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Turning up the volume

‘Over the top’ chamber music inspired by funk
Monday, November 8, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:17 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It isn’t every day that composers have one of their pieces performed at home. However, a composer in MU’s School of Music is about to be given that honor.

“Screams and Grooves,” a piece for saxophone and piano written by Stefan Freund, will be performed Thursday evening at the First Baptist Church of Columbia as part of a program called “Exotic Voices.”

The concert is part of the Odyssey Chamber Music Series, a series of concerts by the church and the music school.

Freund, a visiting assistant professor of composition and music theory, said the 10-minute piece has two movements — “Screams” and “Grooves” — which offer intentional contrasts.

“The screams are represented by a crazy, high register of the alto sax called altissimo. They get shorter as the piece goes on,” Freund said. “There’s also a dialogue between the sax and the piano. The first movement is very disjunct.”

Freund said the grooves part of the piece, or second movement, is represented by repeated, syncopated rhythms and adheres more to traditional musical form. He called the work’s conclusion explosive and over the top — the only way, he said, to end a piece so full of excitement and rage.

Leo Saguiguit, saxophonist for the piece and visiting assistant professor of saxophone at MU, said the piece has “an incredible amount of energy and passion.”

“It’s just a blast to play and listen to,” Saguiguit said. “I like Stefan’s music because he bridges the gap between so-called classical music and popular music styles. This composition is inspired by funk music, so it really allows us classically trained musicians to step outside of our box and pretend to be rock musicians.”

Freund said that although the piece uses pop music as an influence, some parts sound more ambiguous than others.

Patrick Dell, an MU senior majoring in music education and composition, will be the pianist for “Screams and Grooves.” Dell said he is impressed with the volume and constant pace of the piece.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played something so loud. Near the end, my fingers are starting to hurt because I’m playing as loud as is physically possible,” Dell said. “But it’s contemporary, cutting edge and has this weird kick to it. It’s perpetually active, and even when sections slow slightly, it never seems to stop going.”

Saguiguit also expressed confidence in Freund’s ability to draw new audiences to chamber music.

“The classical music scene is probably one of Columbia’s best kept secrets, and making classical music accessible and attractive to a wider audience is an important aim of the series,” Saguiguit said. “For those who think listening to classical music is a stuffy affair, ‘Screams and Grooves’ should change their minds.”

Although the piece will be performed in a church, Freund said it offers something very different from traditional church music.

“It’s a very loud and boomy piece, something you wouldn’t expect to hear in a church. But the church will amplify the sound,” Freund said. “A church is also good because it has a warm, comfortable atmosphere that recital halls don’t have.”

Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict will deny Freund the chance to hear the concert Thursday. However, he was still able to debut “Screams and Grooves” on Saturday at the Missouri Music Teachers Association convention at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph.

The association commissioned the piece, which Freund said took him four to six weeks to compose.

Children and their parents who recently attended a Halloween concert by the Columbia Civic Orchestra might recognize Freund’s name. He is the group’s director and led the performance — dressed as Count Dracula.


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