Heather has been performing with the Fox Valley Symphony since our 1995-96 season when she was in college. She's also worked with our Youth Orchestras and our Partners in Education program over the years. For this concert, Heather will be arranging parts for the symphony and scores for conductor Brian Groner to play Cory Chisel's popular songs. It is a complex puzzle, and Heather tells us a bit about her experience:
|Heather Anderson working with our Philharmonia students.|
"Blank canvases, journals or music staffs are scary to look at. Insecurities don’t help. A lot of us are afraid to fail, but just as big of an inhibitor is being afraid to succeed. If I dwell on either too much, the muse flees and I can’t write anything. So, where to start? As a cellist I almost always start with the bass line. I’ll listen over and over. I’ll hum it. Then I’ll transcribe it out for our bass section. Then I listen to the melody and start to transcribe it, putting it anywhere to begin with, usually into the violins just to have it be somewhere at first. But those are still just planning and analyzing. Those don’t reflect energy, style, or the soul of a piece. Often I get stuck at this point because I am still only using my left brain, still analyzing.
"Maestro Groner said something to the symphony in a rehearsal once, perhaps 5 or 6 years ago, that has really stayed with me. We were playing a modern 20th century piece that very few of the orchestra members cared for. He could sense this and he stopped us. In a calm, quiet voice he said something along these lines. “Look, if we don’t believe in this piece, how will the audience ever believe in it or enjoy it? Here’s the rub: You don’t know what you like; you like what you know. People gravitate towards the familiar.” So, we all were charged with listening to that particular piece often at home as a part of the concert preparation process. This has changed how I approach a lot of music, familiar and new, those that I like and songs I dislike. So, when arranging one of Cory’s songs I listen to it A LOT. Enough that I dream about it. Enough that I know the chord changes and melodic variations from one verse to the next by heart. I’ll get fixated on a piece for a week and sing it in the car, at work, in the shower. I may be a Cory Chisel expert by the end of this composing project! This week my idée fixe is “Born Again.” Next it’ll be “Mockingbird” since I’m starting that one tomorrow.
"At some point during my listening the magic happens. Ideas just start to pop into my head, unbidden. I didn’t plan to put that melody in the trumpets, but that’s what’s in my head and, wow, it sounds pretty darn good there! Harmonies unfold, interesting little timbres pop out in my imagination where, for example, chimes in the percussion section would really accentuate a spot and create a little bubble of excitement. Often I’m surprised at what my imagination present to me. Sometimes I’ll hear whole sections played, finished in my mind and have to write it down very quickly to remember what I “heard.” But it all starts with a lot of listening to Cory’s CD’s and really coming to know the song. And it takes relaxing my mind and being open to the muse, if you will. And when a song is completed I’ll routinely listen and ask myself “how did I do that?” The answer is: Relax, listen, and create.
"I am thrilled Cory will get to hear his music interpreted with an entire symphony orchestra – something usually reserved for huge names like Sting or Metallica. I am both excited for my peers to play my notes, my work, my interpretations of Cory’s tunes and I am equally terrified. Cory, Maestro Groner and my peers have high expectations because they are all professional musicians and expect a professional level product from me. And most have never played anything of mine before. While I have premiered a piece with a few Illinois orchestras in the last few years, most of my peers never even knew I wrote music until they saw my name in the January concert program! I know that, even if I have some typos for less familiar instruments to me, the other musicians will celebrate the occasion with me and give me excellent constructive feedback so I can improve. Already I have had numerous offers from my peers to look at parts and help me understand their instruments better; they want me to succeed. This is greatly comforting and buoys my energy. I’m so excited to share Cory’s and my music with them and the audience and have the chance to both compose and play something with my own symphony orchestra, my home team. This is truly a rare opportunity and I feel blessed to have been trusted with this task by Brian Groner."