A winning combination
Filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer.

A winning combination

Vermont Symphony Orchestra to premiere Paul Dedell work with Jesse Kreitzer video

BRATTLEBORO — Two Windham County artists, composer Paul Dedell and filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer, have teamed up to create a special musical event in association with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

On Friday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., as part of its annual Made in Vermont Statewide Tour, the orchestra, conducted by Music Director Jaime Laredo, will perform Breath by Dedell at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro.

This world-premiere will be accompanied by a video specially made for the occasion by Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival award-winner Kreitzer.

The concert also will include Britten's Simple Symphony and Gluck's Dance of the Furies. Pamela Frank, a long-standing friend and colleague of Laredo, will perform the Sinfonia Concertante, Mozart's double concerto for violin and viola. Laredo will perform viola from the podium while also leading the VSO.

The VSO's Made in Vermont Statewide Tour has made a tradition of premiering a commissioned piece by a Vermont composer and presenting it at major venues throughout the state.

This year's Vermont composer commission is a pioneering new venture between the Orchestra and the Festival. The commission represents the Orchestra's award for best integration of music into film, given last year at the Festival to filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer for his short film, Black Canaries.

“This commission and premiere are a year in the making as well as a work in progress,” explains the Orchestra's Executive Director Benjamin Cadwallader. “This innovative partnership is new to us as well [as to] our realm, as few public orchestras award filmmakers [for] an original score. We are thrilled to reveal the process by which composers, filmmakers, and orchestras work together to enhance the visual elements of film with music. What makes this partnership even sweeter is having so many Vermonters involved too.”

Eclectic compositions

Dedell is a composer from Williamsville who works in many musical styles. He was the music director and accompanist of the now-defunct historical-cabaret company It Isn't Nice for 10 years. He has also written musicals and scored puppet performances for Sandglass Theater of Putney.

In 2014, the Brattleboro Concert Choir conducted by his wife, Susan Dedell, debuted Paul Dedell's two-hour work Songs of Divine Chemistry, a work that Paul Dedell says “explores mystic poetry and brain chemistry in the context of love.”

“VSO approached me several years ago to write a piece of music for its Made in Vermont Statewide Tour,” Dedell says, “and this year I agreed to participate.”

However, this time the commission would be a little different from other years.

“A little over a year ago, VSO got its new executive director [Cadwallader], who was hired to enhance audience growth,” Dedell explains. “He had the idea to team up a filmmaker with a Vermont composer. VSO chose Jesse Kreitzer, whose short Black Canaries won the James Goldstone Award for emerging filmmaker last year [at the Vermont International Film Festival in Burlington]. Jesse was offered the opportunity to work with a composer for the Made in Vermont Statewide Tour this year.”

Kreitzer, who recently returned to live in Marlboro, where he grew up, creates works that explore “the fragility of memory, family lineage, and tradition,” as he writes on Vimeo (vimeo.com/lanterna/about). His films have screened at film festivals, galleries, and museums worldwide including The National Gallery of Art and The Museum of the Moving Image among others.

Kreitzer is working on his first feature film, Caregivers, a documentary about rural care for the elderly in Windham County.

A welcome collaboration

As Amy Lilly explains in an article in Seven Days, “The VSO award enabled [Kreitzer] to select a Vermont composer to score [Caregivers] from a list provided by VSO executive director Ben Cadwallader and his team - principal cellist John Dunlop, principal percussionist Tom Toner, composer Matt LaRocca and new music adviser David Ludwig. The VSO will pay the composer's commission.”

When Kreitzer chose Dedell, Jesse was delighted - not only because Dedell was a local composer from Windham County (which was important to Kreitzer for a film about Windham County) - but because they turned out to have similar visions.

Before the two “signed on the dotted line,” as Kreitzer puts it, they spent much time talking about the themes to be explored in Caregivers and discovered that both were deeply concerned about issues surrounding living and dying in rural Vermont.

Nonetheless, however in tune the two men are, Dedell hasn't written a note for Caregivers.

The fact is the film doesn't exist yet.

“This past year I have been hard at work on Caregivers, but that doesn't mean filming,” Kreitzer explains. “I have spent my time establishing partnerships to assess rural care in Windham County. What I discovered was an incredible network of grassroots care.

“I always wanted to come back to Vermont to make this film, but I had no idea that here in the heartland would be the cutting edge of alternative elder care. Traditional care often is not sustainable here, where people live in rural homes isolated and removed from each other.”

As of today, virtually no filming of Caregivers has been completed. Kreitzer plans to begin in January 2018 and shoot through the year, although (as in most independent films) this will be dependent on financing.

While Dedell's Breath certainly addresses many of the issues that Kreitzer intends to explore in his forthcoming film, the work was created independently.

Yet Kreitzer is an integral part of the Breath performance at the Latchis.

For the VSO's Made in Vermont Statewide Tour, Dedell's 13-minute piece will be backed by a new video by Kreitzer on the photography of Porter Thayer created specifically for the occasion.

Born in Williamsville, Thayer was a prolific photographer who chronicled life around Windham County from 1903 to 1930. Both Dedell and Kreitzer found inspiration in Thayer's photography for their own compositions.

“The look of Thayer's photography will have a big impact on the imagery of Caregivers,” Kreitzer says. “His work is rooted, as my future film intends to be, in traditional rural Vermont.”

An 'internal referent'

As a composer Dedell wanted to translate Thayer's imagery into sound, but he confesses that much of Breath was written before Porter Thayer came into the picture. Nonetheless, as Dedell continued to work on Breath, Thayer became an “internal referent.”

Breath deals with issues of life and death, our first and last breath,” Dedell muses. “I tried to build this music out of both silence and breathing. In this work, I considered the importance of our first and last breaths, as it relates to the sounds of wind, ocean, and stars, that is how our small breathing connects up with a universal experience. In the end, at the center of the work is the root of joy and love.”

Dedell says Breath is a very tonal piece, dedicated to a sense of place as it moves through a number of emotional landscapes.

Dedell's Breath and Kreitzer's Thayer video premiered at last August's Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.

“There, Breath was played by a nine-member VSO Chamber orchestra,” Dedell says. ”On the Made in Vermont Statewide Tour, however, it will be performed by the full VSO orchestra conducted by Jaime Laredo. We are very pleased that on each of the six stops of the tour, VSO will be able to also present the Thayer images, fulfilling its mission to create a fresh experience for concertgoers.”

Before the showing of the Thayer video on the VSO Made in Vermont Tour, Kreitzer will show Bunny and Don, his three minute documentary that includes footage that may be used in Caregivers when it is completed.

“This short film concerns a seventh-generation elderly couple intrinsically connected to the land as they manage to age in the home where they care for each other,” Kreitzer explains.

Both Dedell and Kreitzer have found working on Breath with the Orchestra to have been a rewarding collaboration.

“I am proud of the work,” Dedell says. “I am not sure what the future holds, but I am eager to consider the possibility of writing a full score to Caregivers when Jesse finishes his film.”

“It's very unusual for a composer to write music before the film is finished,” Kreitzer adds. “Usually a filmmaker gives his composer the finished copy to then score. Some day perhaps that will happen with Paul and Caregivers. I like to see our work together on Breath for VSO as sort of a trial run.”

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