Professor’s New CD Features Music by Thea Musgrave

Elizabeth Sullivan
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Elizabeth Sullivan performs composer’s music for oboe.

Dr. Elizabeth Sullivan, assistant professor of oboe, has completed a new CD, which will be released on September 15 by Albany Records. A Dramatic Journey: 60 Years of Thea Musgrave’s Music for Oboe includes solo and chamber works by Scottish composer Thea Musgrave (b. 1928), who has lived in the United States since the 1970s.

Sullivan is joined on the recording by her colleague Dr. Jessica Lindsey, associate professor of clarinet, and flutist Rebecca Johnson and pianist Cara Chowning, who, with Sullivan, make up Trio Village. Johnson is assistant professor of flute at Eastern Illinois University; Chowning is assistant director of the opera and principal vocal coach at Ball State University in Indiana.

Trio Village launched 10 years ago with a performance of Musgrave’s Trio for Flute, Oboe and Piano. “That piece sparked our interest to find other pieces written by Musgrave for our instrumentation or a combination of our instruments,” Sullivan says. Musgrave’s Trio culminates the album, the seventh work in a set that includes both abstract titles (“Impromptu,” for example, in addition to “Trio”) and programmatic (such as “Dawn” or “Night Windows”).

CD cover, Thea Musgrave“I have grown to enjoy and deeply appreciate her compositional style,” Sullivan says, “always telling a story, and you can bet it’s usually deeply emotional. She pays close attention to what each instrument does well and highlights that. She marries the woodwind instruments together beautifully, creating entirely new timbres.”

Musgrave, who has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and numerous other awards and accolades over her long career, has written some 150 compositions, including operas, ballets, and large-scale orchestral works. In a world still dominated by men, Sullivan says, Musgrave has frequently downplayed her gender.

“Musgrave is often quoted as saying, ‘I am a woman and a composer, but rarely at the same time.’ But she has made a lasting impression on the field, paving the way for many more women composers. And still, in her early 90's, she is actively composing, a goal we could all aspire to!”

Sullivan completed the recording project with support from a UNC Charlotte Faculty Research Grant and a Regional Artist Grant from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Arts & Science Council. During the period of preparation and recording, Sullivan says that she experienced several personal losses and periods of grief.

“Continuing the work on this project – collaborating with fellow musicians and friends, preparing the music and immersing myself in the music – guided my grief and gave me peace,” she says. “This is the testament to the power of music and all the arts to endure the passage of time, to speak to multiple audiences, to confront the difficult ongoing narratives in our time and space, and ultimately to bring peace.”