Composer’s Kids Inspire Trombone Work with LSO

Nov 14, 2018

Thursday night at the Wharton Center, the Lansing Symphony plays a piece of classical music from a local composer and was inspired by his children. WKAR's Classical Host, Jamie Paisley has more.


Last summer, Maestro Timothy Muffitt of the Lansing Symphony spoke to WKAR about his ongoing project to highlight some of the musicians of the LSO. "So, Ava Ordman, who is an extraordinary performer on the trombone, had been working with David Biedenbender who is on the faculty of Michigan State University." says Muffitt, and Biedenbender wrote a trombone concerto, 'that he gave the colorful name Their Eyes Are Fireflies."

Now, a concerto is essentially a showpiece to show what a musician can do on their instrument. So I got Ava Ordman to join me at Cook Recital Hall on the MSU campus to preview a bit of this new work, Their Eyes are Fireflies, and what she asked Biedenbender to write for her.

You just write me a great piece of music and I'll figure out how to play it. - LSO trombonist Ava Ordman

"Yes, it can't be you know, a piece of cake." explains Ordman. "There's got to be difficult things in it. But, endurance, [Biedenbender] doesn't tend to write a lot of rests, so that's something we've had a lot of dicussion about, but at the beginning, and he hasn't been the only one, when people ask me what I want, I said 'You just write me a great piece of music and I'll figure out how to play it."

"This piece," says composer David Biedenbender "I wanted to give her a chance to really kinda sing through the instrument. The piece comes from a kind of emotional underpinning that's just kinda life right now. I'm a dad: Izaac and Declan are 2 and 5, and my music is always a snapshot of what's on my mind, or what's going on in my life. You know, that can be anything. Two years ago, it was a piece about the cyclotron here at MSU. This particular piece, because I was thinking about the melodies and the more kind of emotional, more kind of a humanist perspective, I kinda thought of my sons immediately."

Biedenbender’s concerto, Their Eyes Are Fireflies, part of the Lansing Symphony concert on Thursday night, is set up like any concerto, 3 movements showing off the Trombone’s abilities with the first movement a swirling and rising mass of notes which crash, giving way to the middle movement with the childlike expression “The Song Makes My Heart Not Break.” Something Biedenbender’s son Declan said to his father about a piece of music. Which leads to the finale, "Izaak’s Control Panels."

"Izaac is David's oldest son who now maybe is 5," recalls Ordman "and David talks about how Isaac just draws control panels. He's got hundreds of them in the house! And they're gages and colors and stuff... he's just sort of, like, got this thing. And for David, thinking about your child like 'Where is THIS coming from?' So, instead of just wondering, he sort of took it on like 'well, I'm going to join, I think. I think I'm going to join Isaac in this adventure of his control panels.'

"I'm not always sure when I do this that I'm going to do it necessarily the right way," says Ordman. "but I have found that if I am just open to the process, and to whatever music I'm presented with, it's not only just a challenge for me, but it's also sort of, it's good for my soul and heart to be a part of this kind of project."

This particular piece, because I was thinking about the melodies and the more kind of emotional, more kind of a humanist perspective, I kinda thought of my sons immediately - Composer David Biedenbender

Trombonist Ava Ordman is soloist with the Lansing Symphony Orchestra under Maestro Timothy Muffitt playing Their Eyes Are Fireflies, along with a program of Beethoven and Brahms this Thursday night at 7:30pm in MSU’s Wharton Center. Tickets and more information at LansingSymphony.org