Two years ago, the Erie Philharmonic commissioned Albert Glinsky, Ph.D., to write a piece to commemorate the orchestra’s 100th season.
“It took me about a nanosecond to say, ‘Of course!’” Glinsky said.
Audiences can experience the debut of his overture Sun Chanter at the Erie Phil’s centennial concert on Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Warner Theatre.
Glinsky likens the overture, just shy of 12 minutes, to a slice of birthday cake – something light, celebratory and festive that enlivens the mood of an already happy occasion. Sun Chanter – a feel-good, upbeat showpiece – was written to celebrate the full, resonant sound that only an orchestra can provide. Inspired by jazz, rock, and lush movie score orchestration, Glinsky composed a piece that will be enjoyed by classical and pops audiences alike.
Sun Chanter is Glinsky’s third commissioned work for the Erie Phil. He composed a symphonic work, Throne of the Third Heaven, inspired by James Hampton’s foil-covered sculpture of found objects in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, for the Phil’s 75th anniversary in 1989; and then a solo piano concerto titled Piano Concerto in 1993. More recently, Glinsky completed a commission from the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the city of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Quartet, premiered by the Biava Quartet.
When Glinsky, originally from New York City, began to consider the centennial overture’s title, he started by asking himself a question: “What inspires me about Erie?”
Quite a few things popped into his head: Riding his bike around the peninsula. Watching the kite fliers at Presque Isle. Erie’s spectacular sunsets.
Soon, Glinsky noticed a theme.
“Not that Erie is known for perpetual sun,” he quipped, “but that’s one of the great treasures of our region.”
After thorough brainstorming – including playing with words and phrases through anagrams – he landed on Sun Chanter.
“To me, that pulled it all together,” Glinsky said. “A title is helpful to drive the composition. There is a regality about that title, and there is a certain radiance to this piece.”
After taking a year to write the initial Sun Chanter score for two pianos and percussion, Glinsky spent the better part of this summer orchestrating – or, as he puts it, “exploding it out to all the instruments.”
Orchestration – deciding which instruments play which notes, from sweeping melodies to the subtlest harmonic tones – is no easy task, especially for a perfectionist like Glinsky. Even with the help of music graphic software, it’s still challenging to keep track of so many staves of music for each instrument in the woodwind, brass, percussion and string sections. Glinsky spent the summer submerged in his orchestration bunker, often spending 12-hour days listening, changing, speculating, and revising.
He handed the completed score to the Erie Phil this fall. And now, he waits.
“There’s this gestation period between finishing the orchestration and premiering the work where you just have to hope for the best,” Glinsky said. “You want the musicians to enjoy playing it; the conductor to enjoy conducting; the audience to enjoy listening. It’s an honor to have been asked to do this. I’m so grateful.”
Sun Chanter will open the Nov. 9 program, which also includes Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 From the New World.
For tickets, visit eriephil.org or call the Erie Phil box office at 814-455-1377.