Notes from Maestro Lipari

During this time when we are not presenting live concerts, our music director and conductor, Peter Lipari, will share personal and musical thoughts with you here!

The Music of Percy Grainger - April 2021

Greetings to you and I hope you are well. In April, I am turning 60, and although I personally don't like to celebrate my birthday, I'm using it as an opportunity to examine 1961 and composers who were born or died that year.

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was an Australian composer and pianist. He was deeply committed to folk music, particularly from Great Britain. Interestingly, his music was also wildly experimental in many ways. He was very diverse and innovative in all his work. I particularly like his Lincolnshire Posy, which cut a new path in compositional technique. Here is a representative recording of that piece, showing the conductor's score. Listen to how free his form is and how he uses tunes that are easy to listen to and absorb (listen especially to movement V at about 10 minutes). Also notice that he was adamant about not using Italian terms for tempo and articulation; he spoke English and wrote music reflecting that. He also had a unique way to write a score; what you see in the video is not how scores normally look, which is with every instrument or group of instruments on a separate line. Even his choice of key signatures and rhythms is unique and makes his music extremely complicated to put together.

And now for something completely different. Irish Tune from County Derry has a special place in my heart that I can tell you about the next time we see each other. This is a gorgeous piece and I'm sharing two separate, but equally lovely, arrangements made by Grainger: a string orchestra with a couple other folks and a wind band. I have had many memorable conversations with my son, Dominic, about which arrangement is more beautiful and which arrangement we each prefer.

  • String arrangement is here: Maestro Mark Elder is wonderful and a personal friend. Music starts at about 4 minutes, but I would listen to the intro if I were's fascinating.
  • The wind band version is here, and it's equally gorgeous. Enjoy! (You might notice it's in a different key than the string version.)

If you really like what you hear, here is an hour-long YouTube video with a lot of Grainger. Stay safe and I'll share my thoughts about the second composer next month.

Jermaine Stegall interview, Parts 1-3 - January-March 2021

As part of an ongoing series of interviews with contemporary composers and musicians, Maestro Lipari has recorded a three-part interview with acclaimed Hollywood film composer Jermaine Stegall. Born and raised in the Chicago area, wrote the score for the recently released Paramount Pictures movie Coming 2 America, and has composed music for other studios as well, including Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, Lucasfilms, and NBC Universal Television. See Part 1 of the interview here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Corky Siegel interview, Part 1-3 - January-March 2021

As part of an ongoing series of interviews with contemporary composers and musicians, Maestro Lipari has recorded a three-part interview with Chicago composer, pianist, singer and harmonica player Corky Siegel, who has appeared in concert with the West Suburban Symphony. See Part 1 of the interview here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Ludwig van Beethoven - December 2020

Beethoven was born in December 1770 in Bonn, Germany, and throughout his 56 years of life wrote music that is widely loved for its passion and beauty. In a short video, Maestro Lipari shares his thoughts about Beethoven and recommends one of his favorite selections for your listening pleasure.

Holiday reflections - December 2020

"Knowing that December is certainly a month of many celebrations, a quick and easy internet search revealed that there are over 100 of them, both sacred and secular! I remember a very early Christmas in my life when I was a child. The anticipation of Santa coming into our home overtook any other feelings I might have had about the importance of the month's celebrations. And even a couple decades ago when my family was young, the myriad tasks and chores that had to happen, so my children could have those same experiences, seemed overwhelming and even at times, inconsequential.

Now for me, however, December is a time typically for reflection; reflection on what important relationships are in my life, reflection on what brings me joy, or even reflection perhaps on my work or my activities, that are making a positive impact on my community and those around me. Here on our website, we've posted several traditional and non-traditional holiday favorites the West Suburban Symphony and I have recorded over the years for your enjoyment. Be well and take care of yourself, more importantly, take care of someone else. We can't wait to perform for you again!"

A spirit of gratitude - November 2020

"November brings us two opportunities to show gratitude: Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day. In the spirit of gratitude, I want to share with you some of the things music has brought me. Throughout my life, music has been the reason why I have friends, the reason that draws me to people, the catalyst to find new friends, and the most important reason why I keep friends. I found my soulmate because of music, and our children all have it as a foundation of the careers they are building. For this, I am grateful.

Music is my day job, my night job, my hobby and my obsession. Music is our international language. It doesn't care about our politics (isn't that a relief!), our religion, or our day job. We can discuss our favorite pieces, or composers, or genres without having to be defensive about safeguarding our opinions. For this, I am grateful.

I began life on the podium in my first year of high school. I was Music Director of a show my first year of high school. People trusted me (for better or worse!) which I now find amazing. For this, I am grateful. The first piece I ever conducted was the final movement of Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony (sorry, it was a band arrangement as we didn't have an orchestra at my school!). I'll never forget that concert. The West Suburban Symphony has played this work in three seasons. Here is one of my favorite renditions, in fact the actual recording I studied as a boy! It's performed by Herbert von Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra."

Musical flavors of the month - October 2020

"Almost every month has a 'musical flavor' to it. Easy examples might be holiday music in December, or patriotic music in July, or even a piece like Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony in the springtime. October and Halloween bring with them many classical and non-classical musical representations. Here are a couple of examples that the West Suburban Symphony has performed from Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Since we don't record everything we perform, these excerpts from Berlioz's work are led by my mentor, Leonard Bernstein: March to the Scaffold and Dream of a Witches' Sabbath. When I was young, Disney's 1940 film Fantasia and the wonderful choices of music turned Halloween into a veritable musical carnival! For even more personal listening, here's a link with the West Suburban Symphony playing some Halloween music under my direction."

How Peter Lipari came to be a conductor - October 2020

Hear his personal account, in this short video.