Showing posts with label Chuck Holdeman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chuck Holdeman. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mélomanie Opens with Two World Premieres & One Breathtaking "Stage"

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Mélomanie opened its 2015-2016 season at The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts on Sunday, September 13, with a celebration of the artistry of flutist Kimberly Reighley. The concert was held in the DCCA's Carol Bieber and Marc Ham Gallery, where the musicians performed directly underneath artist Amie Potsic's beautifully flowing piece, Endangered Seasons.

Reighley  co-artistic director (along with Tracy Richardson) of the ensemble known for its provocative pairings of baroque and contemporary music  was this year’s recipient of the coveted Masters Award for Solo Recital from the Delaware Division of the Arts. The award required her to perform a solo concert.

I once asked a flutist friend if the instrument was tough to play. She responded by saying it was easy to learn but hard to master. Anyone who hears Reighley’s incredibly beautiful playing will soon realize that she is a complete master of the flute.

The program featured various flutes — the piccolo, baroque, modern and alto —demonstrating the range of expression the instrument possesses and the skill Reighley brings to each.

The program was a mostly contemporary one, including the World Premieres of two works composed especially for the occasion: Two Moods by Chuck Holdeman and The Four Gifts of God by the Brazilian composer Sergio Roberto de Oliveira.

Holdeman is one of an increasing number of composers writing for solo piccolo. As its name suggests, Two Moods explores the acoustic possibilities of the instrument. The first employs the “whistle” tones demonstrating how an almost inaudible instrument can still make music. The second returns the instrument to its familiar sprightly self.

Reighley handled this often unpredictable little instrument with precision and grace. Especially impressive were her high notes, which can be difficult for the average flutist to sustain given the need for greater wind speed.

The Four Gifts of God paired Reighley on baroque flute with Richardson on harpsichord. Composer de Oliveira got the idea to identify four elements: common to all religions. He came up with the gifts of Breath, Light, Creation and Action. Reighley mined the instrument’s capacity for otherworldly tones in the primal character of the first section, quickly switching gears for the brighter musical ideas of Light and Action. Of special interest was the Creation movement, where the composer paid tribute to seven of his favorite composers, including Richardson’s husband, composer Mark Hagerty.

Speaking of Hagerty, his contribution to the program was a work titled Sea Level. Written especially for Reighley, the piece offers a soundscape of the burgeoning plant and animal life in and around the canals of the Dutch countryside during an unusually warm April. This work showcased Reighley’s mastery of the alto flute whose mysterious, picturesque tones ably conveyed the score’s changing colors and textures.

Reighley took up the standard concert flute accompanied by Richardson on harpsichord for Jennifer Margaret Barker’s Dumgoyne and Ingrid Arauco’s Florescence. Both demand the soloist to delineate the sharply contrasting musical ideas. Dumgoyne describes Barker’s childhood memories of the sights and sounds of her native Scotland’s most famous hill. Reighley’s playing effectively conveyed the experience of a climb culminating with the calm and peace of a lyrical Scottish song.

Arauco’s work is more abstract than Dumgoyne but nevertheless requires the flutist to engage some pretty aggressive rhythmic patterns as in the second movement which the composer describes as flowing in “an energetic stream of steady sixteenths punctuated by occasionally by assertive, rhythmically jagged figures.”

It wouldn’t be a 
Mélomanie concert without a Baroque offering, and Reighley and Richardson paired to offer Joseph Bodin de Boismortier’s Sonata II in G Minor.

The concert concluded with an encore performance by Richardson and Reighley of Hagerty’s Contexts, a short piece that looks at what can happen to a simple repeating motif when the harmony and other musical elements change around it.

The full ensemble returns to the DCCA for their next performance on October 18, where they will premiere a piece by guitarist and composer, Kevin J. Cope.


Monday, March 24, 2014

The British Arrived for a World Premiere with WCO

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, music for film, and music for educational purposes.

On Sunday afternoon, March 23, the Wilmington Community Orchestra presented its The British Are Coming program at The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington. Its big splash was a World Premiere — a fairly rare experience for an amateur orchestra, the kind that plays for the love of it.  But indeed the composer is a professional: Dr. David Osbon, who had come from London to conduct his new work, a violin concerto written for local virtuoso Timothy Schwarz, also the orchestra's regular conductor.  Schwarz conducted the program's second half, which comprised most of the great British composer Sir Edward Elgar's masterpiece, The Enigma Variations.  Three variations were removed because of the enormous demands on rehearsal time to prepare the difficult violin concerto.

While the purpose of this blog is primarily to boost awareness of the rich artistic life of our community through reporting, there is also a side function — that of arts critic. This function is a traditional part of writing about the arts: Readers generally expect writers to offer an answer to, 'Well, how good was it?'  And that puts me in a tight spot because, in a word (six actually), I didn't like the new concerto.  At the same time, I am glad to report that many people did — many in the audience rose to their feet in appreciation, and there were many boisterous bravos!

Composer Osbon gave an extended, often humorous speech, along with conducting numerous excerpted examples of the music, to introduce his ambitious new work. He frequently used the descriptive word 'aggressive,' and indeed there was a lot of loud, high energy music. Even when calmer moments appeared, the composer seemed eager to return to the aggressive as soon as possible.  And the work was not a violin concerto in the usual sense, but rather an orchestral piece with many notes for the solo violin to play (some people say this about Stravinsky's violin concerto).  An exception was the virtuosic cadenza (violin alone) which featured swooping glissandi on one violin string while others sounded a gossamer background — an arresting novel effect. Still, the large quantity of fairly relentless rhythmic and tonal aggression in what is primarily a gestural compositional style was just not my cup of tea. (Perhaps I should also admit that I am not a fan of action movies.)  And I was reminded that I had a very similar reaction to a Philadelphia premiere, that of John Adams' City Noir with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic.  So, at least Osbon and the WCO are in good company, in terms of music I did not like!

I must credit Schwarz's skill and determination in the demanding solo part, and also credit the young percussion section, imported from the University of Delaware. The extensive and vigorous percussion writing had a unifying effect on the entire proceeding.

After intermission, The Enigma Variations were easier on the ears. The score is complicated, difficult in terms of both ensemble playing and playing in tune. Despite this, the conductor and orchestra communicated the music's tunefulness, harmonic richness, and great range of expression, from jauntiness to the sublime, especially in the ultra-romantic variation entitled Nimrod, which Elgar composed to honor his friend Jaeger. (Nimrod was a biblical hunter, and Jaeger is German for hunter.) Jaeger was the kind of friend (and Elgar's editor) who could convincingly say to the composer, 'keep going, keep writing,' even when Elgar was seriously assailed by doubts and discouragement.

Despite this mixed review, Schwarz, the orchestra, the Music School, and David Osbon are to be applauded for their ambition and dedication in presenting this program, which was plenty provocative. Osbon had visited and met the orchestra a year ago, and so his new concerto was a rigorous effort to feature the Wilmington Community Orchestra and its leader Timothy Schwarz.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mėlomanie plays at Immanuel Highlands

The Immanuel Episcopal Church, Highlands has begun a Music at Immanuel program featuring a great fall calendar of performances starting with an evening of Mėlomanie. The program featured a world premiere by guitarist/composer Chris Braddock called Grease in the Groove which was a delightful mix of country music and jazzy sounds for mandolin, twelve-string guitar, harpsichord and cello. Doug McNames, cello, took Braddock’s brash bass line and ran with it, creating a fun and almost washtub effect while Tracy Richardson played a series of delicate scales and arpeggios on the harpsichord. Braddock played his mandolin part which he had made the lead voice dominating the trio. Then he switched to the twelve-string guitar against which he created a very high cello part which took over the dominant voice for the end of the piece — evocative of Scheherazade rather than the country style in which the piece began.

Two baroque pieces introduced each half of the program. The Paris Quartet No. 4 in B Minor, TWV 43: h2 featured Chris Braddock playing an additional continuo to Richardson’s harpsichord and the Concerto No. 3 in D Major by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier which featured Eve Friedman (baroque flute) and Priscilla Smith (baroque oboe). Both pieces were lively and light; not at all out of place with the contemporary pieces on the program.

Mėlomanie also presented excerpts of four pieces they had commissioned in the past decade and invited each composer to speak about his or her piece. Not only was it a treat to have the composers be present for the concert, but it was interesting to compare the acoustics in Immanuel to those of Grace Church.

Violinist Christof Richter
Chuck Holdeman said his Quarter note = 48 was written in 5/4 time to make sure there was no recognizable downbeat, but the impeccable coordination between flutist Kim Reighley and cellist Doug McNames made it seem more strictly laid out than he led us to believe. Ingrid Arauco’s Pavane opened with the harpsichord’s sparkling high register and melted into a fugal resolution picked up by the modern flute, gamba, cello and violin. Mark Hagerty’s Trois Rivières excerpt was very jazzy with a 5/8 meter creating a dance feel which he felt was influenced by his time spent in Brazil.

Flutist Kimberly Reighley

The two excerpts from Kile Smith’s The Nobility of Women were brilliantly played by his daughter Priscilla, for whom he wrote the piece. Her baroque oboe sound is so incredibly smooth that the listener might forget it is a double reed instrument – the baroque oboe being more temperamental even than its prima donna modern cousin. The Sarabande is slow and sad and the oboe voice pierces plumbs the darkness with its soulful sound and the Canarios, which featured all of the Mėlomanie players, was written in a traditional baroque style, yet it still evokes a very swinging and modern dance, especially when the oboe is playing long dotted rhythms over the other voices.

Mėlomanie will continue their residence at Grace Church on Washington Street in January.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mélomanie at Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church

By Chuck Holdeman, Guest Blogger

Chuck is a composer, a bassoonist, and a faculty member of the Music School of Delaware. He lives in Wilmington with a studio in Philadelphia. His website is

Sunday afternoon, April 18, witnessed a beautiful concert by Wilmington-based Mélomanie, the ensemble devoted to Baroque period instruments and to new music by regional composers. On this occasion, the group was presented by Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church, across the road from Winterthur, and the Hadley Memorial Fund, which provided free admission.

The illness of violinist Fran Berge necessitated a program change with the welcome addition of substitute fiddler, Christof Richter of Philadelphia. The ensemble drew from its repertoire, saving ‘til next season Mark Rimple’s Partita 622, which will also be included in the group’s recording project of five new works, all commissioned by Mélomanie.

J. P. Rameau’s first Pièce de Clavecin en Concert opened the program, with music written for the court of the King Louis, the one right before the French revolution. The music is mannered, precious, and charming, also with daring juxtapositions of texture and mood, quite unlike Rameau’s contemporaries. Featuring harpsichordist Tracy Richardson, the grouping was completed by flute, violin, and Donna Fournier’s viola da gamba.

Two solo pieces followed: Mark Hagerty’s Sea Level for solo flute, played by Kim Reighley on the luscious-sounding alto flute, and Bach’s G-major suite for ‘cello, performed with infectious musicality and individuality by Doug McNames. Hagerty’s work displays arresting harmony despite being for an instrument that can only play one note at a time, also referring indirectly to the evocative poetry of its historical antecedent, Syrinx by Debussy.

As Hagerty had, composer Ingrid Arauco introduced her piece, Florescence (blooming) for flute and harpsichord. She expressed gratitude for the multiple performances given by these players, such that each time the sounds merge, clarify, and increasingly express Arauco’s intentions. In three short movements, Florescence shows how an essentially atonal language can be gentle, colorful, and intimate.

The program concluded with Telemann’s Paris Quartet in e minor, played by all five musicians, more mannered music in the French style, though composed by one of the principal masters of the German Baroque. One movement was called “Distrait” (inattentive) in which the witty Telemann created disorienting syncopations. Despite the work’s lightness, he ends with a weighty and sophisticated chaconne.

It was gratifying to see a large and appreciative crowd, and a slightly different one from Mélomanie’s downtown series. May the sounds of this excellent ensemble find even more satisfied ears, in Delaware and beyond!

Coming up: harpsichordist Tracy Richardson and gambist Donna Fournier will present a program for the First & Central Noontime Concert series, Thursday, April 22, at 12:30 PM, 11th and Market Streets in Wilmington. I am especially pleased that their program will include the premiere of my composition, Six Preludes for solo harpsichord.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Born in the 20th Century

On a very cold and dull January Sunday, musicians were busy preparing for a most unusual concert – a gathering of composers, some performing their own pieces, in a church. As our blog has reported before, Calvary Episcopal Church has invited musicians, actors and other artists to show their creativity to their congregation and to the community.

All of the composers on the program were born in the twentieth century, all but Miles Davis are still living. Three of the composers were present and two played in their own works.

Christopher Braddock’s piece, All the days he has seen, was inspired by Winterthur’s Hippocampus and Box Scroll Garden. The guitar, flute and violin trio is a baroque-inspired work but with modern harmony – a muse on what Hippocampus sees during the changing seasons in his reflecting pool.

Chuck Holdeman’s Avant, adage, après for bassoon and piano is a piece in three movements – the first and last movements having a very jazzy and syncopated style and the middle movement made up of sustained chords which the composer used to create an effect of dreamy contemplation.

Kirk O’Riordan’s Pressing forward, pushing back was perhaps a bit too amorphous for my taste – the wild beginning felt like ambulances off to an emergency – with Melinda Bowman, flute and Richard Gangwisch, piano giving it a great run for the money. But O’Riordan told me later that his piece was his expression of how people resist new ideas…and I guess I am guilty of resisting.

Andrea Clearfield (not present) wrote a trio called Spirit Island and two movements were offered, showing off Hiroko Yamazaki’s amazing energy and technique on the piano. Her playing provided a great basis for Jennifer Stomberg’s cello and Melinda Bowman’s flute lines. I found Rowing much more of a structured piece than Variations on a dream.

Hats off to Zachary Crystal for a startlingly surprising soft beginning of Michi by Keiko Abe for solo marimba. Crystal played with four mallets and started and ended so softly that he drew the audience’s attention with a pianissimo and said adieu the same way.

Next month’s community event is a photography contest. Entry forms and rules are on their web site.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Chamber Music in October

Would you believe that the Pyxis Quartet’s October 1 concert at the Delaware Art Museum has been sold out since August? The Concerts on Kentmere series will be presented in the Pre-Raphaelite gallery and an option for dinner on the Chihuly Bridge can be part of the package for those lucky few who booked early.

The Pyxis Quartet was founded this year and I hope they will play together for many years to come: Hiroko Yamazaki, piano, Meredith Amado, violin, Amy Leonard, viola and Jie Jin, cello are a formidable combination.

If you did NOT book early for the Concert on Kentmere, fret not. You have two other opportunities to hear the Pyxis this fall: They will be playing on Thursday, October 29, at noon at First and Central Presbyterian Church just off Rodney Square and on Sunday, November 1 at Grace United Methodist Church at 3:00 p.m.

But don’t forget the Newark Symphony Chamber Series which starts on Saturday, October 3, with a star-studded ensemble of players. Thomas DiSarlo, concertmaster of the Philadelphia group Camerata Ama Deus, will play a violin etude by Ernst, and two Mozart violin duos with Amy Walder. Walder will switch to viola to join Susan Kiley, who will trade in her NSO viola role for a violin, and Charles Thomas, cello and Thomas DiSarlo, violin for the Haydn Emperor Quartet. The final piece in the concert will be the Schumann E-flat Piano Quartet with Vincent Craig, piano, DiSarlo, violin, Amy Walder, viola and Charles Thomas, cello.

On October 11 at 4:00 p.m.,near perfect acoustics in the Church of the Holy City will enhance the delightful sound of the Copeland String Quartet: Eliezer Gutman, violin, Thomas Jackson, violin, Nina Cottman, viola and Mark Ward.

And if you are still hungry for chamber music (and macaroons), don’t forget the Hotel Dupont Chamber Series. On October 27, you will hear the Nielsen Wind Quintet, the Strauss Happy Workshop and a local composer, Chuck Holdeman’s Petit Concert.

On Tuesday, December 1, David Amado teams up with his wife, Meredith, for an evening of Mozart violin sonatas at the Hotel Dupont.

There is no shortage of chamber music in the Diamond State this season!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Composer's Work Featured on Recording by Mélomanie

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman, composer of “Sonate en Trio”, which will appear on the new Mélomanie CD
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, music for film, and music for educational purposes.

What an outstanding pleasure it is for a composer to hear his work played by the terrific players of Mélomanie! The group is recording the work and I’m delighted that they will also feature a portion of the music at their October 2 soiree and fundraiser.

My approach to writing for the flute, ‘cello, and harpsichord includes taking advantage of the resonance and color of the harpsichord to create a rhythmic and harmonic canvas on which to paint lyrical and intertwining lines for the flute and ‘cello. At other times, the harpsichord has a solo or interacts as an equal in fugato passages.

Sonate en Trio is one of several of my works which pay tribute to Ravel and Debussy, whose seductive and colorful harmonic sense is often related to the impressionist painters who were their contemporaries.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Delaware Musicians in the UK

The jazzy vibes of French bassoonist Ludovic Tissus gave life to the world premier of Chuck Holdeman’s composition Quintetto for bassoon and string quartet at the International Double Reed Society in Birmingham, England on July 23.

Tissus, bassoonist for the Paris Opera, plays the French system bassoon, which Holdeman had in mind when he wrote the piece.

Quintetto starts with a largo which dissolves into a fast-moving leitmotiv. The second movement is a haunting, lyrical chanson. The third movement is a theme and variations with a wild fugal coda.

The exchange of voices in the coda is quite tricky, but Tissus and the very youthful Boult Quartet dove in with gusto.

Holdeman has a new commission which will premiere at the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel DuPont as part of the Delaware Symphony chamber music series on October 27.

Two other pieces by composers from our region played at the International Double Reed Society convention were Andrea Clearfield’s Three Songs for oboe and double bass after poems by Pablo Neruda and Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Oboe.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ARTY at the Party!

Our very own arts party-hopper, ARTY, was out on the town this week. This time, Arty hit the annual Mélomanie picnic on July 18 at the home of co-Artistic Director and harpsichordist Tracy Richardson. The ensemble hosts the event each year to celebrate its past season, thank colleagues and collaborators, and look to the coming year. Arty was thrilled to see that the intimate get-together was a veritable “who’s who” of regional performers! Arty chatted up violinist Sylvia Ahramjian and Mélomanie co-Artistic Director and flutist Kim Reighley, who were both delighted to be holding repertory classes this year at West Chester University.

Composer Chuck Holdeman was excited about the premiere of his Quintetto, set for the International Double Reed Society convention in England on July 23.

Guitarist and composer Chris Braddock---there with his beautiful wife, soprano Jeanmarie Braddock, and daughter Ellie---talked enthusiastically about his Brandywine Guitar Quartet’s upcoming concert on August 9 in Chesapeake City.

Also in attendance was composer Ingrid Arauco, who was quite pleased with the recent premiere of her Divertimento at the Delaware Chamber Music Festival. Percussionist Gerardo Razumney was lively, as he explained to guests the difference between Argentinian tango and the American ballroom tango.

A great gathering of artists on a beautiful summer day! Look for information on Mélomanie's 2009-2010 season coming soon! Thanks for the invite, Mélomanie!

Got a party you'd like ARTY to attend? Send us an email at