Postcards from America

  • Wintergreen Music Festival, Wintergreen, VA Wintergreen, VA
Photos of the six locations described in music.

Photos of the six locations described in music.

Conductor Mark Russell Smith

Conductor Mark Russell Smith

The Wintergreen Festival Orchestra is conducted by Mark Russell Smith in Postcards from America, a 1996 work for orchestra commissioned by the Oakland Symphony and the Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra. 

Over the years I have composed dozens of brief musical portraits of the people and places I have known and loved. Postcards from America collects six of them.

Yaddo, Summer of 1988 is a portrait of the artist colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. I have been honored to serve as a Lifetime Member of the Corporation of Yaddo for many years. during my 20s-40s, it was more a home to me than anywhere else. This movement was written at the parlour piano in West House one rainy afternoon and shared with close friends after dinner. 

Lake Mendota, Summer of 1981 composed in Madison, Wisconsin while I was an undergraduate there. I often wonder how my life would have unspooled had I not moved to Philadelphia during Summer 1981.

Saint Mark's Place, Autumn of 1990 was written in a fifth floor walk-up apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that I shared with my cat, Clara, for a few years. (There was no doorbell: visitors rang me from a payphone across the street from Cooper Union, and I threw my keys down to them in a sock so that they could get in.) This movement captures an early-morning stroll eastwards along Saint Mark's Place at that time, towards Tompkins Square Park. 

Mount San Angelo, Winter of 1988 is a snow scene set just outside of Lynchburg, Virginia, at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, on a large hill called Mount San Angelo. Before I settled down and had a family, I spent the Christmas Holidays working with other artists there. One Christmas morning, I awoke to the glittering sight of every tree and building on the farm sheathed in ice. 

Delancey Place, October of 1983 evokes domestic life at 2214 Delancey, a beautiful old brownstone in which I lived (with Michaela Paetsch, Robert La Rue, and Lisa Ponton) as a student in Philadelphia. The light, as it streams through the sycamore trees in that city, is something I'll never forget.

The final movement, The Dakota, October of 1990 is a humble elegy composed that October in memory of Leonard Bernstein, who kept a home there. There are echos of LB's music in the movement, of course, as are the recurring final pitches A-C — the initials of his mentor, Aaron Copland.

Each movement was composed at the time and in the place noted in the title, assembled and orchestrated during July and August of 1996 in New York City and completed on 17 August 1996. The suite was co-commissioned by the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra and the Oakland East Bay Symphony and first performed by the Waukeska Symphony, conducted by Richard Hynson, at Shattuck Auditorium, in Waukesha, Wisconsin on 15 October 1996 and by the Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Michael Morgan, in Oakland, California on 15 May 1998.

— Daron Hagen, 1996

 

For more information about the piece, click here.

For more information about Mark Russell Smith, click here.

For more information about the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, click here.