Sunday, October 05, 2008

My Donald Erb souvenir

I have a ping-pong ball in my bedroom now, one that's covered in bright orange paint. It's my souvenir of today's Cleveland Chamber Symphony concert, held in honor of the late composer Donald Erb at Baldwin-Wallace College.

Erb, who died this year, was a prominent Cleveland composer. The CCS did two of his pieces at today's concert. "The Devil's Quickstep" was a collection of interesting sounds, but I'm afraid my brain had trouble converting them into a recognition of them as music.

The second piece was "Souvenir," and it was the last piece of the program. It was a great deal of fun. The program note for it said it was composed in 1970 "and might be considered an example of one of the 'happenings' of that time, although the piece is far more universal than that." That seems like a fair description. The lights were turned down and what looked like a black light was turned on. Objects that appeared to glow in the dark were deployed. I was sitting in the balcony, and a gentleman in the corner of the front row tossed out big, colorful balloons, then sprayed what appeared to be Silly Putty at the audience below, then threw out a whole box of colored ping pong balls.

I talked to the man after the concert, and he explained, "I'm Donald Erb's son." He told me he had been helping with the performance of the piece since he was a teenager. He pointed out to me other members of the performer's family. As I left the theater, a woman insisted to me that a colored ping-pong ball had been placed in the composer's coffin before he was buried.

Also during today's program, the CCS performed "Compline" by Christopher Rouse, maybe my favorite piece in the concert; I'll try to hunt up a recording. There was also "Tatterdemalion" by Libby Larsen, which I had no opinion on one way or the other, and William Bolcom's chamber music suite, "Orphee-Serenade," which I liked. Bolcom seems to be have written a large amount of enjoyable music; I've yet to hear something I dislike.

The symphony was much smaller than usual; the program listed 14 musicians, and each piece seemed to use fewer than that. I don't know what was going on with that. The program wasn't the same one that had been announced a few months ago.

Update: Composer Jeffrey Quick's thoughts are here.


chris_c said...

ANAblog are posting some of his music now.

Anonymous said...

I'm a new guy to classical music. I've recently been listening to Jonathan Elias and was wondering if you knew any music similar to his.

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