Michael Tippett
Autographed informal Aspen poster announcing readings of Michael Tippett's Concerto for Double String Orchestra
Informal Aspen Poster

  He breezed into the rehearsal studio in his shorts, rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed as if he had just jogged across the Continental Divide to Aspen, which he probably had.

This was Sir Michael Tippett, since the demise of Benjamin Britten recognized as the Dean of British Composers. He was composer-in-residence at the Aspen, Colorado Music Festival in l978, which meant that for a week or so various works of his would be performed in his presence at the regular concerts.

That summer I conducted a string orchestra of younger students, and it occurred to me that, if we could prepare Tippett's l939 Concerto for Double String Orchestra, we might just entice him to "pop in" on our reading rehearsal. And there he was, right on time, a Real Live Composer! Friendly and unassuming, he talked about this early composition, how he tried different ways of notating its rhythmic complexities ("where to put the bar lines?"}, and went on to describe the character of each movement He listened to the young players, and it did not take much coaxing to get him to lead a few sections of this wonderful work while singing along lustily! It was a unique, inspiring, joyous occasion:

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