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Electronic Dance Music Helps Bring Lansing Symphony Season To A Close

Rachel Santorelli, Lansing Symphony
Percussionist Lisa Pegher and LSO Maestro Timothy Muffitt at the WKAR Studios

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” However, WKAR’s Jamie Paisley learned that a percussion concerto from University of Michigan composer Paul Dooley which the Lansing Symphony is world premiering this Friday, didn’t have ANY name just a few weeks ago.

"I kept asking Paul 'what is the title of the piece? What Is The Title Of The Piece? Like, I need to tell people. What is the title of the piece?!" recalls percussionist Lisa Pegher. "And finally a couple weeks ago, he's like 'Oh, here's the piece and it's called Northern Nights.' and I said 'okay. Where does it comes from?' and this percussion concerto isn't just a percussion concerto. It's kinda mixing electronic music with orchestra and it has to do with a electronic music festival that he went to one summer and the experiences he had at that festival."

Percussionist Lisa Pegher first met composer Paul Dooley a few years ago playing his music at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in northern California. But it took a few meetings for this idea of his percussion concerto to take shape.

"Each time that we got together we talked about this percussion concerto and 'Okay, how are we going to make this happen?' and talked to a lot of conductors, a lot of orchestras and Tim [Muffitt of the Lansing Symphony] and I have been great friends for a really long time and I told him about it and it all kind of just came together. And Paul being in Michigan, it was an excellent choice. Paul visited and we talked about the percussion set up and what he would write for... and then composers just kind of just go and do their thing and you don't really hear from them. And then I was like 'Paul, are you going to finish this piece? Like, the world premiere is happening in, you know, like two months!' and I was really starting to get scared that the piece was not going to get finished! But what he wrote, I mean, what I've heard and seen in the score, it's just, I think it's going to be a really special piece. It's tonal, it's accessible, but it's also a sound world that people have not experienced yet in orchestral music, which is what I'm really excited about."

"We kind of do our thing, and the new sound world elements come from Lisa." is how Maestro Timothy Muffitt of the Lansing Symphony Orchestra describes this new percussion concerto, Northern Nights. Muffitt agreed to take on this new work from University of Michigan professor and composer Paul Dooley and soloist Lisa Pegher. Friday’s World Premiere of the piece will even include a bit of lighting effects at the Wharton Center, and the Lansing Symphony program also includes a bit more color as provided by another American composer Michael Torke and his piece Bright Blue Music. But Lansing Symphony Maestro Timothy Muffitt assures me Torke’s Blue is not a reference to Northern Night’s composer, Paul Dooley, teaching U of M Wolverines.

"No." states Muffitt simply before laughing. "So, there was a little bit of just play on words fun with this. So I was thinking about a percussion concerto was going to be rhythmic, obviously. And when you say the word 'rhythm,' what comes next? 'Rhythm and blue.'
Bright Blue Music which is a very joyous piece and uplifting and sort of a 20th century extension of the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony.

"And then the [Tchaikovsky] Romeo and Juliet, which is blue in an entirely different way. And there's also a little bit of a symmetry of music by living composers in the middle and then the icing on this cake are the two Romantic era masterpieces to open and then close the program."

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy, which is part of Friday night’s Lansing Symphony Orchestra concert led by Maestro Timothy Muffitt at MSU’s Wharton Center. The LSO also plays a world premiere Percussion Concerto by Ann Arbor’s Paul Dooley featuring soloist Lisa Pehger. You can find more information about this season ending concert online at LansingSymphony.org

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