MPLS (imPulse) is pleased to announce the winner of the final round of our Compose Yourself! competition sponsored by New Music USA. Michael's winning composition, The Gardener, was selected in a blind judging process. The premiere of Michael's work will be featured in our Gardens Are Prolific performance in May 2018.
As a graduate of the music department at Minnesota State University - Mankato, Michael D. Atwood (b. 1990) has taken advantage of numerous semesters studying private composition with Dr. David Dickau. His works have received honors as winner of multiple young composers' competitions and professional calls for scores, and can be found in print by Colla Voce and Pavane Publishing. While native to Minnesota, his music has been performed throughout the country, most recently featured with a west coast premiere in the San Francisco Bay. Now holding a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance as well as a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting, Michael currently teaches voice out of his private studio near Minneapolis while serving as music director for local churches and theatre companies.
We asked Michael to share a bit more about The Gardner with us. Here is what he had to say:
The key to a successful composition always, in my opinion, lies first with the text. It is what gives meaning to the setting, gives purpose to the performance, and ultimately provides guidance through storytelling to life’s many journeys. The setting for “The Gardener,” utilizing an excerpt of Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry of the same title, touches on the joys of gardening, while focusing more directly on the impact this task has upon our planet, and upon one another. Not having a particularly green thumb myself, I immediately appreciated this all-encompassing take on what is so often an individualized hobby. Rather than simply reading of great things, this text implores the reader to “open your doors and look abroad” and experience the communities that have been built for us. Nearly everything we interact with is the product of another’s efforts. Though the gardener cannot “send a single flower” from his current blossom to the reader some hundred years later, his work gives abundantly by living on in “fragrant memories” for all to appreciate. As with any good poetry, there are many messages to be taken from Tagore’s, “The Gardener.” Most evident, though, is his request for all to relish in life’s experiences made possible by the physical, environmental, structural, communal, political, and foundational labors of those who came before. From that, we can ask ourselves how to return the favor.
The second round of MPLS (imPulse)’s Compose Yourself! Contest is over, and Scott Senko has been named the winner! A veteran of four previous MPLS (imPulse) projects, Scott submitted Un Mundo Bello for MPLS (imPulse)’s Won't You Be My Neighbor? project. As in the first round, submissions were judged blind. After notifying him of his win, we asked Scott to share how his submission came together:
“When I first listened to the excerpts from Bart Buch's interviews with the community members of the Phillips Neighborhood, I noticed a recurring theme. Several of the interviewees described, in their own words, the idea that art, community, and kindness spread and reproduce themselves through the actions of individuals. That good works in the community ripple outward and inspire good works in others.
I thought the theme of "rippling outward" would be a good basis for a piece of music. A voice (or section) would introduce a small musical idea that would be continuously mimicked by other sections, blooming into a larger texture.
I decided that a short simple text would lend itself well to the musical idea I was working toward so I began to search for proverbs about community. I settled on "It takes all kinds to make a world" which I adapted to "It takes every kind of person to build a beautiful world." The phrase "beautiful world" ("mundo bello") is pulled directly from one of Buch's interviews.
Curious about how the phrase would read/sound in a language other than English, I asked a friend to translate it into Spanish. This is the text I ultimately set for the piece. "Para crear un mundo bello, necesitamos todo tipo de personas."
Come hear the second fruit of our New Music USA project grant on July 28, 2017! Time, location and ticket information here.
We are thrilled to announce that our very own Ian Cook has won MPLS (imPulse)’s first Compose Yourself! Contest. This was our first round in a completely blind submission process.
Ian’s piece was written for imPulse Happy Hour: Tales from the Deep taking place at Lake Monster Brewing. Drawing on the theme of the brewery, the concert is centered around legends and folk tales from the deep. Ian took inspiration from the Finnish story of Kalevala for his piece, Out of the River of Tuoni.
Here’s what Ian had to say when asked about his inspiration for his piece:
"Ever since I first started learning about Finnish culture, I have been fascinated by its language and mythologies. This includes the Kalevala, which is widely considered to be the national epic of Finland, containing many of Finland's most important folktales and mythology. The text used in Out of the River of Tuoni is excerpted from a story arc that is referenced in several other works of art and music, including Jean Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen Suite, most famously the second movement “The Swan of Tuonela” (Tuonela is an alternate form of the word Tuoni).
In Runo XIV of the Kalevala, Lemminkäinen hunts the black swan that lives on the river of Tuoni in the underworld in order to win a daughter of Louhi as his wife. While searching for the swan, he is killed and his body is dumped into the river. In Runo XV, Lemminkäinen’s mother searches all over the world for him before discovering his fate. She fashions a rake and uses it to recover her son’s body from the bottom of the river, then sews his body back together and uses a drop of honey from the god Ukko as an ointment. She uses her magic to restore her son to life.
Out of the River of Tuoni illustrates the story of Lemminkäinen’s mother, from the moment she begins her search until the moment her son has returned to life. The music expresses the transformation she goes through during this process, while also capturing the mysteriousness and the magic of the story."
For MPLS (imPulse), part of reimagining the choral experience involves reimagining traditional choral dress. Chorus America recently highlighted our attire and we were thrilled!
Check out an excerpt from the article below or read the entire article here.
Breaking the Mold
For choruses that do not regularly perform with symphony orchestras, their choral attire does not need to be so…well…black and white. A number of ensembles have tweaked the monochrome theme or broken out entirely, creating a look that is in keeping with their mission, their values, their venues, their audiences, and/or the style of music they perform. Typically, these groups have fewer members and do not regularly perform with orchestras.
The professional chamber chorus MPLS (imPulse) in Minneapolis was created in 2014 to “redefine the typical choral experience,” according to its founder and artistic director Samuel Grace. That mission guides the chorus’s choices when it comes to performance wear. “We are all about reaching new audiences,” says Grace. “We find that more formal attire can be a barrier to that. The mission is the most important thing, and what choruses should be focusing on.”
Each MPLS performance focuses on a narrative theme, and the singers put together concert attire that either fits the music they are performing or the space in which they are performing it. For the group’s April 2016 concert, Infinity and Beyond, in the Como Planetarium, the visual focus was on the stars and planets projected above the audience’s heads, so singers wore dark jeans, tops and shoes that completely blended into the background. For the Fall 2015 concert,Falling Awake, which explored the world of dreams in choral music, the singers worked with a blue denim “classy, casual” theme.
The singers find each concert outfit in their own closets, or make purchases to fit the theme, but their “look” is not left to chance. A small committee of the board discusses what kind of attire would work well for the season, and then creates a document with photos of clothing options. Singers bring their outfits to a rehearsal to see how they work together on stage. “That’s to make sure everyone isn’t wearing the same exact thing,” says Grace.
Summer sure has flown by and we have so much to celebrate as we head in to our third season! Why? First of all, your support through tickets, donations, and volunteering during our second season enables us to confidently march into our 2016-2017 season. Thank you!
In addition, we received news earlier this summer that we have received two very important grant awards. The first is an arts activities grant award from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, which will help support three projects in our upcoming season. The second award is a New Music USA award that we will use to commission three new choral works for our upcoming season.
Q&A with MPLS (imPulse) singer, Regina Stroncek.
Tell us a little bit about your musical life!
I studied Vocal Performance and Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota (Ski-U-Mah!) and now I’m singing in a variety of ensembles and projects throughout the Cities. I’m a soprano section leader at the Cathedral in St. Paul, and I sing in MPLS (imPulse), the Minnesota Chorale, and Hymnos. Recently I participated in the MN Duo program of Source Song Festival, and I teach voice lessons out of Chanson Voice and Music Academy. I am also a Spanish Pre-K Immersion Teacher through Concordia Language Villages and I make use of my musical skills by singing Spanish songs with my students!
How does MPLS (imPulse) play a part in your musical life?
MPLS (imPulse) musically keeps me on my toes with its creative programming and commitment to eclectic excellence. There’s never a dull moment. At any point in time you might be asked to sing Swedish-sounding gibberish, make clicky sounds throughout a song, or drunkenly stumble into place at the top of the concert. I’ve been exposed to so much new repertoire through working with the group, especially scores that contain graphic notation. It stretches the way I think about interpreting music and gives me the opportunity to develop new skills as a singer.
Why did you decide to get involved with MPLS (imPulse)?
I started with MPLS (imPulse) in its first season after Sam approached me with his idea. The model sounded fun: stick a bunch of singers together for a weekend of intensive rehearsals with team building, food, and challenging music that they’ve prepared ahead of time, and then perform in unique and unexpected venues. The emphasis on community building was what appealed most to me, and it has not disappointed! I’ve made so many new friends and strengthened friendships I already had. As a result I’ve grown as a musician and I am more aware of the music we create as an ensemble.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
I’m a huge fan of traveling, both internationally and within the United States. I love exploring new places, meeting people, and collecting stories. I’ve been overseas a couple of times, and some of my favorite places I visited were Spain, Portugal, France, and Germany, to name a few. Stateside, my favorite things to visit are roadside attractions. If there is a random billboard on the side of the highway advertising the “World’s-Largest-Whatever” or some strangely specific museum in a small town, I will go out of my way to see it!
If you have a favorite musical themed pun or joke, what is it?
Oh boy, do I. A friend and I had this running joke during our time at the School of Music that we would make a cooking show incorporating composer names (and their mispronunciations) into recipes, including:
“Make sure you Phillip the Glass to the right line!”
“Oh no! You made such a Messiaen!”
“Now go ahead and Satie those mushrooms!”
“Let’s see what’s Haydn in the Beethoven!”
and my personal favorite “Oh Schütz! We took the Bach of cookies out of the oven too Wagn’-early!”
Q&A with MPLS (imPulse) singer, Ian Cook.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
In addition to doing music all the time, I also swing dance and I can juggle!
Tell us a little bit about your musical life!
I sing Tenor 1 in a lot of different choirs; I sing in MPLS (imPulse), Academy of Voices, National Lutheran Choir, my church choir, and recently sang with Pop Up Choir #3. I also play trombone, and in fact trombone was my main instrument through college. I occasionally sub in orchestras and play in musical pits. I also compose my own music, as well as doing professional music engraving for others. I've had performances of my music by several ensembles, including as far away as a music festival in Colorado.
This fall, MPLS (imPulse) is performing your piece, The White Heron, tell us about the piece and your inspiration.
The inspiration for The White Heron comes entirely from the text. The W.B. Yeats poem paints a very impressionistic image in my head. I envision a heron, a huge bird, standing still in a river. It should be trying to catch the fish around it, but instead it just stands there silently, not even noticing the fish as they leap past. The dramatic moment in the text is when, with this image of blurry, dreamlike motion surrounding it, the heron suddenly shivers. It is a simple text, and yet it invokes a surprisingly vivid image of this unexpected moment. The music that resulted includes a lot of text painting; the fish leap, the heron shivers, and the harmonies feel blurry and impressionistic, adding to the dreamlike setting of the poem.
Why did you decide to get involved with MPLS (imPulse)?
I really like the project-based model that MPLS (imPulse) uses. It's a unique model, and it allows a lot of really fantastic singers to come together without having to cram one more regular commitment into their already-full schedules, which means that it can bring together a level of talent that likely couldn't happen otherwise. I'm also a sucker for any ensemble that regularly performs as much new music as MPLS (imPulse) does; I wish it wasn't so rare for ensembles to have such a commitment to new music, and I want to be a part of any ensemble that does!
If you have a favorite music-themed joke or pun, what is it?
I can't stand an alberti bass in E minor… It really gives me the E-B-G-Bs!
Learn more about Ian and his compositions at ianacook.com
We are thrilled to share some exciting updates! We held our first auditions in July and have the roster set for our 2015-2016 season. There are 30 singers performing with MPLS (imPulse) throughout this upcoming season and we continue to be incredibly grateful to MRAC and our donors for granting us the ability to pay our singers.
This week, Artistic Director Sam Grace is mailing music to our singers so they can begin preparing for the fall festival, Falling Awake. These packages of musical joy are especially exciting because the singers will be the first to sing All the Hemispheres, a newly commissioned work by award winning composer and conductor, Connor Koppin!
In other news, we are ecstatic to announce that we have added a second date to imPulse Happy Hour in February! MPLS (imPulse) will be performing at Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery on February 6, 2016, in addition to the February 5 performance at Flat Earth Brewing Company. Last season's performance at Flat Earth sold out in advance, so we are very happy to have the opportunity to extend this concert to an even bigger audience.
We are thrilled to announce that we have been awarded an Arts Activities Support grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC). Several exciting elements of our 2015-2016 will be made possible by the voters of Minnesota through this MRAC grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. Among many other projects, we will be able to pay our singers and commission a piece for our fall festival. Thank you MRAC and to the taxpayers of Minnesota for supporting us in our mission!