Ace Composers II

Further Developments by Alan, Christopher, and Eric Schmitz

Alan Schmitz composer
Christopher Schmitz composer
Eric Schmitz composer

Release Date: January 13, 2023
Catalog #: RR8083
Format: Digital
21st Century
Chamber
Solo Instrumental
Piano
Saxophone

While it isn’t entirely unusual for musicians to raise musical children, it is fairly rare for a composer to have not one, but two sons who also compose. This is the case for composition professor Alan Schmitz, who, together with his sons Christopher and Eric, presents of ACE COMPOSERS II, a curated selection of contemporary chamber music which proves that the apple sometimes does fall further from the tree, at least in some regards. It would be impossible to mistake either one’s works for that of any of the others: too distinct are the individual idiosyncrasies – the swooping, late-Romantic phrases, the sober, experimental minimalism, and the jazzy groove. Nevertheless, they are all united by one commonality – aesthetic appeal seems to run in the family.

Listen

Hear the full album on YouTube

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Romanza Christopher Schmitz Amy Schwartz Moretti, violin; Elizabeth Pridgen, piano 8:42
02 Bass Trombone Sonata (“Call of the Opera”): I. Allegro Christopher Schmitz Denson Paul Pollard, bass trombone; Kimberly Carballo, piano 6:44
03 Bass Trombone Sonata (“Call of the Opera”): II. Arioso Christopher Schmitz Denson Paul Pollard, bass trombone; Kimberly Carballo, piano 5:14
04 Bass Trombone Sonata (“Call of the Opera”): III. Vivace Christopher Schmitz Denson Paul Pollard, bass trombone; Kimberly Carballo, piano 4:05
05 Evening Prayer Alan Schmitz Stanley Roberts, conductor, director; Alexis Lundy, soprano; Mary Grace Roark, alto; Richard Kosowski, tenor I; Clay Young, tenor II; Stanley Roberts, baritone; Cameron Rolling, bass 4:56
06 Opening Flourish Alan Schmitz Emily Schmitz Madonia, violin 1:42
07 Rock Dance (Cello Sketch III) Alan Schmitz Craig Hultgren, cello 3:59
08 Poeme Nocturne Alan Schmitz Emily Schmitz Madonia, violin; Lee Schmitz, piano 8:46
09 Introduction and Domestic Squabble Eric Schmitz Charles Pillow, alto saxophone, English horn 7:10
10 Ballad Melody and Variations: I. Ballad Eric Schmitz Robert Auler, piano 0:52
11 Ballad Melody and Variations: II. Jazz Ballad Eric Schmitz Robert Auler, piano 1:07
12 Ballad Melody and Variations: III. Arvo Pärt-like Eric Schmitz Robert Auler, piano 1:39
13 Ballad Melody and Variations: IV. Block Chords Eric Schmitz Robert Auler, piano 0:58
14 Ballad Melody and Variations: V. Fugue(ish) Eric Schmitz Robert Auler, piano 1:00
15 Ballad Melody and Variations: VI. Harp-like Eric Schmitz Robert Auler, piano 0:56
16 Ballad Melody and Variations: VII. Romantic and Grandiose Eric Schmitz Robert Auler, piano 1:09
17 The Lamplighter Eric Schmitz Christopher Merz, tenor saxophone solo; Bob Washut, piano; Josh Hakanson, drums; University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One | Christopher Merz, director; Eric Schmitz, guest conductor; Tyler Utter, Jax Barry - alto saxophone; Johnny Hartleip, Kyle Punt - tenor saxophone; Logan Neifert, baritone saxophone; James Mons, Ben Thessen, Riley Jermier, Morgan Eadie, Kelley Meinen - trumpet; Justin Hughes, Levi Temple, Maggie Cremers - trombone; Jacob Chaplin, bass trombone; Luke Sanders, guitar; Sam Stover, electric bass; Michael Gedden, voice 11:19

The ACE COMPOSERS II recording is dedicated to Dana Lee Geren Schmitz, wife of Alan, and mother of Christopher, Eric, Lee, and Emily.💘

Bass Trombone Sonata (“Call of the Opera”)
Recorded February 15, 2020 at Ford Hall, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University in Bloomington IN
Producer Denson Paul Pollard
Engineer Stefan Wiebe 

Romanza
Recorded February 17, 2022 at Neva Langley Fickling Hall, Townsend School of Music, Mercer University in Macon GA
Producer & Engineer Steve Moretti

Evening Prayer
Recorded December 11, 2020 at Neva Langley Fickling Hall, Townsend School of Music, Mercer University in Macon GA
Producer Christopher Schmitz
Engineer & Editing Steve Moretti 

Opening Flourish, Poeme Nocturne
Recorded December 30, 2019 at Wire Road Studios in Houston TX 
Producer & Engineer Andy Bradley
Operations Manager William Wade

Rock Dance (Cello Sketch III)
Recorded November 11, 2019 at Catamount Studios in Cedar Falls IA 
Producer Craig Holtgren
Engineer Travis Huisman

Introduction and Domestic Squabble
Recorded May 12, 2021 at Blackdog Recording Studios in Rochester NY
Session Producer Eric Schmitz
Recording & Mixing Engineer Robert Blackburn

Ballad Melody and Variations
Recorded May 11, 2022 at Tyler Hall, State University of New York at Oswego in Oswego NY
Session Producer Eric Schmitz
Recording & Mixing Engineer Daniel Wood

The Lamplighter
Recorded November 15, 2021 at The Jazz Studio, Russell Hall, University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls IA
Session Producer Eric Schmitz
Recording & Mixing Engineer Tom Barry

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Danielle Lewis

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell 
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming, Morgan Hauber
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran

Artist Information

Alan Schmitz

Composer

Alan Schmitz (b. 1950) is Emeritus Professor of Theory and Composition at the University of Northern Iowa’s School of Music. He earned bachelor and master of music degrees from the University of New Mexico and a Ph.D. in music theory/composition from Rutgers University. Schmitz has received awards, commissions, and grants for composition from several agencies including the Alaska Council of the Arts, the Iowa Arts Council, the University of Northern Iowa, and the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Foundation. His music appears on numerous Ravello Records releases, including NINETIES TIMEFLOW (chamber pieces), LYRIC IMAGES (guitar works performed by Todd Seelye), and ACE COMPOSERS, 21st Century Music by Alan, Christopher, and Eric Schmitz. Schmitz retired from the University of Northern Iowa in June, 2017, after 23 years as Associate Director of the School of Music and now resides in the Houston TX area.

Christopher Schmitz

Composer

Christopher Alan Schmitz (b. 1972) is Professor of Theory and Composition at the Townsend School of Music, Mercer University. His solo, chamber, and ensemble works are performed internationally and recorded on Navona Records and Beauport Classical. Scores are published and distributed by C. Alan Publications, Cimarron Press, Opus Music Publishers, and Cherry Classics.

Eric Schmitz

Composer

Eric Schmitz (b. 1977) is Professor of Jazz Studies at SUNY Oswego, where he directs the Oswego State Jazz Ensemble and Latin Jazz Ensemble, co-leads and performs with the Oswego Jazz Project (faculty jazz quartet), and teaches jazz and rock history, improvisation, jazz arranging, and music theory and composition.

Notes

Dedicated to American violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, the Violin Concerto to which this movement belongs is a three-movement virtuosic showpiece. Presented in a large-scale traditional concerto design, the work draws upon a wide variety of influences from classical and romantic symphonic works to dance music and contemporary jazz. This second movement has been adapted for violin and piano to serve as both a reference for concerto preparation and a performance option for more intimate settings.

Written for Denson Paul Pollard, Call of the Opera is a challenging three-movement sonata inspired by great melodies from the opera repertoire. Throughout the work, original themes interact with references to over a dozen well-known opera melodies; these references are (mostly) subtle, but an attentive listener may notice flashes of Wagner, Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, R. Strauss, and others. The score for this sonata, as well as its “concerto” version with full orchestra, is available at www.cherryclassics.com

Set in German, this is a six solo voice (madrigal-like) unaccompanied composition using a text by the well-known Christian German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). Sadly, Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis just as WWII was ending. He was against the Nazi regime and unfortunately suffered the ultimate sacrifice for his lack of cooperation. The music is organized around two hexachord scales, not unlike Guido’s hexachord. The melodies and harmonies are derived from the hexachords and as the music proceeds, the listener can hear a chromatic shift as the hexachords switch back and forth. The climax of the piece, on the word Finsternis (Darkness), employs both hexachords in quick succession. The work ends as it began, giving praise to God. Evening Prayer is dedicated to the memory of Martha Helen Bell Dietz.

Evening Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Herr, mein Gott, Ich danke dir, daß du diesen Tag Zu Ende gebracht hast; ich danke dir, daß du Leib und Seele zur Ruhe kommen läßt. Deine Hand war über mir und hat mich behütet und bewahrt. Vergib allen Kleinglauben und alles Unrecht dieses Tages und hilf, daß ich allen vergebe, die mir Unrecht getan haben. Laß mich in Frieden unter deinem Schutz schlafen und bewahre mich vor den Anfechtungen der Finsternis. Ich befehle dir die Meinen, ich befehle dir dieses Haus, ich befehle dir meinen Leib und meine Seele. Gott, dein Heiliger Name sei gelobt. 

TRANSLATION: O Lord my God, I thank thee that thou hast brought this day to a close. I thank thee that thou hast given me peace in body and in soul. Thy hand has been over me and has protected and preserved me. Forgive my puny faith, the ill that I this day have done, and help me to forgive all who have wronged me. Grant me a quiet night’s sleep beneath thy tender care, and defend me from all the temptations of darkness. Into thy hands I commend my loved ones and all who dwell in this house. I commend my body and soul. O Lord God, thy holy name be praised.

This very short piece for solo violin was composed in 2002 for my daughter Emily to use as the opener for a recital she gave at the end of her high school senior year in Iowa. She reprised it for this recording, where it again serves as an opening “tour de force.”

Inspired by Bach’s Cello Suites but with a modern twist, this is the last of a three movement solo cello work originally called Cello Sketches, composed for and dedicated to Craig Hultgren. This movement includes a repeated rock-style ostinato pattern that is intended to evoke a lively contemporary dance feel that replaces Bach’s use of gavottes and minuets with the modern popular music idea that “it’s got to be rock and roll music if you want to dance with me.”

Also written for the composer’s daughter, Emily, this violin/piano work is based on two pre-existing themes. The first was taken from Chausson’s Poeme – op. 25 and the second from a composition for flute and piano entitled Nocturne, written by Schmitz. Poeme Nocturne opens with Chausson’s theme, presented initially in its original key (Eb minor), but with some modifications and a completely new harmonic accompaniment. It is recognizable though different. Next, the theme from the flute piece appears. As the piece unfolds, versions of the Chausson theme are presented in different keys and meters thus creating a few variations, while the flute theme is used as contrasting material and finally as the basis for a cadenza performed on the violin alone. Following the cadenza, the two themes are combined in the violin part while the piano accompanies. Poeme Nocturne concludes with a recap of the opening measures, thus taking the listener back to the first key and Chausson’s theme.

Introduction and Domestic Squabble was written for Charles Pillow in the spring of 2021, approximately a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. As I began writing, I imagined the millions of people around the world who had been spending a lot more time than usual with each other in close quarters – and the piece started to emerge as an argument of sorts. In spite of their timbral difference, the alto saxophone and English horn share much of their range, which allows them to play parts in unison and step on each other’s toes. I decided to explore this aspect of these instruments, in addition to the unique sound of the lovely lower notes of the English horn. After the first ACE COMPOSERS album was recorded, I became more aware of Pillow’s saxophone playing and was delighted to invite him back for this next project on both English horn and alto sax, including some inspired improvising on alto.

Ballad Melody and Variations began in early 2020 (pre-pandemic). When much of the world shut down in March 2020, the piece had to be put on ice while I learned how to shift all of my classes to an online modality. I was finally able to revisit it two years later and finished it in May 2022. Ballad Melody and Variations was written for my colleague Rob Auler, whose outstanding abilities as a pianist in both classical and jazz styles made writing this piece both a challenge and a lot of fun. As I began writing, Auler shared some of his favorite piano music with me. There were many influences on the composition of the piece, including Felix Mendelssohn, Keith Jarrett, Aaron Copland, Bill Evans, J.S. Bach, et al., but the main idea was to combine the classical tradition of “theme and variations” with the jazz approach of improvising “variations” over a “theme” (or “tune”). Some of the movements are played as written (I, V and VI), while the rest explore different ways of improvising over the theme, which might be inverted, changed to minor, etc. Auler’s imagination and creativity are on fine display throughout.

The Lamplighter was written in 2018 as a tribute to Dr. Robert Washut, Professor of Jazz Studies, to mark the occasion of his retirement after 38 years of inspiring teaching at the University of Northern Iowa. The piece was premiered by Washut’s Jazz Panthers. I was very fortunate to study jazz arranging and composition at UNI with Washut, as well as play in jazz groups under his direction. His teaching and friendship have had a profound and lasting effect on my career and life. The Lamplighter draws from a variety of influences, including the drumming of Mark Giuliana with saxophonist Donny McCaslin, the Stan Kenton bands’ distinctive trombone section sound, and J.S. Bach. I was especially delighted that we were able to record the piece at UNI with Washut on piano, in spite of the pandemic. Special thanks to Christopher Merz for making this possible.

Thanks to the great musicians and recording engineers who performed and recorded my music. The office of the Provost and the Scholarly and Creative Activities Committee at SUNY Oswego, for funding in support of this recording project. My family, for your love and support

— Eric Schmitz

Thank you to my amazing family for their continuous support, and to all of my talented collaborators on this recording (performers, composers, engineers, and supporters!).

Thanks also to C. David Keith (Dean) and the Townsend School of Music at Mercer University (music.mercer.edu). 

— Christopher Schmitz