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Tree City Chamber Players Presents Concert Celebrating Idaho
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Thursday, June 2, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Montana has its “Wild Montana Skies” and “Meet Me in Montana.” Colorado, “Rocky Mountain High” and “A Mile High in Colorado.”

There, quite frankly, aren’t a lot of songs written with Idaho in mind.

The Boise-based Tree City Chamber Players changed that when they commissioned three Idaho composers to write compositions inspired by Idaho for flute, oboe, piano and cello. And they will perform the world premieres of those songs in a concert called “Celebrating Idaho!” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at The Argyros in Ketchum.

Joining them will be guest cellist Stephen Mathie, an Idaho native and veteran member of the Boise Philharmonic, as well as the Boise Baroque Orchestra, Opera Idaho Orchestra and Boise Cello Collective. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for young adults 25 and under, available at https://theargyros.org.

The one-of-a-kind experience will feature compositions by Jim Cockey, Dave Alan Earnest and Eric Scott Alexander, who will share insights about their pieces on stage. Works by Wayne Barlow, Daniel Dorff and Ruby Fulton will also be performed.

Jim Cockey grew up hearing stories from his modern dance mother of sitting on Aaron Copland’s knees in Martha Graham dance classes. But his earliest memories, he said, are of waking up in a cabin on the Big Wood River, watching his mother flip pancakes below the loft where he and his brother slept and thinking, “It’s cold!”

“It was 1950 and it was cold,” he said. “My mom used to take my brother and I to the Alpine Restaurant and set us on the heaters there to thaw us out.  Idaho is in my blood and has always held me emotionally captive.”

Cockey selected three iconic places of Idaho and dedicated each to a friend who in his mind is inextricably linked to that place for his piece titled “Three Places in Southern Idaho.”

The first was Craters of the Moon where his friend--conservationist Mike Medberry--had suffered  stroke, chronicling it in his book “On the Dark Side of the Moon.” The second was the Snake River where he and Peter Bowler had spent joyous days fishing, swimming and tubing. A 1,400-foot Yosemite-like granite face in the mountains near McCall inspired the third part.

“The idea of climbing it was beyond my childhood dreams and yet, many years later, my friend Harry Bowron and I climbed this face in what is now considered a first ascent.  When I stood on the top of this dream beyond dreams, waves of energy pulsed through me, originating in my feet and traveling all the way up my body.  It is that energy and thrill that I try to capture in the third and final movement of this piece,” he said.

“I love the landscapes of Idaho and I love the friends who have accompanied me though those landscapes.  This piece is a tribute to Idaho and to the people who love and care for its beauty.”   

Dave Alan Earnest, a Boise composer who wrote compositions celebrating Lewis and Clark’s passage through Idaho and the Nez Perce for the Caritas Chorale, wrote “Campfire Stories.”

He says the first movement, which he titled “A Fish Tale,” describes in sound the catching of “a very fine fish, about this big.”

“The second movement, ‘A Night in the Forest,’ reminds me of camping in the mountains, with all the night sounds of nature uninterrupted by humans. The third movement ‘Jackalopes!’ brings back memories of seeing the goofy stuffed rabbits with antlers in various restaurants and truck stops through the West. In my piece, these mythical beings even visit a cool jazz club!” he said.

Eric Scott Alexander, who teaches Music Composition and Theory for Boise State University’s Department of Music, titled his piece “Sawtooth Sketches.” It addresses wildfire, which has become so  commonplace in the West.

The composition is in five movements: “Majestic Mountains and Winding Rivers” and “Thompson Peak in Winter Sun” represent a Sawtooth Mountain forest before fire. “Fire!” represents the fire, and the final two movements, “A New Forest” and “Restoration and Sawtooth Sunset” hearken to the regrowth of new landscape afterwards.

“I moved to Idaho from Colorado in August of 2017 and, since we've lived here, we have taken many trips into the mountains, including the Sawtooths. As we all know, every late summer and early fall there are fires all over the Northwest, and it made me think about how impactful fires are on all inhabitants of the affected areas--human, animal and plants,” said Alexander.

“Of course, fire is also a natural part of the ecosystem, and fire doesn't necessarily mean the end of what was, but also a new beginning,” he added. “I hope listeners appreciate the beauty, the drama, the destruction, the growth, and everything in between that ‘Sawtooth Sketches’ offers.”

The Tree City Chamber Players, now in their fourth season,  has more than 50 years of combined chamber music experience.

Melanie Keller is principal flutist with the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Napa Valley and Opera Idaho and performs regularly with the Boise Philharmonic. She also has spent recent summers performing at the Sun Valley Music Festival.

Ryan Klein, who plays English horn and oboe with the Opera Idaho Orchestra, the OSU-Corvallis Symphony and the McCall SummerFest Orchestra. Pianist Chad Spears, a Boise native, is an adjunct instructor for Boise State University’s Department of Music and collaborates with Alley Repertory Theater and the Boise Philharmonic.

The program “Celebrating Idaho!” was made possible by a grant from the Boise City Department of Arts and History in 2019. The trio originally planned to perform the program in May 2020 but had to postpone it for more than two years, thanks to the pandemic.

“Our commissioned composers--Eric Alexander, Jim Cockey and Dave Earnest--actually completed their works by February of 2020--right before the entire world put a hold on almost all live performing arts presentations,” said Klein. 

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