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Reviews

American Icons

... touching and beautiful; for those fearful of new music, Friday's premier of "American Icons" must have come as a pleasant surprise... In his more contemplative moments, his music calls to mind such so-called holy minimalists as Arvo Part. In his more exuberant passages, his orchestrations have the spacious, broad-shouldered appeal of Aaron Copland's ballets.

Lockington led an exhilarating reading of the lively "Dante Alligator" as well as an uplifting, moving performance of "Wings of Hope," in honor of the bald eagle.

The Theater of Voices....gave an incredible performance of some very difficult music in "Tatonka," in memory of the buffalo. Thought the 4th movement, "Martha's Song," named for the last passenger pigeon, featured just 6 musicians, it was one of the most striking and shocking.

More that four minutes of standing ovation followed the performance, the loudest applause coming when the Grand Rapids Symphony's first composer-in-residence finally stepped onto the podium for a solo bow.

Shattenkirk has been working on this piece for years. It's been well worth the wait.

-- Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk, Grand Rapids Press, 5/15/2001

+++++++++++++++++

'Icons' is an evocation of loss

For many reasons, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra will miss the artistic direction of its conductor David Lockington when he leaves at the end of the season. Not the least of these is his capacity for redefining the concert experience. Friday night's program in Popejoy Hall once again demonstrated his gift in that area.

This time it was the premiere of "American Icons" by his friend from Yale days, Ray Shattenkirk. The work was the first half of a larger composition lamenting all the extinct or endangered American wildlife. Frankly, it sounded as if it were going to be another bit of advocacy, full of high intention and little art. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In "American Icons," the quixotic Shattenkirk has created a lyrical and moving evocation of loss. Like the poet John Donne with his "no man is an island, entire of itself," he hymns the death of the least, from butterflies to carrier pigeons.

Shattenkirk's passion was conveyed through a fine musical sensibility and sure craftsmanship.

Freely using the familiar sounds of the classical vocabulary, he skillfully deployed the resources of the NMSO chorus and a children's chorus as well as a large orchestra. He revealed a keen sound sense that ranged from the most delicate to big swells, satisfying but never gratuitous. The opening section, built from a fluttering sparseness perfect for sonar butterflies into a passionate climax, an explosion of sadness that could no longer be held in check.

With Lockington's heart fully into the music, the work received a dedicated performance from the MNSO orchestra and chorus and the Albuquerque Boy Choir. Soprano Marilyn Bernard brought a fluid warmth to "Martha's Song," a touching salute to the last carrier pigeon written with pointed sparseness for a single singer and five members of the orchestra.

-- Joanne Sheehy Hoover, the Albuquerque Journal

 

The Sky Darkens (including Melodia and Martha's Song)

...the five movements so far composed had an impressive world premiere at the hands of the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento and a remarkable operatic soprano named Kerri Walsh. The music of the first two movements (melodia , V . bachmanii pushed Walsh's beautiful voice to the limits of its range in leaps that were often sudden and extreme. The end (V. bachmanii) was a beautiful phrase like a farewell. . . . Martha's piece (E. migratorius), 12 minutes long, was the most affecting of all. A long lovely melody that symbolized, Shattenkirk said, Martha's possible last memories, was sung and played until Brenda Tom's eloquent piano and Walsh's soft voice made an end. The audience gave a warm response to the composer as well as the superb performers.

-- William Glackin, Sacramento Bee Final, 1/24/95

 

Myadestes myadestinus

Evanescent flurries and meditative surfaces mark Ray Shattenkirk's beguiling Myadestes myadestinus, a bittersweet meditation on an endangered Hawaiian bird.

-- Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times, 11/18/93