An Interview with Composer, Larry Delinger

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Where are you from, where do you live, how did you become a composer?

Larry: "I was born in a very small town in the Sandhills of Nebraska where Crazy Horse had his vision quest and home to large cattle ranches. My younger brother and I sang country western songs to entertain town folks. I studied piano from the railway station master’s wife and after that from a pianist that moved to our town to be with her sister. She was Native American, Sioux from Los Angeles, her husband, a bop viola player had recently died. She started a jazz band and I played trumpet. She taught me the twelve-bar blues, the jam keys of standard tunes and the etiquette on the stand. She also taught me how to analyze Debussy but as jazz chords instead of the academic way. I grew up, went to college, had four beautiful children and moved to California."

"I never studied music composition in school. I found my first teacher Ernest Kanitz in Los Angeles, CA and later Edward Applebaum in Santa Barbara, CA. Through no fault of my own except chance and luck, I started writing music for the theatre throughout the United States and Europe. I met many fine studio musicians who ask me to write pieces for them and the beat goes on."

What intrigued you about composing an opera about Beauford Delaney? Where did you begin? And how did you get started on this project?

Larry: "The first thing that intrigued me about this project when Kathryn and Emily e-mailed me from Paris was Beauford Delaney. I knew about him because he was part of the Harlem Renaissance. An artist who taught art at the college I attended, Chadron State, was also part of the Harlem Renaissance. His name is William Artis. I also took that as a good sign that I should do this project.

When I got the libretto, Emily had a quote from Beauford that I thought was extremely beautiful, “All darkness falls into light.” I could hear it being sung as a call and response with an alto sax. And finally, as I read the libretto I began to hear music."

"I was interested by the three singers who became all of the other characters in the opera as well. I began to feel that they were the voices in his head because of the way that Emily had also written sections where the voices scold, taunt, and humiliate Beauford. When that became evident to me, I knew that I had a musical structure that was dramatic."

Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?

Larry: "I can’t say much about the creative process, maybe three statements 

                    1. The need to embrace accidents 

                    2. Have a plan but be ready to abandon it

                   3. Work intuitively, but with the experience of your craft to guide you"

"Here is a personal remembrance:

My first composition teacher, Ernest Kanitz was the first professional composer I knew. One day during my lesson his copyist arrived with the full score of Kanitz’s 2nd symphony which the San Francisco Symphony was going to play. That’s when I learned how difficult it was to be a composer. It’s not just inspiration, but after that, lots of hard work, many small details to tend to."

What do you consider your composition style to be?

Larry: "I would suspect that others would have a better idea of my compositional style than I.

My influences are Stravinsky, Bartók, Thelonious Monk, Ned Rorem, Bill Evans and many more. All of this is informed by French Music and my love of Jazz."

As you get ready for the premiere, what are you most looking forward to?

Larry: "The most exciting part of coming to Knoxville for the premiere is to see and hear what is only in my head, come to fruition by the skill of the directors, conductor, singers and all of the technical support. The opera takes on a life of its own." 

What is one main thing that you hope the audience will take away from the opera?

Larry: "My hope is that the audience will connect with what I’ve composed and will take away those things that are meaningful to them personally."

Marble City Opera also premiered works by Larry Delinger that include Amelia Lost & Talk to Me Like the Rain! Here are a few photos of those productions. We look forward to working on another Delinger Premiere this month! Join us for the Shadowlight Feb 28th and Feb 29th at 7:30pm at the Beck Center

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