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Robert Langenfeld Compositions

Under The Night Sky In The Philippines – World Premiere

April 28, 2024

Well hello there!

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written a blog post!

I just got done with a roller coaster of a week at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University working with the Rutgers Symphony Band on my new piece “Under The Night Sky In The Philippines”. I wanted to get my thoughts down because this was a week of many firsts for me personally.

P.S. – I’ll be posting a score and audio once we get the recording back!

Background

This whole piece came about because in December of 2021, I became an uncle for the first time. My niece was a quarter Filipina (her mom is half Filipina) and I wanted to write her some lullabies to listen to. So I started researching lullabies from the Philippines.  While researching them, I realized that the lullabies would make a great concert band piece.

I reached out to my friend, Dr. Julia Baumanis, in the Spring of 2022 about a potential collaboration. A few years prior, she had conducted the premiere of my fanfare “Milestones” at the 2020 MMEA Conference with the UCM Wind Ensemble. This was the last live concert I got to go to before the entire world shut down a month later. We ALMOST crossed paths at the 2022 College Band Directors National Association Eastern Conference at Peabody Institute, but due to covid restrictions at John Hopkins, I was not able to stay an extra day for her concert.

During our phone call, I mentioned to her about the idea of arranging a couple of these lullabies into a piece for concert band and asked her if she would be interested in the world premiere for it. Julia, being half Filipina herself, said yes immediately!

Like with all good projects, these things take time. I had a trumpet concerto to finish up over the summer/fall of 2022 and I began writing this piece in late 2022. During this time I settled on 2 lullabies:

“Dandansoy” –  a traditional Visayan lullaby. In this song it describes a young man’s journey going back home to be with the one who he loves.

“Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” – a traditional lullaby written in Tagalog by Filipino composer Lucio San Pedro. It was derived from the fourth piece of his own Suite pastorale in the 1940s. It talks about how they wish their childhood and memories of their mother’s will never fade away. The lyrics go on to describe peacefully sleeping while the stars in the night sky watch over them.

When I was about half way through this project, I contacted to Julia and told her “I think if we are going to do this correctly, the piece needs a soprano soloist singing the original Tagalog lyrics”. She agreed and said “Leave it to me, I’ll get us a soloist”. I finished the piece, added optional instrumental solo parts and delivered her the score and parts.

I finished the piece in the Spring of 2023 and we settled on a Spring 2024 premier.

Early April

Julia texts me a few weeks before my trip saying she had a surprise for me. On that text was a video attachment of her filming Sarah Stine (the soprano soloist) singing the solo soprano part.

Tuesday (04-22-2024)

Arrianne and I flew out to New Brunswick, got lunch with Julia and a tour of Rutgers. Really unique campus setup! 5 different campuses all connect by various public transportation means. Students get a full 40 minutes between classes to get to where they need to be.

That night we had dinner and drinks at Chef Tan (I’m still full from it btw).

Wednesday (04-23-2024)

I got to sit in on Julia’s conducting class. It was a mix of composers, music educators, and performance majors. It was phenomenal seeing her work with the students. Afterwards we had an informal meet and greet with a bunch of the student composers. They asked a ton of great questions, we had a great set of dialogs, and in the end it was an absolute blast. I look forward to following all of their careers (I’m rooting for them all!)

That night we had a dress rehearsal and a recording session. We started off with a run through for me to listen to the piece for the first time and make any adjustments that might be necessary. After the piece had finished, I was in tears. I don’t know why I had such a strong reaction, but something about this piece just moved me in a way that only music can. Afterwards, we made a few tweaks to the piece and then it was time to record.

Remember how I said earlier in the blog that this was a week of firsts for me? Well this is one of those firsts. In the past when I’ve had recordings made for a piece, it would usually be 2 or 3 full run throughs of the full piece, and I would have to splice the best bits together in post.

Not this time. This was a whole other level. Adam Klein (Julia’s husband), is a talented recording engineer and would be recording this. Todd Nichols, Director of Bands at Rutgers, would act as the recording producer. He met with me and walked me through the process:

  1. A bed take (record the whole piece top to bottom like a concert performance).
  2. After that we will work through the piece section by section front to back, recording each section until we had a close to perfect take. They could even mix and match different takes to get the best possible recording ever.

Everyone turns off their phones, the concert hall gets signs hung up indicating we were recording, and we begin the recording session.

Todd ran that session with a precision and attention to detail I’ve never seen before in my career. He caught things I would never have caught. All the while, we had John Hylkema (Julia’s DMA grad assistant) typing away other notes in a spreadsheet. By the time we were done, we had spent an hour and a half recording the 7 minute piece (I think we had 30ish takes at the end). Todd told me “Normally, slow pieces take 3-4 hours to record so we had to kind of rush it”. I told him that this was the first time a recording session like this had ever been done for my music. Between Julia’s ability to consistently hold a tempo and bring out the best in the group, Todd’s attention to detail, and John’s thorough note taking, I believe we will have produced one of the best recordings of one of my pieces to date. I cannot wait to share it when it’s done.

Credits for production:
Title: Under the Night Sky In The Philippines
Composer: Robert Langenfeld
Conductor: Dr. Julia Baumanis
Ensemble: The Rutgers Symphony Band
Soloist: Sarah Stine
Producer: Dr. Todd Nichols
Recording Engineer: Adam Klein
Production Assistant: John Hylkema

Thursday (04-24-2024)

Premiere day and…… ARRIANNE’S BIRTHDAY!

We had a birthday brunch with Julia, Adam, and her mom Dr. Leilani Baumanis (the OG Dr. B). Arrianne got a special surprise… candles in her eggs benedict! Yet another first for both of us. After visiting a Filipino bakery we relaxed until the it was time for the concert.

There were a couple of unique things about this concert. Julia had invited the Rutgers Association of Filipino Students to the concert and they showed up in full force. It was awesome getting to meet them all and talk about the piece a bit. Also performing at the concert was the Rutgers Voorhees Choir. They sung a setting of “Sa Ugoy ng Duyan” right before my piece. After their outstanding performance, Julia introduced Sarah Stine to the audience and the performance began.

The performance was phenomenal. After Sarah’s final few notes finished ringing throughout the hall, the only thing that remained was silence… and I looked over at Arrianne to see her crying. Another first for me. Leilani was also crying. It was such a powerful moment and it was simply beautiful. I wrote this piece as a way to help myself better understand my wife’s heritage, but in the process so many others of Filipino descent were able to reconnect with their culture as well.

To quote Julia:

“I have often felt disconnected from my own heritage in my line of work. This project has connected my passion to my past in ways that I didn’t expect and has found a way to intentionally embed Filipino Art into the wind band world.”

This will go down as one of my favorite premieres. Seeing all the people who felt connected, hearing there stories, and helping bring the music of the Philippines to the wind band world are all things that have filled my heart to the brim. Salamat!

Epilogue and Credits

Post concert, Julia and I talked, and we’re going to do an orchestra setting and a chamber orchestra setting of this piece. I want this music to be available as much as possible to whoever wants to play it. I promise I will post more when I start writing it this summer.

There are so many people I want to thank (in no particular order):

  • Adam Klein – Thank you for being an awesome co-host and recording engineer. It was great getting to nerd out with you over audio production.
  • Dr. Todd Nichols – Your attention to detail while you produced the recording session was amazing. Thank you for everything you did for me during my trip to Rutgers. I had a fantastic time!
  • John Hylkema – Thanks for lending your ears to the recording session! Was a ton of fun to work with you on it. It was fun nerding out with you over your lightsaber collection. Congrats on being close to finishing you DMA and I can’t wait to see what you do next!
  • Sarah Stine – From the moment Julia sent me the first video of you singing the Tagalog lyrics, I knew you were the perfect choice for the solo. Your artistry and talent are incredible and I couldn’t have asked for a better human to sing the solo. I look forward to following your career closely and hope we can collaborate again soon!
  • The Rutgers Association of Philippine Students – Thank you all so much for coming out to the concert! It was great getting to meet you all and talk with you about the piece.
  • The Rutgers Symphony Band – You are all incredible musicians. Getting to work with you these last couple days was a true joy. Thank you for your artistry and embracing the piece and making the premiere your own.
  • Dr. Stephanie Tubiolo-Fistonich and The Voorhees Choir – Thank you so much for being a part of this concert. Your rendition of “Sa Ugoy Ng Duyan” was incredibly moving and gorgeous.
  • Arrianne – I’ve said this in a dozen other pieces, but you are my spark of inspiration. I’m sure one day we will get to go on our trip to the Philippines together. I love you so much!
  • Dr. Julia Baumanis – Friend! This project would not have been possible without your support and belief in me. You are an amazing conductor, educator, and human being. I loved getting to hang out with you this week and go on this journey together. I can’t wait to see what we do next!

Couple of quick plugs:

https://giamusic.com/resource/go-on-tell-your-story-book-11014 Go Buy Julia’s book! It’s incredibly powerful. Her and Dr. Webb did a phenomenal job writing it together.

https://girlswhoconduct.org/ – Go support them! They are doing awesome work to help get more women, women-identifying, and non-binary conductors onto the podium!

https://cottonbureau.com/p/SXKW83/shirt/under-the-night-sky-in-the-philippines#/18082439/tee-men-standard-tee-vintage-black-tri-blend-s – This is the tshirt we wore to the premiere! You can pick it up here!

Photos From The Trip