Luna Nova Music performed Jenni Brandon’s Sequoia Trio (Nobuko Igarashi, clarinet; Michelle Vigneau, oboe; Leah Cripps, bassoon) and Multitudinous Stars and Spring Waters (Esther Gray Lemus, soprano and Michelle Vigneau, oboe) at the University of Memphis Harris Concert Hall, September 16, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. The concert also featured Danse de la Chèvre (1921) by Arthur Honegger (1892–‐1955) and Mountain Songs for Flute and Guitar (1985) by Robert Beazer (b. 1954).
Luna Nova Music supports performances of a wide range of twentieth century classics, music of established living composers, and premieres by emerging composers. With concerts, masterclasses and private instruction, Luna Nova Music maintains a strong commitment to the education of performers and listeners, and to the cause of new music in educational institutions and beyond.
Each movement of The Sequoia Trio (oboe, clarinet, bassoon sheet music) takes a quote about Sequoia trees from John Muir’s book The Yosemite and uses it to inspire the music. The opening waving pattern creates the gentle breeze as the growth of the tree starts in the bassoon, moving through the clarinet and is carried all the way to the top of the tree through the oboe. Movement two is sassy and jazzy, describing the kind of resilient attitude that young trees must maintain in order to survive. Movement three, The Three Graces” plays on the idea of the three instruments in the ensemble and Muir’s own reference to Greek mythology. Finally, in “The Noble Trees” the instruments play a hymn-like tribute to the largest living things on earth. The two “Tree Interludes” represent the individual voice of a tree and its story. Quotes taken from The Yosemite, 1912 by John Muir. Text is in the public domain.
Multitudinous Stars and Spring Waters represents a collection of women poets from a vast period of Chinese history. The poems in it come from the collection of poems “Women Poets of China”. This book, edited and translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung, explores poetry from many centuries both attributed to and written by women poets.
Throughout the centuries Chinese women were not allowed to share their poetry. They were basically property of their husbands, having no rights to money, property, or education. Poetry was written in secret, often destroyed or shared only amongst other women. It has been just in the 20th century that Chinese women poets began to freely write and share their poetry.
Within this work are three main poems:
o Spring Song
o Thinking of Someone
o Married Love
These make up the larger picture of love and waiting, sometimes with disappointment and grief, of admiration, of marriage and of eternal love. In between are selections, almost like Haiku, from the poem “Multitudinous Stars and Spring Waters” by Ping Hsin. These feel like fragments of thoughts; like what you’d think silently to yourself, before and after the bigger declarations of the messages from the three larger poems.
Thematically, all of the poems tie together. There are day and night themes (“Spring Song” moves into “Bright moon”). There’s the “ocean of thoughts” and the turbulent waters of the heart (“The orphan boat” and “Thinking of Someone”). And of course, there is limitless, eternal love, like the night sky full of stars (“Void only” and “Married Love”). But the whole work is a love song – telling that age-old story of the push and pull of emotions that only love can cause. The soprano and oboe are equals in this intertwining duet in telling this love story. Both bring emotional weight to the work as they journey into eternal love as told through the final lines of the work:
I am in your clay. You are in my clay.
In life we share a single quilt.
In death we will share one coffin.
Commissioned by Dr. Amy Yeung of the University of Tennessee-Martin, it was her vision of wanting to tell a love story through the voices of her culture that led to the creation of this work. Premiered by Dr. Yeung and Dr. Douglas Owens at the University of Tennessee-Martin in March 2018. Co-Commissioned by Esther Gray Lemus, Soprano.
“Spring Song” By Kenneth Rexroth, from the original by Meng Chu, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung, from Women Poets of China, copyright ©1973 by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
“Multitudinous Stars and Spring Waters” from the original by Meng Chu, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung, from Women Poets of China, copyright ©1973 by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
“Thinking of Someone” from the original by Hsiung Hung, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung, from Women Poets of China, copyright ©1973 by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
“Married Love” By Kuan Tao-Sheng, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung, from Women Poets of China, copyright ©1973 by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.