Bay Chambers’ Summer Festival

White poem inspires premiere

Aug 08, 2014
Photo by: Jill Steinberg Jeffrey Zeigler is cellist of the internationally renowned Kronos Quartet.

Rockport — Bay Chamber Concerts’ Summer Festival runs through Sunday, Aug. 17. Participating artists include the resident Parker Quartet and a parade of exciting guest artists. There are Summer Festival performances morning, noon and night; for details of each, visit baychamberconcerts.org/concerts/concert-calendar. Summer Festival's free concert, Jazz on the Water, will unfold Saturday, Aug. 16, at 4 p.m. at Rockport Harbor Park.

A Festival highlight will be the world premiere of “One Silken Thread,” Bay Chamber’s 2014 Commission, Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House, 6 Central St. Maine’s natural beauty and rich artistic heritage have long inspired artists of all kinds including renowned composer Thomas Cabaniss, who has created a new musical work inspired by E.B. White’s poem “A Natural History.” Written for piano four hands and cello, “One Silken Thread” explores White’s poetic observation of a spider, which evolves into a metaphor for a relationship between two people in the final stanza:

“Thus I, gone forth as spiders do

In spider’s web a truth discerning,

Attach one silken thread to you

For my returning.”

“We wanted an intimate and accessible piece of music that resonated in some way with Maine,” said Bay Chamber Artistic Director Manuel Bagorro. “Tom has a supreme clarity of musical expression and created something very pictorial with beautiful melodies and rich harmonies.”

Bagorro went on to say that “One Silken Thread” really celebrates the core elements of what chamber music is all about — “an intimate conversation between instruments that invites the audience to share in the journey.” Cabaniss, a New Yorker who once worked in Maine composing for the Portland Stage Company and enjoys spending time here at every opportunity, was delighted with Bagorro’s vision to create a Maine-themed piece.

“I’d read E.B. White quite a bit over the years and decided to revisit his poetry” he said. “‘A Natural History’ really struck me as particularly beautiful, both in its imagery and as a metaphor for a relationship between two people.”

Cabaniss likens the spider’s silken thread to a cello string, and while composing tried to imagine what the spider’s movements would sound like musically, trying to capture the sense of spinning, falling and rising in the music using elements like harmony or scalar lines — “the third and final movement, for example, is always rising, enacting sonically the spider’s return.”

White, who spent many summers on a Maine saltwater farm, has inspired other musicians. Folk singer Pete Seeger recorded a song called “The Spider’s Web” in which he put “A Natural History” to music. White’s granddaughter, Martha, said her grandfather wrote the poem to his wife early in their marriage (1929) while he was traveling, and feels it indicates the nature of their relationship.

“It was a love poem that he sent to her when he was out of town” she said, suggesting that although he’d sometimes be away he’d always return.

Performing “One Silken Thread” will be acclaimed husband and wife duo Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung on the piano, with cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, formerly of Kronos Quartet. The evening’s program also includes Russell Platt’s Duo for Violin and Cello, with Livia Sohn on violin; and Beethoven’s Trio No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 97 “Archduke,” featuring violinist Geoff Nuttall. Cabaniss will attend the premiere.

Tickets are $25, $10 for those younger than 21. To purchase, call 236-2823 or (888) 707-2770; visit the website; or stop by the office at 18 Central St.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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