Primiani: Gaudete Holiday Premiere

“After this incredibly challenging year of a worldwide pandemic, I’m looking looking ahead to next year and looking forward to enjoying hearing my music premiered during the 2020 Holiday Season.”

And so, composer Leanna Primiani introduces us to Gaudete, her newest orchestral work, which receives its premiere on December 10 by the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra (West Virginia). Music director John Devlin conducts the premiere at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, during a broadcast via local CBS-affiliate KDKA. Subtitled “A Holiday Extravaganza,” the seven-minute work was composed for the era of Covid-19. Its orchestration reflects the concept of “social distancing” onstage between musicians with scoring for: double winds; two horns; two trumpets; timpani and percussion (one player each), and as many string players as the ensemble performing the work is comfortable placing onstage.

Primiani discusses her new work. “Back in August, my conductor pal – Anna Edwards (Seattle Collaborative Orchestra) – reached out to me to find out if I had any Holiday music, which I didn’t at the time. So, I thought, since I didn’t have much else to do during the age of Covid, ‘why not write something?’ I started composing around September 7th and had the score ready by October 15th. That’s really fast for me. When I was done, I sent Gaudete to Anna who (which I didn’t know at the time) passed it along to a colleague. Three days later, I received an email from John Devlin telling me he wanted to program it for the Wheeling Symphony’s Christmas concert which would also be broadcast. Crazy right?”

She continues. “Gaudete is based on the oldest of Christmas carols, ‘Gaudete et exsultate’ (Rejoice and Be Glad), believed to have been composed in the 16th century. It also weaves several traditional holiday melodies throughout including ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Carol of the Bells,’ and ‘We Three Kings.’ In addition to the familiar carols, audiences will be tickled to hear the embedded Morse Code message in the brass: WEAR A MASK.” As is typical of Primiani’s current work, Gaudete is framed on the scaffold of time, both at the micro and macro levels, and created with an overarching musical structure using the concept of the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio (φ). This idea of ‘divine proportion,’ found in patterns of nature, balances sections and the climax of the work according to time itself, rather than on the number of notes or measures.

Upcoming: Primiani continues to work on her recently awarded Toulmin Commission for the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (Houston, TX). Currently entitled “Freedom: The New Abolitionists,” the piece is scored for chamber orchestra and electronics and is intended to be a companion piece, as well as musical commentary based on Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”