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Making Music with “The Dream Team”

From left: John Fidial, Chi-Chen Wu, Josh Heaney, Seth Innis, Gail Levinsky, Cynthia Ramsdell, Jackie Edwards Henry, Doug, Carol Dusdieker, Margarita Denenberg, Jeff Manchur, Bill Reyer, Jeremiah Quayles, Beth Vanderborgh.

After 40 years of college-level teaching, it was time to move on, time to let the next generation take over with fresh ideas. But before walking away, I hoped to present a “retirement” recital, to present an overview of my compositional work over the years. The School of Music and Theatre at Heidelberg said yes, and my plans were underway.

Covid did slow the process a bit; my program was postponed and rescheduled several times, But finally, on Sunday, October 3rd, it all came to pass. My sincere thanks to Carol Dusdieker and the School and of Music and Theater at Heidelberg for supporting my final recital in a manner that I will always remember and cherish.

Carol gave me total freedom in assembling my “dream team” of performers and I took full advantage of her kind offer. Performers for two concerts on October 2-3 included wonderful musicians from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Texas and Wyoming. Somehow, we managed to get all of them together for a group photo after the Sunday concert, as you can see above (For more information on the October 2nd program featuring the Helios Trio, please see my news feed).

The works on my Sunday program were written over a period of 25 years, give or take. Margarita Denenburg, former Heidelberg pianist-in-residence, and now a member of the University of Texas at Austin faculty, presented two of my older piano works, Nocturne and Invention, both played beautifully. Covid prevented Margarita from a saying a proper goodbye to Heidelberg; this concert helped to take care of that need.

Gail Levinsky and Jackie Edwards, two of my closest friends and collaborators also returned to the Heidelberg stage where they had performed several times before. One of Gail’s former saxophone students, Josh Heaney, is now a member of the Heidelberg instrumental faculty. It only seemed appropriate to write a new piece for teacher and student. This challenge turned into a new duo, A Shining Synergy, for alto and soprano sax, which they premiered on this program. Their performance did me proud! Gail and Jackie presented two movements from my Happy Endings suite for tenor saxophone and piano, a work inspired by the compositions of Kurt Weill.

I was also pleased to display my affection for vocal music with two sets of songs, one based on the poetry of Sara Teasdale; the other celebrated the poetry of my good friend and colleague, William Reyer, retired poet-in-residence at Heidelberg. My thanks to Seth Innis and Cynthia Ramsdell, Carol Dusdieker and Jeff Manchur, for their inspired performances of these pieces. And a special thanks to Bill, for reading his poetry onstage!

Last but not least: I finally had the pleasure of working with Jeremiah Quarles on Ruminating, a recent piece for oboe and piano. Jeremiah and I have been trying to present this piece for quite some time, but life seemed to get in the way. But on Sunday, Jeremiah and Jeff Manchur gave a spirited performance in a piece that attempts to show that oboe players can play the blues, too.

I am very blessed to have the support of these impressive musicians and friends. To have all of them on the Heidelberg stage in the same weekend was an amazing experience. The two programs are still available for viewing on the Heidelberg School of Music Facebook site.



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