This year’s Midsummer’s Music composer fellow is the highly celebrated, Dallas-based composer and conductor Quinn Mason. He’s earned awards from the American Composers Forum, Voices of Change, Texas A&M University and the Dallas Foundation, among many others, and he was a finalist for 2020’s Texan of the Year.
Mason’s orchestral music has been performed all over the United States and Europe, and this year he’ll debut his latest work, Door County Concerto, which he’s written for clarinet, horn, two violins, viola, cello and bass.
Vanessa McGowan spoke to Mason ahead of the concerto’s Aug. 26 world premiere at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Sister Bay, with additional performances and a Coffee Talk discussion to follow Aug. 27-29.
Vanessa McGowan (VM): When did you start composing?
Quinn Mason (QM): When I was 10. I also started the piano that year and had been listening to classical music even longer, so I decided to try my hand at it to see what I could come up with. My first pieces were for solo instruments (cello, piano, trumpet).
VM: How did you stay connected to Door County and inspired while composing the Door County Concerto?
QM: Because of my mentors Rogene Russell and Doug Howard, who spent many summers in Door County as part of the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra and shared with me many stories about the places and goings-on that happen there.
VM: What elements of Door County are represented in the piece?
QM: Each movement is descriptive. In the first, I paint a picture of a typical, lively midday in Door County, particularly during the summer when it is most busy. The second movement is a portrait of the famous Jorns’ Sugar Bush at evening, with short and light textures to depict the sap dripping from trees into buckets, which is said to create a mysterious sort of music in the night. The last is a look at a beautiful sunrise over Door County.
VM: Clarinet, horn, two violins, viola, cello and bass form an interesting ensemble. Why did you choose those instruments?
QM: In a sense, you get the best of each family of instruments: clarinet from the winds, horn from the brass, and each string instrument, with a second violin for reinforcement. Plus, the clarinet and horn have very rustic and natural timbres that lend themselves to my composition quite nicely. Together, the sound combination worked really well.
VM: If you could sit down to chat with any composer – living or deceased – who would it be, and what would you ask?
QM: My favorite, Igor Stravinsky. I want to know what he was on when he wrote The Rite of Spring. I may or may not need some.
Upcoming Concerts and Events
• Thursday, Aug. 26, 7 pm: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 2336 Canterbury Lane in Sister Bay (world premiere of Door County Concerto)
• Friday, Aug. 27, 7 pm: Kress Pavilion, 7845 Church St. in Egg Harbor
• Saturday, Aug. 28, 10 am: Coffee Talk discussion of the concerto at the Kress Pavilion, 7845 Church St. in Egg Harbor
• Saturday, Aug. 28, 7 pm: Hope United Church of Christ, 141 S. 12th Ave. in Sturgeon Bay
• Sunday, Aug. 29, 4 pm: Woodwalk Gallery, 6746 Cty G in Egg Harbor