This is a new work for band, written for a consortium of schools in the upper midwest. The lead commissioner is Waubonsie Valley High School, directed by Mark Duker. (see recording below)
Chamak Consortium Members (full list)
Amador Valley High School – Jonathan Grantham
Concordia College – Peter Haberman
Downers Grove North High School – Jessen Smith & Brayer Teague
Evanston Township High School – Matthew P. Bufis
Harry D. Jacobs High School – Anthony E. Gnutek
Henry M. Gunn HS – Todd Summers
Highland Park High School – Joshua Chodoroff
Merit School of Music – Chip Staley
Metea Valley High School – Don Devany, Josh Kaminsky, Shaun Schaefers Jordan Yi
Mundelein High School – Jerry Shelato and Andy Sturgeon
Naperville Central High School – DJ Alstadt and Brandon Estes
Neuqua Valley High School – Emily Binder, Jonathan Lauff, Scott Oliver, Shaun Schaefers
New Trier High School – Matt Temple
Oswego High School – Stephanie San Roman, Kevin Schoenbach
Plainfield East High School – David Lesniak & Jenna Wojdula
School District U-46 (Elgin, IL) – Jaimie Abney-Giraldo (Fine Arts Coordinator); Eric Hollaway (Bartlett HS); Robert Sanchez (Elgin HS); Nicholas Lambert (Larkin HS); Griffin Lober (South Elgin HS); Max Mollenkamp (Streamwood HS)
Waubonsie Valley High School – Kevin Carroll, Chris Dandeles, Mark Duker
Wheaton North High School – Kent Krause
Yorkville High School – Victor Anderson & Bobby Vriezen
Program Note from Mark Duker:
In the fall of 2019, I sat in Wentz Hall as an audience member listening to the premiere of Concerto for You, written by Reena Esmail. That performance brought the answer to a question our staff had been asking for years – How can we incorporate music from South Asia into band music and our band program? That night it finally seemed possible.
Reena has developed the incredible ability to take music that is meaningful and comfortable to a culture thousands of miles away and transform it so that a traditional western music ensemble can learn about it and share it with their audiences. She is able to write this music in a way that allows it to maintain its integrity while becoming accessible to a new audience. We are incredibly grateful that Reena was willing to consider this project that was a major departure from anything she’d previously written and hope this is the “spark” for Reena and many other composers to continue adding more of this music to our repertoire.
Program Note from Reena Esmail:
The word chamak means ‘spark’ in Hindi — and the title of this work was inspired by a beautiful couplet from the Indian saint-poet Kabir:
जैसे तिल में तेल है
ज्यों चमक में आग
तेरा साईँ तुझ में है
तू जाग सके तो जाग
which translates to:
Just as a seed holds oil
And a spark holds fire
Your own spirit is inside of you
If you can awaken it, you must.
Each of the three movements of this piece explores a different translation of the word ‘chamak’: the first is Ember, which is a dark, smoky, lilting melody in Raag Bhimpalas. The second, Luster, is a warm, intimate journey in Raag Hamsadhwani. And the last movement, Spark, is a fiery, vibrant jaunt in Raag Jog.*
I hope this piece ignites a spark in two ways. As young creative people, just beginning to find their way in the world, I hope this piece is a reminder to follow that spark that lies within each of them. And more broadly, I hope that this piece sparks an interest in Indian classical music in the band world — these musical cultures have been separate for so many years, and I hope this piece sparks further connection between these two worlds.
*If you know these raags well, you’ll hear that both the Hamsadhwani and Jog are a little bit ‘mishra’ — meaning that there are a few turns of phrase that move slightly outside the parameters of the ‘pure’ version of the raag.
The premiere recording of this work was made on March 15, 2023 by the Waubonsie Valley High School Wind Ensemble, led by Mark Duker:
Special Performance Requirements
It is strongly encouraged to engage a tabla player for this work – it is designed for a student with the same amount of years of Hindustani training as the band students would have studied their instruments. (Of course, a professional is welcome to play it as well)
The tabla player should have three tablas total: the bayan (untuned), and a Bb and Ab tabla (pre-tuned to these pitches). Movement 1 is in Bb, movement 2 is in Ab, and movement 3 switches quickly between these two (with a few avartans of space in between).
Practically speaking, it is best to mic the tablas so that all three can be heard (one for the bayan and one for both the pitched drums). If that is not possible, then the two pitched drums can be switched quickly between sections. (Also please note: the tabla player will require some sort of rug and/or platform on the stage – please discuss this beforehand with your musician.)
The tabla player is also required to play in the following taals:
Movement 1: Bhajani
Movement 2: Vilambit Teentaal
Movement 3: switching between Rupak (Deepchandi is also ok) and Dadra (Ektaal is also ok)
While it doesn’t quite have the same effect, this piece can also be performed without tabla. The percussion part is written in a way that will allow the tabla rhythm to be preserved if a tabla player is not available — but the effect of a tabla will add substantially to the experience of the piece, and will elevate the level of cross-cultural dialogue, both between performers and audiences, in a meaningful and irreplaceable way.
If you would like recommendations for tabla players in your area who might be able to play in your performance, please contact us.
There are a few places in movement 1 where a portion of the band will be asked to recite bols/words that come from the Hindi language. Audio guides for how to do this are below:
Chamak was premiered on March 15, 2023 by the Waubonsie Valley High School Wind Ensemble, directed by Mark Duker, with tabla player Gurpreet Birk. It was premiered at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, IL.