First SASO CD Is Celebration of Tucson Composers

TUCSON, AZ – The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra has released its first CD—Celebration!—showcasing the diverse musical range of six Tucson composers.

The eight selections are:

  • Landscapes by Pete Fine, inspired by travels through Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Open Spaces by Bruce Stoller, featuring the composer as soloist on yucca and agave flutes he crafts by hand
  • Running the Rim by Jay Vosk, depicting a New Yorker’s first impressions of the Grand Canyon
  • For Patte—A Simple Song by Richard White, dedicated to “a singularly remarkable woman”
  • Celebration! by Richard White, composed specifically for SASO and dedicated to its longtime benefactor, Dorothy Vanek
  • Walk Without Fear by Brian Goodall, commissioned following the tragic shootings in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011
  • If Life Were As It Seems, also composed by White, is an aria from his opera Rappaccini’s Daughter, based on a short story by Nathanial Hawthorne
  • Sinfonietta for Strings by A. F. Shultz, called “Baroque-like music for the 21st century” by SASO Music Director Linus Lerner.

“This is the only disc where you’ll find such appealing and intriguing music. You’ll find this music to be alternately exciting, soothing, engaging and moving,” Lerner said. “This is a professional-level recording and I’m immensely proud of our SASO musicians.”

This recording project was funded by longtime SASO supporter Dorothy Vanek.

Four of the featured composers studied in New York before relocating to Tucson. That includes Fine, a progressive rock guitarist who stumbled upon Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony and was overwhelmed by that introduction to classical music. He began borrowing music scores from the Lincoln Center library in New York and taught himself composition and orchestration.

Stoller studied at the Manhattan School of Music. He plays piano and flute, including flutes from various cultures. After he moved to Bisbee and explored the surrounding Mule Mountains, he found the inspiration to use dried agave and yucca blooms to make five-holed flutes.

Vosk studied composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. His orchestra, band, chamber and choral music has been performed in the U.S., Europe and Asia. His musical style is strongly influenced by Leonard Bernstein.

White attended the Mannes College of Music in New York City where he majored in composition, then worked for nine years with American composer Elie Siegmeister. White taught piano privately in New York, then Tucson. He also conducts and plays classical guitar, violin and viola. He performs with SASO in the viola section.

Schultz also has strong ties to SASO, serving as music director for 15 seasons, from 1980 to 1995. The orchestra premiered many of his works, including concertos and symphonies. Schultz is an organist, harpsichordist, music scholar and poet, and taught English and literature before retiring.

Goodall has written various types of musical composition for nearly 20 years including works for full orchestra, string ensembles and chorus. Recently he’s composed almost exclusively for concert and film. His music is infused with a sense of hope and resolve.

Excerpts from SASO’s inaugural CD were played during intermission at the orchestra’s three-concert season finale that featured Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and sold extremely well, according to James Reel, SASO’s general manager.

The 75-minute CD is on sale now at for $18.50 including shipping.

SASO rehearsed and performed these compositions throughout the 2012–13 season, then recorded them during the 2013–14 season, adding White’s song composed for Patte Lazarus, SASO musician and graphic artist who died in October of 2013 at the age of 47.

The CD was recorded in Catalina Foothills High School Auditorium. Producers are maestro Lerner and Gary Ray of Gary Ray Media. Soprano Christie Amonson is the soloist for White’s aria.

The composers shared these insights about the music:

  • Fine on Landscapes: “The majestic views of the Rocky Mountains—the beautiful streams and waterfalls, the drives and views at 14,000 feet elevation and the wonderful wildlife—were all very inspiring.”
  • Stoller on Open Spaces: “This is an elemental expression of my rootedness and adaptation in the desert—an homage to Bisbee and enduring relationships. It is definitely a Sonoran Desert work.”
  • Vosk on Running the Rim: “There is a bright intensity one experiences when first viewing the Grand Canyon. I also view this work through the eyes of a native New Yorker, which might explain its energy and jazzy quality.”
  • White on Celebration!: “This is scored for large orchestra—with extra woodwinds, a full contingent of brass, six percussionists, piano and harp. It bespeaks my joy in orchestra sounds.”
  • Goodall on Walk Without Fear: “This is a string ensemble piece commissioned for those most closely affected by the tragic shooting in Tucson, where six died and 13 were injured. My work carries with it a sense of hope and resolve.”
  • Schultz on Sinfonietta for Strings: “This commissioned work is written in a neoclassical manner. The forms incorporated into the various movements are from bygone era, but are represented with a modern voice.”

Lerner has conducted orchestras, operas, choruses and instrumental groups in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and China. SASO has toured China twice under his baton. In the summer of 2013 he directed the inaugural Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico, coaching singers from Mexico and conducing SASO musicians. Plans are to return in August of 2014. Lerner also is music director of the Symphony Orchestra Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil.

Founded in 1979, SASO is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music. The orchestra presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. For more information, visit or call 308-6226.

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