PRISM Quartet

PRISM Quartet plays Ypsilanti, MI

The PRISM Quartet presents an enticing program of recent music for saxophones at First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti. The program features three eminent Michigan composers: William Bolcom, Roshanne Etezady, and Evan Chambers. Chambers’ Deep Flowers features Tim McAllister on solo alto. Etezady’s Glint features McAllister and Zach Shemon in an alto duet. Graceful Ghost Rag is an adaptation of Bolcom’s piano work, composed in 1970 in memory of his father, and adapted for saxophone quartet in 2004 by former PRISM member Tim Ries.

PRISM commissioned Julia Wolfe’s Cha in 2014. The work is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s father. Julia Wolfe writes: “My favorite memory is dancing the cha-cha-cha with my father. He would hit the dance floor and take me along with him. We danced together from when I was 10 until sometime into my early teens. It was great fun. As I thought about this way of remembering my dad I began to research the cha-cha-cha, and very quickly realized that our suburban version was hardly like the various Cuban versions with their wild sensuality, polyrhythms, and highly stylized movement. The cha-cha-cha takes its name from the shuffling sound of the feet against the dance floor and first emerged just a few years before I was born. The piece takes the cha cha as a starting point and create a joyful deconstruction/exaggeration of the style for the sax quartet.”

PRISM commissioned Josquin Microludes from David Serkin Ludwig in 2012. The work has become a mainstay of saxophone repertoire. Ludwig writes, “I am often inspired by great music of the past, and much of my composing these days involves taking the clay from an older piece and reworking it into my own new musical sculpture. Josquin Microludes is a set of miniatures that incorporates Josquin’s Mille Regretz into its musical language. Each miniature features this famous chanson framed by some variation or transmutation of it. The piece is played continuously, as if channel surfing between ancient music and contemporary sounds. I thought the medium of the saxophone quartet would be fitting for this project that is based on a choral work, as it is its own choir of voices, sustained by breath and line.”

Salvatore Sciarrino’s Pagine is an anthology of settings of works by Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa, Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Domenico Scarlatti, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and more.  Sciarrino writes, “The saxophone quartet is an incredibly homogeneous and sweet, flexible formation, born over one hundred years ago but rarely used nonetheless outside jazz, and therefore its potential still must be explored. Recently an Italian school of saxophone has flourished, based on the French school, and the technical quality of the instrumentalists has been greatly raised. Meanwhile, in the whole of Europe, an original chamber repertory has begun to form around the various groupings possible with such an instrument. I myself have written La bocca, i piedi, il suono (Mouth, feet, sound), a work for four alto saxophone soloists plus 100 saxophones of every size. It has been just this difficulty of putting together this composition to make me aware of a certain lack of identity that the saxophone quartet suffers from, not being able to draw on, like almost every other instrument, its own repertory before romanticism. For this reason I have wanted to offer a real contribution to resolve the problem of the repertoire, central in my opinion, and I thought not so much about single compositions but about a cycle. Pagine (Pages) is an anthology based on different centuries and styles. In arranging the pieces, I have avoided the stereotypical aspects. To the contrary, I have aimed towards the inexorable modernity of the ancient masters, something that today is fashionable to blithefully ignore.”

Proceeds from the concert will benefit PRISM’s Michigan residency program in which the Quartet visits schools in Detroit and throughout Southeast Michigan for assembly performances, composition classes, learning labs, and coaching sessions.


David Ludwig: Josquin Microludes (2012)
Evan Chambers: Deep Flowers (1996)
Salvatore Sciarinno: Pagine (1998) (select movements)
Roshanne Etezady: Glint (2007)
Matthew Levy: Gymnopodie (2012/2018)
William Bolcom: Graceful Ghost Rag (1970, Arr. by Tim Ries 2004)
Julia Wolfe: Cha (2014)


This program is presented with generous support from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Quaker Chemical Foundation, the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and Meridian Winds.

Meridian Winds

First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti
300 N. Washington St., Ypsilanti, MI 48197

November 17, 2018
8:00 PM

$22 general admissions, $17 students and seniors ($3 more at the door)