Will Duchon

New Paths (written in January 2017)

In “Leaves of Grass,” Whitman writes about wandering “in paths untrodden,” where his soul is fed “by tongues aromatic” among the unexplored and unspoiled growth beside a quiet pond. The idea here is about being intentional. It’s about breaking away from the norm and the familiar conformities, and discovering overlooked sources of beauty. With a little imagination, this idea can be applied to our experience of listening to, and broadcasting, music. 

It is remarkable that in the 21st century there is still a wealth of overlooked and unjustly neglected musical works to share and experience. I love Beethoven’s 7th Symphony as much as the next guy, but I don’t necessarily need or want to hear it, or Dvorak’s 9th, or Brahms’ 1st, to the exclusion of anything and everything else written by those three towering composers. What about Beethoven’s arrangements of English and Irish folk songs or Dvorak’s many miniature works for piano that we never hear? Brahms’ motets contain some of his most magnificent and moving musical moments, like the transcendent “amen” of the “Geistliches Lied, Op. 30.”
Composers like Ottorino Respighi unfortunately are too quickly categorized as “one hit wonders.”  In addition to his “Ancient Airs & Dances” and “The Fountains of Rome” Respighi wrote the exquisite “Adagio and Variations for Cello and Orchestra” and a piano concerto that is never heard or performed, but should be. What about the English school? Gerald Finzi’s “Eclogue” for piano and strings and his “Introit, Op. 6” for violin and orchestra are music every bit as sublime and deeply personal as anything composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Percy Grainger was born in Australia, but his arrangements of English and Irish folk songs are fantastic in their imagination and expressivity. Listen to Grainger’s haunting arrangement of “Shallow Brown,” for example.

For those who have an instinctive aversion to “new music,” never fear: the old masters wrote plenty of music that deserves to be heard and enjoyed. There are hidden treasures from 20th century composers too, such as Ivor Gurney, Arvo Part, and Carlos Guastavino.

Great music is never composed in a vacuum. Every composer has been and continues to be influenced by the work of composers who have come before, as well as contemporaries. Wandering in untrodden musical paths opens our ears to new sounds and new pleasures, like discovering something new about an old friend. Experiencing the unfamiliar also has a way of casting new light on the “great standards.” May the new year bring you new musical discoveries and feed your soul “with tongues aromatic.” 

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Will's Biography

Will comes to WMNR with a broad background in music education and performance. He began studying piano at age seven in his hometown of White Plains, NY with Robert Canfield, and has vast experience in public performance as a recitalist and soloist with various orchestras. One of his greatest thrills was performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 at age 17 with a community orchestra in Merida, Mexico.

Will is a graduate of SUNY Purchase and a winner of the Artists International Young Musicians Auditions in 1990, which resulted in a New York debut at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall that year. He subsequently has appeared at Weill Hall numerous times in solo recitals and ensemble concerts.

Will has been a church musician since 1981 and is currently serving as music director for Monroe Congregational Church in Monroe, CT. He teaches piano privately and has taught many adult education classes in music appreciation and music theory. Will also founded a concert chorus at Ashlar Village in Wallingford, CT.

In 2003, Will graduated from The New Seminary in New York City and created an organization, The Opus 30 Mission (www.opusthirty.blogspot.com) which works on behalf of incarcerated persons wrongfully convicted.

Will has always loved radio and very much enjoys the experience of broadcasting. Says Will, “The communication and intimacy I feel with listeners is very similar to the experience of performing.” Learn more on Will's blog, Friday Evening Classics


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