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November 26, 2004 - Image 85

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-11-26

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DSO Plays Lebenbom

Local composer's work also to be included in documentary film.

Special to the Jewish News


Lebenbom, whose personal strug-
gle to gain attention as a composer
was part of a larger women's career
struggle in an unwelcoming field,
began writing music as a youngster.
When she earned her bachelor's
degree in music composition from
the University of Michigan in 1951,
she was the only woman among 25
men, including the faculty. She
earned her master's degree in music
composition in 1982 as part of a
group of five women among 25

laine Lebenbom struggled to
get her musical compositions
performed, and her talents
and efforts are not being forgotten.
One piece, Reflections on a Rainbow,
is being played this weekend by the
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and
her life story soon will be told in a
documentary commissioned by her
husband, attorney David Lebenbom
of Bloomfield Hills.
The composer, who died in 2002
after studying and working in the
Detroit area, is represented
through the first selection in a
program that includes
Mozart's Piano Concerto
No. 20 and
Symphony No. 1
Dreams"). Hans
Graf will conduct,
and Ivan Moravec
will be at the
The DSO had
Lebenbom to corn-
pose a piece for these
concerts, but she died
before its completion. In
its stead, Rainbow will be
"In setting out to compose this
piece, I thought about a double rain-
bow I had seen up in northern
Michigan," Lebenbom said when the
Warren Symphony premiered the
work in 1989.
An early photo of David and
"After this, I thought about the
Elaine Lebonbom that will be part of the
broad and varied palette of sound
documentary being filmed on the late
colors inherent in a full symphony
composer's life.
orchestra and how they could best
be used to project a sound image of
a rainbow. One color is bright and
hot. Another is cool, almost serene.
Besides writing another piece,
Another is a bridge between the
Kaleidoscope Turning, for the Detroit
extremes, blending a little into each
Symphony, which the DSO per-
of them.
formed in 1997, she completed an
"What emerged from these ideas
opera, The Witch, the Wise Man and
was a work in five movements that
the Fool, and a work, A Garland of
explored many of the possibilities of
Madrigals, for the New York
orchestral color, instrumental combi- Virtuoso Singers. She also had her
nations and special effects within a
music performed at Ohio's Festival
kind of arch-like structure."
of Modern Music, South Carolina's


Piccolo Spoleto Festival, Wayne State
University and Interlochen Arts
Lebenbom brought her Jewish
background into a piece commis-
sioned by a Lubavitcher-Chabad
group and a class in Jewish music
history she taught for the Midrasha
College of Jewish Studies.
As Lebenbom's four children were
growing up, she gave private piano
instruction. One of her former stu-
dents, David Mayer, also a composer
as well as a documentary filmmaker,
suggested a cinema project to the
Lebenbom family.
"The film is about Elaine's life
and work, and we interviewed
people important to her
composing," Mayer says.
"Les Basset, for exam-
ple, was a professor
instrumental in get-
ting her accepted as
a university stu-
dent. Harold
Rosenbaum chose
her compositions
to be performed
by the New York
Virtuoso Singers."
Mayer remembers
how his former
teacher loved many dif-
ferent kinds of music, all
influencing her style. He
hopes the family legacy film
eventually will be shown at music
schools and on public television.
"My primary interest is in creating
a film that will let her grandchildren
and those coming after know
Elaine's genius," David Lebenbom
says. "A secondary aim is to help
break down discrimination barri-
ers experienced by other women

The Detroit Symphony
Orchestra performs Elaine
Lebonbom's Reflections on a
Rainbow 8 p.m. Friday, 8:30
p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 26-28, at the Max
M. Fisher Music Center. $16-
$114. (313) 576-5111.

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