EVANSTON, Ill. — The Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music Symphony Wind Ensemble, joined by special guest and alumnus Jacob Nissly (’05), principal percussionist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, will present the world premiere of “Losing Earth” in a new arrangement for wind instruments by composer Adam Schoenberg. The performance will take place on Friday, November 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall at Northwestern University.
This performance will also be presented live. Visit concertsatbienen.org/live for more details.
The program, which revolves around the themes of humanity’s relationship to nature and technology, will also include compositions by Shuying Li, William Bolcom and Warren Benson.
The centerpiece of the program is Schoenberg’s percussion concerto “Losing Earth”, which explored the grim effects of climate change. Inspired by a 2018 New York Times Magazine article, the concerto was originally written for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The November 11 performance will be the world premiere of a new wind arrangement, commissioned by conductor Mallory Thompson (’79, ’80 MMus) and Northwestern’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble (SWE). Nissly is the percussion soloist and is also the dedicatee of the work.
Percussion is at the heart of the concerto because, as Schoenberg explains in his original program notes, it is an element that traces its history back to the dawn of time. “With the ability to create rhythm, keep time, and create melody, drums were a way for our ancestors to communicate love and joy, danger and survival,” Schoenberg wrote. “Second only to the human voice, this instrument has seen the earth endure all its phases, including the devastation now beginning to emerge from global warming.”
The arrangement and lineup were developed through discussions between Thompson, Schoenberg and Nissly, Thompson said. “I’ve had the pleasure of performing Adam’s music before with SWE, and the idea of creating a wind version of the orchestral original was very exciting,” she said of from the premiere of “Losing Earth”. “One of the most wonderful things about a career as a musician is being able to do special projects with your friends. This collaboration is a great example of how lives can ‘intersect’ and lead to worthwhile projects and significant.”
Also on the program, “The Last Hive Mind” by Li, inspired by an episode of the TV show “Black Mirror” and ongoing debates around artificial intelligence. Bolcom’s 2021 Nemmers Prize-winning ‘Machine’ from his Fifth Symphony explores similar themes, and Benson’s introspective ‘The Leaves Are Falling’ expresses the grief the composer felt after the assassination of John F Kennedy. It is titled after the first line of Rilke’s poem “Autumn”, which includes the words “And in the nights the heavy earth falls from all the stars into loneliness”.
Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students with valid ID. For tickets and more information, visit concertsatbienen.org or purchase at the Bienen School box office at 50 Arts Circle Drive, or by phone at 847-467-4000. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Jacob Nissly, a Bienen alumnus, holds a Bachelor of Music in Percussion Performance and Jazz Studies from Northwestern University and has been the principal percussionist of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra since 2013. He previously held the same role at the Cleveland Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Nissly is currently co-chair of the percussion department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he also directs the percussion ensemble. Nissly has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, Houston Symphony and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Adam Schoenberg is an Emmy Award-winning and Grammy-nominated composer whose works have been performed and premiered at the Library of Congress, the New York Philharmonic, and the Hollywood Bowl, among others. He has received commissions and collaborated with several major American orchestras, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and is an accomplished and versatile film composer. Alumnus of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School, Schoenberg currently teaches at Occidental College, where he directs the composition and film music programs.
Mallory Thompson is a conductor, music teacher and coordinator of the Conducting Program at the Bienen School of Music. She holds the John W. Beattie Chair in Music and received her Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music from Northwestern University, completing her Doctor of Music Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music. An active guest speaker and conductor, Thompson has taught thousands of students and educators across the United States and Canada, attending conventions such as the Midwest Clinic, Interlochen Arts Academy, and Aspen. MusicFestival. His many professional engagements include guest conducting of the United States Air Force Band, the United States Coast Guard Band, and the Dallas Wind Symphony.