Graduate composes Solar Eclipse Piece for Ronen Chamber Ensemble

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The Ronen Chamber Ensemble performed two pieces in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center for a special program designed to coincide with the solar eclipse, according to UIndy 360. The first piece was Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” written while the composer was a POW in World War II. The other piece was the world premiere of “Quartet for the Great North American Eclipse,” composed by Composer for the Ronen Chamber Ensemble concert, Active Board Member for the Ronen Chamber Ensemble and UIndy graduate Luke Garrigus. 

Garrigus said the artistic directors for the Ronen Chamber Ensemble are Greg Martin, Jayna Park, Alistair Howlett and Jennifer Christen. They were also some of the featured performers at the concert. 

According to Artistic Director of the Ronen Chamber Ensemble Greg Martin, the Ronen Chamber Ensemble was created by David and Ingrid Thelman around 40 years ago. According to Chair of the Music Department and Professor of Music Rebecca Sorley, the Ronen Chamber Ensemble is a chamber music organization that has been performing at UIndy for the past three or four years. Many of the board members of the Roman Ensemble are UIndy professors, and Martin said one of his favorite parts of the ensemble was being able to rehearse, converse and get to know the other people he was playing with.

“It was cool for us to get to play the four of us together,” Martin said. “The instrument combination, right, is a flute, an oboe, a violin, and a piano. So there’s not a whole lot of music written for that combination. So, to have something written for us where the four of us could actually play together was pretty cool.”

According to another one of the Artistic Director of the Ronen Chamber Ensemble Jennifer Christen, when they programmed the concerts last year, they did not realize that it was going to be around the time of the eclipse. Garrigus took it as an opportunity to write something original.

“They asked me about writing something for that date and I was looking that date up and I happened to realize that it was the same day as the solar eclipse,” Garrigus said. “So I found inspiration in the idea of writing a piece that would sort of imitate the imagery, the feelings and the pacing of a solar eclipse. I was able to sit in on a couple of the rehearsals with members of the ensemble and was able to communicate with individual members of the ensemble and sort of craft the parts specifically for the players… I really wanted to write something that was really energetic, hopeful, like a joyful explosion of sounds and colors.”

Garrigus said the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall is one of his favorite venues. He said he has always wanted to write something for the Ronen Chamber Ensemble, even before being a member of their board. He said he was a huge fan of theirs and would go to all of their concerts. According to Garrigus, it was a really big moment for him in his compositional journey to finally hear them perform one of his pieces.

“It was wonderful,” Sorley said. “It was very well attended. And the quartet for “The End of Time” is notoriously a very, very difficult work, and it was very beautifully done. And after experiencing the eclipse, it was just so fitting to be able to have this music that was related to the eclipse.”

Christen said both of the musical pieces were very difficult to play. Christen said that because of the way that the pieces are written, they took a lot of rehearsal time. According to Christen, they are both difficult in similar ways and it took some time to let things sink in. 

“He’s [Garrigus] pretty fresh out of college,” Martin said. “He went to Butler for his master’s degree. And he said part of the reason why he wrote it so hard was because he said he’d never gotten to write for people at the level of Jen [Christen]. So he wanted to write something where he could flex his muscles a little more in a way that you can’t when it’s people that are still learning their instruments, so to speak… I have been told by people that they think that Jen is the greatest oboe player in North America, in the United States.”According to Christen, the next season for the Ronen Chamber Ensemble is in the works, and they love to get to know their audience members after the concerts. Christen said for more information and to keep up-to-date, people can visit their website.

Photo by Allison Cook Musicians from the Ronen Chamber Ensemble perform in Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center on April 8. The program included music centered around the solar eclipse.

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