May 13, 2011
I don't suppose that there are many conservatory composition students out there who manage to entice music ensembles from outside of their immediate collegiate community to perform at their graduate recitals.
Aaron Pike is an anomaly in this regard, truly making him a young composer to watch out for.
The 26-year-old's graduate recital last night at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music included a performance by the 32-member International Orange Chorale, as ASCAP award-winning, 32-member a cappella vocal group. I was at the recital because I sing in the group.
The reason that so many singers with busy lives turned up last night to support Pike is two-fold. The group is already invested in the composer's music: IOCSF performed one of Pike's pieces, "Peace," an emotionally-understated musical tribute to dead war heroes set to a poem by Louise N. Parter, at a Conservatory Composition Choral Competition last year. "Peace" won first prize at that event and went on to become the composer's first published work.
The second reason is that Pike is a promising composer. The two pieces of his that IOCSF performed last night -- "Peace" as well as "Alleluia!", a setting of the title word with a rich, cinematic (albeit slightly cheesy) chorale section sandwiched between jubilant, dance-like passages.
Hearing the composer's other pieces served to confirm my group's widespread belief in Pike's work. My favorite piece on the roster was a guitar duet, "Impulses," performed last night by the Conservatory students, Ramon Fermin and Chris Hague. It had heavy rock motifs and glittery-quiet runs dusted with harmonics. A violin, clarinet and piano trio, Child's Play, was equally captivating. Performed by Kevin Rogers on violin, clarinetist Brenden Guy and Nicholas Reynolds on piano, the piece, which was reminiscent of Debussy's Children's Corner in some respects, showed signs of rhythmic vitality, programmatic playfulness and a fluid feeling for melodic line that felt very much the composer's own.