Gordon Getty: Shenandoah
BORN: December 20, 1933, in Los Angeles, CA. Currently living in San Francisco
COMPOSED: 2015, originally as a arrangement for solo voice, piano, and cello
WORLD PREMIERE: This is the first concert performance of the arrangement for chorus and orchestra. This version was previously recorded by James Gaffigan and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Choir on the Pentatone release Beauty Come Dancing
INSTRUMENTATION: Flute, oboe, English horn, 2 clarinets, 4 horns, 2 trombones, tuba, vibraphone, harp, strings, and mixed chorus
DURATION: About 3 mins
Music history includes a short but distinguished list of composers who have divided their energies between composition and other areas. One thinks of chemist-composer Alexander Borodin, or Charles Ives, who struck it big in the insurance business. Gordon Getty is part of this tradition. To this day he is active in business, and through the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, he and his wife have been generous philanthropists.
Getty takes inspiration from words, and words lead him to their translation into music. His one-act Edgar Allan Poe opera Usher House was recently heard across the street at the San Francisco Opera in its US premiere. Another one-act opera, The Canterville Ghost, based on a tale by Oscar Wilde, was premiered by Leipzig Opera in May 2015. The San Francisco Symphony has premiered several of Getty’s works. Getty has also found a champion in the Russian National Orchestra, who has performed the composer’s works in their annual residency at Festival Napa Valley. His music has been widely recorded; a number of his works, including his three operas, an array of choral and vocal music, and six of his orchestral pieces, have been released on the Pentatone label. The composer's latest project is an opera based on the novella Goodbye Mr. Chips. It will be workshopped at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and given its world premiere at Festival Napa Valley in 2020. Getty is also the subject of the documentary Gordon Getty: There Will Be Music. His beautiful vocal arrangement of the traditional American song “Shenandoah” coasts through subtle twists and turns, like the Shenandoah River itself. Getty writes: “Shenandoah” has haunted me since I first heard it sung by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians seventy-five years ago. My arrangement pays tribute to what I remember of his."