Simple Gifts is my first work that was rehearsed and performed in public. It is my debut work as a composer and a conductor, and I am forever indebted to Dr. Martha Placeres for giving me my first opportunity at composing music for real musicians.
It started in Summer of 2011, when I was asked to compose a piece for the B-SMART Orchestra in Brownsville, Texas. I wrote this, and the dissonances turned out to be much too difficult for elementary-level students. (I had never thought that younger musicians would have trouble playing minor seconds - but I was a percussionist that had mostly fixed pitches. Whoops...) Instead of B-SMART playing the piece, the director mentioned that I should send it to the orchestra director at school. I did, and I was asked if the string orchestra could perform it later that year on their October program. I accepted, and I was extremely excited to be asked to conduct the work for the premiere. I was still only in my first semester of conducting courses as an education major in my undergraduate, so I was thrilled and yet the most nervous I'd ever been until that point in my life. When walking out onto the stage to conduct, I made sure to give the musicians a big smile and the confidence in them to play this piece along with the confidence to trust me and not screw it up. Before I knew it, the piece was over and I had taken my bow before walking off the stage. How little did I know that I would soon become addicted to that feeling and would pursue endlessly.
Program Notes: It is a gift to simple, and it is a gift to be free. However, my arrangement of the famous Shaker Hymn opens up with a non-traditional chorale to signify the unfortunate times of complexity and limitation. The solo violin serves as a narrator telling the story of hard times and servitude. The piece evolves into a theme and variations on the traditional melody that takes the listener through the progression of complexity to simplicity, limited to free. The return of the beginning chorale returns with the solo violin telling the story yet again, but it serves a transformative nature. The piece concludes with the melody soaring to signal the power of freedom and living a simple life.
Simple Gifts was given its premiere in October 2011, and it is dedicated to Dr. Martha Placeres.