Frazelle: A Local Treasure

“Ken Frazelle is a local treasure here in Winston Salem.” As the Winston Salem Symphony prepares for its New Year’s performances of Kenneth Frazelle’s Shivaree, general manager Travis Creed offers some insight into the orchestra’s first program of 2020. The 11-minute work was co-commissioned by the Winston-Salem Symphony and the Santa Rosa Symphony, and premiered in 1996. It is scored for piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 4 trumpets, 3 horns, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, 3 percussion, celesta, harp, and strings. Music director Timothy Redmond conducts two concerts on January 11 and 12.

Timothy Redmond; courtesy: Winston Salem Symphony

Creed continues. “Ken is also a treasure of the classical music world at lrge. When we were working on a thematic idea based around the Bela’ Fleck banjo concerto, we realized that he would draw an audience who are fans of Americana. Aaron Copland seemed obvious, but we feel that Ken’s music is carrying on that same tradition of blending American traditional and classical composition. We were also very interested in featuring two living composers who are present at the concert. This unique audience will see that classical music is a current, living, and growing art form. Ken’s compositions are both new and familiar as he weaves the sounds of our region into his music. We are honored and excited to have him be a part of these concert concerts.”

Shivaree,” Frazelle shares “was inspired by a childhood joyride on New Year’s Eve. Armed with old pots and pans, a few cousins and my sister and I piled into our Aunt Jane’s baby-blue Thunderbird, and we drove through the country to awaken relatives and friends. We shrieked and beat the pots and pans as loudly as possible, and Aunt Jane pounded the car horn. I’ve remembered those wild sounds ever since.” Frazelle recreated those sounds in the percussion section by instructing: “The pots and pans should be cheap but clangorous, of different timbres, the sort found in a Southern Depression-era farmhouse kitchen. Large wooden cooking spoons and other metal utensils are used as beaters.”

Frazelle adds, “Another New Year’s night my father and I watched for shooting stars. In my memory, those luminous streaks blur with fireworks and bright lights and throbbing noise. Shivaree draws upon these memories. The piece begins with gestures of excitement and anticipation. In the tranquil middle section, stars appear, sparsely at first, then gradually break out into a full-fledged meteor shower. The music becomes more raucous and celebratory to the end.”