Concert Comments – David Macbride’s 60th Birthday Celebration Concert

I’m not going to title this post a “review”–I have very few comments here that would make for a critical review.  However, I have some comments that I’d like to share regarding yesterday’s concert held by David Macbride.

David Macbride is a professor of Composition and Theory at The Hartt School.  I have worked closely with him in the classroom, composition lessons, Composer’s Ensemble, in a community outreach program, and generally with him as one of my mentors.  Continuing a tradition held by another composition professor at Hartt, Stephen Gryc, he held a concert of his music to mark the occasion of his 60th birthday.  The concert, held on Sunday October 23rd, 2011 at Hartt, featured chamber music composed by Dr. Macbride throughout his life.  The pieces performed ranged in date of composition from 1978 to 2011.  It was a great concert, creating an epicenter of:

  • Technical prowess by composer and performer;
  • Musicality of a high level, and;
  • Feelings of goodwill and a sense of community; the concert hall was filled to the brim and the performers helped bring out the outpouring of joy.

There is one main comment I would like to make, and this is a comment that applies greatly to new music in general:  The music on the program was about people, and by concerning itself with human beings, it fostered a sense of musical and social community that needs to be perpetuated in new music and our world’s society at large.

  • The first piece on the program, A Special Light, was in memory of a friend of Dr. Macbride’s, a person so enlivening and vivacious that in his obituary for his untimely death he was termed “a special light” that could light up other people around him.
  • The second piece, Kelet, was composed for and premiered by the Kelet Duo, a pianist from Taiwan and a violinist from Eastern Europe.  This combination of Eastern and Western musical culture was prevalent throughout the piece, and was also very personal to Dr. Macbride; his mother was from China and he is of mixed Asian and European heritage.
  • Dr. Macbride’s piece “Conversing” from his creation “Percussion Park” (an event held where the audience moves from place to place to hear different percussion ensembles mimic people in a park) was an incredibly vocal piece, using instruments such as a Lion’s Roar to create the illusion of a dialogue–and a quite humanly natural and humorous one, even though it has no words.
  • Even the next piece “Murder” was about people; it was a title born out of a reaction by the first performers to rehearse it back in the 1970s: they cried “this is murder!” (and their comment about its difficulty stuck!).
  • Even the one piece about a “thing”–a Balinese windchime being the basis for Triptych, was human in a sense.  The windchime had three pitches to illustrate the cycle of farming in that culture’s system.  The three-pitch recurring motive in the piece thus not only represented the sound of the windchime, but the process and people behind the chime.
  • The last two pieces were the most human of all: Timing was based on his son’s heartbeat in utero compared with his wife’s heartbeat (which were in an exact 2:1 ratio!).  The wife and son teach and learn from each other in this percussion piece until time runs out and the son enters the world.  It is eerily coincidental that his son is a highly regarded jazz drummer now, considering that this is a piece for percussionists.
  • The last piece was about his daughter who was named after one of the greatest muses of all time–Alma Mahler.  A Muse concluded the program with a playful, serious, tearful, and curious portrayal of a child who, as Dr. Macbride noted in his brief statement before the string quartet performing it began to play, taught the meaning of unconditional love.  This was a very touching piece in its changing moods, harmonies, and rhythmic sections.

I think that we need to ensure that new music remains closely tied to people.  We live in a society today that needs to band together, and we need to show care for one another.  I think that this concert helped to illustrate that, and I dearly hope it will help perpetuate the idea that we need to join together and show each other the care that we all deserve from one another, especially in music.

Thanks for reading,


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