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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on February 12th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 13, Issue 49

Emergent masterpiece

The Santa Maria Philharmonic Orchestra premieres an orchestral piece by Allan Hancock College's own Dr. Marcus Engelmann


Many great works of music have been inspired by the natural world, from the expanses of the cosmos to stretches of countryside. Inspiration is a powerful force, as powerful as the gravity that heaves our planet around the sun each year, allowing the engine of human creativity to thrive.

Mind of music:
Dr. Marcus Engelmann composed his work Earthrise as part of his master’s thesis while studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Dr. Marcus Engelmann, music instructor at Allan Hancock College, found inspiration in the sphere we call home in 1980, the year he composed his orchestral work Earthrise. He was a graduate student at the Cleveland Institute of Music at the time, and the large orchestral work was, essentially, his master’s thesis.

“One of the great things about the Cleveland Institute was they would turn the orchestra over to the composers each year,” Engelmann said, “so they would be able to hear the works they were composing.”

Like many composers over the ages, Engelmann’s composition was limited to the ensemble available to him. But thanks to the Cleveland Institute’s large orchestra, he was relatively free to explore the sounds a larger ensemble could produce. The orchestra played the piece for a recording, but the work has gone unperformed since then.

The Santa Maria Philharmonic Orchestra will premiere it on Feb. 16.

“This will be the real premier, the first time it has been heard in concert,” Engelmann said. “It’s a little unreal. The philharmonic is a wonderful company, and it really is an honor to finally have this work heard by a real audience.”

Engelmann has been a member of the board of the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society and has been involved with the society in other ways, including delivering pre-concert lectures for the Philharmonic shows. Santa Maria Philharmonic Maestro John Farrer approached Engelmann about performing a work of his, and Engelmann shared with him the recording of Earthrise.

“And it was one of those things where he was in the unique position to say ‘Let’s do it,’” Engelmann said. “I am hoping to attend the rehearsals and provide any assistance that I can.”

The rest of the concert features heavy hitters of the romantic era. A violin concerto by Ludwig van Beethoven—essentially the founder of the romantic era—as well as orchestral works by Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner will be performed alongside Engelmann’s Earthrise. A robust romantic-era orchestra is necessary to performing the contemporary work, which takes many traditional and modern stylistic approaches.

“There were so many different things that went on during the 20th century, and even though I was using techniques that were relatively new at the time, it was also relatively traditional,” Engelmann said. “I was inspired by dramatic music and building up tensions.”

The work is programmatic, meaning the title informs the instrumental music. The first inspiration for the work, which created the title, was the famous picture of the Earth rising over the moon from the first Apollo mission, Engelmann explained.

Powerful harmony
The Santa Maria Philharmonic Society presents “Strength and Inspiration,” the third concert of the 2012-2013 season, featuring works by Verdi, Wagner, Beethoven, and the premier of Marcus Engelmann’s Earthrise on Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. A pre-concert lecture is at 6:50 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church, 605 E. McCoy Lane, Santa Maria. More info: 925-0412,, or

“It started from that picture, but it got me thinking of the Earth, going back in time,” he said. “I think one of the things that I really was hoping to instill was the sense of a journey, this kind of sense of moving through time, and musical time, and having different experiences as you move through time.”

The work, which is entirely instrumental, employs several techniques found in avant-garde music of the modern era. Though the work is largely tonal, there are moments of atonality, something classical musical listeners may be familiar with from modern movie scores, Engelmann explained. These techniques help express abstract ideas such as the passage of long periods of time.

“Any time you are going to portray something in music, everyone is going to have a different impression of it,” Engelmann said. “On one hand, that is one of the things that is wonderful about music—that everybody brings their own experiences to it; it is kind of like poetry in that way.”

Engelmann has delivered the pre-concert lectures for the Santa Maria Philharmonic Orchestra’s season subscription concerts for the last few years, with this concert being no different. While lecturing about Beethoven, Verdi, and Wagner, he will have the unique task of lecturing about his own work.

“I probably have a lot more firsthand experience,” he said, “rather than reading about it and guessing what someone was thinking about their own work.”

His summer break this last year was spent moving his handwritten score over to a digital score format, so that individual instrument parts could be printed out for the orchestra members. He contemplated making alterations to the composition, but chose to stick to the original document, composed in his mid-20s.

“Any performance is always a little unnerving, but it’s exciting and I feel really honored that John Farrer thought that it was on the level for his orchestra,” he said, “and I certainly appreciate performing music by living composers.

“It’s a way to express what in some ways is inexpressible,” he added, “to portray things that we don’t always see as we go through our day, that are really there and part of our larger existence in this universe of ours.”

Keeping music live

O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub holds an open mic event every other Tuesday including Feb. 26 from 8 to 11 p.m. with signups between 7 and 8 p.m. The open mic is for live music—no poetry, and no rap unless accompanied by live musicians. A live concert featuring King Walrus and the Magicians is Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. at the pub, 633 E. Main St., Santa Maria. More info: 925-0658.

Wine down at Lucias

Lucia’s Wine Co. offers an open mic featuring wine, poetry, and live music on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at the tasting room, 126 East Clark Ave., Orcutt. More info: 332-3080.

Heavy hitters

The Chumash Casino and Resort presents Johnny Mathis in concert on Feb. 14. Air Supply performs live on Feb. 21. Both shows are at 8 p.m. at the Chumash Casino Resort, 3400 E. Highway 246, Santa Ynez. More info: 1-800-CHUMASH or

Maverick music

The Maverick Saloon offers live entertainment, including the country music of Teddy Spanke and the Tex Pistols on Feb. 15 at 8:45 p.m., followed by “Late Night with guest DJs” at 11:30 p.m. “Concert on the Deck” featuring Owen Johnston is Feb. 16 at 3 p.m. Teddy Spanke and the Tex Pistols performs again on Feb. 16 at 8:45 p.m., followed by “Late Night with guest DJs” at the saloon, 3687 Sagunto St., Santa Ynez. More info: 686-4785 or

Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at

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