One of my goals as a marimbist is to foster the creation of new marimba pieces whenever I can. There have been many great projects on Kickstarter that I have been a part of over the years but I have always wanted to do a commission by myself. For the past two years I have been working on just that. This is the story of the marimba solo “To the shadow, light” by Guillo Espel.
Back in 2009 I attended the Zeltsman Marimba Festival. During one of the listening sessions William Moersch played a marimba solo called “Zamba para escuchar tu silencio” by Guillo Espel. I thought that this was one of the most beautiful marimba solos I have ever heard (similar to the first time I heard “Land” by Takatsugu Muramatsu).
I heard this solo performed live by Angel Frette at the Marimba 2010 International Festival and Conference and knew that I had to find out who the composer was. A quick search led me to Guillo and we begin emailing about the solo, the quartet arrangement, and about his other pieces.
I didn’t have the marimba chops to perform “Zamba” myself, so I asked Jenny Klukken if she wanted to perform it. She has played it a number of times and a wonderful recording was posted on my blog in 2012.
I knew I had found a great composer, and so I asked Guillo if he would be willing to commission a new piece. Even though he is a guitarist, I knew from his previous marimba solo that he knew how to write for the marimba and make it sound beautiful. He agreed, and to my surprise, finished the piece in a couple of months. Both Jenny and I started working on “To the shadow, light” and continued to email with Guillo with updates and questions.
It was late in 2013 when I saw the announcement for ZMF 2014 and I knew that this would be the perfect place for the world premiere. Sometimes you just need a hard deadline to really focus and complete a task.
At the Zeltsman Marimba Festival, I was given invaluable advice by Nanae Mimura, Jack Van Geem, Laurent Warnier, and Nancy Zeltsman. I performed the world premiere at the 5-hour marathon concert on Saturday July 12, 2014 at Memorial Chapel on the Lawrence University campus. The program notes are located here, and the recording is below:
I wanted to personally thank all of the ZMF faculty from 2009 and 2014 and especially William Moersch for introducing me to Guillo’s music. Another big thank you to Guillo for taking the time to write a new marimba piece. If anyone is interested in performing “To the shadow, light” please contact me via email – marimba [at] jeffsass [dot] com.