‘Music in Montclair’ to feature composition by Harberg

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Composer and founder of ‘Music in Montclair,’ Amanda Harberg, at the piano.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Glen Ridge composer Amanda Harberg will have a work commissioned by the Dorian Wind Quintet played by the group at the upcoming program of the “Music in Montclair” series. The concert will be March 26, 5 p.m., at Unitarian Universalist Congregation, in Montclair.

Harberg originated “Music in Montclair” in 2015 to highlight living composers. The upcoming concert is the fifth of the series.

“As a composer, I am very excited about the music being performed today,” she said in a recent telephone interview.

She was also excited by the quintet playing her composition. It is titled, “Suite for Wind Quintet.”

“The Dorian Wind Quintet was formed in 1961 and is one of the oldest chamber ensembles in the country,” she said. “It specializes in music it commissions.”
The group commissions about one work a year, according to Harberg. It will be the NJ premiere of her suite.

She came to the attention of the group after she composed a piece, for clarinet and piano, for its clarinetist.

“They liked it and asked,” she said.
Harberg’s suite is a modern-day take on a Renaissance dance suite.
“That is a multi-movement suite,” she said. “Each movement is based on a different dance form. Each movement has a distinctive character and feel.”

Its four different movement have an abstract correlation to Renaissance dance forms, she said. The names of the movements are “Cantus”; “Furlana”; “Fantasia”; and “Cabaletta.”

“What makes them modern is that it reflects the music that has influenced me,” she said. “What I live and hear all goes into my music.”

In addition to modern times, the audience will be given the opportunity to hear selections from the past. Three choral works by J.S. Bach will be played, including one he wrote on his deathbed. “An incredible piece,” Harberg said.
In addition to Harberg and Bach, the quintet will play a jazz fugue inspired by Bach, who championed the form. Harberg said “Music in Montclair” focuses on connecting with its audience. Composers of the music being played are frequently in attendance to speak. Harberg, as artistic director of the series, also ties things together for listeners.

“One of the reasons I started this series was to bridge the gap between audience and composers,” she said. “And we do have kids in the audience. That is a very important part of the concert.”

A children’s concert is planned for next season, Harberg said.
The program will also have a New Orleans-inspired composition plus what Harberg called “a youthful, funky piece.” And another modern work will be played that Harberg said was “a nighttime, spooky piece.”

Her own work was completed a few weeks ago. She said what inspired her were the instruments in the quintet: flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon.
“It took me awhile to get inside the world of the woodwind quintet,” Harberg said. “Once I did, there was no stopping me. The suite sounds idiomatic, individual and flattering for the instrumentation.”

She believes its spiritual and emotional meaning will make it accessible to listeners.

“This is a big piece,” she said. “It’s 17 minutes long.”
To acquaint the audience with the composition, Harberg said she may speak about the individual movements and possibly play something from it to show how it ties into the dance movement it evokes.

“I’m very grateful for the Dorian commission,” she said. “Opportunities for composers are few and far between. It’s marvelous that they are dedicated to bringing new music into existence.”

She also recognized the venue where the series is held.
“The Unitarian Universalist Congregation has a history of being supportive of the arts and bringing meaning to people’s lives,” she said.

She was especially grateful to Markus Grae-Hauck, the UUC music director, and Thomas Parente, the composer-in-residence. Both act as advisors for “Music in Montclair.” Harberg also acknowledged the music committee at UUC.

“We all work together on a voluntary basis,” she said. “And this series would not be possible without Unitarian financial support, and the music committee.”

The running time of the upcoming concert is approximately 80 minutes, including intermission. A reception follows. UCC is located at 67 Church St. It can be reached at 973-744-6276. An admission fee will be charged.