A Composition Debut

Though Ty Austin started studying music just three years ago, he already has composed his first symphony, Symphony No. 1 in F minor, and has found a local church to purchase his work.

Austin, 22, is a senior majoring in both classical guitar and composition at Southern Oregon University. While Austin was working as a media lab aide at SOU recently, he met Grace Lutheran Church conductor Ivan Olinghouse, and they got to talking about composition.

"I showed him some of my works, and he asked if I wanted to sell some of them, and we started talking about the liturgical calendar," said Austin.

"Generally what most churches follow is a liturgical calendar, like Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. So the season we're in right now is the Epiphany of Our Lord."

For this phase of the calendar, the conductor asked Austin to compose a piece with Bible verses Isaiah 60:1 and Psalms 72:5, 7 and 14 in mind.

"I took Scripture from the Bible and spliced, diced and rearranged words," he said. "You want to be careful because you don't want to take the meaning out, but you want to change the words so that they are more musical and have a rhythm to them."

The piece is very contemporary, said Austin, with influences from hip-hop and reggae. The audience may even be inclined to get up and dance, he said.

Austin started out writing the composition on his classical guitar, and then developed the main motif, eventually incorporating parts for 30 voices, a string quartet, guitar quartet, double bass, tenor trombone, bass trombone, triangle, symbols, timpani, Dumbek, piano and solo guitar. He also wrote two parts each for flutes, clarinets and bassoons.

"I wrote this in about one day, I finished it all up, and then I met with the church conductor, and we went over certain names and the text," said Austin.

Grace Lutheran has a budget for employing musicians from around the valley. "They have a church choir of 30 voices, but they couldn't coordinate nor afford a full symphony," said Austin. "So it will be a big set, but it won't be the full score."

For Austin's debut at the church, the second movement will be performed by the 30-piece choir, a double bass, Dumbek, piano and classical guitar. It will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, at Grace Lutheran, 660 Francis Lane. This will be the first time his composition will be performed in a public setting. A sermon also will be given during the service on the text Austin used for the composition.

"I'm really inspired by the 18th and 19th century musicians," Austin said. "Not only were they virtuosic performers, but great composers and transcribers."

So far Austin has written five compositions from the liturgical calendar and is preparing about 42 musicians for his composition recital at the end of February at SOU.

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