Metropolitan Orchestra performs work with Bill Holm text

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
April 22, 2010
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Former Minnesota Orchestra violist and composer John Tartaglia has put the finishing touches on a work that will be premiered in its entirety by the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra this Sunday. "Dark Night - Glad Day" takes its text from a poem included in the late Bill Holm's final book. It's a poem that celebrates nature's beauty and optimistically embraces life, in much the same way as Bill Holm did.

St. Paul, Minn. — The late Minnesota poet Bill Holm was one of the great voices of the Midwest. A "cuddly curmudgeon" is how one friend described him, a man larger-than-life both physically and spiritually.

It may not surprise those familiar with the lilt and beauty of his writing that he was also a musician and played his piano every day. In one essay he writes about a favorite companion at his keyboard, Johann Sebastian Bach.

In "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bach," Bill Holm writes, "His music, mysteriously, orders and cleans the brain - maybe even enlarges it for a paragraph or two...maybe Americans should make it our national habit to begin every day with a half-hour of Bach. It couldn't hurt us in either our private or public lives."

Composer and former Minnesota Orchestra violist John Tartaglia loved Bill Holm's writing, but also found a connection in making music. And it's in this way that he pays tribute to his friend's passing with a new work for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, "Dark Night -- Glad Day."

The piece will be performed by KrisAnne Weiss and the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, with William Schrickel conducting this Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

The text is from a poem, "Autumn," not by Holm, but by one of his neighbors in his summer home, above the Arctic Circle in a tiny Icelandic fishing village.

Not a professional writer, Kristjan Arnason was a carpenter who, like many Icelanders, wrote in his spare time. Holm included the poem in his final book before he died, "The Windows of Brimnes, An American in Iceland."

He wrote, "Kristjan's devotion to his art, made without ambition or pretense but rather from love and necessity, has moved me more than once to write about him...poetry is what we do for each other to earn the honor of being human."

Composer John Tartaglia and conductor William Schrickel share their thoughts on Bill Holm and his love of music, poetry, nature and life.

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