Music for Bayside (2013)
Program notes by Lembit Beecher:
Music for Bayside was commissioned by the Quintet of the Americas as part of their ongoing relationship with communities in Queens, New York. The piece is based on interviews that the members of the quintet and I conducted with senior citizens at Bayside Senior Center in Queens. Though our conversations typically began with the quotidian and humorous, they reached surprisingly quickly into serious and soulful topics, and the short time that we had to get to know each other produced some special moments. Like four short poems on the nature of memory and storytelling, the four movements of Music for Bayside were inspired by the process of interviewing as much as the content of the interviews.
Mvt. I – Sentimental
During the interviews, Sam, a retired furrier and WWII veteran, mentioned that his favorite musician was Benny Goodman. Nick, the clarinetist in Quintet of Americas pulled out his clarinet and played an impromptu version of Duke Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood, a piece often performed by Benny Goodman. As the music began, Sam closed his eyes, nodding slightly with a magical expression of intense contentment on his face. I don’t know what particular connection Sam had to that song, but I tried to imagine what it would be like to hear the first few notes of a melody like this that you had first heard 60 or 70 years ago, how those notes would roll around in your mind, and how many memories would be build up around them.
Mvt. II – Dance, As Imagined by the Interviewer
Many of the interviewees mentioned dancing. Dancing has perhaps lost a little of its allure in recent years given both social media and the adrenaline pumping alternatives to dance that kids today have access to, but I tried to imagine what going dancing must have felt like 50 years ago–the anticipatory excitement, the adrenaline and maybe a healthy dose of awkwardness.
Mvt. III – Dance, Mostly Forgotten
I’ve often been surprised how easy it is to feel a strong attachment to music that we don’t quite remember. This movement is all about a tune residing on the edge of one’s memory.
Mvt. IV – Joy and Sorrow Are Twin Brothers
One of the most moving moments of the afternoon was hearing a story told by Terry Calderon, whose parents were Sephardic Jews from Turkey. Terry began by describing her mother’s long red hair tied in a bow, that first attracted her father. But the story quickly became a meditation on time and the passing of one’s loved ones. The story was striking in the way that it held joy and sorrow so closely together. The title of this movement actually comes from a line of the Estonian National Epic, Kalevipoeg, which is part of my own heritage, but seemed so right for both Terry’s story and the feeling I was trying to capture in my music.
Wind quintet duration: 14 minutes
Music for Bayside was commissioned by Quintet of the Americas as part of their memory Project. It was premiered at the Salvation Army Temple in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY on June 11, 2013. There is a brief video about the Memory Project featuring Movement I of Music for Bayside here :
At the time of his composing Music for Bayside, Lembit Beecher was an active composer, conductor and pianist working on his DMA at the University of Michigan. His teachers have included Evan Chambers, Bright Sheng, Karim Al-Zand, Pierre Jalbert, Kurt Stallmann and Bernard Rands. Continually trying to expand his musical and artistic vocabulary Lembit has studied jazz piano, modern dance, ethnomusicology and participated in workshops and master classes with Stephen Schwartz, Bobby McFerrin and Paul Berliner. Born to Estonian and American parents, Lembit grew up under the redwoods in Santa Cruz, California, a few miles from the wild Pacific. Since then he has lived in Boston, Houston, Ann Arbor, Berlin, New York, and Philadelphia earning degrees from Rice and the Uuniversity of Michigan. This varied background has made him particularly sensitive to place, ecology and the strong emotional relationships that people forge with patterns in nature. He is also interested in the way people tell stories, through songs, sounds, gestures and words.