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The Composer in Your Backyard


The Buffalo Chamber Players play the music of regional composers

At their next concert on Wednesday, November 6 at 7:30pm in the Buffalo Seminary, the Buffalo Chamber Players will offer a program for the first time consisting entirely of works by contemporary composers, all of whom live, more or less, in our region. The composers represented include Caroline Mallonée, Buffalo; Amy Williams, Pittsburgh; Rob Deemer, Fredonia; and Brian Current, Toronto.

Caroline Mallonée moved to Buffalo a few years back with her husband, UB professor of piano Eric Huebner. Her music has been performed at leading venues in New York City, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, and Symphony Space and in the Netherlands, the UK, Iceland, Japan, Italy, and Mexico, and has been broadcast several times over National Public Radio on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

“BPO cellist Feng Hew performed the cello concerto I wrote for her called Whistler Waves with the Camerata di Sant’ Antonio last spring,” says Mallonée. “And last summer, my new trio for violin, viola, and cello, Clock It, was performed at the Bennington Chamber Music Festival in Vermont, where I was composer-in-residence. I’m so excited that the Buffalo Chamber Players will be performing my Alaskan King. I wrote the piece in 2012 for Fredonia School of Music cellist Natasha Farny and her sister, Evelyn. It’s a crab canon, so in the second half of the piece, each cellist plays the other cellist’s part from the first half backwards. Another way to say this is that the piece is a palindrome with the parts switched halfway through.”

Natasha Farny, who will be partnered by BPO cellist Eva Herrer for this performance, says, “Most people like to characterize the cello as a mournful instrument, perhaps due to its wordless yet uncanny similarity to the human voice. With Alaskan King, Caroline breaks down that stereotype from the very first notes, replacing it with a hip and edgy pop style. Caroline’s piece is complicated because of her witty and thoughtful use of the crab canon, and you will hear more sounds than you thought possible on this instrument.”

Buffalo native Amy Williams is best known to area audiences for her dazzling duo piano performances with Helena Bugallo, specializing in modern piano music. But Williams is also a prolific, award-winning professor of composition at the University of Pittsburgh.

Williams says her work for piano and string quartet, Cineshape 2, “is based on Mike Figgis’s film Time Code, in which the screen is split into four equal parts and actions occur in real time. The viewer follows various linked characters at an independent film production company in Los Angeles. In the piece, there are highly diversified materials in the string instruments: aggressive multiple stops in the viola; a texture evocative of Renaissance music played by the muted viola and cello; a syncopated, choppy line divided among the two violins; impulsive and expressive cello solos; static, repeated chords that immediately die away. In the film, it is the soundtrack that binds the conflicting perspectives of the four screens together. In the piece, it is the piano, which mimics the actual grid of the film. These diverse materials represent characters, though not in a literally narrative way. As in the film, these musical characters that, at first, seem to have nothing in common, gradually transform into related musical ideas. Certain of these ideas come to the foreground, while others fade to the background. They are continually transformed, varied, moving forward—after all, in real time, one can never repeat oneself exactly.”

Fredonia School of Music professor of composition Rob Deemer, who just learned that a work he wrote for the Gaudete Brass Quintet was on the first ballot for a Grammy Award, has this to say about Diptych: “Commissioned by violinist David Colwell and pianist Michael Mizrahi, the piece explores two contrasting ideas, one extremely fast and agile entitled ‘mercurial,’ the other extremely slow and unforgiving entitled ‘lonely.’ The second movement in particular is intriguing because of the recurring passacaglia that continues through the entire piece. While many of my works tend to have programmatic aspects to them, this piece emerged directly from the music itself and grew naturally, free from any external structures or concepts.”

Canadian composer Brian Current says his Star Spangled Banner in Slanted Time “is a study in music that is endlessly speeding up. I wondered if it were possible to do this with a piece that is widely known, in this case the national anthem of the United States. The anthem itself is an adaptation of ‘To Anachreon in Heaven,’ a British popular song written by John Stanford Smith in 1775. The piece was written during a residency at the Yaddo artist colony in Saratoga Springs, as part of a commissioned series of miniatures for Toronto’s Gryphon Trio.”

Tickets $15, $5 for students. For more information, visit

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