Reviews and Testimonials
It’s such a great piece, and my favorite use of that hymn. I can’t wait to program it again.
Adrian Holton, United States Air Force Band and conductor of the National Concert Band about Abide with Me/Perchance to Dream.
The kids played their hearts out. It was one of the most moving performances of my career. The audience recognized the quality and the depth of the performance and responded with a thunderous standing ovation for almost 30 seconds. Your final chime note will always be in my memory as my last MPA Performance. Thank you for sharing your composing talents with my students and I and thank you for sharing your time to Skype with us.
Blair Smith, retired band director, formerly at Jay M. Robinson High School in Concord, North Carolina describing his band's performance of Variations on a Russian Hymn.
There is a rich tradition in music of composers honoring the passing of one of their colleagues with a work. Mark J. Connor (1971-) composed his Elegy (2003) in memory of his first composition teacher Alfred Loeffler (1932-2003). It features Loeffler's instrument, the viola, joined by flute and English horn. A burnished viola solo opens the piece and its refrain is taken up by the two woodwinds. The rich colors and sonorities are explored before it culminates with gorgeous harmonics on the viola as it soars to the top of its range, as if, Connor observes "reaching toward the heavens." It would be difficult to imagine a more consummate performance than that of flutist Ann Choomack, violist Jamie Hofman, with Karen Birch Blundell on English horn. They and composer Connor received multiple curtain calls.
William Thomas Walker, The Classical Voice of North Carolina, June 2015
Variations on a Russian Hymn is based upon Pavel Chesnokov’s (1877-1944) well-known choral work “Salvation Is Created.” ...this interesting new composition begins with brief solos for oboe and bassoon that are cross-cued to other instruments if necessary. Best suited to accomplished high school ensembles, your rehearsal challenges will include establishing consistent articulation and correct balance between the various contrapuntal lines.
John Thomson, The Instrumentalist, May 2015
Once I heard it and let the students hear it in band last year they loved it. They were very excited they got to play it this year. It's hard to find good competition music for combined junior senior high school band and Mark delivered.
Patrick Cronin, Director of Bands at Eminence (IN) Jr./Sr. High discussing the commission of Contrails to the Martinsville Reporter-Times (5/18/2015)
The aesthetic that Connor brings to his music was richly displayed last year when the Chico Symphony performed his composition Incantations. ..[The] work takes the listener on a journey that conjures up images of time and place. It begins with a pastoral passage during which one senses the earth and its layers of geology. A trumpet announces a human presence, while a subsequent rush of winds and strings belies turmoil and trouble. An ecstatic eruption of percussion populates the landscape with tension, after which a tenuous resolve is reached by the interaction of strings and winds again.
Monterey County Weekly, February 2001