Bryant Denmark, who graduated from Dobyns-Bennett in May and will study orchestral conducting at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, has put together the Appalachian Summer Modern Music Festival (ASMMF), scheduled for July 28 and 29. Denmark said he started planning the festival, which he hopes will become an annual event, at the end of February.
“I plan on conducting it as long as I can, and then I’ll probably pass it off to somebody else,” Denmark said. “Basically, I was looking for a summer project. I’m going into conducting, so I thought why not put on a concert before I go to school?”
The July 28 concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Called “Simple Gifts,” it is an all-orchestral program presented by the Academy of Strings and Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra and will feature Peter Warlock’s “Capriol Suite,” the world premiere of Denmark’s own “Nocturne and Fugue” and Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring Suite.”
“It’s (“Nocturne and Fugue”) about an eight-minute-long piece for string orchestra,” Denmark said.
The second concert, slated for 7:30 p.m. on July 29 at First Broad Street United Methodist Church, is called “All My Trials” and will feature Dan Forrest’s “The Music of Living,” Eric Whitacre’s “Alleluia,” Gwyneth Walker’s “All My Trials” and Daniel Elder’s “Elegy.” The program will conclude with a performance of Maurice Durufle’s “Requiem,” which is celebrating its 70th anniversary year.
“He has organized a group of nearly 60 instrumentalists and singers (made up of professionals, amateurs, and students — all volunteers) to perform two separate concerts,” said Denmark’s mother, Patty, D-B assistant choral director and founder and conductor of the Cantemus Women’s Choir. Denmark is from a musical family: his father, Ken, sings and plays horn, and his brother is a pianist and cellist.
“Bryant has chosen and purchased/rented/borrowed all of the music, lined up the musicians, is conducting all the rehearsals and will conduct both concerts,” Patty said.
The concert will be accompanied by the ASMMF Sinfonietta, regional pianist Bryan Underwood and special guest organists Janet Pummill and Amy Stewart from Texas Christian University. The choir has been rehearsing since mid-June, and the Sinfonietta will begin rehearsing this week.
Denmark was a member of both the D-B Orchestra and Choir and was also a member of ETCC/HYE (East Tennessee Children’s Choir/Highlands Youth Ensemble ), the Academy of Strings, Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra and the Civic Chorale.
“This opportunity (at Mannes) came about as a direct result of his time spent last summer at Interlochen Arts Camp,” Patty said of a camp in Michigan.
Mannes is the only school in the country that offers an undergraduate conducting degree, and Denmark was one of three students accepted into the program this fall. Only six students are in the program at any given time, and it is a mixed program of graduate and undergraduate students.
“He is a truly gifted musician and conductor, and it would not surprise me in the least if he became the next Leonard Bernstein or Robert Shaw,” his mother said.