Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Homage to Juliana Osinchuk - Part Two

In 2003, to raise the funds to pay my commission for the composition of my Piano Concerto, the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra created Musica Nova, a commissioning club. Since that time, the club has commissioned six more works, one per season. Judy and I were so pumped about the idea, we were members until last year, when our finances couldn't continue to justify the $500.00 annual membership amount. We'll be back soon, when we can once again afford it.

The club has commissioned some notable works. I wish the Anchorage Symphony would provide a better web presence to tell people about the club and its legacy.

My Piano Concerto was written for Juliana Osinchuk, who performed the solo in its Anchorage premiere. That was its only performance. Three weeks after its premiere, I held the public meeting at the University of Alaska Anchorage about my projected cantata, The Skies are Weeping. Soon afterward, interest in further performances of the Piano Concerto ended.

Juliana's performance at the March 2004 Anchorage Symphony concert was simply stunning. Not only did she perform my concerto, she next played Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1!

The Piano Concerto describes, in three movements, aspects of the August 1999 voyage of the tug Ruby XIV from Kodiak harbor to Lake Union in Seattle. My close friend Peter Bevis and I were the sole crew members on this voyage aboard a 65-foot World War II YTL (yard tug, light), that had been the Cinderella tug of Kodiak for years.

Peter and I refurbished the tug for its first long distance ocean voyage in a generation. It was a lot of work. So was the voyage.

Here are the notes to each movement, with a link to recorded performances of each. I'm particularly proud of the second movement, The Dark Passage. Click on the highlighted title. Then click on the green forward arrow. A small window opens. Click on the play function there. Then, you can go back to the larger window, hit the go back function, and read the program notes:

Tug Ruby XIV:

This movement attempts to evoke the spirit of the old tug as she realizes, once underway in early August, 1999, that she is free.

Free of the cluttered slip next to her overshadowing companion, Kodiak King, free from being a harbor Cinderella, free to put many miles beneath her keel.

You hear her giant engine start, brought out of slumber from another, simpler age. You hear the crank, creak and hiss as she adjusts to constant motion. You hear the constant cycling of open valve lifters, springs and rocker arms, the squeaks as they are oiled and wiped.

Even though the journey takes on a sort of elegance, the strains on her are evident, especially in a rough seaway. You hear her slow for foggy mornings, creeping around points and between reefs. You hear her bask in the afternoon sunlight of glorious Southeast Alaska, and her reverence as she cruises through the largest salmon return to Southeast in a generation. She and we know that life and renewal are wonders.

The Dark Passage:

This movement attempts to evoke the feelings Peter and I were experiencing as we cruised the Ruby XIV through the British Columbia portion of our Inside Passage run. Both of us had taken the passage route several times both ways over the years, but it had been almost twenty years for me.

No sooner had the Ruby XIV entered Canadian waters, than evidence of the Southeast Alaska bounty ceased immediately. Through seven hundred miles of Canadian passages, there was less evidence of salmon or their harvest than there had been off of any major cape or point in Southeast Alaska. There was, however, much evidence of logging down to the shoreline, of erosion from gigantic clear cuts gouging out new channels into hillsides, and of wanton waste of salmon habitat. In the 1970s and 1980s it seemed the vitality of the salmon industry would last forever.

Now, the vast ocean seemed not alive, but empty. The Ruby seemed to sadden with us. Only the immensity and durability of this coastal universe gave us hope that it will recover during our lifetime.

Channel Fever:

Tugboaters and blue water commercial fishers have a name for the feeling which comes over crew and skippers alike as their vessel comes close to port after a long voyage away - “channel fever.”

After becoming adjusted to a slowed down time scale over weeks or months, the entire crew can become edgy and careless, as their minds turn to upcoming activities ashore.

As the Ruby XIV pulled south from Seymour Narrows and into the upper Straits of Georgia, the boat was pounded by the roughest midsummer storm to grip the area in years. As we rode an ebb tide southward down the strait, facing a southerly gale, we tightened our lashings, and pushed forward a bit too earnestly, toward Puget Sound and Seattle.

Would this contraption hold together? After a few minor emergencies, panics and near-breakdowns, we could see the skyscrapers of Seattle over the horizon. Ruby XIV seemed to happily surge ahead as we caught a glimpse of the entrance to the ship canal leading to her new home on Lake Union.

image - by Kodiak print artist D. C. Ruiga

No comments: