A scene from last year’s festival
A scene from last year’s festival

A wide variety of events are set for June 10-25.

Composer Perry Goldstein expressed a Motor City mood in advance of his stint as composer-in-residence for the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, which will be marking its 29th anniversary June 10-25. 

Entering three pieces into this year’s programming, which has a recurring theme related to nature and the environment, he will be premiering two pieces that communicate different examples of the melodic spectrum. 

Perry Goldstein
Perry Goldstein

“Jittery Engine,” the piece with local resonance because of the auto industry, will be performed June 24 at the Detroit Institute of Arts and brings a contemporary soundscape into the schedule that features some 40 musicians in concerts, workshops, artistic discussions and community events at different venues across the metro area.  

“‘Jittery Engine’ was written for a group called F-Plus, which performs on violin, clarinet and marimba,” Goldstein said. “It’s a quirky, funny piece in which the machine parts sometimes gel and sometimes don’t quite.” 

The other premiering work, “Birding by Ear,” has lyrics written in collaboration with the recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Powers, author of the climate-focused novel The Overstory. The composition, moving listeners from city to countryside, will be voiced June 16 at Temple Beth El by baritone Randall Scarlotta, appearing with violinist, cellist and pianist.

“Rick and I are old friends, so he provides text for me,” said Goldstein, joining his friend for an open talk at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 15, at the Bloomfield Township Public Library. “This will be the fourth of our collaborations. 

“I typically ask him for text, and I write a set of songs that I think is appropriate. Only on one occasion did I have a particular subject in mind, and it was a commission from the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point about the Robert Falcon Scott expedition to the South Pole.” 

The third Goldstein piece, “Quartet for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet,” is going to be performed by Timothy McAllister, University of Michigan alto-saxophone professor, with a group from Stony Brook University in New York state, where Goldstein has been teaching for 30 years and recently stepped down as chair of the Department of Music. 

Last year’s performance at the DIA
Last year’s performance at the DIA

The piece, to be heard June 21 at St. Hugo of the Hills, asserts the Americana roots of Goldstein’s music with the second movement offering variations on a tune that might be thought of as an urban spiritual.

“One of the beauties behind the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival is that it provides an opportunity for musicians to perform and audiences to experience a wide range of musical repertoire,” said Maury Okun, festival president, pointing out that programming also introduces chamber styles to works by classical composers such as Schumann, Mozart and Beethoven.

Okun, also president of Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, represents one of four organizations sponsoring the annual nonsectarian festival. The others are Temple Beth El, St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church and Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church.   

A special event on June 15 at Temple Beth El — Music Meets Mindfulness: Yoga for Every Body — will feature exercise accompaniment by participants from the Shouse Institute, the festival component encouraging young talent, an important aspect of Goldstein’s musical pursuits.

“I’ve spent some time trying to find an authentic voice for myself,” said the composer-professor, who supports Hillel activities. “My values in music are humor, tenderness and direct communication with audiences. I’m very interested in connecting with people who love music. 

“My musical language has come to include jazz, a little bit of popular music, blues and spirituals. Tonality has reentered my music after being prohibited for a long time as I [interpreted the role of] an academic composer. 

“My musical values are to use whatever I can in order to make direct contact with an audience that I hope will enjoy the music as much as I’m enjoying making it.”

Goldstein, who grew up in New Jersey and earned his doctoral degree in composing at Columbia University, became career-motivated while latching on to his dad’s hobby of listening to jazz recordings.

“I think I knew by the time I was 12 years old that I wanted to compose music and started doing so about that time,” Goldstein said. “The recording that made me most interested in composing had movie themes arranged by Quincy Jones. 

“I started a pop music band when I was in 10th grade and arranged for that group. In my senior year in high school, I performed with the concert band and wrote music for the jazz band.”

A significant part of Goldstein’s work has to do with saxophone.

“In 1992, I got a letter from a Dutch saxophone quartet, Aurelia, that had heard some of my music being rehearsed by a colleague of theirs,” Goldstein recalled. “They asked if I would write a piece for them.

“I wrote one, and they played it dozens of times over the next few years. They also recorded it. Because they were playing it so much, other saxophonists became interested in my work and, over the years, I’ve written 20 pieces that involve saxophone in all different instrumental combinations.” 

Goldstein believes in composing discipline and is at desk and keyboard most every morning between semesters. 

“When you sit down daily, music is percolating in your mind,” he said. “That constant contact with a particular piece and the sounds of that piece just about daily has been the best recipe for me.” 

Details

The Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival runs live June 10-25 at venues around the metro area and Ann Arbor. Depending on the event, tickets range from $0-$75. For a complete schedule, go to greatlakeschambermusic.org. (248) 559-2097.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.