ClarinetFest® 2016, Day 5: ClariZona Clarinet Choir

Report by Lisa Kachouee

The ClariZona Clarinet Choir, under the direction of Arizona State University faculty Robert Spring and Joshua Gardner, presented a recital at 11:30 a.m. in Crafton-Peyer Theatre, Sunday, August 7. Signifying a devotion to the proliferation of clarinet choir repertoire, ClariZona’s recital included two world premieres.

The opening work of the program was written by ASU alumnus Grant Jahn in 2014. Pulse for Clarinet Choir ignited the ensemble’s performance with rhythmic energy and frequently changing meters. Guest conductor Mark Alpizar expertly led the ensemble through the fiery opener before rejoining the ensemble as a performer for the remainder of the program. Soloist Shengwen Wu was featured in Sholem-alekhem, rov Fiedman! arranged by Guido Six. Wu demonstrated her ability to perform klezmer with authentic dreydlekh – ornamental inflections added to the traditional melodic material. Wu used trills, mordents, pitch bends, moans (Krechts), and growls to convey the emotional musical content.

Variations on the Wayfaring Stranger was written by James Cohn shortly after the death of two of his close friends who were refugees from Nazi Germany after World War II. Cohn, “I decided to write this work in both of their memories, by setting to music a set of variations on a Christian song that was sung at the conclusion of camp meetings in the American South.” The text is as follows:

I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
That’s traveled through this world of woe,
And there’s no grief, sickness or danger
In that bright world to which I go.
I’m going back to see my mother,
I’m going back no more to roam,
I’ll just be passing over Jordan,
I’ll just be going on to home.

ClariZona dedicated their world premiere performance of Variations on the Wayfaring Stranger to Guido Six. Lost to the clarinet community in late 2015, Guido Six was a celebrated performer, educator, and arranger who assisted with the formation of ClariZona.  

Recombobulation, composed by Theresa Martin, was commissioned by ClariZona in 2016 and is also dedicated to the memory of Guido Six. Per Martin, “Recombobulation is the act of putting oneself back together, whether it is following a long trip, a serious loss, or a staggering defeat. How does one go about recombobulating, you ask? Some of my suggested coping strategies are meditation, physical activity, and laughter. These are the inspirations behind the music.” Balancing intimate, solo moments with powerful tutti passages, the ensemble proved their thoughtfulness and strength.

Lifting the mood, the ensemble closed with “Ringside Galop” from James Cohn’s The Little Circus (also arranged by Guido Six). This short romp reinforced the technical skill and rapid articulation ability of the entire ensemble. Thirty undergraduate and graduate performers joined for the powerful recital showcasing the depth and quality of the clarinet studio at ASU.

Dr. Lisa Kachouee
 is on faculty at Oklahoma City University, teaches with El Sistema Oklahoma, and is a member of the clarinet and percussion ensemble Duo Rodinia. In addition to recent solo and duo concert tours, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2014 and has performed with orchestras throughout the United States.

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