for chamber ensemble and narrator, text adapted by Ana Berlin (2004) – 18 minutes
Orchestration: Fl, Cl, Prc, Pf, Vn, Vc, Narr
Commissioned by: Avian Orchestra
World Premiere: January, 2004, University Settlement, New York
Performance webcast on the American Music Center’s NewMusicBox, April, 2004
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For the Avian Orchestra’s 2003 Play Ball concert, dedicated to sports in music, Ray Lustig and Ana Berlin baited their hooks and pulled up this evocation of a season of classic Long Island sportfishing. The work is dedicated to Lustig’s grandfather Walter Gurzynski, an avid Long Island fisherman who passed away in December of 2002, and is meant to recount something of the last fishing season of his life—the season his failing health forced him to miss. Berlin selected and adapted the text from current fishing reports, which were some of Walter’s preferred leisure reading.
Walter was a man of few words (like, “You catching?”), who expressed his feelings through things like…fishing, and bringing people together…usually to fish, or to eat (more often than not, fish). Arriving in the New York from Poland at age 17, alone, Walter worked as a baker, eventually opening his own successful bakery in Woodside, Queens. He retired to Rocky Point on Long Island, where he was fond of taking his many children and grandchildren fishing. When he was no longer physically stable enough for his own small boat, he switched to deep-sea party boat fishing out of Montauk and other Long Island ports, which he enjoyed up until the year before his death. Walter was “stronger than ten men,” and he ate like it too. He had old world know-how and could build pretty much anything out of pretty much anything else. And he united his large family not so much with words, but by creating memories of good times, and especially memories of some great Long Island fishing.
The full season’s worth of fishing reports forms a narrative arc that is allegorical in nature, reflecting life’s course. You Catching? begins with the blustery excitement and anticipation of early Spring, before the official seasons on most fish have opened. In late Spring, the fishing gets going, but not without its ups and downs. The good summer fishing seems to pass all too quickly, and the chill of Fall blows in. Some of the best fishing happens in Fall, but eventually the weather makes it too hard to get out there, and the last of the boats packs it in.
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