NEC Wind Ensemble + James M. Stephenson

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

NEC Wind Ensemble presents its first concert of the year under the direction of guest conductor and NEC alumnus James M. Stephenson.

This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here:

  1. James Stephenson | Symphony No. 2,"Voices"

    Prelude: Of Passion
    Shouts and Murmurs
    Voices of One

    Program note

    On April 23, 2016, my mother, Shirley S. Stephenson, passed away, at the age of 74. It was the first time anyone that close to me had died, and I honestly didn’t know how to respond. As this new piece – the symphony – was the next major work on my plate, I thought the music would come pouring forth, as one would imagine in the movies, or in a novel.
    However, the opposite happened, and I was stuck, not knowing how to cope, and not knowing what to write.
         Eventually, after a month or so, I sat at the piano, and pounded a low Eb octave, followed by an anguished chord answer. I did this three times, with three new response-chords, essentially recreating how I felt. This became the opening of the symphony, with emphasis on the bass trombone, who gets the loudest low Eb.
         I vowed I wouldn’t return to Eb (major) until the end of the piece, thus setting forth a compositional and emotional goal all at once: an Eb to Eb sustaining of long-term tension, technically speaking, and the final arrival at Eb major (letter I, 3rd movement) being a cathartic and powerful personal moment, when I finally would come to terms with the loss of my mother.
         The voice in the piece is that of my mother, an untrained alto, which is why I ask for it without vibrato. In the end, she finally sings once last time, conveying to me that “all will be ok”.
         I think it is the most difficult times we endure that force us, inspire us, to dig deeper than we could ever imagine. On the one hand, I am, of course, deeply saddened by the loss of my mother; but on the other, I will always have this piece – which is the most personal to me – to in essence keep her alive in my heart. I always tear up at letter I. Always. But they are tears of joy and treasured memories of 74 years with my mother.
    - James Stephenson


  2. Leonard Bernstein (arr. Clare Grundman) | Overture to Candide

  3. James Stephenson | Octet (2021)


  4. Johannes Brahms (transcr. Mark Popkin) | Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op. 56a

    Theme: Chorale St. Antoni - Andante
    Variation I: Poco più animato
    Variation II: Più vivace
    Variation III: Con moto
    Variation IV: Andante con moto
    Variation V: Vivace
    Variation VI: Vivace
    Variation VII: Grazioso
    Variation VIII: Presto non troppo
    Finale: Andante