The I.S.S. in Saskatoon…

…well sort of! Last week, the University of Saskatchewan Wind Orchestra, conducted by Darrin Oehlerking, gave the world premiere of a new work, titled I.S.S. Flyover. The piece came about following my visit as a clinician to the University last year (and also a few drinks with Darrin at the Midwest Clinic last December! Mineral water, of course!), and commissioned by a consortium of Canadian bands and conductors, headed up by the UofS and Darrin.

I had a great week at UofS, working with conducting students, composers, giving a lecture on creativity (which in itself ended up being a bit creative – lost my way in the notes half way through, and then students started asking questions….shouldn’t they have been on a playstation or something?!) as well as working with the band on rehearsals and recordings. They also premiered a little piece of mine for wind orchestra called Autumn Falling – two world premieres in one concert makes me a very lucky composer!

I don’t know what you can ask for from a group when they give the first performance of the piece, the glass half empty side of me asks that they don’t mess it up (a good piece played badly on its first performance becomes known as a bad piece pretty quickly!), but the more positive side of me would ask for commitment, energy, dedication (and to not mess it up!) – and that is exactly what I got with Darrin and UofS. Such a brilliant time – any composer would be fortunate to have a performance such as this.

About the piece….

I.S.S Flyover was written in August 2012, when the International Space Station (I.S.S.) was visible in the sky over my home town of Manchester, UK. This is not an uncommon occurrence (www.heavens-above.com is a useful tool to help you find when the orbit of the I.S.S. passes over), but what was unique about this particular pass was that there would be astronauts carrying out repair work on the outside of the station.

The idea that something that seemed to pass so quick in the skies above us juxtaposed with what must have seemed a slow, dangerous journey for the astronaut is what lead me to write this piece.

The opening passage is a fast, ostinato driven section; the speed and energy that the I.S.S is perceived from earth. The middle section is desolate and sparse; the astronauts looking down on earth as they slowly orbit around the globe, the loneliness of space. The final section is a return to the original material – this time with even more momentum and drive, provided by the percussion.

I.S.S. Flyover was commissioned by a Canadian consortium of: the University of Saskatchewan, Brandon University, the University of Calgary, Harmonie Laval, Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of Prince Edward Island, the University of Toronto and Anthony Reimer, Calgary, Alberta. The work is dedicated to Darrin Oehlerking who organised the commission consortium.

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