NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer

01/11/2017

Mark Sebastian Jordan Encounters Margaret Brouwer

American composer Margaret Brouwer will be premiering an oratorio, Voice of the Lake, on November 12 in Cleveland. Though she grew up in Michigan, the composer now lives near Lake Erie in Ohio, where she served as head of the composition department of the Cleveland Institute of Music until 2008. By her own reckoning, she has a special relationship with nature in general, and water in particular, which is reflected in many of her pieces.

 Margaret Brouwer, composer of 'Voice of the Lake' (Photo: Christian Steiner)

Margaret Brouwer, composer of Voice of the Lake
(c) Christian Steiner

“It’s always really bothered me when I see people dumping trash, Coke bottles, or grass clippings in the lake,” Brouwer said in an interview. She also cited recent issues such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to dredge the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, then dump the dredging further out in the lake. Also motivating her were algal blooms in western Lake Erie, caused by runoff from farm fields where fertilizer has been used intensively.

“It’s our responsibility to keep it clean,” Brouwer said, noting that 11 million people in the greater Cleveland area get their drinking water from Lake Erie. But when she had the idea to write a piece evoking the lake, Brouwer also knew that she wanted to capture the joy of experiencing this inland sea, part of the Great Lakes, the largest system of freshwater seas in the world. She turned to Cleveland poet David Adams, whose work Brouwer had previously set in Whom Do You Call Angel Now? for soprano, violin, and piano, and he provided her with expressive texts.

For this four-movement piece, Brouwer also noted that some of the language needed to be not poetic. She wrote these parts herself, sometimes gathering public domain testimony from hearings accessible online, including remarks from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, and concerned citizens.

The work is unlike anything else Brouwer has created, lasting an hour and fifteen minutes. In addition to an instrumental ensemble, she uses four vocal soloists, choir, children’s choir, and a dreamlike video sequence to accompany an interlude during a soprano aria.

While not identifying as a particularly political composer, Brouwer is aware that her opus could be met with controversy in some quarters, particularly in a state where agriculture is dominated by the aggressively anti-regulation Ohio Farm Bureau. But the composer said that she had to express her frustration, as well as her love of the lake.

“It’ll be interesting to see if anyone in that area [those opposed to environmental regulation of the Great Lakes] will be aware of it,” Brouwer said. “I hope it gives them some thought.”

The composer’s goal is to reach as large an audience as possible, and she has crafted it with an emphasis on memorable melody.

“It’s important for us to think in terms of music that will speak to people even if they’re uneducated in classical music,” she said, adding that she’d love it if audience members left with the melodies in their heads and sang the arias themselves. She said that the nonstop experimentation of the twentieth century was history, and that the 21st century seems to be about amalgamating the styles of all musical periods into a distinctive voice.

The four sections of the oratorio are “At the Lake,” “The Hearing,” “The Dream,” and “Sunrise on the Lake.” Voice of the Lake will have its premiere at 3:00pm on November 12 at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts (2008 West 30th Street in Cleveland). Performers will be the Blue Streak Ensemble, the Oberlin Musical Union directed by Gregory Ristow, the Cleveland Institute of Music Children’s Choir directed by Jennifer Call, soprano Angela Mitchell, mezzo-soprano Merav Eldan, tenor Brian Skoog, and bass Bryant Bush, all conducted by Domenico Boyagian.

Mark Sebastian Jordan

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Hampstead Garden Opera Bring The Enchanted Pig to Highgate in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Svetlana Zakharova and Bolshoi Stars Bring Amore to the London Coliseum in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Tom Green and Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife Premieres on 15 October in Cardiff __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H