Of Echoes and Dreams Overture (In Memory of Larry Hill) for Chamber Orchestra

2018 | Commissioned by Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston | 7 minutes
flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and strings

Contact for score and parts.

Program Note

I first met Larry Hill, the founder of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, back in 1985 when I sang with Larry’s Back Bay Chorale. Back then I was a former English major only recently turned composition student at the New England Conservatory. I was just starting to read music and very much at the beginning of my formal music education. Also back then, in my youthful observations of Boston’s musical world, there were two musical saints (modern day pied pipers) that I knew about: Craig Smith at Emmanuel Music and Larry Hill (connected with several musical groups about town). While two very different kinds of musicians, in both cases their music making, at its heart, was about community in the most fundamental sense. As a young and aspiring musician, this struck me as an elemental part of understanding what it meant to be a musician, something at least as important as any of the craft I was learning at the Conservatory.

In more specific terms, there were two experiences I had working with Larry Hill that changed my life. The first is an obvious one: I sang Mozart’s Requiem and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms with Larry and the Back Bay Choral. Both of these pieces had a profound influence on me as a composer. I didn’t write a choral work myself until 2003 when I wrote The Voice of Isaac, an oratorio retelling the story of Abraham and Isaac commissioned by the children’s choir PALS (now Voices). I am certain though that echoes of both Mozart and Stravinsky swirled around me as I wrote that work.

The second experience is, I think, a characteristically Larry Hill experience. At halftime during chorus rehearsals for the first couple months, Larry would take time from rehearsing for a collection of choristers to individually introduce themselves to the group by name, and then he would ask them questions about who they were. Along with leading us all together in the pursuit of communal meditation through music-making, Larry was also careful to help us see ourselves as a community of individuals with names and stories. When he got to me, several weeks in, I was slightly terrified when he asked me what I did. For the first time ever in public I said that I was a composer. Larry followed up with, “what kind of composer?” Having been at the Conservatory long enough I know that living classical composers were not as a group very well regarded (this was at the tail end of an era when composers and performers and composers and listeners seemed to have an uncomfortable relationship at best), I responded, “a nice composer.” Everyone laughed and I was relieved to get back to rehearsing the Stravinsky—although somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking now that I declaimed to the world that I was a composer, somewhere down the road I’d have to actually live up to my bluff.

Both that “here I am” moment, and echoes of the Stravinsky were very much in my mind when I wrote my Isaac oratorio almost 20 years later. Of Echoes and Dreams Overture is the middle movement of an orchestral suite I am writing based on the music from Isaac, and I am honored and thrilled to have its premiere presented by Kevin Rhodes and the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra (which I worked with for the first time last spring). The work is dedicated to the memory of Larry Hill and was written expressly for the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra that Larry’s compassionate and generous spirit continues to inspire today.

— Howard Frazin (2018)

Past Performances

Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston (Premiere)

First Baptist Church
Newton, MA
May 12, 2018

Kevin Rhodes, conductor