I first heard of John Harbison's orchestral work, Remembering Gatsby, as a kid growing up in Columbus, Georgia. My parents were both members of my home-town orchestra, The Columbus Symphony - my mom on piano and my dad on viola. (Fun fact: this orchestra was the second orchestra formed in the United States!). I would go to their concerts and always sit way up high in the balcony. One concert in particular is etched in my mind. I remember thinking the first piece on the program was super fun and made me want to get up and boogie. A few weeks later we acquired a cassette tape recording of the concert and I would secretly listen to it every single night under the covers on my Walkman while I was supposed to be asleep! I later learned that first piece was Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra) by John Harbison.
A few years ago Emmanuel Music produced a concert version of Harbison’s opera, The Great Gatsby and both Rane and I were fortunate to play in that production. When we started the overture in our first rehearsal I thought to myself, “Whoa, this sounds really familiar!” The overture uses the same toe-tapping themes as that piece I loved as a child and memories of listening to Remembering Gatsby came flooding back. This past summer as Rane and I were thinking about programs for Winsor's 21st season I recalled the wonderful saxophone and violin solos in Gatsby, still fresh in my mind. My eleven-year-old self would never have imagined that someday I would know John Harbison well enough to ask if I could make an arrangement of Gatsby, and that he would say yes!
It's a luxury arranging a piece in which you'll also perform. In this particular case, that luxury meant indulging myself in a chance to play the flexatone, a cartoony-sounding percussion instrument which makes two appearances in Remembering Gatsby - I couldn’t resist (click here to listen)! Arranging this piece also gave me the chance to highlight the many talents of my fellow musicians. For example, Rane Moore: she is not only a gorgeous clarinetist, but a fantastic saxophone player as well!
I’m so looking forward to playing his piece, and I hope you will join us on October 15th for a whole program of incredible music.
Check out the orchestra version of Remembering Gatsby played expertly by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra here: