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Perennials for Flute, Clarinet in A, and Piano

In April 2010, I had the great pleasure of hearing legendary piccoloist Walfrid Kujala and the Northwestern University Wind Ensemble try out the new band version of FLASH! which Wally commissioned to premiere at NFA 2010. In the car ride from the airport, Sherry Kujala asked what I'm writing lately, and I answered "my fifth piece for flute and clarinet duo, and I wish someone would commission a trio for flute, clarinet, and piano."

A day after I returned home, Wally and Sherry asked if I'd accept a new commission for flute, clarinet, and piano, to celebrate the retirement of Helen Ann Shanley and Richard Shanley, the flute and clarinet professors at Baylor University, where Sherry had studied with Helen Ann.

While beginning work on the trio in July 2010, I was learning to garden for the first time and had decided to spend the summer enriching my new backyard with perennials that I could plant once and enjoy forever. I was very taken with this metaphor about building permanent structures and have always felt composing is about building repertoire that endures, rather than popping out annual crops. This attitude parallels just about everything else in life, building for the longterm, like the messages of The Three Little Pigs (which I've set to music) and The Ant and the Grasshopper (which I haven't set yet).

Relationships between people are no different, and in celebrating the Shanleys teaching together at Baylor for 40 years, the parallels between all these "perennial vs. annual" metaphors became striking. I had to call the trio PERENNIALS to tie everything together - celebrating the Shanleys' lives and careers together, and everything else perennial about ideals in music and life.

The 7-minute commission request turned into a 5-movement suite of 21 minutes, and it became something of a life cycle.



last updated February 20, 2020