Contributed by Zaz Hollander
Michael Sterling Maffe is 19 years old and has already composed more than 100 pieces of original music.
Now Maffe’s latest work, Alaska: The Crest of Hinterland, is set for its world premiere at Mat-Su Concert Band’s next performance when the band performs “A Tribute to Alaska” -- a concert devoted entirely to music about Alaska and the north.
The concert is at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at the Glenn Massay Theater on the Mat-Su College campus. The concert has an intermission. There will be a small admission fee at the door. Tickets are $10; $5 for students and children under 5 get in free.
Maffe’s own program notes describe his piece: Alaska: The Crest of Hinterland is a musical portrait inspired by the unparalleled majesty of our northernmost state. There are three principal illustrations throughout the piece, each accompanied by a theme. The first of these evokes the mystery of the land. It alludes to wondrous natural phenomena that can be experienced in the Great North such as the Aurora Borealis. The second theme celebrates the pioneering of the state. It conjures the excitement of the Gold Rush, and the race to the Last Frontier. The final subject is an admiration of beauty. Romantically, it depicts the vast terrain, grand mountains, and lush forests found only in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Alaska: The Crest of Hinterland is one of many selections about Alaska and the north the band will perform at the concert.
Also on the program are three separate movements of Robert Buckley’s Portraits of the North which includes the popular Iditarod, written to describe the annual sled dog race to Nome. Band director Gleo Huyck was a co-founder of the race.
Other pieces include The Seal Lullaby, a dreamy, undulating composition by Eric Whitacre;
Grandeur of the Parks, an homage to Alaska’s scenery from
Denali to Glacier Bay; and even part of a suite by the popular march master John Philip Sousa, who also wrote 11 suites. The band will perform the first movement of Looking Upward, entitled By the Light of the Polar Star, written while Sousa traveled by train through South Dakota late at night.
Kivgik, by Carl Strommen, commemorates the “messenger feast” such as a big one celebrated every year in Barrow, and features striking percussion effects.
Sousa didn’t write it, but there will be a concert march performed too: The Forty-Ninth Star, by William Gerrard. Maffe, a Colony High School grad, has already received numerous national and international accolades for his work including winning the 2015 National Young Composers Challenge Composition Competition for “The Water Phoenix.” That composition has been performed by the Orlando Philharmonic and El Camino Symphony orchestras.
The band got its start in 1984 as the Mat-Su Community Band, formed by Matanuska Music owner Hank Hartman. Other directors have included Neil Long and Phil Munger.
Current director Huyck is a retired music educator and private instructor. Under Huyck’s baton, the band performs a wide-ranging selection of challenging music. The band this season numbers about 70 amateur musicians who assemble every Monday night for rehearsals at Teeland.