New Music Ensemble's newest album features pieces inspired by national parks

The ensemble performing at Grand Teton National Park.
The ensemble performing at Grand Teton National Park.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

Grand Valley State University's New Music Ensemble is set to release an album featuring compositions inspired by the scenery of national parks.

Dawn Chorus will be released April 24 on Innova Recordings and will be available everywhere, said Bill Ryan, ensemble director. The 11-track recording features works created to reflect the splendor of Arches, Badlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Teton, Wind Cave and Yellowstone national parks.

It is the fifth commercial recording for the nationally acclaimed group.

Ryan has led the ensemble on three tours of national parks to play compositions he has specially commissioned to correlate with each park; a fourth tour planned for this summer has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Composers for these tours were chosen for their strong connection to the natural environment, Ryan said. Each piece reflects the feature of a particular park that inspired the composers, such as its vastness, its landscape or its wildlife.

The album includes all of the pieces from the 2016 tour as well as some from 2014, Ryan said. Two of the composers are Grand Valley alumni who were students when they wrote the pieces: Ashley Stanley and Niko Schroeder.

Ensemble members, all since graduated, recorded the music at Solid Sound Studios in Ann Arbor, Ryan said.

"When we initially started doing this project, I didn’t have the idea of recording it in my head," Ryan said. "After getting incredible pieces from the composers, I started looking for a way to share it with an audience beyond the national parks."

Founded in 2006, the ensemble is an undergraduate group that focuses on contemporary music. The ensemble has received recognition from national publications and performed throughout the country.

During this period of remote learning and communication, Ryan reached out to students and alumni to record a piece of music for a video showing what life is like on tour with the ensemble. Each player performed an individual part to a click track — some even using just their phones — and then the music was assembled. Watch the video here.