Hum Along for Humanity


photo: Randy Potzger

Music undergrad Simeon Morrow likes to mix music with humanitarian causes. “Often people think of music as elitist, as coming from an ivory tower, but I see it as a social vehicle.”

The major in double bass and conducting has been in music for years, but after reading Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Henry David Thoreau, he began to wonder how his métier could have a greater social effect.

He aimed to raise and answer philosophical questions through twentieth- and twenty-first-century music. “Because music is abstract, it can be anything to anyone.” So he formed the Ensemble for Humanity Symphony Orchestra, made up mostly of McGill music students. The non-profit orchestra raises funds to benefit humanitarian organizations.

Last year’s concert featured dark war-inspired works by Copeland and Shostakovich, before finishing with Copeland’s hopeful “Appalachian Spring” for a newlywed couple. This year, Morrow tackles the Estonian Arvo Part, from his third phase of composition that occured after he studied medieval music. Morrow wants to show that music is all around us. “I hope by the end of the concert, people will realize that music goes on forever,” he said. As Arvo Part quoted Japanese poet Basho “Even though the temple bells have stopped, the sound keeps coming out of the flowers.”

“Tabula Rasa: Finding Serenity at the Heart of Sound” Arvo Pärt: Tinntinabul; conductor Simeon Morrow, violinists Julia Bushkova and Filip Fenrych.

Friday, April 29 and Saturday, April 30, 8 pm Christ Church Cathedral, 635 Ste Catherine Street W. Tickets are $15/$25 and are available at the door or in advance through, 908-9090.

Proceeds go to the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“Around Campus” in the McGill Reporter, April 28, 2005 (Vol. 37/15)

In Boulez’s Tracks

Simeon Morrow  - Maestro Pierre Boulez
Left photo: Simeon Morrow (centre) with European friends • Right photo: Boulez portrait



Acting on his desire, the McGill graduate pocketed the money he saved up conducting a youth orchestra in his hometown of Plattsburg, N.Y. and embarked on his month and a half pilgrimage following Boulez and his Ensemble Intercontemporain across Europe.
“I wanted to get a sense of the European style of orchestral playing, to see how it was different from what happens in North America,” explains the director and founder of the Ensemble for Humanity. “We always think that the grass is greener on the other side but I discovered that for the Europeans it’s the same thing – they look to what is done here,” says Morrow. “I remember speaking with oboist, László Hadady, who told me, ‘But everyone knows the Montreal Symphony Orchestra is the best orchestra in the world’,” a comment Morrow heard on numerous occasions.

Organizing his trip was a relatively simple affair. While studying at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique / Musique) in 2001, Morrow had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, including Boulez’s secretaries. He contacted them when planning his trip to ask if he could attend Boulez’s rehearsals. When the Boulez disciple arrived in Paris at the end of May 2004, the ensemble had just begun rehearsals at Ircam. On the program were Répons, a 45 minute electro-acoustic piece for chamber ensemble and six soloists playing two pianos, harp, vibraphone, glockenspiel and cimbalom, as well as Anthèmes II, a 20 minute piece for violin and electronics composed from 1992-1997. For Morrow, the experience was astounding.  “Boulez is just amazing. I admire the way he conducts physically. He doesn’t use a baton. Some people say he isn’t expressive but I think what he does is subtle. On the contrary, he’s very powerful and extremely expressive. He listens more than many other conductors.”
From Paris, Morrow took an overnight train to Vienna and continued his budget-style journey. “I stayed in youth hostels where I met a lot of young people, which was nice.” Morrow was not however what might be called the most typical of youth hostel inmates. “I always got dressed up in a suit to go to rehearsals, which had the other people staying in the hostel asking me what I was doing. They were more interested in sight-seeing of course.”
The Ensemble Intercontemporain presented two concert programs at the Vienna Contemporary Art Museum. One of these was for the Wiener Festwochen and included Boulez’s Répons, Stravinsky’s Renard, Manuel de Falla’s Les Tréteaux de Maître Pierreand Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. “It was brilliant to watch him work,” says Morrow who remembers observing the then 79 year-old Boulez walk around the huge room, going from one seat to another.
“Finally he sat in the corner of the room, stopped the rehearsal and told the players: ‘You can’t hear the pizzicata very well from here.” He didn’t pay any attention when the engineers told him it was the worst seat in the house. “I remember asking Boulez,” says Morrow “’How do you make it so that everyone hears?’ His answer was to say that you have to keep trying. He really makes sure the score is presented to all people in the audience.”
Morrow took advantage of being in the capital of classical music to take in some other concerts. He recollects rushing from a Boulez concert and buying a standing place ticket to hear Simon Rattle conduct Schönberg’s orchestration of Brahms’s G-minor Piano Quartet. The conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker was also in town conducting Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony while the Opernhaus orchestra performed Berlioz’s Requiemunder the baton of Seiji
Morrow learned a valuable lesson while he was in Europe “No matter where you are, there is room for improvement. You have to know your craft, and the greatest thing you can bring to it is your individuality.” Morrow is doing just that, as he focuses his energy on his Ensemble for Humanity. If all goes well, the Montreal-based ensemble will have its own concert series at the Centre Pierre-Péladeau next season.

From “the muscic scene” magazine: Summer 2005 page 27.

New AYO conductor aims to inspire young musicians

Plattsburg, N.Y.

Author: ROBIN CAUDELL, Staff Writer

PLATTSBURGH – Simeon Morrow’s intense, dark eyes light with enthusiasm for his new role as conductor of the Adirondack Youth Orchestra.

“I am really happy to help out the young people and to give back to the community that has given so much,” said Morrow, a Plattsburgh native who is a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal.

His main vision for the AYO: Musicians inspired by music.

“I want them to inspire other people with a positive message about themselves, the world and humanity.

“I want more than for them to just become proficient at their instruments, I want them to really listen.”

Besides conducting the AYO, Morrow will have the opportunity to work with the orchestra’s feeder groups, the String Training Orchestra, under the direction of Beth Gorevic; and the Wind Training Ensemble under the direction of Kate Jarrard.

“I want AYO to be a positive, strong force in the community, so when people ! think about AYO, they think about people who are doing good things for the community,” Morrow said.

Besides his AYO duties, Morrow is assistant conductor of the I Medici di McGill Orchestra in Montreal.

Last year, he founded the Ensemble pour l’Humanite to “develop the most effective means to communicate through music the messages of positive evolution, love and humanity.”

Morrow hopes to develop the same philosophical ideas with the AYO.

“I’m trying to inspire this idea of humanity through music and to really help shape their future and give them a positive message about who they are and about what they can do for the world.”

His philosophy was inspired by the writings of Lao Tzu, Shakespeare, Erich Leinsdorf, Herman Hesse, Henry David Thoreau, Rainer Maria Rilke, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“King said, ‘You can have breakfast in New York and lunch in London. Through science the world has become a neighborhood, bu! t what science has failed to do is make the world a brotherhood.’

“This is where I hope music can take over where science fails.”

Locally, his biggest mentor was William Phillips, former AYO and Plattsburgh Community Orchestra conductor.

“He’s very talented,” Phillips said.

“He’s really on the right track. He’s studying conducting and working really hard. He seems to have all the right instincts, and I think he will do very well.”

Morrow has conducted the McGill Repertory Orchestra, the I Medici di McGill Orchestra, the Plattsburgh State University Sinfonia, the New York State Orchestral Academy Orchestra and McGill Women’s Choir.

He has studied at Interlochen Arts Academy, Le Centre D’Arts Orford and Le Domaine Forget in Canada, Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in France and at the Konservator Kromeriz in the Czech Republic.

His travels to two continents and five countries have been enlightening.

“Wherever you go, you meet wonderful people that inspire you! . I think traveling, in general, has taught me how much we are a global community. We’re one big neighborhood.

“In the United States, we’re very lucky. We get many opportunities that people in the world didn’t have.”

This summer, he shadowed Maitre Pierre Boulez, who conducted the Ensemble Intercontemporaine in Paris and Vienna.

In Vienna, Morrow had the opportunity to hear the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra and the Vienna City Opera.

AYO’s fall concert is 2 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Plattsburgh High School Auditorium. The program includes Dvorak’s “Symphony for the New World.

“This is the first real American symphony,” Morrow said.

“Dvorak came to teach in New York from the Czech Republic. He took folk themes from the New World and put them in this work. It became a symphony of the New World as opposed to a symphony composed in the New World.

“I love very much the idea of a New World. ! We work everyday at the New World, to make it a great place.’

Copyright 2004, Ottaway Newspapers, Inc.
Record Number: 09022004oa1