by Mike Telin
“Joshua Rosner has been very gracious and programmed a piece or two of mine on Syndicate concerts,” composer Jonathan Sokol said during a recent telephone conversation. “So I was extremely grateful when he told me that he wanted to present a concert that featured my music.”
On Monday, June 20 at 7:00 pm at Historic St. John’s in Ohio City, the Syndicate for The New Arts will present Sokol’s For the Harp (2011), Gradient : Linear (2010), (…also) (2011), and Resident Songs (2013). Performers will include harpist Caitlin Mehrtens, violinist Henry Jenkins, violist Faith Roberts, mezzo-soprano Katy Early, and pianist Jonathan Sokol, who will discuss each work and take questions from the audience.
Sokol, who recently completed his third season as composer-in-residence with the Boulder Symphony Orchestra, said that he especially looks forward to hearing two of his works on Monday. “Even though they were both written in 2011, this will mark the world premieres of (…also) and For the Harp. It’s going to be a lot of fun to hear them live for the first time.”
As an educator, Sokol currently serves on the faculties at Baldwin Wallace and Cleveland State Universities. Previously he has held positions at the Brevard Music Center, Oberlin Conservatory, and Defiance College.
Sokol said that inspiration for his solo harp work came while he was attending his cousin’s high school Christmas concert in Perrysburg, Ohio. “During set breaks there was a harpist playing, and I started wondering — if I could do something with a harp what would it be? Now I have this scordatura de-tuned harp solo piece as a result.”
A Cleveland area native — born in Garfield Heights and raised in Maple Heights and North Olmstead — Sokol said that Resident Songs, a work he composed at the Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, New York, is a piece that is very close to him. “It was a collaboration between myself and another resident artist, poet Davy Knittle. He had never had his words set to music, and I was excited when he said he was all in favor of the collaboration. When I returned to my room later that day he had already slipped some of his poetry under the door, so I got to work right away. At the time I was writing another piece that wasn’t engaging for me, but when we started working on this one, all of a sudden I was back in the swing of things.”
Now residing in Cleveland, the father of three, including a four-month old, noted that the his work for solo piano, Gradient : Linear, is part of a series of pieces based on different types of gradients. “There’s Gradient : Contour for saxophone quartet, Gradient : Radial for violin, cello, and piano, and Gradient : Dissolve for string quartet, but this one is the most straightforward. It begins at the low end of the piano, and over the course of however long the performer can last, it slowly creeps all the way to the top of the instrument with rolls and trills. It’s fun to hear all the different kinds of sound sets that are produced, especially in the low register. It’s always full of illusory effects as well as extreme resonance and vibration.”
Published on ClevelandClassical.com June 18, 2016.
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