mystery. That conversation, that tension is greater than ever before, perhaps. And I think that this music speaks wonderfully to it in its emotional content."
Jeremy Gill's new work, Duo for Violin and Piano, will be premiered in the Market Square 35th Anniversary concert Saturday night, January 21 at 8 at Whitaker Center. The concert will also include Brahms Horn Trio and Schubert's Trout Quintet.
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