premiered by the Donald Sinta Quartet @ Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor MI, May 26th 2016
“In Search of a Beer Mug” was first a short story by Bill Melvin, a friend of my grandfather and lifelong storyteller. Throughout his long and storied 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 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 sets off where Bill’s story stops. You’ll hear the youthful joy (a melody that enters after a brief 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.