Zwilich celebrates

The Composer's Datebook from American Public Media
Thursday, October 12, 2017

As far as housewarming gifts go, a nice bottle of champagne is common, or maybe a bouquet of flowers. Even an electric can-opener might be appropriate, depending on the circumstances. But if you're a composer, and the occasion is the ceremonial opening performance at a new concert hall, you write a celebratory piece of music. On today's date in 1984, for the inaugural concert of the Indianapolis Symphony's new home, the Circle Theater, composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich wrote an orchestral work entitled, appropriately enough, "Celebration." "In writing this work," said Zwilich, "I was motivated by three complementary goals. First, I wanted to celebrate a joyous and historic occasion with all its inspiring symbolism of beginning and renewal. My second goal was to write a kind of "toccata" or test piece for the new Circle Theater. Finally, I wanted to celebrate the orchestra itself, which is, after all, the centerpiece of the occasion. Thus 'Celebration' is like a mini-concerto for orchestra." Zwilich's housewarming gift was dedicated to the Indianapolis Symphony's music director in 1984, conductor John Nelson, who recorded the piece with the Indianapolis Symphony for New World Records. Despite its origins as an occasional piece for a particular event, "Celebration" has gone to become one of Zwilich's most popular and frequently performed orchestral works.