Lake Michigan shoreline

Lake Michigan the muse for New Music Ensemble's latest pieces bringing natural beauty to life through music

Grand Valley's New Music Ensemble has distinguished itself by working with composers to capture the grandeur of national parks through music.

A new musical project using the same formula is capturing the majesty of a wonder that is closer to Grand Valley: Lake Michigan.

The effort is part of the Making Waves Initiative, which along with the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, has helped support the work that is being released, said Bill Ryan, ensemble director.

"We have the experience of going around the country and highlighting these incredible natural places, and I thought it might be interesting to bring that idea and relate it to more local destinations in our area," Ryan said. "We zeroed in on Lake Michigan. We thought it would be a neat thing to have composers respond to their experience with Lake Michigan."

That meant Ryan needed to find five people who had personal experience with Lake Michigan, such as growing up near the lake or having visited it. He asked them to bring Lake Michigan to life musically.

Waves crash against driftwood in Lake Michigan
The pieces capture different phases of Lake Michigan.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

So far, in three videos of music recorded by the ensemble, the composers have explored the lake in different seasons, from the harsh beauty of winter to the spring transition to memorable times on its shores in the summer, Ryan said.

Ensemble members met with the composers over Zoom and rehearsed and recorded within the pandemic protocols established by the Music, Theatre and Dance Department, Ryan said. While the original plan was for composers to come to campus for an extended period to work with students, these first few pieces have instead featured recordings on videos and virtual premiers.

The ensemble will work with the final two pieces in the fall, when Ryan hopes to revert to the original plan of bringing the composers to campus. He said he is hoping to do a live performance of all of the pieces; he is eyeing the ultimate setting of doing so near Lake Michigan, if conditions permit.

The pieces about Lake Michigan created so far


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