René Clausen had always enjoyed the poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” but he never had the opportunity to show why.
Then Eastern New Mexico University called with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Nearly a year later, the longtime conductor of The Concordia Choir of Concordia College is coming to Portales to conduct the world premiere of his piece, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” Friday night at ENMU’s Campus Union Ballroom.
The five-movement work is about 40 minutes long, and ENMU Choral Activities Director Jason Paulk called the work interesting with its spoken lines in the final movement.
“A 40-minute composition is a big deal,” Paulk said. “The other interesting thing about this is multiple publishers are trying to get rights to publish the piece.
“We’ve had other world premieres here because we have composers on campus. But for the choir, I think it may be one of the first world premieres.”
The university first contacted Clausen to write a piece for two reasons. First, the work would take advantage of ENMU’s choral program and woodwind orchestra, a combination Paulk said most music doesn’t accommodate. Second, it creates new music for the public and the educational community.
“It’s part of our curriculum that we always want to promote new music,” said Paulk, who noted a Valencia Elementary class has created artwork of Revere to go on display in the Music Building. “Without new music, we don’t have cutting edge music for future generations. It’s definitely an educational endeavor ... and also artistic endeavor, because it is taking an old poem to new music.”
The 1860 poem, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is about Revere’s work as a night messenger before the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Clausen said the poem’s drama and shifting moods give it range for ENMU’s performance groups.
“A wind symphony is capable of a wide range of tonal colors and timbres, with particular emphasis on percussion capabilities,” Clausen said. “Of course, the chorus carries the story and the text. The combination of the two ensembles is a perfect vehicle for a dramatic epic poem such as this.”
The piece will be preceded by a series of Clausen’s shorter works conducted by Paulk, and Clausen will be the guest of a post-show reception, sponsored by the ENMU Friends of Music.