ORU music composition student Kevin Day is one of his online followers. He drove from Tulsa to see his favorite composer.
“When I heard he was coming so close, I knew I had to try and meet him,” Day said. “The chaos and the way he puts clashing notes together ... It’s not typical, but it’s really cool.”
He’s direct with his fans and his music, with score direction notes like “I want the bass drum player to crescendo until the mallet snaps.”
The effect is visceral and dramatic, almost reminiscent of a film score.
The concert began with Gould’s familiar “American Salute,” followed by Haydn’s “Sinfonia Concertante.”
Then things took off with Mackey’s trombone concerto “Harvest.”
The trombone comes to life as the Greek god Dionysus, the god of fertility and wine, dancing atop eerie woodwinds and droning drums and mixed meter, rising to a thundering march of rolling cacophony. The Dionysian trombone finally succumbs to the harvest.
Winter falls in the second movement, with swells of bittersweet harmony.
The third and final movement is ushered in by piano, harp vibes and playful woodwinds, returning warmth to the allegorical world. The trombone sings triumphantly, revisiting themes from the first movement just like the cyclical seasons.
Mackey’s two other featured pieces, “Redline Tango” and “Antiphonal Dances” utilize similar rhythmic devices and enigmatic harmony.
“Antiphonal Dances” was slated to premier on Sept. 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.
The concert was called off in wake of the emerging tragedy, but premiered just days later, in what Mackey called a cathartic performance. Sunday’s performance featured dancers from Contemporary Dance Oklahoma, choreographed by Derrick Minter, and marked the first time the piece had been performed with dancers since its premier.
“It’s very challenging music,” Norman Philharmonic director Richard Zielinski said. “I’ve been studying Mackey’s music for about a year now. He’s never been to a concert where they’ve done three of his pieces. He said to me ‘You could’ve picked some easier pieces,’ and I said well we have wonderful players here and I think the audience would really appreciate it and I thought it was a good contrast to some of the Haydn we did and the Barber (piece). The players did a fabulous job and the dancers were wonderful. It was a great afternoon.”