Dallas audiences heard two music premieres over the weekend, both commissioned to celebrate the legacy of John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of the president's assassination. Listeners of the symphonic work and chamber piece found the music moving and effective, whether they lived through trauma half a century ago or not.
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra premiered Conrad Tao’s The World Is Very Different Now Thursday night with performances through the weekend. Audience members interviewed by KERA could not believe that Tao is still a teenager.
Carol Rawitscher said: “Oh my God, 19 and he wrote this, and he ..."
Gilbert Bruneman said: “He’s amazing. Nineteen and to be able to do that ... "
Rawitscher and Bruneman loved the performance. Although Tao wrote the piece as a stand-alone work, a video of archival Kennedy scenes ran in the concert hall.
"Grabbed the spirit"
Rawitscher said the music was almost a sound track.
“It was wonderful and I don’t like contemporary music as a rule," she said. "It also grabbed the spirit of what happened. It was the joy and then the sadness and then the hope. And you could just feel that. And the video helped, I think.”
Bruneman, an eyewitness to the assassination, said the music brought back memories.
“I thought it was great, especially the beginning, the film and all that. I was really interested because I was there when he was killed. ... I was right on the street when he was killed so it brought back memories.”
The piece was moving for Brandon Walker, too, even though he was born decades after the assassination.
“You know you could tell that, in the beginning of the piece, it had a very, very presidential, the trumpets coming in, an upbeat feel," Walker said. "And you could follow the piece through everything that happened. You could feel the energy with everything that happened and then the drop, and almost that interference of the alto sax saying 'Oh my, something happened.' ”
"Very touching, moving"
Tao, the composer, said he didn’t write the piece as a score with a storyline, but that’s how many took it.
The Nasher Sculpture Center also co-commissioned a piece by composer Steven Mackey. In contrast to Tao’s full orchestral score, Mackey wrote an intimate piece for string quartet, called One Red Rose.
“I was not so much trying to depict scenes as more feelings," Mackey said, "just sort of emotions. I can see how people would bring recollections to it. That’s fine with me.”
Mackey’s music, composed more with Jacqueline Kennedy in mind rather than the president, was exciting to Kenneth Agyemang.
“It was like a very touching, moving piece," Agyemang said. "Overall, it was pretty great. That was really intense, really heavy, dark deep, and towards the end it got to be I guess a lot more happier. Just, you couldn’t forget about the accomplishments he had and just the mark he had.”
Many who heard Mackey’s piece and that of Conrad Tao say both composers left their mark on Dallas this weekend.