Compostela by Jenni Brandon, Performed by Eric Stomberg and Trio Amical

Jenni Brandon’s Compostela is performed by Eric Stomberg and Trio Amical. The Trio Amical is a woodwind ensemble featuring bassoon, clarinet, and piano. The ensemble includes Karen Benda (clarinet), Eric Stomberg (bassoon), and Robert Koening (piano). They will perform the first two movements, the “Field of Stars” and end with the “Buen Camino” in honor of the late Eric Varner. This performance is a faculty recital at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall (#40 on map) on November 12, 2019 at 8:30 PM. The recital is free and open to the public. The Interlochen Center for the Arts is located at 4000 Highway M-137, Interlochen, MI 49643, telephone: (231) 276-7200.

Dr. Stomberg, DMA enjoys a wide-ranging musical career as a performer, artist-teacher and artistic administrator. He plays with “elegance and refinement” while displaying “impeccable tone and technique” (American Record Guide). He is also one of the most sought-after contemporary bassoonists with numerous invitations to present recitals and masterclasses at conservatories and schools of music around the world. His students have gone on to study at the most prestigious music schools in the country, while former students also hold orchestral and academic positions in the United States and abroad. He is on faculty at the University of Kansas, School of Music and Associate Director of Music for Summer Programs at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Instructor of Bassoon at Interlochen Arts Academy, and as President of the International Double Reed Society.

Compostela for solo bassoon work tells the story of the pilgrimage along The Camino Francés.  It is the most popular of the pilgrimage routes through Spain that lead to Santiago de Compostela, or the church where the bones of St. James the Apostle are said to be buried.  The title of this work has two meanings.  “Compostela for solo bassoon work tells the story of the pilgrimage along The Camino Francés.  It is the most popular of the pilgrimage routes through Spain. Premiered during the 2018 International Double Reed Society Conference in Granada, Spain by Eric Varner

Compostela” is translated by some to mean “field of a star”.  This comes from the legend of the discovery of St. James the apostle – his body was said to be revealed by a star to Theodomir, Bishop of Ira Flavia in 813.  The Compostela is also the certificate that is given to pilgrims at the completion of their journey, or when they reach the grand church in Santiago de Compostela which holds the remains of St. James.  To me, the title touches on both the ethereal and the physical of this pilgrimage.  It is not so much about the destination, but the personal journey the pilgrim takes with each step along the Camino de Santiago.  As we travel along this path, the bassoon narrates what we may see and hear, how we may feel, and what we discover about ourselves as we take this personal journey.

This work was commissioned by Eric Van der Veer Varner, who introduced me to the Camino de Santiago when we talked about a new work for him during IDRS 2017 at Lawrence University. His enthusiasm and knowledge about the trail inspired me to dig deeper into this pilgrimage I knew nothing about, but now join many people around the world in being fascinated by the history and meaning of the Camino.  It is an honor to write this piece for him to premiere.

In one movement, this work has several sections that highlight the journey along the way.

  1. Field of Stars
    Along the  Camino Francés thousands of pilgrims have travelled over many centuries in search of answers.  Many walk the path for different reasons – spiritual callings, atonement, health and fitness, personal reflection and growth.  Whatever the reason, they all walk the path toward the Santiago de Compostela, under the same sky and stars.  This movement begins our journey toward that field of stars, and the first steps onto the Camino Francés, beginning at St Jean Pied de Port.
  2. Buen Camino!
    This is a phrase that pilgrims say to each say along the way, translating to “good way”.  It is a greeting of joy, of hope, and of good will as they travel this path. Cheerful and light, the bassoon happily walks along the Camino fresh and open-minded.

III.   A Toast of Happiness
This comes from the Irache Wine Fountain in Ayegui where Pilgrims can drink wine from an outdoor fountain.  There is a quote here that says: “Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast of happiness.”  There is a bit of joyful glee in sharing a drink with fellow pilgrims at an outdoor wine fountain

  1. I was once…
    When leaving the town of Los Arcos, the pilgrim will pass by a cemetery gate with this saying: “Yo que fui lo que tu eres, tu seras lo que yo soi.” Or “I was once what you are, and you will be what I am.”  This feels like a beautiful sentiment to remember along this sacred and ancient path, for the pilgrims are connected through the ages by their calling to walk the Camino and learn from its wisdom.
  2. The Pit of Bones
    Just outside of Atapuerca is the site of the oldest discovered remains of humans.  This fascinating and incredibly poignant place reminds the pilgrim of the connection to each other and of our mortality. Ancient and mysterious, the bassoon explores what might be found deep in the earth.
  3. Cruz del Ferro
    On the route from Rabanel del Camino to Ponferrada is an Iron cross on top of a 5 meter wooden pole. It is surrounded by stones – people bring stones with them from all over the world and leave them here to represent leaving behind a burden.

VII.  The Scallop Shell
The scallop shell is the symbol of the pilgrimage. Originally pilgrims would receive this shell once they reached Santiago de Compostela to prove that they had walked the Camino.  Today, many pilgrims carry the scallop shell attached to their bags or clothes as a symbol of their journey.  The image of the scallop shell is also found all along the Camino to help the pilgrim stay on the right path.