Featured Artist: Kenneth Fuchs, part one

Publisher | choral music,composers,featured artist | Friday, November 5th, 2010

YRM’s Dale Trumbore interviewed Kenneth Fuchs for this featured artist segment on our blog (the first one we’ve done, and there will be more to follow!).

Fuchs has written for orchestra, band, chorus, jazz ensemble, and various chamber ensembles. Naxos has released two recordings of his music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra with conductor JoAnn Falletta and producer Michael Fine (An American Place/Eventide/Out of the Dark and Canticle to the Sun/United Artists). In October 2001, Albany Records released Kenneth Fuchs: String Quartets 2, 3, 4 (Troy 480), performed by the American String Quartet. Mr. Fuchs currently serves as professor of music composition at the University of Connecticut.

Yelton Rhodes Music publishes several of his works including In the Clearing, six Robert Frost poem settings (Devotion, Fireflies in the Garden, Hannibal, Nothing Gold Can Stay, October and Stars), and Immigrants Still, a setting of the fifth canto from On Freedom’s Ground by Richard Wilbur, written as a memorial to those who died on September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center in New York City.

(Please click on the links to view the items in our catalog and to listen to recordings of each work.)
Yelton Rhodes Music: What is your general composition process like?

Kenneth Fuchs: When I compose for voice, I always start with the text. I know immediately if I should set a poem or prose piece to music, because I hear the music as I read the words. Over the course of my career as a composer, I have set everything from tiny four-line poems to hour-long one-act plays. Once I have completely absorbed a text, I make musical sketches in relation to the words as I perceive them. Eventually I have enough sketches to start composing the piece, usually from the beginning of the text.

YRM: What is your musical background? How does that come into play in your own writing?

KF: I started singing in church choirs and school choruses when I was ten years old. The experience of singing in an ensemble made a lasting impression on me because I was hearing and singing the music from the inside out. For me, composition has always been a vocal utterance. I received my undergraduate degree in composition from the University of Miami, where I studied for four years with the noted band composer Alfred Reed. I received graduate degrees from the Juilliard School, where for nine years my principal teachers were David Diamond and Vincent Persichetti. The composition faculty also included Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, and Roger Sessions. Peter Mennin was the president of the School. Quite a heady atmosphere for any composer!

YRM: What is your favorite piece published with Yelton Rhodes Music? What makes this your favorite piece?

KF: I am especially proud of Immigrants Still. It is based on the fifth canto of Richard Wilbur’s epic bicentennial poem “On Freedom’s Ground.” I first became acquainted with the poem when I heard the New York Philharmonic perform William Schuman’s cantata based upon this text in the mid-1980s. The poem’s powerful observations about the birth and progress of our nation over 200 years moved me very deeply and have stayed with me ever since. I had been seeking to compose an appropriate musical response to the events that befell our nation on September 11, 2001. When I received a commission from the Oklahoma Choral Director’s Association to compose a work for the 2005 All-OMEA Honors Chorus, Richard Wilbur’s prophetic words about the majesty of New York harbor and the immigrant experience seemed exactly right. The poem is very moving, and I hope many choruses will take up the piece for the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

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