CSU, Chico News

CSU, Chico Composer Russ Burnham and Poet Troy Jollimore Present Music and Poetry Performance

Date: 08-25-2010

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

Russ Burnham, Department of Music, an accomplished composer and clarinetist, has long been interested in the music of poetry. He has previously written songs based on poems by well-known American poets, as well as local poets George Keithley and Sally McNall. He heard Troy Jollimore, Department of Philosophy, read from his prize-winning book, “Tom Thomson in Purgatory,” and was inspired to team with Jollimore in a music/poetry event.

This coming Saturday, Aug. 28, Burnham and a group of local performers will perform songs composed by Burnham based on the poetry of Blake, Rilke and William Carlos Williams. In addition, they will perform “Natural Selections,” a group of five songs based on the poetry of Jollimore, while Jollimore reads the poems. The event begins at 7:30 pm at the 1078 Gallery, 820 Broadway. The public is welcome and tickets are required.

“I have great admiration for Troy’s poetry,” said Burnham, “and I have tried to come up with settings that do them justice. There is great contrast in the poetry and in the textures and rhythms of the individual musical settings. For example, ‘Mockingbird’ has a lot of ‘warbling’ in it, and ‘The Turtle’ is an absurdly slow tango.”

Performers, in addition to Burnham on the clarinet, include Daun Weiss, soprano; Cara Okano-Herrick, pianist; and Paul Herrick, percussionist.

As part of this unique event, local artists Elizabeth Newman Kuiper, Paula Busch, Sal Casa and David Hoppe are currently exhibiting work related to the Natural Selections theme in the gallery.

Burnham earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees—all in clarinet performance—at Louisiana State University. Burnham is also an alumnus of the Blossom Festival School, a joint venture of the Cleveland Orchestra and Kent State University. He has taught music and other courses at CSU, Chico for the past 37 years and is the principal clarinetist with the North State Symphony. He has been a composer in residence for the San Francisco Choral Artists.

Troy Jollimore is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy. He is the author of the poetry collections ”Tom Thomson in Purgatory” and “The Solipsist.” Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins selected “Tom Thomson in Purgatory” for the 2005 Robert E. Lee & Ruth I. Wilson Poetry Book Award. The book also won the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. His poems have appeared in recent issues of Hayden’s Ferry Review, McSweeney’s, The Believer and the New Yorker.

More information about the event can be found online.