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Reunited Celebration
Reunited Celebration

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MandyGaines2
MandyGaines2

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Thursday, October 21, 2021 | 7pm | The Redmoor (3187 Linwood Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45208)

Reunited Celebration with Mandy Gaines

The wait is over. It’s time for the CCJO and you to be reunited… and it feels so good! Return to The Redmoor for a fun-filled celebration as we bring back live jazz music to the stage. CCJO artistic director Eric Lechliter will be premiering a newly commissioned suite of music to mark the occasion and the one and only vocalist Mandy Gaines will join us as we kick off our 2021-22 season.

Opening Act: Joining us to open the show will be Jazz at Dusk from the Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame.

Commission Sponsor: Doug Lillibridge

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Suite for the New Year Commission Program Information:

Written by composer Eric Lechliter

Driving home in a heavy rainstorm from a long day of teaching early in 2021, I pulled into the parking lot of a local laundromat to take an unexpected call from CCJO Board President Doug Lillibridge. He had a question for me, which he seemed very excited to ask: Was I interested in writing an original suite of music to be premiered at the grand return of the CCJO season, commemorating the COVID-19 pandemic and the shared trials and tribulations of 2020? While I was a little hesitant about my powers as a composer (having always felt more comfortable wearing the title of arranger), I was also excited about the prospect of writing an extended work, so I accepted his commission. Little did I know that I was agreeing to the greatest artistic challenge that I had yet faced as a musician.

The foremost challenge with this piece was creating a story arc that was both satisfying for the listener and honest to the subject material. I knew that I could not in good conscience write the “COVID Blues,” so I mulled over several ideas to give the project narrative unity and direction. My first idea was to arrange music written about previous pandemics by composers who had lived through them, and then add a new tune to the mix to comment on some kind of shared human experience with past generations. In doing some research, however, I had a very hard time finding any pieces that explicitly dealt with these themes. Filling in this gap became my first unifying element. I wanted to create an experience that would transport the listener to the year 2020 and programmatically depict what we all went through. The music would ideally inspire in the listener many of the emotions that we felt during the pandemic – loss, dread, suspicion, despair, rage, powerlessness and ultimately, hope and redemption. In doing so, a future listener could hear the piece and gain a sense of that shared human experience. 

The next unifying element came to me in the form of a joke: taking the classic Frank Sinatra tune “A Very Good Year” and giving it a dark and twisted treatment called “A Very Bad Year.” While this would not have created an appropriate basis for the suite, the concept of the life-cycle of a year stood out to me. A year has a beginning, middle and end, and I realized that I could use that chronological element to help the narrative. It was also fortuitous that the first rumblings of the impending COVID-19 pandemic seemed to begin in the very end of 2019 and the trials of the pandemic really hit in full force towards the beginning of 2020. My music could begin with the New Year and then take the audience on a journey until the next new year began. I now had a more substantial conceptual direction for the work

With these ideas in my mind, I went back to doing research, this time looking for classic poetry about the New Year. I found a good deal of inspiring works, but what I settled on were five different poems, each that created a specific mood that matched a theme I wanted to write about. It was in these poems that I found the shared human experiences that I was looking for and with that, I knew it was time to start composing.

 

Suite for the New Year

Soul, plucking the many strings
Of my limbs like puppet’s, make them dance,
Dance, dance, in sombre joy,
That after all the sullen play
The old world falls, the new world forms.


A thought like music takes us now,
So like, that every soul must move,
Move in a most stately measure,
And souls and bodies tread in time
Till all the trembling towers fall down.


And now the stones arise again
Till all the world is built anew
And now in one accord like rhyme,
And we who wound the midnight clock
Hear the clock of morning chime.

(“Pavane for the New Year”, Elder James Olson, 1948)

This poem, in addition to containing some great musical language and imagery, struck the right balance of conflicting emotions with phrases like “sombre joy” and “sullen play.” The line “the old world falls, the new world forms” was also poignant and the themes of destruction and consequent rebuilding would prove to be powerful inspiration later on in the writing process. This poem gave the work a title; instead of writing a Pavane for the New Year, I would write a Suite for the New Year.
 

Movement I: "Many a Weary Foot"

We two have run about the hills,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we've wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne

(“Auld Lang Syne”, Robert Burns, 1788)

No song is more synonymous with New Year’s Eve than “Auld Lang Syne,” so I figured I could use its familiar strains to begin the journey. The opening chorale in this movement is a loosely recomposed version of the original song, and these themes would come back again and again in different iterations throughout the work. Upon reading the original Robert Burns poem in its entirety, a few lines stuck out that evoked themes that I knew I wanted to cover. The concept of wandering “many a weary foot” certainly spoke to me personally, as my 2020 began in a flurry of activity and work. I wanted to create a mood of constant motion and unbalance, where the music never settles down for any kind of real resolution. Interwoven with the “New Year” theme, the “Weary Foot” theme would establish a conflict between the hopes and optimism of a new year and the struggle for achieving balance. This conflict along with the off-kilter momentum of the “Weary Foot” theme also gave me a developmental device to play with, when that momentum was abruptly halted.

Movement II: “A New Face at the Door”

Full knee-deep lies the winter snow, 

And the winter winds are wearily sighing: 
Toll ye the church bell sad and slow, 
And tread softly and speak low, 
For the old year lies a-dying. 
Old year you must not die; 
You came to us so readily, 
You lived with us so steadily, 
Old year you shall not die.

His face is growing sharp and thin. 
Alack! our friend is gone, 
Close up his eyes: tie up his chin: 
Step from the corpse, and let him in 
That standeth there alone, 
And waiteth at the door. 
There's a new foot on the floor, my friend, 
And a new face at the door, my friend, 
A new face at the door.


(“The Death of the Old Year”, Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833)

This poem beautifully illustrates feelings of fear, lamentation and despair. It pointedly captures the feeling of dread for the impending New Year. This uncertainty permeates the second movement of the suite. The “COVID theme” (for lack of a better word) makes its first appearance in the piano – I did not want to personify the disease, so as opposed to a melody, the theme takes the form of a “pitch class set” or group of pitches connected by specific intervallic relationships. This would be the counterweight to the “New Year” theme and would rear its ugly head throughout the remainder of the work. With this movement, I tried to evoke the fear, suspicion and bewilderment of the early pandemic, when even the most mundane human interactions seemed fraught with danger. I also wanted to depict the frustration and dread of Tennyson’s poem as our old year “died” and a corrupted New Year came knocking. 

Movement III: “The Throb of the Clock”

Phantasmal fears,
And the flap of the flame,
And the throb of the clock,
And a loosened slate,
And the blind night’s drone,
Which tiredly the spectral pines intone!

And the blood in my ears
Strumming always the same,
And the gable-cock
With its fitful grate,
And myself, alone

The twelfth hour nears
Hand-hid, as in shame;
I undo the lock,
And listen, and wait
For the Young Unknown.

What rider it bears
There is none to proclaim;
And the Old Year has struck,
And, scarce animate,
The New makes moan

 

(“A New Year’s Eve in War Time,” Thomas Hardy, 1915-1916)

 

A study in isolation, fear and dread, this poem very much spoke to my experiences living alone during quarantine. I recall the days dragging on indefinitely and the walls of my apartment - while hopefully protecting me - beginning to feel like a prison. I depict this musically with an understated and repetitive waltz that continually circles back on itself. The chord progression and melody are also variations of the “Weary Foot” theme, signifying that the momentum of a year, once so busy that it was close to careening out of control, has now been totally arrested.

Movement IV: “Seas Between Us Broad Have Roared”

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

 

(Auld Lang Syne, Burns, 1788)

The imagery that Burns evokes here of two people growing increasingly farther apart touched upon another theme that I wanted to incorporate. In the doldrums of isolation, I felt like the pandemic had us trapped in the pressure cookers of our own homes. It was no surprise when that pressure boiled over and people from all walks of life burst forth into the streets to protest, to counter protest, and to express their frustrations, rage and demands for change. This unrest, combined with the increasing ravages of the pandemic, truly began to feel like a total dissolution of the “old world”. Musically, I tried to capture this growing sense of division, polarization and anger. The “New Year” theme, corrupted by the “COVID” pitch class announces the arrival of this challenging movement.

Movement V: “Ring Out, Ring In”

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace…

(“In Memoriam – Ring Out, wild Bells”, Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1850)

I knew that for the narrative structure of the work to be satisfying, it needed to end on a note of positivity. This provided the final challenge for me. In the midst of writing this piece, the Delta variant began its surge, jeopardizing the very premiere for which I was writing. Themes of isolation, increasing division and radicalization, and mortality pervade the news cycle to this day. Even now, as we gather to celebrate, we must still be vigilant and cautious as we battle the specter of the pandemic. This poem by Tennyson, however, helped me to find the optimism I needed. Unlike the other poems, it is a directive - an increasingly persistent command that calls upon the reader to take action and create a New Year that is purer, more just, and more true. To “ring out the old and ring in the new.” This idea became the concluding theme of this work. While 2020 has fundamentally changed the world as we knew it (as the “trembling towers” came falling down), we now have a chance to create a “new normal” that is more resilient, more equitable and more sustainable.

In studying each of these poems, it became clearer to me why New Year’s Eve is so often a time for reflection upon the past and anticipation of the future. While the COVID pandemic has lasted well over a year – and undoubtedly will prove to be a part of the human experience for years to come – this moment is an opportunity to look back on our shared experience and to make a resolution for healing and change.

Special thanks go to Doug Lillibridge for commissioning this work, to the CCJO Board of directors for their tireless efforts and dedication and to the musicians of the CCJO for bringing this vision to life with professionalism, passion and artistry.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for reading. It’s good to see you again.

Eric Lechliter

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Artist Profile: Mandy Gaines, vocalist (profile from womenofcincy.org)

Mandy Gaines, a talented, versatile vocalist and entertainer, with more than 30 years of professional experience, entertains and delights audiences throughout the world. Her performances are generally viewed as refreshing, soulful and exciting. From 1988 to the present, she continues to improve and grow through her gifted interpretations of Jazz, Pop, R&B and Soul classics as well as writing and performing her original works. Mandy began singing at an early age in school and church. She holds a B.A. from the College of Wooster in Speech/Arts. She has continued her studies through private vocal instruction and various workshops emphasizing oral interpretation, jazz improvisation,  vocal technique, theatre and broadcasting/media studies. 


Throughout her career, Mandy has performed with such Jazz greats as, Wynton Marsalis, Dany Doriz, Randy Brecker, Scott Hamilton, El Dee Young, Red Holt, Rhoda Scott, Deborah Brown, Brad Leali, Bryan Lynch, Keith Loftis, Marcus Printup, Wendall Brunious, Brian Simpson, Vincent Gardner, Wes "warm daddy" Anderson, Michael Stanton and Victor Gaskins. In 1988, Mandy was recruited by Coca-Cola Taiwan to become part of an original recording and performing group, MIT. With the band she toured island wide to promote their release, We Can Be One. She also went on to record with several Asian pop stars as well as maintaining a spot as an on-air radio personality at I.C.R.T., Taiwan’s number one American-Chinese language radio station. From 1991 to 1994, Mandy returned to her theatre roots and was hired as featured vocalist at The Oldenberg Dinner Theatre Entertainment Complex and The Star of Cincinnati. In 1995, Mandy began traveling to Europe. Upon meeting local musicians, she began to perform regularly throughout Belgium and France in local clubs, concerts and festivals and continues to be invited back annually. In the fall of 1996, Mandy was selected to perform in Munich, Germany as a member of the Sister City Cultural Exchange Program and the following year she was selected to perform the same program in Zurich, Switzerland. She was also invited to entertain for the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, to commemorate the inaugural flight and joint venture of Delta and Sabena airlines.


Once back in Cincinnati, Mandy was chosen to be the opening act for Herbie Hancock and shortly after that, she was nominated Best R&B vocalist in Cincinnati’s annual music award show, The Cammy’s . Mandy has been a back-up vocalist for Asian Artist as Harlem Yu and Emil Chou. She has performed for British and American troops at Diego Garcia, Military Base, Indian Ocean. From 1998 to the present, Mandy has performed throughout Asia and Europe in clubs, concerts and festivals. She has been Artist in Residence at several 5-star hotels in Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong. 


The spring of 2006 saw a return to Europe to perform at the, April Jazz Festival in Helsinki, Finland and Festival International De Jazz in St. Louis de Senegal, Africa. She also had a European release of her CD, With a Song in My Heart. She was then selected as judge for Sony Jazz Music Competition in Riga, Latvia. In spring of 2007, Mandy held music workshops in France. Teaching on jazz and gospel music emphasizing interpretation, improvisation, stage performance and vocal range. She also released her second recording, Taking a Chance. In January 2008, Mandy was selected to perform at The American Embassy, Thailand, in commemoration of Black History Month. Mandy was featured as vocalist in the Annual Cote Ouest Big Band Music Festival in Cote, France. In December 2008, Mandy starred in the musical revue, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, performed in Taipei, Taiwan. October 2010, Mandy returned to Russia for the third time and performed her first concert tour throughout the country, including 15 Concerts in 9 cities including Siberia and Kazakstan. In December 2010, Mandy performed in the musical Anything Goes as Reno Sweeney at the National Palace Theatre in Taipei, Taiwan. More performance videos can be viewed at You Tube and myspace.com/mandygainesjazzy. Find her on Facebook at Mandy Gaines Jazz. 


The latest CD, It’s Just a Matter of Time can be purchased through I-Tunes, Amazon and CDBaby.com. Mandy just released her first Gospel CD, Faith Journey, which can also be purchased through iTunes, Amazon and CDBaby.com. In Nov 2016 and Oct 2017, Mandy was invited by The American Consulate in Russia to perform a series of big band concerts and pipe organ gospel recitals.


On April 8th, 2018, Mandy had the great honor of being inducted into The Cincinnati Jazz Hall of Fame. Mandy continues to travel the world performing and recording while entertaining audiences along the way!