World premiere performance of composer Norman Mathews’ Flights of the Heart to be presented at Shorter University’s New Music Concert
September 2, 2011 - The music of Norman Mathews will be showcased during Shorter University’s New Music Concert. The concert, which is free and open to the public, will be held Monday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. inside Brookes Chapel.
The world premiere performance of Mathews’ “Flights of the Heart,” will take place during this concert and will be performed by faculty members of Shorter University’s School of Fine and Performing Arts.
According to poet Patty Seyburn, the lyrics for “Flights of the Heart” were inspired by her encounter with the music and life of Cecile Chaminade, a French composer at the turn of the century. Chaminade was well known in Europe and the United States, a good friend of Saint-Saëns, celebrated by the Queen of England, and championed in the United States by hundreds of “Chaminade Clubs” that formed to listen to and discuss her music.
Mathews explains that the music for “Flights of the Heart” is derived from the seventh mode of the A melodic minor scale, sometimes referred to as the superlocrian or diminished whole-tone scale. “This is made immediately evident in the opening figure, which uses each of these notes, though not in order,” Mathews said. “The figure is then used as a motif throughout the work.”
When Mathews first received Seyburn’s text, he opted to not set it in traditional song-cycle format by using each letter as a separate song. “Rather, it seemed the text required that it be one long, continuous work, with elements recurring throughout,” said Mathews.
Mathews’ “Lost Empires” will also be featured during the concert. This piece will be performed by Shorter University students, faculty members and alumni.
“Lost Empires” is set in 1913 in England, the year before the outbreak of World War I and the beginning of the end of innocence,” according to Mathews. “In the cemetery of a Yorkshire village the handsome 20-year-old Richard Herncastle bids farewell to his recently deceased mother and is hired by his Uncle Nick, a magician, for a tour of Britain’s Empire Theatres. Sturdy but inexperienced, Richard, who wants to escape from his dreary job in a mill and become an artist, packs his sketchbook and takes a train to bustling, sooty Newcastle. Apprehensive, he walks onto the darkened stage of the Newcastle Empire Theatre. There he’s introduced to a cast of characters that will change his life and catapult him into manhood.”
The music for the play is of two varieties: music-hall-type numbers for the onstage sections, exemplified by the ragtime rhythms of the opening number, “All This Wonder”, the nationalistic march (Do You Hear?), and the early-century ballad (Before You); and more traditional musical-theatre styles for the songs that move the plot forward.
The concert will also include previously written art songs.
Mathews has written for symphony orchestra, chamber music ensembles, chorus, recitalists, musical theatre, jazz performers, and cabaret. His work has been performed by esteemed soloists, as well as major Broadway and cabaret stars in concert halls and theatres around the world. After a highly successful career as private teacher of piano and theory, and a performing career as part of a classical piano duo with Sarah Renberg, with whom he appeared in concert halls throughout the United States, he began composing in 1993.
Mathews has received numerous awards, grants, and commissions. He is published by Graphite Publishing and in “The Anthology of American Art Songs” for the Sacred Service (Classical Vocal Reprints of New York). Mathews is a member of ASCAP, the Harry Fox Agency, the American Music Center, American Composers Forum, the Boston New Music Initiative, and the Dramatists Guild, and is listed in “Who’s Who in America.”
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christian university committed to excellence in education. Since 2003, U.S. News & World Report has ranked Shorter among the South’s best baccalaureate colleges, and the Princeton Review annually includes Shorter on its lists of best value and best Southeastern colleges. The university offers traditional bachelor’s degrees in 48 major areas as well as undergraduate degree programs for working adults, the Master of Business Administration, the Master of Education and the Master of Arts in Leadership. General education and calculus courses are offered in an online format, and Shorter recently launched online programs that lead toward the Associate of Science, the Bachelor of Business Administration, and the Master of Accountancy degrees. For more information, visit www.shorter.edu.