A 90th Birthday Celebration – A Surprise

Last night was a night I’ll never forget. I’m still recovering from the partying we did, but I still can’t believe we pulled off this big surprise for Russ Coleman’s 90th birthday. I decided to write this blog post explaining everything about how “Reflections” came to be.

 

One day in early January 2018, I had received a phone call from Pam Smith-Kelly about a couple of clarinet quintets I was engraving for her. During our call she had brought up that Russ Coleman was turning 90 this year and she was trying to figure out something special to help celebrate it. I had a break in my composing schedule, so I brought up the idea of writing a piece for him. She said she liked the idea and told me we would talk more.

 

Fast forward to MMEA 2018 and she introduced me to Dr. Anthony Purcell. We all talked about the piece and he wanted to premier it at MBA 2018 that summer. Plenty of time for me to write it. We also decided to keep it a surprise for him. The tricky part was that it would be his community band premiering it and we wanted to keep it a surprise. I’d give the piece a fake title and composer and we would do the real reveal for him at MBA that summer.

 

As I sat down to write the piece, I found myself struggling to find inspiration to write the piece. It wasn’t until I started listening to a lot of Claude Smith’s music that I found inspiration for how the piece would ultimately sound. I would draw from Claude’s unique style of mixed meters with my own personal flair of orchestration and melodies. My ultimate goal was to conclude the piece with a full statement of UCM’s “Alma Mater” without much modification.

 

I composed the piece in about 2 months time and thew on a surprise ending for Pam. When I played her back the midi file, she had the biggest smile on her face and said it was perfect and I shouldn’t change it anymore. Now came the hard part of keeping it a surprise from Russ.

 

The premier of the piece went flawlessly. Anthony introduced Pam, who introduced me and we 100% caught Russ of guard and successfully surprised him. It’s not often in the band world you can surprise a man like Russ, but we actually managed to pull it off without tipping him off.

 

This piece would not have been possible without the hard work of Anthony Purcell. He put together a massive consortium (the largest I’ve ever had). I’m thrilled to have worked with him on this project and look forward to working with him. Pam Kelly planned the post concert reception and helped organize the logistics of getting Russ’s family present for the concert. I cannot thank these two enough for trusting with this piece and letting me be a part of this celebration.

“Reflections” will be available for purchase Fall 2019. Consortium members will be getting their own copy later this summer.

Pictures from last night: