About me

I am an active composer and organizer of music events. I share a monthly Music as Meditation concert with listeners and fellow musicians and I organize several concerts of new music each year. I use this blog to tell people about my musical endeavors.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Music in Winfield, Kansas

Music for a Resonant Space: A New-Music Collaboration in Winfield, Kansas


Ellen Schwindt, Kansas native and composer, organized this project as a way to share her music with people in her home state. She recruited soloists who are collegiate-level string teachers in the state—Ann Samuelson, who teaches violin at Bethany College in Lindsborg and at Kansas Wesleyan College in Salina, and Lillian Green, who teaches viola at Bethany College and at Kansas Wesleyan College. These two graciously embraced the opportunity to play new music. 

Ellen grew up in Salina, where she participated in a vibrant string program and made friends with Winfield resident Kim Helzer. Over many years of friendship, she heard stories about Winfield's vibrant strings program and the dedicated teacher Roberta Banks. Kim provided an introduction and Roberta—“Robbie”—enthusiastically explored how to make the project a reality.

Ann Samuelson is violin soloist

Music for a Resonant space serves as title for the concert and for one of the pieces to be performed. The piece is structured like a concerto in that there are two soloists—Ann Samuelson on violin, and Ellen Schwindt on piano—and an ensemble, but it is unlike a traditional concerto in that neither soloist spends much time playing fast or loud; rather it is crafted as a conversation across all the levels of the orchestra. The music of the piece turns on the shared resonance of strings. Some sounds will come from piano strings vibrating sympathetically to pitches produced by the violin. This kind of music is only possible in a resonant place, and the First Presbyterian Church provides just that kind of space. 

Young Kansas Composer Hannah Bartel Groening 

Hannah Bartel Groening began writing music to play with her four sister in their string quintet, so the vast majority of pieces she's written are for strings. Hannah majored in music composition at Kansas State University and had several of her works performed in student recitals and one full orchestra piece commissioned by the K-State Symphony Orchestra. Hannah shares the piece Pages Floating on Air with the students in Winfield.

Lillian Green to play as viola soloist

While attending a conference in Baltimore last Spring, Ellen noticed a presentation by Lillian Green, a violist from Bethany College. Ellen, whose hometown is only a few miles from Bethany College, introduced herself and asked if she could write something for Lillian. The result is Summer Suite for Viola and Strings. It consists of a dragonfly dance—meant to evoke those sleepy hot days of summer when the sun bakes an idler into a daze—and the experience of listening to hymns sung sweetly and with vigor. 

A Pastorale and Allegro complete the program and offers the Winfield High School Orchestra an opportunity to demonstrate its cohesiveness and artistry. The project includes time for Ellen to visit the high school orchestra's rehearsal and an after-school workshop on composition. The workshop is focused on composition and takes place at 5 PM on Thursday, September 7 at Southwestern College. To participate in the workshop, R.S.V.P. to ellen.m.schwindt@gmail.com. 


Ways to Help

This project is undertaken in the spirit of sharing and with the aim of keeping monetary costs to a minimum. Many people's efforts will make for a successful project. You can help this project along in one of these ways: 
  • Attend the Concert. Admission is free. Donations will be gratefully accepted and will go toward direct costs of the concert.
  • Spread the word about the concerto
  • Volunteer to help with the supper for the players or ushering at the concert (contact Ellen at ellen.m.schwindt@gmail.com .)
  • Donate a small amount of money to help cover the costs of tuning the piano, printing, programs and posters, feeding the orchestra members, giving a stipend to the host church, giving a stipend to the orchestra, and offering travel stipends to the soloists. To make a donation use the paypal button on Ellen's blog: at ellenschwindt@blogspot.com .

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My heart is so full I can't sleep. It is the early morning after the evening of the Summer Strings concert. So many people came to hear our music. I enjoyed so much connected time with the musicians and composers over the last week. I will share one more thing. Here is a story about banana squash that I wrote for the program.

Gratitude and Summer Strings
 photo taken on the Bickford Brooke Trail.
This has been a summer of abundance for me. I've had time to garden, hike, take pictures of mushrooms, and even go swimming on occasion. These days I wade through the rampant greenery of the garden and marvel that there is so much to bring, so much to share. Some of it I didn't even plant.

The banana squash plant with our
stone wall in the background to
show you how giant it is.
Early in the season, when I was first breathing deeper with the relief of a too-busy schedule finally easing off, I noticed a very vigorous squash plant volunteering itself out of my compost pile. I transplanted it to what was left of my husband's gift to me on the occasion of my 50th birthday—a truckload of real horse manure. In its new, rich location, this squash began growing with an energy I can only admire on most days. It had the upright habit of a zucchini and dark green leaves. I did not know or really care how its fruit would look or taste; its vigor simply brought me joy on every garden tour I made. It was the first of my garden plants that I could really see from my kitchen window. It bloomed early. One day, there was a zucchini-shaped object underneath its large triangular leaves. A few days later I brought it in.


The fruit of  the banana squash

My husband asked “is that a banana?!” In fact, the fruits of this squash look a bit like green bananas—slightly curved and slim. I chopped the garlic and heated the oil and we had our first taste of summer that day. Now “banana squash” make an appearance on the table several times a week. I laugh aloud to think of how they came unbidden to my garden and now are taking it over.

I've been trying to learn, lately, to trust the universe to keep bringing me the abundance I need. The banana squash and Summer Strings are evidence that my trust is well-placed. This concert and our festival could not have come to be without the volunteer energy of many people. Christ Episcopal Church's community offered us the space. The players all volunteered their time and careful attention to detail. Many of them drove long distances repeatedly—a sign of commitment if there ever was one. Significant donations from the Music as Meditation listeners made tuning the piano, posters, and programs possible. Help from Ken Turley and Bill Marvel made the picnic timely and fun. All this to bring to fruition music that itself arrives in composer's ears in a mysterious fashion, volunteering itself for our joy.

I don't know what is behind the mystery of this abundance. Why is this particular strain of zucchini so sweet and prolific? Why is that particular musical phrase so compelling and satisfying? I only know I am grateful to be part of this stream of abundance—and I know that the fruits of our time and attention are meant to be shared.