Jenni Brandon’s Cumulonimbus and Shades of Violet performed, as a solo recital, by Natalie Groom on October 21, 2019 at 8:00pm in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Stadium Drive and Route 193, College Park, MD 20742, Phone: (301) 405-2787.
Natalie Groom is a freelance clarinetist in Washington, D.C. and substitute clarinetist of the Annapolis Symphony and Annapolis Opera. She is the artist-in-residence at Collington Retirement Community, a Junior Board member of Washington Performing Arts, and a volunteer for the Institute for Composer Diversity.
As teacher, conductor, and academic, she and soprano Jennifer Piazza-Pick founded, in 2018, the Whistling Hens, a chamber music ensemble. The group celebrates and advances the artistic accomplishments of women by performing and commissioning all female-composed music. Their work invites listeners to reflect on the impact male privilege has had on traditional music programming, question the status quo of gender inequality in the classical music community, and engage with music by women of various backgrounds.
The inspiration for Jenni’s Cumulonimbus was from a wonderful book titled The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. In this book he describes all types of clouds, from the Stratus all the way up to the Cirrocumulus cloud. Jenni particularly loved his chapter on the Cumulonimbus cloud and the description of the destruction and havoc that this cloud can make. I thought it would be exciting to write a work that represented this cloud and its fury.
The title for Shades of Violet came about during a phone call with Jenni and Elizabeth Crawford – clarinet and Katrin Meidell – viola. They were discussing this new work and Elizabeth’s and Katrin’s ensemble’s name “Violet” and the phrase “shades of violet” was mentioned. I loved this phrase and knew it would inspire the work, plus pay homage to this new ensemble’s namesake!
When I started to research the color violet, I found many interesting facts about this color. It is a “true” color in that it has its own set of wavelengths on the spectrum of visible light – between blue and invisible ultraviolet. It also has a lot of other meanings throughout history, encompassing spiritually, emotions of love and passion, and physical manifestations of the color. I wanted to portray these “shades of violet” not just from the color spectrum, but what it has meant to people symbolically. I made a list of what I found when I researched this color, and many of these words or phrases that inspired me during the creation of this work appear as descriptions of sections in the score:
Union of Body and Soul
Mental balance and stability
In some ways this work is a love story – two instruments seeking passion, inspiration, union, unconditional love. We reach this union toward the end of the piece, represented through the higher registers of both instruments– a push and pull of harmonies and shades of violet that I think represent the complexities of what the color Violet represents.