The Helios Trio takes on While I Run This Race




The Helios Trio: John Fidial, violin, Beth Vanderborgh, cello, and Chi-Chen Wu,

piano, after a very successful Heidelberg recital.


Throughout my career, I have been blessed to work with excellent performers, musicians who always maintained the highest standards of music-making. What a pleasure to add some new friends to this list! The Helios Trio, based out of the University of Wyoming, premiered my latest chamber work, While I Run this Race, and made it work! They used their unique talents to bring a rather busy and substantial piece to life. I am most grateful to them for the hours of work that went into this project.


Pianist Chi-Chen Wu and I knew each other from an earlier project, a piece commissioned by Gail Levinsky for tenor sax and piano. Chi-Chen and I renewed our acquaintance more recently and started talking about a new piece for the piano trio that she played with at the University of Wyoming. Funding for this new project was provided by the Wyoming chapter of the Music Teachers National Organization (MTNA). The piece was premiered at their annual convention at Casper College in Casper.


While I Run this Race is a programmatic theme and variations work. The piece is based on a spiritual, Guide My Feet While I Run this Race, a song that was also used during the Civil Rights era. After a brief introduction of the theme, the composition presents six movements, each one with a particular idea based on texts that in many cases came from the spiritual itself. Overall, the piece is a call to God to guide us through difficult and challenging times.


The trio and I worked together for three days in Wyoming, before presenting the premiere in Casper. We had the rest of the summer to let the piece “percolate,” as Beth was fond of saying! In October, we regrouped in Tiffin for the first Ohio performance of this same work. I was privileged to be on the same program with works by Maurice Ravel and Astor Piazzola. It was a daunting experience, wondering if your own work could measure up to the music of these two landmark composers. Fortunately, I had the Helios Trio to help me get through!

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