My saxophone quartet (SATB), “In Search of a Beer Mug,” was premiered by the Donald Sinta Quartet as a runner-up in their student competition composition. A recording from the premiere at Kerrytown Concert House has surfaced, and I’m glad to share it with you.
About the piece:
“In Search of a Beer Mug” was first a short story by Bill Melvin, a friend of my grandfather’s and lifelong storyteller. Throughout his long and interesting life, he was a middle school teacher, Peace Corps basketball coach (in Sierra Leone), traveller, and amateur writer. Most of my interactions with him were as a young child travelling with my family through California–I remember sitting in the car with him for hours, listening to him recount his days in the Peace Corps and elsewhere.
“In Search of A Beer Mug” is a semi-fictitious story following Bill and some of his college buddies, my grandfather included (a Wisconsin-born farmer’s son–true story). The story is a different sort of ‘rite of Spring’–the Wartburg College tradition of Outfly–a day on which all students reign free as campus is shut down for the first nice day of the spring. The tradition remains yet today, and is an important part of the college’s lore.
On this particular Outfly, Bill’s group of merry students took to the countryside, armed with wine, kegs, and beer mugs. Tragedy grips the end of the tale, however, and my work intends to set off where Bill’s story stopped. You’ll hear the youthful joy (a melody set up after the introduction), and the biting tragedy, but most of my work sets out to reconcile the boys’ reaction to the tragedy with acceptance and recovery, and the eventual return to youthful energy at the end of the piece.