The first concert of the 2022 season features four original works by local musician and composer Jason McKinney. With beautiful, expansive melodies and lush harmonies, McKinney tells the story of Northern Michigan through sound. Manitou Winds is a premiere wind quintet in Northern Michigan and joins the Benzie Symphony with Jason McKinney in three original works. French composer Camille Saint-Saëns wrote his famous Organ symphony in 1886. The Benzie Symphony will perform with organ and piano on this expansive and romantic work to close the concert.
Ransom Lake (Premiere) – by Jason McKinney
The Old Ash Tree – by Jason McKinney
Happy Feet – by Laura Hood
Platte Plains – by Jason McKinney
Camille Saint-Sans Symphony No. 3 “Organ Symphony” Featuring Tim Quist on Organ and Doug Scott on Piano
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, 8190 Lincoln Road Beulah, MI 49617
MANITOU WINDS was founded in 2014 as a volunteer musical outreach to the communities of Northern Michigan. What began as a Classical wind quintet has evolved into a versatile chamber ensemble creating eclectic programming in collaboration with local musicians and artists from other disciplines. Their concert programs highlight the works of local composers, writers, and visual artists, inviting audiences to explore universal aspects of the creative process. Two members of the ensemble, Laura Hood and Jason McKinney, compose and arrange a large portion of Manitou Winds’ repertoire. Their original works showcase the unique timbres of each instrument in the ensemble and give each musician a chance to shine.
Manitou Winds’ annual Winter Songs & Carols concert has been a local holiday tradition since 2015. Each year the ensemble presents a heartwarming program of traditional carols, songs, original compositions, poetry, and storytelling. Recordings of the concert have been broadcast on Interlochen Public Radio and selections are often featured in IPR’s holiday lineup.
In 2019, Manitou Winds released their debut album, First Flight, a 16-track collection of music composed by ensemble members Laura Hood and Jason McKinney. Inspired by the beauty of Northern Michigan, the album is a mix of Classical, Celtic, and Folk music performed on a colorful array of instruments.
A Celtic Summertide (2020), their follow-up album, was recorded live at Frankfort’s historic Garden Theater. The program takes you on a journey across the Celtic realm with evocative music and legends from Ireland, Scotland, and beyond. Packed with the variety and energy of a live Manitou Winds concert, the 18-track album of traditional songs and original compositions features the crystalline voice of soprano Emily Curtin Culler.
The ensemble includes Sam Clark (Traverse City), piccolo and flute; Jason McKinney (Maple City), oboe, English horn, saxophone, harp, and piano; Anne Bara (Interlochen), clarinet; Laura Hood (Cedar), horn and guitar; Lauren Murphy (Traverse City), bassoon; and Jan Ross (Lake Ann), reader and narrator.
Manitou Winds’ ongoing mission is to inspire creativity by bringing the intimate joy of chamber music to audiences throughout the region and beyond. Their concerts are free admission, often collecting goodwill donations to benefit local charities and causes. Visit ManitouWinds.com to learn more about each musician and to sign up for their e-newsletter to get concert updates.
HAPPY FEET premiered as part of A Celtic Summertide, Manitou Winds’ 2019 concert at Frankfort’s Garden Theater. It began as a finger-picking chord progression exercise Laura created on guitar but eventually expanded into a quartet for flute, clarinet, guitar, and harp. The melodies and form were inspired by her then five-year-old son’s improvised Celtic step dancing, which he always performed barefoot as she practiced. “From the chorus-like theme, it depicts a variety of dance moods and steps,” Laura explains. “About midway through, our dancers are having a bit of a hard time: stepping on each other’s toes, maybe suffering from one too many pints, or possibly our son has just landed in a heap after one of his cartwheels. I depicted this by causing all the parts to crash into one another in contrary motion, syncopated rhythms, and dissonant chords. Eventually we regain balance and return to the main theme once again.”
THE OLD ASH TREE originally debuted in a 2018 performance at the Oliver Art Center in Frankfort. Today’s performance premieres a new version featuring the BASO strings. The work began as a heartfelt lament on the tragic decimation of local ash trees, but Jason quickly realized he was also writing about his paternal grandfather’s brave fight against Alzheimer’s disease. A central theme is woven throughout (akin to a rondo), and each return of the theme is a reminder that Alzheimer’s disease may silence our loved ones, but it cannot erase them.
PLATTE PLAINS was lifted from Jason’s manuscript pad where he gathered inspiration from several visits to Platte Plains in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It is a musical depiction of a hike along the park’s longest trail. The story begins at sunrise at the edge of the forest where the hikers depart with gusto. The music depicts points of interest along the way—the sheltering deep woods near Bass Lake, a sapphire-hued wild iris blooming in an ephemeral pond, the steep hills near White Pine Campground—and emerging from the woods to find a secluded Lake Michigan beach. The music also tells the story of the hikers themselves who gradually lose sight of their hurried, everyday lives while journeying through the woods.
RANSOM LAKE depicts the beauty and serenity awaiting those who visit Ransom Lake Natural Area, protected by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. During the pandemic, Jason discovered an even deeper appreciation for this simple sanctuary. “When the world becomes more than I can bear, my feet are especially glad to wander here in search of the quiet I so desperately long to internalize,” he reflects. “There were many times I circled the lake trying to lose my bitterness, fear, anger. I have grown especially grateful for this place. This piece was inspired by Ransom Lake’s welcoming spirit, the beauty of the land that holds it, and its gift of consolation offered to all who visit. My hope is that each person who hears it will experience their own journey around the lake, wander along the creek, and hear the message of the waters.”
Platte Plains and Ransom Lake are part of a larger project Jason hopes to create in partnership with local visual artists. The project will explore through essays, poetry, photos, paintings, and music twelve protected Northern Michigan landscapes and the feelings these beautiful, complex, and fragile places stir in all of us. Combining several artistic disciplines and musical ensembles, the project will highlight intersections and departures of visual and performance art, demonstrating how their combination creates an organic, immersive expression of a single subject. To learn more about this project and explore more of Jason’s music, visit JTMcKinney.com.
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