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Northwestern State musicians perform 'Earthrise' with its British composer in the wings

Northwestern State University

Northwestern State University’s Wind Symphony will perform a composition Thursday inspired by an iconic image of Earth taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts who were orbiting the moon in 1968. It’s an expansive piece of music that paints a picture in the mind’s eye, according NSU director of bands Jeff Mathews.

“The piece includes the rocket flight, the floating in space -- musical images of that photo -- and then the return home. It’s just dynamic and it was a great way to stretch the ensemble,” Mathews said.

An added bonus is that the British composer of “Earthrise,” Nigel Clarke, is in Natchitoches all week working with the musicians and giving master classes. Clarke is impressed with the caliber of students.

“I think what’s exciting from my point of view, they’re so good you’re able to take it to another level by I sometimes say, Can you play dangerously quiet or dangerously loud? You can go to the extremes, which I think sometimes makes the special moments in performance,” Clarke said.

Clarke, who studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music, has the ability to shore up a disconnect that happens when musicians can’t meet face-to-face with the composer to wholly understand what they’re playing, according to Mathews.

“Musicians rarely get direct information from a composer. So, to have somebody in your rehearsals who composed the piece tweaking things, asking for this and challenging the ensemble is just a wonderful experience,” Mathews said, adding that Clarke’s visit was made possible through private donations to the university.

Clarke originally composed “Earthrise” for a Belgian brass band. NSU’s Wind Symphony and the Fredericks Concert Band will perform it Thursday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. in Magale Recital Hall.

NSU saxophone professor Paul Forsyth is the featured soloist. Mathews and graduate student Jaime Cisneros are the conductors. Admission is free and open to the public.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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