Strap on your cowboy hat and boots to join the SCF Bradenton Symphony Orchestra for Boots, Banjos and the South on Thursday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m. Selections will include Aaron Copland’s Hoedown and Buckaroo Holiday from Rodeo, Donald Grantham’s Southern Harmony, which is based on four southern shape note tunes, and featuring Dr. Jon Godfrey as composer and soloist on the premier of his Okeechobee Concerto for Banjo and Orchestra. Come along and join the club!
• Aaron Copland Website
• Dr. Donald Grantham Website & Facebook
• Dr. Jonathan Godfrey Website & Facebook & Instagram
• Dr. Robyn L. Bell Website & Facebook & Instagram
• SCF Music Program Facebook Page Link to watch the concert live
• SCF Foundation Donate2Music Link to donate to the SCF Music Program
• Text Code to donate to the SCF Music Program: Text "SCFMUSIC" to 41444
• State College of Florida Music Program Website & Instagram
• State College of Florida Theatre Program Website & Facebook & Instagram
• State College of Florida Foundation Website & Facebook & Instagram & LinkedIn
Support the show (https://scf-foundation.org/suncoastcultureclub/)
Boots Banjos and the South
[00:00:00] Melodie Dickerson: Today, I am very excited to share the microphone with our SCF Music Program, Director of Instrumental Dtudies, conductor of the SCF Bradenton Symphony Orchestra, and founder of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast. Dr. Robyn Bell. , going to talk a little bit about the BSO's upcoming concert on Thursday, February 25th at 7:30 PM called and I love this title boots, banjos, and the South Robyn Bell. I get to say welcome to the club.
Robyn Bell: Why? Thank you, Melodie Dickerson. I'm so excited to be here.
Melodie Dickerson: Well, Robyn before we talk about this specific concert, could you tell us a little bit about the history of the Bradenton symphony orchestra, and now this year, how the symphony has been dealing with the COVID protocols?
Robyn Bell: Sure. So the Bradenton Symphony Orchestra belongs to the State College of Florida. It is our orchestra for college students, but [00:01:00] we opened it up to community members. We have a few professionals, some of our own teachers here at the college performing it. And then we also have, I believe there are four very talented high school students that play in the group as well. So it truly encompasses all the way from maybe age 17, maybe 16, all the way to, I think our oldest members about 79.
Melodie Dickerson: Wow.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. We meet once a week on Wednesday nights. We rehearse from 7:00 to 9:30. We have about eight rehearsals and we give a performance. And the season coincides with the school year. So it starts early August and goes until April. And you know, if you're listening and you play an instrument out there and you want to ever brush off the dust and get your clarinet out of the attic we are a place where you can come and make music. Now, you know, it's been COVID this year. And so we've had to make some changes. One of which are the string players and the percussion players wear masks all the time. And because of that, they are sitting next to each other. So we're not social distancing in the [00:02:00] string section, but they only sit in twos. And then , the woodwinds and the brass, they are sitting six feet apart. And they have covers for the bells of their instruments. They're wearing these masks that have holes in them that they put their instruments in the flute players have these little plastic defender shield. So when they blow over the flute, it just blows their air right back into their face. And then the brass players that have spit in their instrument, you know, condensation, we have big containers for them to blow the spit in. So that's the PPE and the COVID protocols we've been taken. We've had nobody catch COVID from being at a rehearsal. We've had a couple of people over the last two semesters. I'm not feeling well, I'm going to stay home just in case it turns out, Oh, , they didn't have COVID. So you know, we feel like we've been very careful. I stay six feet away. I wear a mask in rehearsals. I have a clip on microphone with a speaker so everybody can hear. And, , we're really far apart, we take up the entire [00:03:00] stage, especially with the six speed of distancing.
Melodie Dickerson: So how many people are in the orchestra this semester?
Robyn Bell: I think there's 53 for this concert,
Melodie Dickerson: which is a lot of folks.
Robyn Bell: It is. Yeah.
Melodie Dickerson: To manage on the Neal stage with , those protocols in place. But I think we've all been very fortunate in that even if students have been exposed to the virus, we've been able to keep that at Bay out of our. Music program
Robyn Bell: we really have, and we've got a great protocols here at the college that if someone has been exposed, we have facilities group that comes in and Fogg's every room that that person has been in. And, I feel very safe.
Melodie Dickerson: Absolutely. So this great title Boots, Banjos, and the South, let's talk about the concept for the concert, because it has actually been a long time in the making, like. Isn't it kind of a pause and restart.
Robyn Bell: Yes. Yes. We had this concert scheduled for April of 2020, but you know, because of the pandemic, we actually only had one rehearsal and then the college was [00:04:00] shut down and it's just too good of a concert and a concept. And the music's too great to shelve it. So I pulled it back out here for February and , we're doing this recording yet, still a couple of weeks out. So hopefully they won't shut us down again. But the concept came in that there's a wonderful piece of music I'm going to talk about later called Southern harmony. It's sort of a newer piece of music. And that was kind of the center piece. I knew I wanted to play it and then, okay. What can I fit with it? , and so I got to thinking about some Copland music is a rodeo ballet. And then Jon Godfrey is, , one of our guitar teachers here and teaches music, appreciation and music theory . And he. In the past two years had really learned banjo. And so we'll talk about that later, but I said, man, why don't we do a banjo concerto? And so it all came about in this sort of Southern theme and it's just been a lot of fun and I've been living with it for over a year now. And I was anxious to get started back to [00:05:00] rehearsing as were the musicians. They were really bummed. We didn't get to play it. And I'm just really anxious to share this with the world because it's a great program. Start to finish
Melodie Dickerson: It really is. And thinking about those Southern harmonies, I can just hear it in my head. And we'll talk about Lez. You said that a little bit more, but you and I have kind of become well known in this area because we like to do thematic concerts.
Robyn Bell: You know, it just brings more meaning to me personally, to the students and to the community members that are playing, , you can do a lot more teaching when all of the music is within a theme and it's all centered around. One thing. And so that I've enjoyed that part of doing
Melodie Dickerson: CNN directs, your thoughts and how you approach it in, sometimes it makes you look for music that would be appropriate to that theme that you might not have otherwise considered.
Robyn Bell: Yep. I would agree with that.
Melodie Dickerson: Well, before we talk about this specific pieces that will be performed on the concert. I heard a little rumor that the musicians might not be in their typical. [00:06:00] Concert attire for this one. Is that true?
Robyn Bell: It is, you know, and this idea came from our principal bass player. Who's retired from Ohio and she wears boots all the time. And she just came up to me after rehearsal and she goes, can I wear my boots to the concert? And I said, Well, why don't we go a step further? And if you want to wear your cowboy hats, if you want to wear some scarves, , let's go all in
Melodie Dickerson: stealing my costume ideas.
Robyn Bell: That's right.
Melodie Dickerson: I have trained you. Well, Dr. BelL,
Robyn Bell: you know, it's funny because some of the musicians are like what? I don't know to hat and I can't wear a. Scarf with my mask and, you know, and I said, , some of you, if you want to fine, if you don't want to fine but let's have some fun with it. I'm totally okay with that?
Melodie Dickerson: Well, maybe people at home while they're listening and watching, they can just put that hat on and right.
Robyn Bell: Do the Texas two step with us?
Melodie Dickerson: Well, I probably will do that cause I loved, you know, I'm a Texas born girl and you're a Florida born girl. You grew up in [00:07:00] Texas. I'm Texas, born girl grew up in Florida.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. People don't know unless they've listened to the podcast, but I played trumpet in rodeo band for many, many years. Yeah, that's true.
Melodie Dickerson: You can't make that up.
Robyn Bell: And there's nothing like playing trumpet with a mouthful of dirt. When the bowls combined really unique experience, I would say everyone should try. And
Melodie Dickerson: I did live in Fort worth for six years. So I know all about those cattle runs. Yes. Well racing barrel races. I would like to hear about all the pieces that will be performed. But first, since SCF is not allowing any visitors on campus yet, how can our audience attend this performance?
Robyn Bell: Well, we reached out to the publishers of all the music. We got permissions and we're able to live stream this on the SCF music, Facebook page. And so you can't watch it live from the comfort of your own home or your own mobile device in your car, wherever you want to go to just Go to our SCF music, [00:08:00] Facebook page at seven 30 on Thursday, February 25th. And you'll be able to watch the concert.
Melodie Dickerson: I love it. Usually we all take turns, Manning the Facebook chat while the concert's going on. I love it. And I love interacting with our community members. And sometimes we have people from other States. They may have a person that is in the band and they're listening in. So
Robyn Bell: it's really. More accessible to more people. It's not the same as performing to a big live crowd, but , it's easier for the, audience members to get it. And, at the end of the concerts, normally we would go out in the lobby and greet people as they're leaving. And now you just sit backstage and type with them. Hey, good to see you. Oh, glad you enjoyed that. You know, it's like real live entertainment.
Melodie Dickerson: It is. And I will say again, So grateful to SCF for allowing us all of these protocols and the privileges to be able to perform for our audiences, even virtually. So. , if we're watching. I mean, I guess there's no cost for this not completely [00:09:00] free.
Robyn Bell: Well, it is completely free now to put on the production is not free. It does cost us money. But to watch it as completely free, however, we have some options for people to donate to the SCF music program that helps us offset some of those
Melodie Dickerson: by wanted to make a donation. How would I do that?
Robyn Bell: Well, you have. Do ways the easiest is on your phone. Cause you can open up your texting app and you can text S C F music. So simple, no spaces or anything, SEF music. And you just text that to the number four one, four, four, four, and that will then take you to the. Website and the more zeros you put into your donation, the better. It just turns out for all of us that if you're not a mobile phone user, you don't like giving through texts, then you can go to your computer. And the website is scf-foundation.org, and then it's backslash donate 2 music and that's the number 2 donate 2 [00:10:00] music. And, , we have actually had people just send in checks. So I don't like to get money over the internet. I'm not going to do there. My phone.
Melodie Dickerson: We'll take a check.
Robyn Bell: We'll take a check.
Melodie Dickerson: We'll even take cash.
Robyn Bell: 58 40 26th street, West Bradenton, Florida three four, two Oh seven.
Melodie Dickerson: That would be the state college of Florida's. Snail mail address
Robyn Bell: and we will get the check and we send it to the foundation and the money all goes in the same pot for the SF music program. So it helps all of us.
Melodie Dickerson: It's really great. And , even some of us who are a little bit late to the picture of using all technology, we've put all of our things on an app. , you can just easily see program notes. You can see who's playing, you can see the names, everything, and it's right there on your phone and we've all become so. Used to using that.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. The app is just called SCF music. And if you go to your app store, either on Google or iPhone type in a search for SCF music, you can download that app and you'll have the program, not just for that concert, but for all of our concerts. Plus the calendar of events when everything's right there at your [00:11:00] fingertips is so simple,
Melodie Dickerson: super easy for everybody.
Robyn Bell: COVID free program.
Melodie Dickerson: COVID free. Let's. Say we'll be COVID free soon. So Robin, tell us the first piece the orchestra is going to perform on this boots. Banjos and South concert.
Robyn Bell: Well, the first piece is a set of two days dances from the great 20th century, American composer, Aaron Copland. He wrote a ballet called rodeo. Some people call it rodeo, but Copland himself called it rodeo. Of course, people know of rodeo drive. So they try to fancy it up. Cause it's a symphony orchestra, but really it's a rodeo. Now when I say that he was a great 20th century composer, literally Aaron Copland was born in 1900. And he died in 1990. So his life actually did span the entire 20th century minus you know, 10 years. The ballet rodeo was written in five parts, but when Copland took the music and turned it into his symphonic suite, so that a symphony orchestra could play it. You know, without the dancers, he left out one of those parts. And so for the [00:12:00] symphonic orchestra, we have four dances from the ballet rather than five. If you were to actually see it danced the Braden symphony orchestra is going to be performing the first. And the last from the suite, so of the four, we're doing two. So the first one is Buckaroo holiday. And then the last one is the very famous hoedown. So Copland had already written a ballet in this sort of cowboy style called Billy the kid. He did that in like 1938. And when the choreographer, Agnes de Mille approached him about doing the second ballet and sort of the same cowboy theme Copland, he wasn't too keen on that idea. You know, at first , he had written Billy, the kid and Agnes had to do some smooth talking and Copland then was convinced. He said, all right, I'll write the second cowboy ballet. It was premiered at the metropolitan opera house in New York on October 16th, 1942. and on opening night. Melody. It received 22 curtain calls.
Melodie Dickerson: Not surprising
[00:13:00] Robyn Bell: 22, that's a lot of clapping.
Melodie Dickerson: And there is the connection with Cowboys and Agnes de Mille. That sounds a little strange, but Agnes de Mille, of course, everybody may know that she was the choreographer for the very famous Oklahoma by Rogers and Hammerstein.
Robyn Bell: What I was going to say that because who was in the audience on opening night, on October. 16th was Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. They were about to start the production for Oklahoma. They went backstage afterwards. They got Agnes de Mille and said, Hey, will you choreograph our production of Oklahoma? They were so inspired because she played the lead , in the ballet in rodeo. And so they were so inspired by that. They go, she's our gal. And so American cowboy theme, as you can tell was kind of all the rage in America at this time. You know, we had Billy the kid, 1938, we had 1942, this rodeo ballet, and we had Oklahoma and it was all right there at that same time. And we can really understand how from ballet to symphony orchestra, to [00:14:00] Broadway musical theater, the theme and the music and the dancing was so well-received
Melodie Dickerson: and it was that time that America was in world war two and it was a powerful thematic. Imagery that was being portrayed there. , Americans, we're tough, we're strong. We can handle it on our own. And I think people really related to that.
Robyn Bell: Now the big theme of the entire ballet that listeners should keep in mind is, is that the cowgirls unwillingness to subscribe to the traditional gender roles as, the story unfold. And we see it over and over again in this ballet rodeo, for instance, the first dance of the ballet, the one we're gonna. Play is called Buckaroo holiday. And here we see the cow girl character who's a bit of a tomboy seeking the affection of the head Wrangler, who seems to be more attracted to the more feminine rancher's daughter. So we already have kind of this controversial antagonist protagonist thing set up the Carroll girl tries to get the head Wranglers attention by mimicking. The [00:15:00] Cowboys to the tune of if he'd be a Buckaroo. And so that's where we get the term Buckaroo holiday. So the tune is first presented by solo instruments, the trombone specifically, and then Copland writes the full orchestra to play it together. But not really together. Copland divides the orchestra into three parts and they play this melody in Canon. One measure apart so it's, kind of cacophonous, but then it's like precise as well. So here take a listen to how Copland put this together.
So you can hear all the individual instruments playing the melody too, if he'd be a Buckaroo. And then you hear the orchestra play that same melody in a Canon around very, very clever that Mr. Copland was. And then the grand finale dance of the rodeo ballet is the second piece. We will play on this concert. And it's the very famous hoedown made famous really to me by the BV commercials from like 1990s, 1992. So here, I'd take a listen to the end of this. And if you're [00:16:00] 40 years of age or older, I think you will definitely remember this on the beef commercials. Copland uses three folk tunes in this movement. Bonaparte's retreat, Ms. McCoy's reel and the Irish tune Gilroy. There's a section in the middle that slows way down. And that is the part in the ballet where the cowgirl and the Roper kiss. You want to hear that?
Melodie Dickerson: Sure. I'd love to.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Here is that scene and you will definitely hear the kiss. Yep. The kiss happens right? When the orchestra hits that sort of romantic chord there at the end. It's really heartwarming. , I think even if you don't know the story, , like, as a trumpet player and as a conductor before I really knew the piece you get to this court of repose and you know, that something great has happened and you go by and go, Oh, that's where they kiss. It just makes perfect sense of very romantic chord. And then the beast takes off again for the big finish. Now here's something that many don't know a version of hoedown was recorded by the band Emerson Lincoln Palmer.
Melodie Dickerson: I think I do remember this [00:17:00] because that was my time.
Robyn Bell: Yes. And also Baylor Fleck and the Flecktones recorded hoedown. And as we mentioned, it was used in the national beef campaign in the nineties. But if you are a fan of the Simpsons, you may remember it from the episode, the seemingly never ending story. And for all those Titanic fans out there, you will recognize it from the below the decks Irish dancing scene. So this movement has really made its way into pop culture and the fiddle style nature of the movement is a lot of fun to play for string players.
Melodie Dickerson: For sure. And that is a tribute to Aaron Copland's compositional skills because the music, when you have to play it, it is much more difficult than it actually sounds to the ear, to the ear. It sounds so fresh and American and tuned full.
Robyn Bell: Yep.
Melodie Dickerson: But yet it is very difficult and challenging for both the conductor and the orchestra.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And really, I'm going to take that a step further because I [00:18:00] called the sheet music, that chart and graph. Right. I think about music is the sound, but , what you look at is like the chart and graph. Yeah. And as a musician, let's say you play trombone or you play violin or cello. If you look at Aaron Copland's music, you don't look at it and say, man, I got to practice that this is going to be hard. You look at and you go, well, this is simple. I mean, it's rhythms. Aren't really that complicated. . But that's not the case. You put that together and you go, Whoa, I should have practice. This it's really, really , deceivingly difficult.
Melodie Dickerson: And I think it's also because a lot of the intervallic choices he uses. I mean, he uses a lot of open fourths and fifths and tuning that up and. Then, like you said, the Canon sort of thing, and it's easy to kind of get lost in that mix. Sometimes
Robyn Bell: this open force that you're talking about. And even if you're not a musician, you would recognize these chords because they're so open. I call Copland's music transparent. It's like, you can see right through it and it's really become the Americana sound. , this open scoring and this wide open [00:19:00] spaces, right? So same idea.
Melodie Dickerson: Yes. Immediately think Appalachian spring or, fan pay for the common man
Robyn Bell: is a gift to be simple, simple gifts
Melodie Dickerson: brought out of Appalachian spring
Robyn Bell: by many times. I think Copland is to music like Norman Rockwell is the paintings,
Melodie Dickerson: the 20th century. Yeah. He is the definition of what would be considered. I think America's music.
Robyn Bell: Yep.
Melodie Dickerson: But it's based on, as you mentioned earlier, other folk tunes from other countries like the Irish, the English, but he took it and , made that American steel camp on it.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. He's one of my favorites. I have these paintings in my office of six of my favorite composers and Aaron Copland is the first one on the list.
Melodie Dickerson: So here he is. Wonderful. that sounds like an amazing part of the
Robyn Bell: It's a fun start. Yeah. , with the Buckaroo holiday and then the hoedown. , you'll be tapping your toe and grin from ear to ear a hundred percent
Melodie Dickerson: after we get that. And we're all excited. What comes next on the program?
Robyn Bell: Well, the second piece of music is the one that kind of started the whole program. , [00:20:00] it's what I focused the whole program around. And it's another multi movement piece it's called Southern harmony. By another fantastic American composer, one that's still alive today. His name is Donald Grantham and Don Grantham teaches theory and composition at the university of Texas in Austin. I considered this piece, his greatest work for me personally, he's written a lot of music and, I think this is really up there. He first wrote Southern harmony for wind ensemble, actually in 1998. In fact, it was commissioned by the Southeast conference band directors. And at the time I was a graduate student at the university of Tennessee, which as you know, is part of the Southeastern conference. And so,
Melodie Dickerson: Oh sec.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, we were part of this commission. And I got to play trumpet on the piece for . What turned out to be its second ever performance LSU Louisiana state university performed the piece first. They premiered it and then the university of Tennessee went ensemble performed at second. So my history with this piece goes way back and it has a very special [00:21:00] place in my heart. And Don Grantham then rewrote the piece for orchestra 10 years later in 2008. So this is a, an original piece that was transcribed really for orchestra.
Melodie Dickerson: that's a good word, Dr. Bell, do we all know what transcribed means
Robyn Bell: to learn? So you'd take a piece written for one set of instrumentation and you rewrite it for a different set of instrumentation. And that's what we have here. Matter of fact, my original thought with this , I would have the band learn the band version and the orchestra learned the orchestra version and I was going to put them all together like this huge ensemble, but COVID sorta, yeah,
Melodie Dickerson: I don't think so.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. It sort of punted that idea because hoedown and Buckaroo holiday also have been transcribed from orchestra to band. I mean, we really were going to perform everything together, but you know, next time, I guess
Melodie Dickerson: it's interesting how some pieces of music lend themselves. For transcription and others, they need to stay in the medium that they were originally composed
Robyn Bell: Eine Kleine Nachtmusic is not good for anything, but a string content
Melodie Dickerson: strings and [00:22:00] strings alone.
Robyn Bell: So Don Grantham got his source material for this piece, from the song book called Southern harmony. It was published in 1835 by singin, Billy Walker. And miss makes sense. Doesn't it since the sec Southeastern conference band directors commissioned it. Don Grantham turned to the Southern hymn book for inspiration. So the book Southern harmony contains a collection of tunes. Hilmes Psalms odes, anthems. Some are very traditional, sacred tunes, and others are true to form revival songs that are widely known and sung throughout the South. Some of our listeners may better know this. Book as the shape notebook, where you read the music and you knew what note to sing based on the shape of the note. So there were four shapes that each represented the four syllables in the scale, there was a triangle, a circle, a square, and a diamond. So, if you can picture a note, like a piece of music, a note head, instead of it being round and colored in, , it was either a circle, triangle, square or [00:23:00] diamond. And so , when a musician sees the triangle, they noticing the note for the circle was soul. The square was law and the diamond was me. So if you remember back to the song from the sound of music, you know, DOE a deer, a female deer, Ray, a drop, a golden sun, me a name I call myself. So that's the me. And that , would be a diamond. And so the musicians would look at the music and see those shapes and that know which one of those four notes they were supposed to be singing. It, it was. Kind of a shortcut way to learn the music, but it worked, it was hugely,
Melodie Dickerson: and it was way to teach people how to read music. And I remember , it being called fasolami singing.
Robyn Bell: Yes.
Melodie Dickerson: It's a fasolami on it
Robyn Bell: because you got fa, sol, la, and mi- fasolami. Yeah.
Melodie Dickerson: And many churches even into the 20th century had those in their hymnals because that was maybe it's a kin to like guitar tablature.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Short hands,
Melodie Dickerson: short hand for learning, but it enabled people [00:24:00] to be able to sing in four-part harmony.
Robyn Bell: Yes. Very quickly. Just throw it together. So the book Southern harmony. Listen to this, this hold an amazing 600,000 copies before the civil war. And it was commonly stocked right along with groceries and tobacco and the general stores across the American frontier, you would go in and there was, and people bought it well,
Melodie Dickerson: because that's what people did in their downtimes.
Robyn Bell: Right.
Melodie Dickerson: Got together. They sang, they didn't need instrumental accompaniment.
Robyn Bell: No that no. And they didn't have Netflix.
Melodie Dickerson: Nope.
Robyn Bell: They didn't have Nintendo's. I don't even think that they still have to dose. I don't know much about games.
Melodie Dickerson: I mean, even me growing up now we didn't have the shape notes, but we would gather at my grandmother's house and , there was a piano and my mom and her sisters would all take turns, playing in the family would gather around and sing. And that's how I grew up. I dare say not many people do that. These notes,
Robyn Bell: well, your Christmas party every year we still do that.
Melodie Dickerson: We do. We do
Robyn Bell: so the music and the Southern harmony book [00:25:00] really began to take on a life of its own. When from around 1884, up until world war two, an annual all day mass performance of selections from Southern Harmony, it was called the Benton. Big singing. And it was held in Benton, Kentucky on the courthouse lawn, and it was a big deal. Melody. The event would draw. Hundreds of thousands of people from Kentucky and Tennessee and Missouri and Illinois. And it was this all day singing from the Southern Harmony book,
Melodie Dickerson: I wish I would have been there. I would have been an amazing time. It's like the big concerts we have now, but there were no microphones. There was no amplification.
Robyn Bell: So you had to have so many people.
Melodie Dickerson: That's right. People learned how to sing. And , I wouldn't say it's was a hollering tone, but it was definitely a resonant ringing, , kind of coming from that Appalachian tradition sort of sound.
Robyn Bell: And so here, Don Grantham takes four of these pieces of music. And he makes this for [00:26:00] movement work for first wind ensemble. Now orchestra. Now we're going to be performing three of the four moments. The first one we're going to perform is called exhilaration and it is a true revival song based on the country fiddle nature of the original it's composed to depict the excitement and the zeal of a religious camp meeting in is actually composed. You're going to love this.
Melodie Dickerson: Me being raised Southern Baptist. Yes.
Robyn Bell: You're going to love it as it is composed for three solo violins. And the rest of the orchestra is clapping. But to
Melodie Dickerson: love
Robyn Bell: yeah, just handclaps. But Don Grantham divides the orchestra into stage, right. And stage left. So they're divided right into
Melodie Dickerson: theater
Robyn Bell: and there's this, multi layered clapping effect that happens. It's really cool. Kind of like a drum line. You know, this, side's doing this rhythm and this side's doing this rhythm and it all lines up. Right with the violins that are soloing, it makes you like, you can just picture worshipers, gathered together, singing and clapping with hands with great joy.
[00:27:00] Melodie Dickerson: The original praise band.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. Here's a short snippet of the movement exhilaration. So you can hear what I'm talking about.
What do you think about that?
Melodie Dickerson: Oh wow. Who are going to be the soloists for that?
Robyn Bell: Well, we have our concert master, Elena Grassia.
Melodie Dickerson: Oh, yes.
Robyn Bell: We have our first chair violinist in the prisoners, the string quartet, Amely Wackerbauer. And then we have my concert master from the pops orchestra. Cause we're not having the pops right now. She's playing with the BSO, Nikki. Rinsema
Melodie Dickerson: great.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, so they get up, they come to the front of the orchestra and they play this little violin trio , in the Rexel orchestra. Just cheers a mom with their clapping.
Melodie Dickerson: Well, those three will definitely need boots.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, I know. .
Melodie Dickerson: I'll bring my pair mine.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Make them wear. I love it. So , the second movement we'll play is called wondrous love and it's a very slow dark corral,
Melodie Dickerson: well known so beautifully. Well-known
Robyn Bell: very famous melody. The words to the original tune are what wondrous love is this? All my soul. All my soul. What wonders love is [00:28:00] this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul to bear the dreadful curse for my soul. This is a real lamentation.
Melodie Dickerson: And typically sung in around and, , it's kind of fits this time of the year. It was, , sung and lent. It was having to do with the preparation for Easter and the crucifixion.
Robyn Bell: It's interesting you say, because there's typically song in around because Don Grantham ends with the string. Players first violin, Viola, second violin cellos bass. And they do one measure apart and around just like it's supposed to be. It's super, super cool. So like the disbelief that someone would lay down his life to bear your burdens, you know, you can just feel it in the way he's written the instrumental it's introspective. It's. Contemplated and even mournful really, it's a beautiful second movement that really allows the orchestras to show off their musicianship. So here's a short excerpt from [00:29:00] wondrous love.
Melodie Dickerson: Just gorgeous.
Robyn Bell: And every time we rehearse it, it's like, I call it my goose Bumble meter. You know, my goosebumps go way off and you can just really tell the orchestra enjoys playing it too. And then the final moment of Don Grantham Southern harmony will perform is called the midnight cry. It is very much a Southern traditional call and response style tune in the word, speak of salvation, the coming of the end of the world. As we know it. The preparation to go on to heaven. The text of the tune is noble. It's full of conviction and fast belief . The words are, I hear the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and it's closer now than it's ever been. I can almost hear the trumpet is Gabriel sounds the call at the midnight cry. We'll be going home and the instrumental music, 100% depicts these words. It's very exciting to play, especially for the brass players. I mean, anytime you have something about Gabriel and his trumpet
Melodie Dickerson: Gabriel's trumpet.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Don Grantham knows this [00:30:00] and it just really fills your heart with the spirit.
Melodie Dickerson: Well, remember that many of the people who were singing it. And listening to it, their lives might not have been the best. A lot of hard working hard scrapple , not a lot of money, not a lot in this world. You know, people going through a horrible civil war and the promise of a better day was what kept a lot of people going. It might be tough now in this world, but if I just stay true,
Robyn Bell: yep.
Melodie Dickerson: I will walk the streets of gold.
Robyn Bell: We're here. Take a listen to a short portion of this. Midnight cry.
Oh, just since chills down my spine. I can't wait. Just can't wait the orchestra. I'm telling you melody. They're playing so well. But those two pieces aren't even the highlight of this concert. Just wait until you hear about our finale on the program.
Melodie Dickerson: Oh my gosh. Well Have there been any challenges with these sort of things before we get to the finale? Any things that you want to tell us?
Robyn Bell: You know, it's been real interesting. These two pieces together, the [00:31:00] Copland two movements and the Grantham, both Americans and in both. Kind of about Southern you know rodeo and then the Southern harmony. But I think it's really challenged us because they're in two completely different styles and Don Grantham has such a contemporary sound to the way he orchestrates and puts instruments together. I love it. So it's been good to see the musicians exp. you know, sometimes an orchestra says, Oh, here's another Beethoven. Here's the divorce. I mean, , this is completely new to them and the style that they have to play,
Melodie Dickerson: but this speaks to the nature of music that has such amazing melodic. Background. again, it comes from these indigenous folk tunes that have just been honed in mind over the years. And then they've just gotten into the psyche of people and everybody that would have been around in that time, they knew these tunes.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Melodie Dickerson: That was part of their life. And the minute they heard that they were filled with a certain [00:32:00] feeling and even today, most churches. Don't have him singing, but that would have been a staple of every single church. So everybody had knowledge of that kind of music.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And it's kind of like a little history lesson, these pieces, it's a museum really
Melodie Dickerson: to bring it to today's and, redo it again. I know that Mr. Willis uses the old hymn books a lot. And he, does the soul fetch singing with the students and they're completely captivated because they don't know these tunes and they're handing them in four-part harmony. So it sounds like your orchestra's been captivated as well by this, that sort of thing.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, we haven't, I've enjoyed every moment of every rehearsal for this. Can't wait to share it with the world.
Melodie Dickerson: That's great. When we come back, Robyn will be talking with Dr. Jon Godfrey, our professional guitarist and banjo player, who is also SCF adjunct instructor of jazz guitar, and a very accomplished composer.
She's going to talk to him about the banjo portion of the concert. [00:33:00] I understand that Dr. Godfrey didn't like any of the banjo concertos available to him. So he just said, I'm going to write my own. Is that right? Robyn.
Robyn Bell: That's what he did. That's miraculous.
Melodie Dickerson: He is a very, very talented man. And in fact has played in pit orchestras from Sarasota to Tampa and, of course all around. And he's a good old Georgia boy too.
Robyn Bell: I'm going to ask him all about that. The next half of the podcast.
Melodie Dickerson: Well, I can't wait to hear all about it and we'll be right back after this break.
Robyn Bell: Welcome back from the break. Where today we were talking about the Bradenton symphony orchestras upcoming concert on Thursday, February 25th at 7:30 PM called boots, banjos and the South. And with me now is the banjo portion of the concert, Dr. Jon Godfrey, Jon. Welcome back.
Jon Godfrey: Thank you for having me glad to be here
Robyn Bell: for our first guest who appear twice on the Suncoast culture club.
Jon Godfrey: It's quite an honor.
Robyn Bell: No, I don't have a badge or a Tiara or anything for you. I'm so sorry. You, and you're very talented, a lovely wife, Jenny Kim Godfrey. We're actually my second interview of all time. That was before I knew how to edit anything. And if anyone wants to hear how great Costco pizza is, I highly recommend you go back and listen to that episode. It's season one. Episode two, Jon, this upcoming performance has been a long time in the making. And I want to give our listeners the background as to how this banjo concerto was conceived. But first I want you to tell [00:01:00] us about your experience with actually playing the banjo.
Jon Godfrey: Well, I think I was always destined to play the banjo and I think I ran from it all my life as hard as I could until fate forced me to finally embrace it. So my, grandfather was actually a banjo player, an amateur banjo player, and he ran a service station and I actually have his banjo in my, bedroom is kind of like a little decor thing. But anyway, I grew up in rural Georgia and played guitar all my life and never even give the banjo a second thought until in 2017, I was doing the show at Vita at the also repertory theater. And the following spring, they asked if I would come back and do another show and the music director, Steve orange asked if I could play the banjo. And I've learned in this business that oftentimes. Even if you can't do something, you should say that you can. And so I figured, well, I've got a banjo at home, not my grandfather's banjo. I had another one kind of sitting around and I said, well, you know, I'll figure it out. And so I did, and I figured I learned in that process, that there's a way that [00:02:00] guitars can sort of adapt to make the banjo feel less foreign and more like an auxiliary instrument. And so I did that experience of playing ragtime and as a result of doing that gig, I don't know how this happened, but for like a whole year there, I was doing more banjo gigs than I was guitar gigs. And I actually got my first performance with the Florida orchestra playing on banjo and I did a stint on the national tour, Chicago playing banjo and I had never occurred to me that this would be something that I would be into, but that's how I got to start playing the banjo. And I haven't looked back since.
Robyn Bell: . So it was there all the time for you to learn, but , until the industry, I guess sort of forced your hand at it. And then it was like this flood gate opened and you were a band DRO Maestro. Now I. Actually saw the performance of Chicago at the stress with you playing the banjo. Yeah. And so at the time it was all around the same time. I was putting my thoughts together about this particular program. It was around the spring of 2019, right? About that time you were doing? Yeah.
Jon Godfrey: Yeah.
[00:03:00] Robyn Bell: And I knew I wanted to do a couple of movements from Copeland's rodeo, hoedown and Buckaroo holiday. And there's this fabulous contemporary piece of music by a composer in Austin, Texas named Don Grantham. And that's called Southern harmony, but I was struggling to find a solo piece to pair with that because, I always want to feature a soloist on one of our concerts and I did some Googling and some YouTubing and I discovered that Bela Fleck. Yep. The world's premier banjo player had actually written and performed at concerto for banjo and orchestra. And so do you remember, I reached out to you, it was maybe the end of that spring semester, 2019. I said, okay. Would you be interested in playing Bela Fleck's, banjo concerto?
Jon Godfrey: Absolutely.
Robyn Bell: So once I got a confirmation from you, I started contacting Bela Fleck's people cause he has people, you know, and I [00:04:00] explained who I was and what we're going to do. And, through that process to my complete surprise and for the first time in my life, I was told, no, they said Bela doesn't allow anyone else to play his concerto for banjo. And I was like, what? I was shocked. And so I think I forwarded you the email. I said, Oh my goodness, what do we do? And you emailed me back at literally the same time I was about to press in saying the exact same thing. Do you remember what you did?
Jon Godfrey: More or less? I was like, well, if Bela Fleck won't let us play his concerto. Can I just write my own please?
Robyn Bell: And I responded, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And thus started our journey to the Okeechobee concerto. So tell us about this piece. , besides our experience of being told no. And this opportunity, what inspired you to write it? Had you through your journey of banjo-ing? Had you said, wow, I could do a little bit more of this on my own it, tell us about that [00:05:00] journey.
Jon Godfrey: So unbelievably serendipitous that this happened this way. I had been backstage at a concert here at SCF. And I was talking to my friend Roger Hudson, who's a guitar teacher at Manatee school for the arts. And I said, you know, there's no good concerto for banjo. I mean, there's the Bela Fleck concertos, but like, that's really an unexplored sort of thing. And I was just sort of offhandedly saying it, maybe even for, him to write one. And then the thought occurred to me. I was like, well, you know, that might be kind of a cool thing for me to pursue one day. And I had a moment where I was doing an arrangement of Rhapsody in blue with the Florida orchestra on their masterworks series and had this experience of playing with them where. This is really hard to explain to people who aren't guitarists, but when you're a guitarist and you try to play with an orchestra, , it's about like trying to play a bucket of mud with an orchestra. Like it's like the sound just does not cut through at all. Even when it's amplified, like the tamper just doesn't really seem to jive with anything. And I've done a few concertos and not really been thrilled with the results, but when I was playing Rhapsody in blue and I'm going to chat. Chat don't chat. [00:06:00] Don't it was just so satisfying. And like, to the point where even like the brass players are looking at me, like, play quieter, you know? And so I was like, wow, I can actually participate as a member of the orchestra. And, , it was at that point that I was kinda like, Oh, it'd be fun. Or if I actually like had some solid material or more lines than other than just, , being cut and cut. And so, that was sort of my real impetus. It was like, after that experience was like, Oh, this will be fun as a concerto instrument.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And it was about that time when we got the big, no. And then you got the big, yes,
Jon Godfrey: that's right.
Robyn Bell: And you got to work on it.
Jon Godfrey: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: And , , the process, then let's just do our timeline. That was the end of spring, early summer, 2019. I had it programmed for us to perform with you as the soloist in April of 2020. And I don't have to go much further there for people to remember what happened in March of 2020.
Jon Godfrey: Right.
Robyn Bell: But we don't have classes here on MLK day is a Monday. And normally on Monday nights in [00:07:00] January, I would have pops rehearsal, but because it was Martin Luther King day, we had that day off from school. And so no rehearsal. And I knew you had been working with our colleague, Don Bryn, RPA piano teacher, and performer here at the college. And I saw where you were doing a performance for guitar Sarasota on that Monday night. And that you were going to sort of premiere the solo and piano version of this. And so I went , you did a whole recital is fabulous. It was the last that you play. I had never heard it before. I had just barely gotten the score. Maybe I didn't hadn't gotten the score yet. So it was fresh and new. , when you say, Hey, I'm gonna hire you to write something and you put sort of this faith in, the musician, same way, the piece of art, you know, I'm going to commission you to , paint me a painting. And so they, you just never know what you're gonna get. And Jon, I have to say. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face. At the end of that concert, it was so fabulous. And it was just you and the piano. And I kept thinking, Oh, I can't wait to hear the [00:08:00] orchestration and what he's put all these themes in with the, different instruments of the orchestra. I was so excited. And then we gave a concert in February that year with the BSO we had spring break. We came back for one week, we had our one and only rehearsal for our next concert, which was this concert that we're about to give, but we were going to give it an April, 2020, and then they shut us down as, so we, didn't get to perform it. And of all of the concerts that were canceled. That was the one, not just me, but the musicians were so excited about this piece. And it was like, ah, and so when we came back this year, you know what, over the summer I said, what are we going to do? What are we going to do? Well, we're going to go ahead and perform our concerts. We might. Not having an audience would just live stream on Facebook, but we're gonna do it. And so I was rescheduled that exact concert piece for piece, and we put it on this February concert. And so here we are, we're doing this interview here about three weeks before [00:09:00] the performance. So we still have a couple of rehearsals left one by ourselves and then two with you, which we're very excited to get you there. But it's been like this really long journey to get this thing performed. But one of the things that I remember last fall, fall 2020. Was that your Alma mater, Indiana university guitar ensemble. did they reach out to you , to do this piece?
Jon Godfrey: She's Midas will be named the serendipity concerto because it keeps being one thing after the other. So my good, good dear friend, Daniel Duarte. Who's the conductor of that ensemble had reached out to me years ago to write a piece for them. And at the time, we just couldn't get our schedules to align and it's, so it didn't pan out. And then when COVID hit, he was looking for some new projects and everything, and he reached out to me and he said, I've got a wild idea and please feel free to say no, because this is really absurd. =And , I don't know if you have any interest at all, but I would really like a piece for guitar ensemble that features banjo.
Robyn Bell: Boy, [00:10:00] am I going to do for you?
Jon Godfrey: Yeah, exactly. Well, you're not going to leave this, but I actually just finished a banjo concerto and the rest is history and I've got to give a great shout out to him because he's a, wonderful friend and a fantastic conductor and he he's put together a really cool ensemble there that. Makes use of a diversity of guitars in such a way that it's more than just one guitar replicated. You actually have bass guitars and soprano guitars. And so I arranged this concerto, very orchestrally for this ensemble and it's been really cool to actually start with the orchestra version first and then move to piano reduction and then to guitar ensemble, it's actually sort of the opposite of what you would think would be, you would think it'd be. Moving from small and some of the large, but it's been kind of exercise to move in the opposite direction.
Robyn Bell: You know, I'm glad you said that because one of the things I want to know, I know a lot of composers, when they write a piece of music, they start. Like maybe at the piano or they start with the piece in a scratch form where it's just a solo and really right-hand left-hand piano parts. And then you have to orchestrate it and exploded out to the different instruments. But , is that [00:11:00] how you normally would write or when you knew this was going to be the orchestra you just started with orchestra score.
Jon Godfrey: Always find that when you're writing a piece like this. got to take inspiration at any way it comes. And, , if you feel like you're getting enough out of using the bare bones, piano reduction or whatever reduction you're using, then that's great. But at a certain point, I feel like the ensemble is also part of the inspiration. And so , there was initially when I was just working the beginning, it was , the banjo part and the piano reduction, and then. Eventually at some point, I was like, you know, I really am curious now, what it would sound like if I added orchestra here. And so I started playing around with the colors , and so it wasn't just one or the other. , it was that each one had its own sort of unique palette in the creativity toolbox that helped color each section in a unique way. And so at a certain point, it just felt organic to start orchestrating it and letting the orchestra textures be a part of the creative process, as much as the actual, , harmonic roadmap and the roadmap.
Robyn Bell: That's awesome. And when you think back on the version for piano, the [00:12:00] version for guitar ensemble and the version for orchestra, because you used the word palette, and we talk about that, like composers have this just like a painter's palette and the different instruments are all the different colors. So for piano, There's not that many different colors you can use, right? For guitar ensemble, especially the way you described it with bass guitar and prone guitar a few more. But then when you get to the orchestra, not only do you have all of the strings, trumpets, trombones, flute, oboe, bassoon, all of that. But then there's that percussion section that's kind of lacking with the piano version of the guitar version, right. In a percussion adds so much to this piece. So tell us about the, title, the Okeechobee concerto, and how the full orchestra color palette, including the percussion adds to the audience of the Okeechobee area.
Jon Godfrey: Yeah. I didn't set out to write an Okeechobee Concerto when I did this, it's sort of spraying organically because I think the one thing that you can tend with when you're writing such an evocative instrument, like the banjo is how are you going to [00:13:00] deal with , the baggage that comes with the instrument? I can't think of any other instrument, so maybe like the steel drum that immediately evokes so much preconceived notion about what the instrument or should be.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's like cultural, maybe bagpipes too,
Jon Godfrey: right? Yeah, exactly, exactly. And I really wrestled with that early on. It's like, well, am I writing a work that is devoid or trying to ignore the past of the banjo? Or am I really trying to embrace it? Cause I feel like. It's really easy to get into hokey land whenever you're trying to do too much of the baggage of the instrument. And so I didn't want to do that, but I also wanted to honor, people's sense of what the banjo is and what it should sound like. And I've always wanted to write a Florida based piece. And so the Okeechobee thing came out like maybe I was three quarters of the way done. And I was like, this sort of feels like this is the most organic direction. This is what I was really trying to say. And I just didn't know it at the time. And from then. I thought, well, maybe there's can be a couple of programmatic elements that I could throw in that make it feel more like this sort of Okeechobee thing. And that's [00:14:00] for some of the percussion instruments came in. So , one instrument that I think is sort of unique is the frog Guiro, , a friend of mine showed me this. , it sounds literally like a frog chirping. And so it's got that. I throw a washboard in there because I felt like you can't have a good banjo concerto without a washboard.
Robyn Bell: I'd have to say at our rehearsal last week, I had to show the percussionist, the here's, how you hold , this washboard. He was doing his best without any instruction. Once he held it riser, he got. Oh, I see. Yeah, very cool.
Jon Godfrey: Well, the thing that I like about the inclusion of the washboard here is that there was no point at which I was like, I'm writing a banjo concerto. And so there's gotta be a washboard in there. , it was more like, here's the spot that really needs this way to get, to get tickets. And I was like, well, what instrument can do then? And so I actually have to think about, and I was like, Oh, I want a washboard. And so it's just sort of like, it's sort of dawned on me. I was like, Oh, okay. That makes sense.
Robyn Bell: And now you're set to write your first Zydeco piece as well. So
Jon Godfrey: coming spring 2022,
[00:15:00] Robyn Bell: we'll do a Zydeco concert there go. Fantastic. Well, there are , what I consider two main themes to this concerto. And , you use finale, as the computer program that you ride on and finale does this neat thing that you can create a middy. Audio file, which is what you sent me, so that I had some concept of how this was supposed to go. So I used some of my technical abilities and I went through the whole piece, which is about eight minutes. I mean, it's a nice sizeable piece of music. And I took out two themes. I separated them. And so I want our listeners, cause this is going to be more meaningful to you when you hear like the theme one and all of the different places in the theme two and all the different places. So let's take about a minute and a half here of just the ones that run throughout the piece.
Jon it's this great, you know, long, short, short, short, D daddy, tell us, how did that theme come to be?
Jon Godfrey: One of the biggest challenges for [00:16:00] writing this piece was that the banjo is an instrument of limitations. And you can only write in so many keys and do so many things before it starts to not sound like the banjo. This first theme is a banjo lick. I actually played on the banjo and part of the concerto. And if you played it in the right context instead of, sort of operating thing, it's really supposed to be air and air and air mirror. And so on the banjo, it sounds very idiomatic to the instrument. And , , I tried to treat this concerto. Very neoclassical, very near romantic, and having two themes , for the work sort of evocative of Sonata, Allegra form. And so I, felt like this was a good counterpart. So the other melodic happenings in the work and I sort of liked that it stemmed from the banjo and then it turned into this more lyrical thing.
Robyn Bell: And I talk about this a lot with my musicians, that these pieces often have an AA theme and a B theme, my column, like masculine and feminine. And this is kind of the more feminine melody, you know, it's [00:17:00] long, it's flowing. It's like slurred, , together, but now yeah. Let's take a listen to the second theme, which , would be considered the masculine beam. It's quicker. It's more jumpy. It's got a lot of movement to it. So here is synopsis of all of the second themes in the piece.
And so you can't listen to that and not like tap your toe and want to get up and do the Texas two step. Right. Okay. So do I even have to ask, where did this come from?
Jon Godfrey: It's funny. As a daily practice, I like to keep like a gratitude journal. And sometimes I look back and, looked back not too long ago actually. And it was the summer after we'd commissioned it. And I said Today, I've written a cool banjo theme and I'm really grateful for it. how this came about is totally, again, it's a banjo, lick, , it came about because it felt good to play on the banjo and I was just kinda messing around and , I wasn't trying to make it sound. Like a banjo or hokey or, , it wasn't trying to evoke Okeechobee. It just, I played it and it felt good. [00:18:00] And everything's sort of spun out from that. And if you look at the actual banjo part, that theme is everywhere. Like I base the entire banjo writing on it because one of the difficulties with this work is that it's for plectrum banjo, which means I'm using an actual pick instead of the traditional metal finger picks that you see. And so I've got to construct the melodies in such a way that it creates that characteristic. Banjo roll that, very quick banjo sound and this lik , accomplishes that with its left-hand technique specifically.
Robyn Bell: And I have to say there's two places where the whole orchestra gets to play it. And not only do they have a blast playing it and , it's really well written. Like they sound really good. Just organically naturally it's well-written, but I'll look up at the orchestra and when we get to those sections and I can see them, like they're playing and they're kind of back and forth, shucking and drive and you know, they're totally in it and feeling it which. Just means it's a very well-written piece of music. I'm super excited to get you in [00:19:00] there for those two rehearsals and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. My only regret is that we can't have 800 people there listening to it because boy they'd really be missing out. But maybe with Facebook live, we can have like 8,000 people listening to it. So that, is our goal with that. So it is going to be the grand finale. You would normally put the concerto in the middle of the concert. But to me, this is the star of the show. And we're going to conclude the concert with you. Rip snorting. You know,
Jon Godfrey: my mother will be so proud.
Robyn Bell: Well, she shouldn't be so once again, this concert is on Thursday, February the 25th, it said 7:30 PM. You can watch it on the SCF music, Facebook live stream. So if you're not on Facebook, it's very simple. Just joined Facebook and then like SCF music. And on that Thursday night tune in to see the entire boots banjos in the South, the orchestra has asked me, can we wear cowboy hats and [00:20:00] boots? And I don't see anything, sir. I think it should be a requirement. Watch out Goodwill, go for all your boots.
Jon Godfrey: That's right.
Robyn Bell: So we hope all of you can join us. I want to thank Dr. Godfrey for joining me today and enjoy this concert.
Jon Godfrey: Thank you for having me.