Sound of the Season: Gary Schocker’s Cherry Blossoms

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a photograph looking at a blue sky through the branches of an ornamental cherry tree in bloom; this pale pink variety is called 'Akebono', which means "dawn"
This is a variety called ‘Akebono’ which means ‘Daybreak’ or ‘Dawn’.

“A simple phrase can say a thousand words that a thousand notes cannot. This is my attraction to Gary’s music. I have always identified with his music; his beautiful, elegant melodies and corresponding harmonies free of excess. It’s my legacy to share his music with the harp world.”

harpist Emily Mitchell,
check out an interview here

Over the past three decades, American flutist-composer Gary Schocker has written well over 100 pieces for harp. Only a small percentage of that abundance has been recorded, but it includes a septet called Cherry Blossoms. Written in 2006 for flute, clarinet, harp, and string quartet, Cherry Blossoms may recall the instrumentation of another piece now a century old. In case the unusual instrumentation seems familiar, that’s because it was used by French composer Maurice Ravel. It is easy to imagine that les cerisiers fleuris might be inspiring if you took a walk around Paris today.

The work’s first performance on May 20, 2007 did include its eminent older companion. Cherry Blossoms was commissioned by Maryly Culley Culpepper, flutist of the Fontenay Chamber Players based in Connecticut. A few years later, it was recorded with the composer and his long-term collaborator, Emily Mitchell, on a wonderful program called ‘Garden in Harp’. Azica 71272 was released in March 2012 and has been reissued on Albany 1629 with a different cover.

In American Record Guide, Ira Byelick said, “This is light, easy music–pleasant to listen to and inoffensive. There is nothing brilliant here, but it is attractive.” As you listen, you might imagine the words written for young people more than a century ago by Oscar Wilde in “The Selfish Giant” (1888): “And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing.”

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