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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Mary Lou (Four Symphonic Memories of Mary Lou Williams) (2008)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
12 Minutes
Programme Note
John Harbison Mary Lou (Four Symphonic Memories of Mary Lou Williams) (2008)
May 3 2009 (under the title 'Pittaburgh Memories')
Pittsburgh Youth Symphony
Daniel Meyer, conductor
Pittsburgh, PA

Composer note:
During my time as Composer-in-Residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1981-1983) I undertook some research on the many important musicians who had close connections to Pittsburgh. I was happy to discover that one of my favorite jazz composer-performers, Mary Lou Williams, spent a great deal of her career in Pittsburgh. When I began thinking about the present piece, I wanted to connect it to her — her music, her pioneering spirit, her strong and fervent personality.

The first three movements are memories of what her music sounded like to me, when I first heard it as a fifteen-year-old jazz player. The last movement refers directly to one of her best known tunes, Pretty Eyed Baby.

In talking with Agnes Kinard, I was delighted to learn that she shares my love for a certain jazz period, the early thirties, with arrangers like Fletcher Henderson, Eddie Durham, Edgar Sampson, and Mary Lou Williams. Such music, robust, delicate, colored, challenging, is certainly invoked here, perhaps also evoked.

— John Harbison

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