UNH Hosts Concert for Local
Middle School Students
Contact: Erika Mantz
UNH Media Relations
March 2, 2004
DURHAM, N.H. -- Hundreds of middle school students will pack Johnson
Theatre at the University of New Hampshire March 16 to celebrate
Music in the Schools Month with a concert designed just for them
by music professor and pianist Christopher Kies.
2002 Postage Stamp Featuring Ogden Nash
The entire Oyster River Middle School as well as students from
the Exeter Area Cooperative Middle School and Newmarket Middle/High
School will see a concert by the Granite State Symphony Orchestra
that includes a piece composed by Kies to the animal poetry of Ogden
Nash, a humorist and poet who was the first American chosen to grace
the 37 cent postage stamp in 2002, the centennial of his birth.
The concert is free for every student thanks to a $7,000 grant
from the office of the vice president for research and public service
“It's wonderful when anybody in the community does anything
that brings an enriching experience to children in public schools,”
ORMS Principal Marcia Ross said of the concert. “Then, when
it's something of this size and caliber, and by someone with the
excitement of Chris Kies, it's a wonderful opportunity for all children.
I only wish that every school could have something like this to
look forward to for Music in the Schools month.”
The production has a real grassroots feel to it. Kies' interest
in composing for young people grew out of his relationship with
his three daughters. Several graduates of the UNH music department
are teaching in the schools invited to the concert. Oyster River
Middle School chorus teacher and UNH graduate Beth Struthers will
sing several songs during the concert in preparation for Kies' orchestral
piece. It “borrows” tunes, meaning listeners will hear
strains of everything from Ode to Joy and Rock a Bye Baby to The
Girl from Ipanema and Tea-for-Two.
“Modern and classical music can be esoteric, not user friendly,”
Kies says when asked why he composes for children. “When I
was in college writing pieces, the arbitrary nature of it bothered
me. I like to have a reason for doing something, and what could
be better than introducing children to music and an orchestra? Borrowing
other composers' melodies allows people to recognize something in
what they are hearing, and it's a way of preserving the culture.”
Kies composed this piece after an earlier one frustrated him. The
Amazing Bone, based on one of Kies' and his daughters favorite books
by William Steig and written for the trombone (think of the voice
of the teacher in Charlie Brown) and piano, debuted in 2001. “It
was a successful piece and the kids loved it, but the publisher
requires payment of $100 every time it is performed,” he said.
“That might not sound like a lot, but it is when you have
That's when he decided to do something with narration and music
that was in the public domain, or controlled by a more relaxed publisher.
Long an admirer of Carnival of the Animals, which features Ogden
Nash's poetry alongside the music of Camille Saint-Saens, Kies decided
to choose 12 other poems about animals by Nash and add music to
them. Most importantly, Nash's publisher said that if Kies didn't
charge admission to the performance, there would be no fee attached.
This concert is not open to the public so as many students as possible
can participate, but a week later Kies has organized a performance
by Colonial Brass, the brass quintet of the Band of Liberty from
Hanscom Air Force Base that is free and open to the public. This
event is special in that all the students and parents from Moharimet
and Mast Way elementary schools have been invited to attend. The
concert will be held Tuesday, March 23, at 7 p.m. in the Granite
State Room in the Memorial Union Building on campus.