Today, the world premiere of a choral and orchestral piece will be performed at Southeast’s River Campus, marking their ten year anniversary. Composer and Cape Girardeau native, Dr. Gordon Goodwin captured the essence of what used to be St. Vincent's Seminary and emphasizes the role the Mississippi River plays in his piece “Timeless Banks and Shoals.” KRCU's Lindsey Grojean talked with Dr. Goodwin about the powerful composition, and his musical experiences during childhood and throughout his life as a teacher.
Alright, you grew up in Cape Girardeau, and you also moved to El Paso, Texas, correct?
Yes, but I feel very close to here because it’s a very musical town, and I got my musical start here. My first paying gig was singing a song with the municipal band. I was about 4 years old, I think, but the thing I remember the most was a guy coming to our house over on Good Hope Street, and giving me a check for a dollar for the performance. And my folks took me down to the famers and merchants bank and opened me an account. So I figured this must be what I do for a living.
Without giving too much away, could you put into words the essence of your piece?
Well, I tried to make the piece have a lot of variety music-wise. So the four movements are very distinctive. All four movements are for a different time period. The second is the slow movement, the third movement is playful, except it does have a gregorian chant that comes in with the men without vibrato, so its very monk-like. It sort of appears out of this scherzo going on around it. And the last movement is more contemporary in its rhythms, trying to celebrate how vibrant the campus is now and what it will be in the future.
So tell me a little bit about some of the struggles in writing the piece, and some of the easy parts that came to you naturally.
I don’t know if any of it comes naturally. I think you stay up late and you get up early. I know for some composers it just flows. I think I end up agonizing over every measure. But, I got the instrumentation from Dr. Edgerton, the conductor. I said ‘tell me about the orchestra. Tell me where the strengths are of the orchestra, maybe even the weaknesses.’ I said ‘I promise not to tell the orchestra.’ She said, “Oh everybody’s fine!” When I asked to write the piece about the history of the campus, and growing up here, that bridge that I was pretty sure was going to fall down anytime we went across it, ended up being right here next to the campus. So I had a pretty good visual of it. I have a wonderful co-writer, Paddy Bell, who’s a wonderful poet and lyricist. I told her what the assignment was and she’s also very musical so I could give her a musical idea and she would write text that would fit my musical idea.
I’m also in choir, so I’ve experienced this piece the last few months myself. Once we sat in with the orchestra a few days ago, it sounded a bit like a movie score. Are you inspired by movies?
Well, to be honest, and I think most of the movie composers would tell you, they've learned their art from the classical composers. I mean the early swashbuckling pirate movies, the guys who write them like Corngold, listened to Brahms. And they wrote that way. I take it as a compliment that it sounds like a movie score, because those guys have great skills, and they have a lot of history among them.
And you’ve been teaching for how many years?
Decades and decades…
So what’s it like to come back to composing? I know it was your first love.
I was teaching composition. I’m retired from the University of South Carolina, and I felt like part of my job was to also write for the ensembles that were there. So I’ve never stopped doing that. But it’s a real pleasure for me to come home and to see what the level of performance is. The musical community here has continued to grow and that’s exciting. A great privilege to be part of that.
Alright! Well, it was good talking to you!
Alright! And I look forward to hearing you bring my music to life.
To order tickets, go to rivercampusevents.com. To watch the performance live online, go to http://ovcdigitalnetwork.com/watch/?Archive=4091
Editor's note: Lindsey Grojean is in Southeast’s University Choir.