Young Composer To Play Among Masters

Feb 11, 2011

Think “Baroque music”, and works by Bach and Vivaldi usually spring to mind. But as WNPR’s Diane Orson reports, music by a young Connecticut composer will be heard alongside the masters in a concert in New Haven this weekend.   No, it's not music by Johann Sebastian Bach. It's not Vivaldi or Handel either. It’s a work written by Connecticut composer Noah Shafner. <p>"I’m Noah Zane Shafner, and I’m ten." That’s right. Ten year old Noah Zane Shafner composed this piece when he was nine. "Actually, I’ve had the ideas in my head for a long time.  At first, it was only going to be an overture. And then I decided to add other dances." These aren’t just copies of the great masters. Harpsichordist Linda Skernick: "I find it very fresh and exciting. I like Noah’s ideas and I like the fact that there are surprises, harmonic surprises. It's beautiful music. It's really beautiful music." "He brings in things and I suggest where to go from there." </p>  Arthur Kreiger teaches music composition at Connecticut College. He works with Noah on music theory, but doesn’t push it.   "My mission is that young composers, and this is the youngest I’ve ever faced, I have to say... The young composer should get the ideas as clear as possible into the music. It's his composition and I’m a facilitator of sorts." "Is it contrary? Is that what it's called? That’s not bad. It's contrary motion, so the lines are okay. Remember, this is your composition anyway."  <p>Noah’s mother, Melissa Shafner, says her son’s interest in music composition blossomed early. "Maybe when he was about five, he tried writing a Requiem. I was surprised, but he loved classical music. I think at that time Mozart was his favorite, so I think he figured he should write a Requiem too." Noah is a student at Solomon Schechter Academy in New London. Each day he comes home, does his homework, practices piano and composes in the evenings. Right now, Noah says he wants to continue writing music in the Baroque style. "I like early instruments and I like a lot of the Baroque composers." And like Baroque composers, Noah calls on performers like Skernick to include some of their own ideas in the music. "He’s added a lot of the ornamentation, so I’ve got a sense of what he likes. But he’s also left room for me to do what I like. So in the end, the piece becomes a collaboration between Noah and me." </p>  Listeners will hear a result that collaboration when Skernick performs a movement of Noah Shafner’s Baroque Suite in an Orchestra New England concert in New Haven on Saturday.