Stetson University Symphonic Band to Perform World Premiere on Saturday, April 22
Stetson senior Paula Bekker will play the flute during the world premiere Saturday night of a new composition by music Professor Sydney Hodkinson, and she knows she will get each note right.
Bekker and 36 other members of a Stetson wind ensemble have spent the past few weeks studying the full score of Hodkinson’s “Missa Memoriis” and making sure the engraver of the sheet music didn’t accidentally make mistakes when he extracted the individual parts for each instrument.
This was the first time Bekker and other band members played such a role, using red pens to mark errata, or errors, for the engraver to fix in the final, edited sheet music. Performing the piece also posed challenges because the students couldn’t listen to recordings of it to help them learn to play it, said Bekker and oboist Alexandria Bocco.
“Considering it’s a brand new piece and no one’s ever heard it, we don’t have any reference point of how to practice it,” said Bocco, who, along with Bekker, is majoring in music with an outside field of study in business. “It was pretty interesting.”
The 37-member ensemble will perform “Missa Memoriis,” or “A Mass for the Memories,” on Saturday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m. in Lee Chapel inside Elizabeth Hall. It will be one of the works featured during a concert by the 104-member University Symphonic Band, conducted by Douglas Phillips, D.M.A., Stetson’s director of Bands and assistant professor of music.
The concert is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online, and cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for area student, and free with a Stetson ID.
Hodkinson said he dedicated the score to Phillips and members of the University Symphonic Band “in gratitude for their collective toil in bringing it to life.”
Hodkinson wrote “Missa Memoriis” last June and July after a series of traumatic events around the world, including the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead, and after the deaths of several close friends. He wrote the music as he heard it in his head and didn’t hear it performed until the band’s rehearsal last Monday night.
“I did say to the students on Monday, the ones who don’t compose, they don’t know what it’s like, especially for the first time, what I dream up in my head and then write down. I don’t use a piano or a keyboard, so I’m hearing it for the first time,” said Hodkinson, the Almand Chair of Composition at Stetson’s School of Music. “Without them, I’d be nowhere. It would be laying on the shelf somewhere.”
Hodkinson writes his scores by hand — the “old-fashioned” way — and doesn’t use computer software like some composers use today. The hand-written scores require editing to check for errors when the engraver creates sheet music. This time, Hodkinson asked Phillips if the band members would like to be involved.
“It’s a little different for the students, but very common to what could have happened 200 years ago with Beethoven and composers like that,” Phillips said of the process. “The students, freshmen through seniors, are getting to work with a world-class composer. … They get the experience of not just knowing, as we like to say, about the old dead white guys who wrote the music that we play, but they get to interact with living people.”
In addition to the world premiere Saturday night, the wind ensemble and Symphonic Band also will perform “Rocky Point Holiday” by Ron Nelson; “March from Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber” by Paul Hindemith; and “Enigma Variations (Variations on an Original Theme), Op. 36,” by Edward Elgar.
– Cory Lancaster