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'Cane River Murals' music suite picked up by London label


Northwestern State University's director of bands Jeff Mathews will go to Manchester, England, Monday to conduct the Royal Northern College of Music Wind Orchestra in a studio recording of "Cane River Murals."

The suite of five movements was inspired by the paintings of folk artist Clementine Hunter of Melrose Plantation. The work was commissioned two years ago in honor of the 100th anniversary of the NSU marching band. Martin Ellerby of Manchester, England, composed the work. He was captivated by Hunter's paintings. Mathews says the fifth movement, titled "Pecan Harvest," speaks to Natchitoches.

“He did a nice job of getting the flavor of the area. In a couple movements in particular, the opening movement and the last movement, "Pecan Harvest," is really Copeland-esque in nature and just has a real American flavor to it," Mathews said.

Ellerby said in an interview over Skype that he didn’t set out to create music for the murals; rather, the work is a reaction to viewing Hunter’s rural scapes.

“From a musical point of view, I just didn’t want to make them musical photographs. It was more to do with what lay behind them and things that were suggested -- little scenes, stories and pictures within the larger frame," Ellerby said.

Mathews will spend one week rehearsing with the 45-member wind ensemble before going into the recording studio. Cane River Murals will be published by Studio Music Company of London on the Polyphonic label.

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