Issue: July - September 2009
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by M. Max McKee  Bio


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Foreign Connections

In 1977 I went on sabbitical leave, taking a 6-week tour of Europe to commission new works for band. During my masters program years at Washington State University I had discovered a wonderful unaccompanied clarinet composition entitled "Suite for Solo Clarinet." It has been written by Würzburg (Germany) Conservatory President, Bertold Hummel. I thought his writing style could create a special new voice for the band.

About a year prior to the sabbatical, one of my saxophone students at Southern Oregon University played a saxophone solo (Brilliance) by French composer, Ida Gotkovsky. Here was another composer who might be willing to compose for the modern symphonic band.


As it turned out, I received a letter from each of them just 24 hours before our departure for Europe that spring. In Paris, about two weeks later, we met with Ida Gotkovsky and her husband, Marc Guillou. With little money available to us in those days (with naivete prevailing), I offered her $500 to write a piece for concert band. She agreed!


Two weeks later we arrived in Germany and went to the home of composer, Bertold Hummel. As I prepared to ask him about the commission, I recalled the rather shocked expression that Ida had made when I offered $500. So, I said to Professor Hummel, "How much do receive for commission works?" He responded that he did most of his work for West German Radio and that he received $1000 per minute of work. I was dumbfounded but somehow sensed his special sense of humor, so I said, "Would you consider writing a 30-second piece for us?"

He indeed thought that was hilarious and ask why. I told him that I had been authorized to offer $500 each to two composers for commission works. Bertold responded, "Don't worry; I can write you something for that."

Late in the summer of 1977, two packages arrived. One from Ida Gotkovsky contained the full score for her "Poeme du Feu." It's a magnificent work that has found its place in advanced literature. In it, she quoted "Brilliance" because she knew I liked that saxphone piece and came up with a two-movement work of striking character.

About the same time, a very long package about 3 inches think arrived from Germany. The promised 30-second composition was a 4-movement work over 20 minutes in length entitled "Oregon Sinfonie"!

The following February the SOU Symponic Wind Ensemble was selected to perform at the Northwest CBDNA conference. Not only were the Hummel and Gotkovsky pieces premiered, both (with their spouses) traveled at their own expense to be with us for nearly two weeks of final rehearsals, the band tour, the CBDNA appearance and numerous side trips with Nell and me.

That fantastic moment in history set the tone for many future contacts including links to subsequent appearances by Philippe Langlet (France), Geoffrey Brand (England), Georgy Salnikov (Russia), Claude Pichaureau (France), Johan de Meij (Holland), Kanat Akhmetov (Kazakstan), Pierre Kuijpers (Holland), Jan Van der Roost (Belgium), Jacob de Haan (Holland), Toshio Akiyama (Japan), Yeh Shu-Han (Taiwan), Jan Molenaar (Holland), Henri Adams (Spain) and many others in the years that followed.

With that came numerous life-long friendships and the ongoing composition of important band compositions by the foreign composers, Gotkovsky, Hummel, de Meij and Jan Van der Roost. [Commissions list]

Next time: The Start of it all.



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