The water is wide in the Mississippi River, and the talent is wide in the Daugherty family.
The twain shall meet April 22 when Michael Daugherty, eldest son of the late Willis and Evelyn Daugherty of Cedar Rapids, returns to his hometown to conduct the world premiere of “The Water is Wide.” It will debut during the 9 a.m. worship service at his boyhood church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE.
The seven-minute work for organ and five trumpets is an homage to faith and family, written in memory of his parents and in honor of the church’s recent $4.5 million renovation project. Mark Baumann, the church’s coordinator of music ministries, contacted Daugherty about composing a piece to celebrate the renovation, and the celebrated composer said he “happily agreed.”
Daugherty, 63, is a multiple Grammy-winning composer and professor of composition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and is hailed as one of the most original, commissioned and recorded composers of his generation. His works have been performed around the world, and many times in Cedar Rapids, including Orchestra Iowa’s 2016 performance of his “American Gothic” on the front lawn of Brucemore mansion.
The outdoors come into play with this latest work, as well.
“When we were young, my family used to go to Pikes Peak (State) Park at the Mississippi River” near McGregor, he said by phone from Virginia Beach, Va., where he traveled for the world premiere of his “Night Owl” with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
“I’ve written several works about the Mississippi River, but I’ve always liked the tune ‘The Water is Wide’ — it’s an old folk tune,” he said. “It just seemed like the time to use it for this particular occasion. It’s not really an arrangement — it’s where I take the tune and spin a composition off of it.”
Setting it for organ and five trumpets also holds special significance.
Dick Brickley, who was the band director at Cedar Rapids Washington High School in Daugherty’s youth, played a piece for trumpet and organ with Baumann at Willis Daugherty’s funeral in December 2011.
“I thought it would be nice to bring back the trumpet and organ, with the great sound,” the composer said. He scored the piece for five trumpets to represent the five Daugherty brothers — Michael, Pat, Tim, Matt and Tommy — all of whom are professional musicians and grew up in the St. Paul’s Church family.
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“So the piece not only commemorates St. Paul’s, but the many years the Daugherty family were associated with the church, including my grandmother, Josephine, and my father, who was active for many years in the church, as well.”
Daugherty will return to conduct the piece, with Baumann at the organ and the five trumpeters placed around the sanctuary: Aren Van Houzen from Orchestra Iowa; Steve King and Dan Terrell, longtime band instructors and performers in the Cedar Rapids metro area; Wes Keene, University of Northern Iowa graduate in trumpet performance, and Sarah Lodge, a junior studying trumpet at Luther College in Decorah, both of whom are St. Paul’s members.
The church organ holds special memories for Daugherty.
“It’s a great organ. When I was a kid, I used to sneak into the sanctuary on Sunday afternoon and I would improvise on the organ. There’s nothing like an organ. It’s such a powerful instrument,” he said. “The five trumpets will be spread across the sanctuary in a stereophonic way, with the soloist in the middle, so it should really be quite a sound — and dramatic — with all those trumpets playing with the organ.”
“I’m excited. It’s going to be great,” Baumann said. The folk tune appears several times in the Methodist hymnal, he said, so it should be familiar to listeners.
The musicians will be playing C trumpets, instead of the more common B-flat trumpets, capitalizing on the C’s particular sound color, Baumann said.
Daugherty spent about a month composing the piece, whereas a 20-minute orchestral work will take 8 months to a year to create, he said.
He’ll publish the piece so it will be available for other performances, and he will record it, as well, so it can be streamed to reach a wider audience.
Daugherty will embark on a sentimental journey this coming week, doing a residency at his mother’s alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Monday through Thursday. Several of his works will be performed there, including his pop opera “Jackie O.”
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“I wrote the piece as a gesture of thanks to St. Paul’s and also to Cedar Rapids, which continues to inspire my music, and all the good vibes that I experienced growing up that inspire my music,” he said. “I have a soft spot for Cedar Rapids. ... I like to reconnect with my roots.”
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IF YOU GO
l What: World premiere of “The Water is Wide” for Five Trumpets and Organ, by Michael Daugherty
l When: 9 a.m. worship service April 22
l Where: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids