John Winsor's Award Winning CD
Eastern Virginia Brass at Chrysler Museum


The Hardwick Chamber Ensemble Presents Music by John Winsor

The chamber recital on Friday, November 5, 2010 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Norfolk was a very special occasion for composer John Winsor. The entire program was devoted to five works by Mr. Winsor, played by him and his longtime collaborators in the Hardwick Chamber Ensemble. Formed in 1988 as a non-profit group, Hardwick has presented recitals to thousands of Virginia school children in assembly programs and over 200 concerts for university students and community groups, always with the goal of engendering a love of music and especially an appreciation of classical chamber music through experience. They have performed in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and elsewhere over the years.

John WinsorIn his spoken introduction John Winsor mentioned several influences on his compositions: Bach, Stravinsky, Ravel and Hindemith. In the 1920s the last three were experimenting with individual sounds and unusual instrumental combinations in their chamber pieces. Hindemith was efficient, practical, down-to-earth and coined a concept “Gebrauschsmusik” or music for use – music connected to a community – music that is accessible, pleasant to hear but not sensual (Romantic). To quote Mr. Winsor from his website: “During exposition, I strive to present basic thematic material clearly so that the audience can assimilate it and vicariously participate in the act of composing."

The core group includes Marlene Morvaji Ford, horn; Jeanette Winsor, piano; Robert Ford, trombone; and Mr. Winsor, clarinet. In the opening selection, Trio (2008) the Winsors were joined by Dionne Wright on cello. The composer says this piece resembles neoclassical works. In this twelve-minute piece the three voices are equal, none more important than the other. The opening is moderately fast but somber. In the slow, contemplative second movement the cello sound is distanced from the other two, not out of tune but sort of beside the tune. The last movement is very fast, a driving 2+2+3 meter.

The second piece, The Norwegian Lady, added soprano soloist Rita Addico-Cohen to the trio of instrumentalists. This programmatic work recalls the sinking of the Norwegian ship Dictator off the coast of Virginia Beach during a storm on Good Friday, March 27, 1891. Among the casualties were the wife and son of the captain. The title comes from the ship's figurehead placed on the beach facing out to sea, which has since been replaced by a sculpture at 24th Street. Written for a dance performance, it tells the story of a love triangle: the captain, his wife and the sea. The singer joins the instruments with a vocalise for high voice. Emotional changes in the voice are reinforced by the instruments as if the voice is bursting forth from an instrumental sea.

We then heard the two world premieres: Quartet and Reflections. Quartet is for clarinet, violin (Natalia Kuznetsova) cello and piano. In three movements, it is an assemblage of firmly played instrumental statements that form a tapestry of moods: first, longing; second, striving to realize a sweet resolution; third, whimsy. For all six players, Reflections has a self-conscious lyricism with a theme that wanders away in one instrumental voice or another creating a quiet urgency.

The final work, Decade Divertimento (1997), written to celebrate the tenth season of Hardwick Chamber Ensemble, was played first by the Ensemble and later by the Cologne Radio Symphony Chamber Players and broadcast on West German Radio. The first (Fantasy) and last (Rondo) movements are for all six performers. The second (Fugue) is a trio for clarinet, violin and cello with lots of pizzicato notes. In the third movement (Scherzo) the unusual combination of horn, trombone and piano creates a sense of urgency.

The audience of around 75 people included a wide age range from young children to mature adults who knew to clap after each piece, not after each movement. The warm, open sound in the sanctuary was perfect for chamber music and we left the hall intrigued and refreshed by the experience.

Virginia Beach Composer Featured on Award-Winning CD

Virginia Beach composer John Winsor's orchestral work, Three Essays, is featured on Volume Two of ERMMedia's Masterworks of the New Era CD series. On November 4th, the CD rerceived the 2006 JPF Best Classical Orchestral Album award.

The CD, which contains only works by living composers, competed against standard classical CDs. It features Robert Ian Winstin conducting the Philharmonia Bulgarica. Just Plain Folks, which presented the award, is an organization of over 40,000 music publishers, record labels, recording studios, producers, and other music professionals and organizations. Other composers represented on the CD are Thomas Read, Nancy Bloomer Deussen, Gustav Hoyer, Frederic Glesser, and John Ernst.

John Winsor has taught music theory and designed bandsman training materials at the Armed Forces School of Music. He has also taught clarinet, music theory, and composition at the Virginia Governor's School for the Arts. He is clarinetist and composer-in-residence of the Hardwick Chamber Ensemble and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Composers/USA (NACUSA).

John's composition prizes include 1992 and 1995 Delius Awards, the 1992, 1994, and 2004 VMTA Commissioned Composer awards, and the Modern Music Festival 2000 Film Scoring Competition prize. He has received grants from the American Music Center and Meet the Composer, Inc. as well as ASCAP standard awards. His works are performed throughout the United States and, occasionally, in Europe. He is the author of Breaking the Sound Barrier: An Argument for Mainstream Literary Music (iUniverse Writer's Showcase), which is listed as an iUniverse Editor's Choice and Reader's Choice book and won a Bronze Medal in ForeWord Magazine's 2003 Book of the Year Awards. His music is published by Conners Publications. His Caprice for clarinet solo (John WInsor, clarinet) was released on NACUSA's very first official CD - Greetings from NACUSA.

John received music degrees from Heidelberg College (B.Mus, 1974) and Kent State University (M.A., 1980). He studied clarinet with Robert Harrison, David Harris, and Robert Marcellus of the Cleveland Orchestra and composition with John Rinehart and James Waters. He serves as webmaster for NACUSA, the MusicLink Foundation, and the Virginia Music Teachers Association and works as a computer programmer for Unisys Corporation. He is currently sole proprietor of Benchmark Web Sites and an adjunct clarinet instructor at Tidewater Community College.

The Masterworks of the New Era recording series is available through fine retailers and at almost all on-line retailers, including and CD Baby.

Review: Eastern Virginia Brass, December 19, 2010

Eastern Virginia Brass QuintetOne wouldn’t think that a brass concert the Sunday afternoon before Christmas would draw a huge crowd, what with all the last-minute things people have to get done — but one would be wrong. The Chrysler Museum had to put out all its extra chairs for the Eastern Virginia Brass Celebrate the Holidays concert December 19 in the beautifully decorated Huber Court; even so, halfway through the concert, the museum staff were still putting out folding stools wherever they could find a place. They ran out of programs, and printed more, and ran out of those, too. Now that’s success!

The quintet, consisting of Marlene Ford on French horn, Lawrence Clemens and Robert Spaeth on trumpet, Robert Ford on trombone and Peter DuBeau on tuba, presented a program of seasonal music from the Victorian era, aptly keyed to the museum’s lovely exhibit, “London Calling: Victorian Paintings from the Royal Holloway Collection,” which ran Oct. 6 to Jan. 2.

The program began with English carols, such as Angels from the Realms of Glory, Coventry Carol, The Holly and the Ivy and the unusual Sussex Mummer’s Christmas Carol. Three movements of familiar, lively Hanukkah music marked the Jewish Festival of Lights, December 1–9 this year. Each group of songs was preceded by informal, informative descriptions and historical background given by various members of the ensemble.

Three songs from The American Christmas Folk Song Suite had African American roots (some were not published until the twentieth century). One of the earliest publications of the pre-Civil War Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow was in 1909 at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute—now Hampton University.

The whole feeling of the afternoon was warm and relaxing. At one point, a family with a small child in a bright red suit was at the top of the stairs, behind the ensemble, waving to the audience; the child let out a piercing squawk and was summarily whisked deep into the recesses of the second floor gallery.

One of the big hits of the afternoon was a jazzy presentation of Cool Bells that Jingle and Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, with the audience joining in on sleigh bells, car keys, bracelets — anything joyful and jangly. Charlie Brown fans were treated to the plaintive jazz of Christmastime Is Here, in a brass arrangement ponderous at times. The program — just the right length — finished with an enthusiastic singalong of Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

M.D. Ridge

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