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May 30, 2013 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-05-30

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arts & entertainment

Composer

Judd Greenstein

I

A Two-Decade
Tradition

Celebrating its 20th anniversary,
Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival
debuts Judd Greenstein composition
in memory of Bill Carroll.

I

Suzanne Chessler
Contributing Writer

W

hile the Great Lakes Chamber
Music Festival, a series of
secular concerts of classical
and serious contemporary music planned
by Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings and
three local religious institu-
tions (Temple Beth El, St.
Hugo of the Hills Catholic
Church and Kirk in the Hills
Presbyterian Church), cel-
ebrates its 20th year of per-
formances, composer Judd
Greenstein will celebrate
the life of Bill Carroll, his
late uncle, through a piece
premiering at the annual
concert series.
A Serious Man will be
played by the Claremont
Trio at the Seligman
Bill Carroll
Performing Arts Center
on closing night of the
two-week event, which runs June 8-23 at
Metro Detroit venues. Among this year's
Jewish performers will be Jonathan Biss,
piano; Paul Biss, violin/viola; Miriam
Fried, violin; Paul Katz, cello; and vocal-
ists Daniel Gross (hazzan at Adat Shalom
Synagogue), Lauren Skuce and Rachel
Gottlieb Kalmowitz (cantorial soloist at
Temple Beth El).
Greenstein is one of five composers
commissioned to prepare a new work as
chosen by one of the five former Shouse
Institute ensembles returning to the festi-
val; each year the institute brings emerg-
ing groups to Detroit for performances
and coaching.
"I thought the title of the piece would
reflect how my uncle was as the center-
piece of his family:' explains Greenstein,
33, in a phone conversation from his New
York home. "The title also is meant as a
joke because my uncle was a joking, funny
guy.
"While not a serious man himself, he
took life seriously enough to help lead his

family in a really strong way and help lead
his community in a really strong way as
well.
"I've had this commission since last
year, and I hadn't gotten into it enough
that I couldn't start over after I went to
my uncle's funeral in January, when I was
moved and inspired to write the piece:"
Carroll, public relations
manager for Ford Motor
Co. between 1962 and
1998, became a freelance
writer for the Detroit
Jewish News and other
publications. He also
became goodwill ambas-
sador for Congregation
Shaarey Zedek, focusing
on news and media.
"My uncle, my late
mom's brother-in-law, was
a really great man who
touched so many people's
lives and did so many
things:' Greenstein says.
"I'm not trying to tell the story of his
life or some point about his character. The
piece is fired more by my emotional rela-
tionship to him and what he meant to me
and other people in my family.
"He and his wife, Natalie, have been
extremely close to me since I was a little
kid. They went out of their way to be pres-
ent at as many of the major events in my
life as possible, such as graduations and
performances:'
Greenstein, whose first high school
composition was written on a piano still
in the Carroll home, grew up in New York
and started writing short piano pieces
when he was 9 years old and taking instru-
mental lessons.
"When I was 11, I started getting into
hip-hop music and making that music
with friends:' he recalls. "I think I became
just about the only kid listening pretty
much to rap and classical. I went back to
writing pieces at the piano when I was 14.
"In high school, I started playing more
advanced repertoire and studying compo-

sitions by famous composers. My piano
teacher asked me if I wanted to be a com-
poser. After I said 'yes: she said I would
have to work a lot harder!"
Greenstein, playing lots of chamber
music, studied composition at different
music schools and in programs in New
York before getting his bachelor's degree
from Williams College in Massachusetts.
While earning his master's degree at
the Yale School of Music, he started the
still-active NOW Ensemble, meant to be a
bridge between performers and compos-
ers.
"I went to Princeton for my doctorate
and realized I wanted to be a composer
whose job wasn't over until the music
was actually heard by audiences through
performances, recordings and broadcasts
presented to as many people as possible
Greenstein says.
"I started New Amsterdam Records with
two other composers, and that's gone on to
be a big part of my life. It's been very suc-
cessful in bringing new music to the world
and reaching new listeners:'
Greenstein's work, structurally com-
plex and for varied instrumentation, has
been heard at many venues, such as the
Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary
Music, Amsterdam's Musiekgebouw and
the Bang on a Can Marathon. Recent com-
missions have come from Carnegie Hall,
the Minnesota Orchestra and the Alabama
Symphony, where he has been composer-
in-residence.
Religious interests emerge with the
Yehudim, a group that tells Hebrew Bible
stories using funk instrumentation with
voices.
"I consider myself a religious per-
son, and I read the Bible and books
about Judaism:' says Greenstein, whose
work has been performed by the Israel
Contemporary String Quartet at the Tel
Aviv Art Museum.
"I was a recipient of a Six Points
Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists so
I got to work on music for my ensemble
and write a lot of music about King

Solomon."
Greenstein, who likes to compose at a
computer on the piano, seldom appears in
solo performances. Currently, he is put-
ting together a cycle of new violin and
keyboard music that he will tour with his
girlfriend, Michi Wiancko, a violinist and
composer.
Wiancko and his family will travel to
Michigan to hear the piece debuting in
Michigan.
"Seeing how my uncle was a leader
— not by force or by being insistent but
by calmly and carefully finding what he
thought was the right thing to do and
then talking to people about why he felt
that way — was very influential on me
Greenstein says.
"He took being a husband, father and
uncle seriously, but he didn't take himself
too seriously. I would like to think I have
that spirit in me and always will.
"The piece is not funny by any means.
It's reflective with an optimistic tone. I
felt inspired in a positive way when I was
thinking about his life and what he meant
to everyone, and I think that's reflected
in the piece. I hope people who knew my
uncle will be moved by it:'



The Great Lakes Chamber Music
Festival runs June 8-23 at venues
throughout the Detroit area. Both
subscription ($90 for three concerts,
$135 for five concerts, $170 for
seven concerts) and individual
($10-$45) tickets are available. For
a complete schedule and tickets,
call (248) 559-2097 or go to www.
greatlakeschambermusic.org .
Judd Greenstein's A Serious Man
will be performed in a concert at
8 p.m. Saturday, June 23, at the
Seligman Performing Arts Center,
22305 W.13 Mile, Beverly Hills.
There will be a prelude at 7:15 p.m.
Among the other composers repre-
sented will be Leclair, Brahms and
Gershwin.

May 30 • 2013

51

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