After seven years as executive director of the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University, Merrill Bradshaw still finds his assignment stimulating and challenging.
The BYU composer and professor feels that results were good from the 1990 annual meetings, held at BYU Aug. 8-10 with Milton and Gloria Barlow, donors of the endowment fund, in attendance.Also on hand were all members of the advisory board: Joseph Schwantner of the Eastman School of Music, a Pulitzer prize-winning composer, formerly in residence with the St. Louis Symphony; Crawford Gates, music director and conductor of the Beloit-Janesville Symphony Orchestra in Wisconsin, artist in residence at Beloit College, composer and conductor; Brent Pierce of Fullerton College; Joseph Downing of Syracuse University; and Frances Richards, director of concert music for ASCAP.
Guest judges Larry Curtis of the University of California at Long Beach and Richard E. Strange of Arizona State University helped the advisers judge the Barlow International Competition, this year for band.
Winner of the $10,000 prize was David R. Gillingham of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., an assistant professor at Central Michigan University, for his composition "Heroes, Lost and Fallen," written in memory of Vietnam.
With such wide-ranging interests and connections, the advisory board has a good grasp of the music world and how to channel good composers through, said Bradshaw. The endowment has awarded 11 new commissions for 1990, as follows:
Newell Kay Brown of North Texas State University, a piece for the Denton Chamber Orchestra and cello; Sebastian Currier, New York City, a work for soprano and chamber music consortium; Dan Locklair, Winston-Salem, a harpsichord concerto; Robert Maggio, Philadelphia, one movement of an orchestra suite for the Oakland East Bay Symphony; David Ott, Greencastle, N.Y., a work for orchestra and saxophone for the Canton Symphony and Northwest Symphony; and Alice Parker, New York City, a cantata for children, adults and orchestra for the Vancouver Chamber Choir.
Also Christopher Rouse, Fairport, N.Y., a major choral-orchestral work for David Zinnman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; David F. Stock, Pittsburgh, a sinfonietta for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Eric Stokes, Minneapolis, an orchestral piece, "Ghost Bus of Eldorado," for the American Composer's Orchestra; Augusta Read Thomas, Boston, a chamber work for the Stonybrook Contemporary Chamber Players; and Darwin Wolford, Rexburg, Idaho, "Psalms of Beauty, Psalms of Light," for the American West Symphony and Chorus.
"We had 53 applications this year for commissions," said Bradshaw. "The top 30 composers were easy to identify, but after that it got very hard. They were all good." Composers should be aware that a certain amount of the Barlow money is earmarked to commission LDS composers, though not many applied this year, to Bradshaw's disappointment.
He feels that with the National Endowment for the Arts under fire, the role of such small private funds as the Barlow Endowment will become increasingly important. "Government funding tends to get political," he said. "But I do wish we had $10 million to work with!"
Besides the competition and commissions, the endowment's third area of support is the Barlow education grants for use at BYU. Part of this year's education grant will bring lecturers to BYU. All will speak at 11 a.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall. Those definitely lined up so far are:
Oct. 18, Michael Hicks, BYU composer and author, "Serialism and Comprehensibility."
Nov. 8 - Ingo Titze, BYU visiting faculty, international expert on the structure of the human voice and duplicating it electronically, with his puppet, Luciano Roboti.
Nov. 29 - Deborah Kovasch, a singer, will give a recital and discuss her specialty, extended vocal techniques in many styles, as sung in different parts of the world.
On Feb. 28, famed opera composer Thomas Pasatieri will appear in conjunction with the opening of his opera "Washington Square," based on a William James novel, which will then play intermittently through March 5.
Meanwhile, Merrill Bradshaw continues to compose prolifically, working every morning from 5 to 7 a.m. Last summer his son catalogued his works, arriving at a total of 137.
His "Christ Metaphors" for chorus and orchestra was a distinguished feature of the Minneapolis music season last year, with performance at Orchestra Hall on Nov. 2. For BYU Symphony Orchestra performance in May 1990, he composed "Elizabethan Lyrics" for strings, viola and soprano, featuring David and Donna Dalton.
Among projects in progress is some "requiem music," as he calls it, though not set to the text of the Catholic Mass. Instead he's written his own narration of scriptures paraphrased in poetry for eight movements for choir, orchestra and soloists. For "Visionscape" he uses a long poem by Monte Wannamaker, divided in four sections for soprano, string trio and English horn.
He's also a movement and a half into a piece tentatively titled "Gallery," inspired by works of four LDS painters - CCA Christensen, James T. Harwood, Minerva Teichert and Gary Smith. It will be performed at the dedication of BYU's new fine arts gallery, still in the planning stage. Though funds have been raised to build it, some of the money is still tied up in an estate. The building will be erected north of and adjacent to the Harris Fine Arts Center.