Nearly 18 months after he first began writing it, Newtown High School senior Alex Lampel had the pleasure of hearing his original orchestral symphony performed by a 100-piece orchestra at Western Connecticut State University’s Ives Concert Hall. Under the direction of Stephen Michael Smith, Alex’s work, Chromatic Metamorphosis, was brought to life on Sunday, May 5, as part of the orchestra’s final concert for the season.
“I was very happy with the final product,” Alex said a few days later. “Having a piece premiered was incredible.”
Alex has been a member of the Danbury Community Orchestra (DCO) for five years, the past four as principal cellist. He has studied cello for eight years, and piano for ten years. He is also a member of the Sandy Hook String Quartet, which has performed at holiday events; taken part in the String Jamfest at Reed Intermediate School, and played for Newtown International Center for Education (NICE) banquets.
He has attended the Kinhaven Music School in Weston, Vt., for the past two summers, studying with professional musicians from all over the country. It was through his studies with Professor Nicolas Scherzinger from Syracuse University and performing with the orchestra there that he was influenced and inspired in his own compositions, he said on May 8.
“I don’t remember a time when music hasn’t been a part of my life,” said Alex, who has taken several music and music theory courses through Newtown High School, as well. It was in December 2011, while taking an independent study with music teacher Christopher Lee, that Alex began working on Chromatic Metamorphosis, based on the twelve-12 musical chromatic scale.
“All of my teachers I’ve come into contact with have inspired me and helped me to move forward. Mr Lee, especially, guided me through the composition process. I have him to thank for a lot,” Alex said.
“Chromatic Metamorphosis has a major theme that is modulated in different keys, with counter melodies throughout,” explained the young composer. “That’s what the metamorphosis is — taking a melody and stretching it out and doing different things with it.”
Chromatic Metamorphosis starts out with just basic string instruments “and flourishes of the head melody,” Alex said. The piece builds to a crescendo that eventually engages the entire orchestra.
“It has a theme that is recognizable that draws the listener. That theme is manipulated to have different feelings within the piece,” he said.
Because he wanted to hear on non-computerized instruments how the piece was progressing, Alex brought his work to Mr Smith and DCO for a practice session early this spring. To his surprise, the director liked it so much that he suggested the orchestra include it in the May 5 concert program.
“He said it would be something new for the orchestra to try, and other members of the orchestra had also asked him if they could perform it in concert,” Alex said. Because they had only two months of practice time, and because that time also included revisions Alex made as it went along, the orchestra actually performed only a four-minute portion of the entire eight-minute piece at the concert earlier this month.
“The first time I heard it performed, it was a great feeling to hear the actual instruments playing it. There were a few moments where I found the instrumentation was too high for an instrument. In a few spots, it sounded differently than I had anticipated. I workshopped it and brought it back to them,” he said. It was really a work in progress as practice moved forward, he said.
Alex will attend Ithaca College this fall, majoring in music education.
“For the past five years I’ve been a teacher assistant at religious school and discovered I like working with kids. My major represents who I am, and my love of teaching and music,” said Alex.
Having Chromatic Metamorphosis performed has been a further inspiration to the young musician.
“I would definitely want to bring future works to community orchestras. This experience was great, and I hope to compose more throughout college,” Alex said.