Every musician is particularly fond of their own ensemble, and I am not immune to that tendency. So if you’ll humor me, I’d like to show off a piece we played this season that I was particularly drawn to.
Jason Krug’s “Compassion” is a stunning original work for bells. The piece is as complex both musically and technically. There are layers upon layers of melody and counter melody and harmony that allow the ringers to stretch themselves musically. Our director Barb loves to challenge us to play with emotion, and this piece allowed us to push our abilities. Technically this piece is complicated as well. Many of the passages are written in hemiola, where one section of the table is playing in 2 while the other is in 3. However, for as tricky as the rhythm was, trying to play the exposed lines musically was the most difficult part. Here then is our interpretation of “Compassion”
If you’ve played the piece before you’ll noticed that we tweaked some of Jason’s written techniques. One of my favorite parts of learning a new piece is putting a musical interpretation on it. Because of the drama of this piece, the choreography of the swings and chords and runs was integral in conveying the message of the piece. We tried some of the random swings that were written into the piece, but in the end we felt like one big, unison motion was required to really punch the audience with that big chord in the middle. The frozen motion at the end was to add a sense of longing, as if to say “if we don’t move, the piece can’t end”. Plus, the sudden dynamic change at 3:37 was totally just to mess with the audience and get them to sit up in their seat. My goal as a musician is to connect with the audience on an emotional level, and sometimes that requires straying from the printed page. Jason’s music is like yoga, giving handbell musicians a chance to stretch their musical abilities.
If you can’t tell by now, I really love all of Jason’s music. At Pinnacle last month I got to hear a few new works of his, and they were all fabulous. Next time you’re buying music, be sure to check his out.