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New Jackson Symphony album celebrates French composer Fernande Decruck

JSO's inaugural equal billing project with portrait of composer playing the organ

The album is the first in the orchestra's new "Equal Billing Project" that promotes lesser known composers and their music.

“This little word is to introduce you to my very remarkable student Ms. Decruck (Fernande Breilh), organist and composer of the highest order," composer Marcel Dupré wrote in a 1928 letter of recommendation.

Although Decruck's Sonata for Alto Saxophone (or viola) is relatively well known by saxophonists, the rest of her music is largely unknown.

A new album from the Jackson Symphony Orchestra aims to change that fact.

Jackson Symphony Music Director Matthew Aubin became interested in Decruck's music after hearing the sonata. He thought her music was wonderful and asked around to find out what else she had composed.

"No one knew," he said in a press release.

So Aubin set about to find Decruck's music and get it performed.

Introducing Decruck and her music to the public became the inspiration for the Jackson Symphony's newEqual Billing Project, launched in the 2021-22 season.

The stated goal for the Equal Billing Project is to promote the "research, recording, and publication of music of a deceased composer not equally recognized during their lifetime."

A new album of Decruck's music is the first recording that Aubin and the Jackson Symphony have released under the Equal Billing Project.

The album includes three of Decruck's works for wind instruments and orchestra.

The first is the Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra that inspired Aubin to learn more about Decruck.

This is the first recording ever made of the orchestral version of this piece.

The recording of the Sonata features soloist Carrie Koffman, who is Associate Professor of Saxophone at The Hartt School of Music, Dance and Theater at the University of Hartford and Lecturer of Saxophone at the Yale School of Music.

"Being able to collaborate on making the first recording of this work in its original version was such an incredible experience," Koffman told IPR. "The orchestral colors are gorgeous."

The album also includes the world premiere recording of Decruck's Poème Héroïque for Trumpet, Horn and Orchestra.

That performance features internationally recognized trumpet soloist Amy McCabe as well as Leelanee Sterrett, Acting Associate Principal Horn of the New York Philharmonic.

The third piece on the album is Decruck's Concerto for Harp and Orchestra.

Soloist Chen-Yu Huang is Assistant Professor of Harp at Michigan State University. She is currently the Principal Harpist of Jackson Symphony Orchestra and Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra.

The musicians who performed on this album are thrilled about what they accomplished.

"Discovering the personal circumstances surrounding Decruck's creative life (what she had to fight for, stand up to, and what she most believed in), allowed us to immerse ourselves in her imagination and creative process," saxophonist Carrie Koffmann told IPR. "This allowed for a powerful union with the sound she hopefully intended."

The Jackson Symphony is planning to record a second album featuring Decruck's music under the Equal Billing Project.

After that, they will open the Equal Billing Project to an application process so that scholars can propose music of other underrepresented composers for the orchestra to consider. for performances and recordings

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.