Remembering Daniel Pinkham
By John Aubrey, CMCB faculty and Arcadian Winds member
On Monday, December 18, 2006 the musical word lost one of its brightest luminaries when Daniel Pinkham passed away at age 83. Pinkham had been on CMCB’s faculty in the 1940s, and often regaled us with reminiscences about the tasty food his Jamaican students would prepare after their theory class with him. In his 60-plus year career, Dan played an influential role as a composer, teacher, performer, musicologist and music director. But of equal importance, Dan leaves behind countless musicians who have been lucky enough to have called him friend and colleague. The number of musicians who have benefited from Dan’s expertise and generosity is legion. He will be sorely missed, but he has earned an enduring place in our hearts and memories by virtue of his incredibly giving nature.
Arcadian Winds is a wind quintet that performs regularly at Community Music Center of Boston and four of our members are on CMCB’s faculty. Arcadian Winds benefited from a close relationship with Dan Pinkham that began in December, 1999. I met Dan while rehearsing his Jubilee and Psalm, commissioned by the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for their millennial New Year’s Eve mass. Soon after, Dan contacted me about giving a pre-premiere of his Salutations of Gabriel for solo horn and organ at his last service at King’s Chapel, prior to retiring. During preparations for this service, Dan learned that I was a member of Arcadian Winds and showed great interest in our group. Within two months, he had written Picnic Music—An Arcadian Pastorale for Wind Quintet for us. It was the first product of what would prove to be a fruitful and fulfilling relationship.
Dan wrote a total of 12 works either specifically for us or with us in mind, and members of the group have participated in the world premieres of 15 of his works. He once called Arcadian Winds the “most economic of orchestras” and he wrote for our little five-piece orchestra (and individual members) works that ranged from solos, accompanied solos, duets, trios, quartets and quintets to works where the quintet took on the role of orchestral accompaniment to solo instruments or choral ensembles. Knowing of Arcadian Winds’ commitment to the training of young chamber music ensembles, Dan recently wrote us a work called 5x2 for double wind quintet— one professional and one student. The student quintet fills a mostly accompanying role in this work, but in doing so they are introduced to many of chamber music’s more challenging concepts: complex and changing meters, ensemble phrasing and tempo fluctuations. Arcadian Winds was honored to be a part of Dan’s final faculty recital at the New England Conservatory in September of last year, where we premiered his Wind Trio and also performed his Forest Music. We will also be playing 5x2 at our CMCB recital on Thursday, May 17.
It was always a pleasure to work with Dan. The popularity and accessibility of his music belie its great sophistication and masterful workmanship. His music, which ranges from aching beauty to genuine humor (a rare quality!), was exacting in its demands on the musician’s technique and musicality. He was always supportive of our efforts and would actively solicit our advice on technical matters particular to our instruments. His support didn’t stop with the composition and he was a regular fixture at our performances at CMCB.
We will miss having such a unique and honored presence in our musical and personal lives. We will miss his humor, his company, his generosity with his time and talent, and the wonderful dinners to which we would be treated at his home. We are lucky enough to have been left a timeless legacy in the music he has written for us. We can think of no more fitting tribute to Daniel Pinkham than the performance of his wonderful music. Thank you, Dan!
On March 1, 2007, Arcadian Winds presented a tribute concert to Daniel Pinkham which included his Elegy (for solo alto flute), Dark Angels (for English horn and horn), Wind Trio (flute, clarinet and horn), Woodwind Quartet (oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon) and Picnic Music. The concert was a benefit for the Daniel Pinkham Endowment at King’s Chapel, Boston.
At 7 PM on May 17, 2007, Arcadian Winds will perform Daniel Pinkham’s 5x2 at Community Music Center of Boston with young performers from the CMCB’s Chamber Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. Details can be found at www.arcadianwinds.org or www.cmcb.org.