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Contemporary Music Festival
To Honor the Late Newton Strandberg

Newton Strandberg

Newton Strandberg wrote music about alley cats, the moon's surface and Egyptian rulers of long ago. Or at least that was what you might think from reading his titles.

Strandberg, professor emeritus of music at Sam Houston State University, died last week in a Houston hospital. He will be honored with the performance of four of his more than 100 compositions Thursday and Friday during the 39th Annual Contemporary Music Festival--A Tribute to Newton Strandberg.

Strandberg once explained the process he used in selecting a title for "Amenhotep III," a 29-minute piece he completed in 1971.

He named his composition after an Egyptian pharaoh who ruled about 1,400 years before the birth of Christ, and about whom he knew very little.

He said that about the time he finished the piece he read a Life Magazine article that said Amenhotep III was one of the Egyptian pharaohs most interested in technology.

"They were quite amazing with their pyramids," Strandberg said. "I didn't know anything about him, but I liked the name."

Strandberg came to Sam Houston State in 1967 after having taught at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and Denison University in Ohio. He had earned bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University and in 1983 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine arts degree from North Park College in Chicago.

He taught and wrote music at Sam Houston State University for 30 years, and after his retirement found his works not fading away, but instead being played in prestigious musical performance venues and being recorded by impressive orchestras and ensembles throughout the world.

His "Legend of Emmeline Labiche," which opens the Contemporary Music Festival at 2 p. m. Thursday in the Recital Hall, was recently released on an Opus One compact disc. The Warsaw philharmonic recently recorded his "Fiesta" for orchestra.

In recent years his music has been performed at the Lincoln Center in New York, in Boston's Symphony Hall, and in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Recordings made in Krakow, Poland, and Prague, have yet to be released.

"Legend of Emmeline Labiche" will be performed by the SHSU Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Carol Smith. But Strandberg also wrote for many formats, including chorus, piano, organ, solo voice, mixed chamber ensembles and kinetic theater.

Also on Thursday afternoon's program will be Strandberg's "Children's Prayers," performed by soprano Mary Kay Lake.

The festival's second session, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Recital Hall, will feature Strandberg's "Fragments," performed by pianist Jay Whatley. During the 7:30 p.m. Friday concert in Killinger Auditorium his "Three Short Pieces" will be performed by The SHSU Wind Ensemble, conducted by Matthew McInturf.

Also on this year's festival program are works by current SHSU composer Phillip Schroeder, and the late Fisher Tull.

The festival will conclude on Friday with a lecture/concert by Rod Cannon with the SHSU Jazz Ensemble and SHSU Jazz Combo as laboratory groups, on aspects of the history and development of significant trends in modern jazz.

Cannon's presentation on contemporary jazz techniques will feature music by Richard Rodgers, Michael Tomaro, David Wolpe, Bill Holman, David Bandman, Jeremy Wells and Paul Peacock.

All festival sessions are open to the public with no admission fee.

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SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
April 4, 2001
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