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Sunday Quarantine Deep-Dive May 31, 2020

May 31, 2020

Subject: Moonlight Sound Design, Raimonds Tiguls, special guest, John Leister, percussion

To give us all some structure in this crazy time, Harmonium will be meeting on zoom Sunday nights to deep-dive into some “Moon” music one piece at a time.

From the composer, Raimonds Tiguls: “Moonlight Sound Design was commissioned and premiered by the youth choir Kamēr conducted by Māris Sirmais in Riga, Latvia in 2012. It is dedicated to my father who died by way of an accident. The title of the piece is inspired by the fact that the studio I have is in my father’s country house in an attic room, and the night moon shines directly into it. In the USA, it was performed by the Wartburg Choir conducted by Lee Nelson at the 2017 National Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Minneapolis.”  I (Anne) was at that convention and as I always do when I hear a piece that grabs me—bought the music right away for future use.

Tiguls is a Latvian composer of film, instrumental and choral music born in 1972. As we learned when we were on tour in the Baltics, choral music plays a huge part in not just that country’s culture, but its history. Choral folk music unified Latvia during almost fifty years of Soviet occupation after World War II, when sacred music was banned. The Latvian summer song festival helped Latvians maintain their national identity during this period. The Festival held every 5 years involves a massed choir of nearly 25,000 singers and more than 100,000 spectators. Tiguls’ song, Dod, Dieviņi, (God Give Me) was in the Latvian songfest closing concert in 2013.

Tiguls is also a producer, founding and chairing the World Music and Art Fund which organizes international music concerts on the highest hill, Tigulu hill, in his home town  of Talsi. “Between the oaks he has found a place where music from different nations as Iceland, Georgia, Armenia, UK and of course Latvia come together in united sound and ambience.”

Moonlight Sound Design is the only known piece written for choir and hang. The Hang (pronunced haŋ in German) is a musical instrument created by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer in Bern, Switzerland. Its name comes from the Bernese-German word for “hand.” The instrument is constructed from two half-shells of deep-drawn, nitrided steel sheets glued together at the rim, leaving the inside hollow, and creating a distinct “UFO” shape. The top (“Ding”) side has a center “note” hammered into it, and seven “tone fields” hammered around the center.

Percussionist John Leister will join Harmonium members is a zoom meeting tonight, and onstage when we finally perform this piece. He has performed with the American Ballet Theater Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and as a substitute for six Broadway musicals. He has played in orchestras behind artists such as Paul McCartney, Metallica,The Moody Blues, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and James Taylor.

Leister is a graduate of The Juilliard School, University of Illinois, Rutgers University and Chatham High School. Following a 30-year career as a music educator and principal in area schools, including Madison, New Providence and Livingston, he is the percussion teacher at the Montclair Kimberley Academy. I happen to know that one of his favorite drummer is Jeffrey Porcaro of Toto, so it was fun to recruit John for our “Rain” concert in 2017, to play Africa!

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