Here is a recent piece that Michael wrote for the February issue of the Scoop. . .
Classical Music - New & Old --by Michael Nowak
As Music Director for the San Luis Obispo Symphony, it is not uncommon for me to be approached by a composer who has written a work for orchestra. When the request was made on behalf of composers who had been dead for 200 years, I was more than a little intrigued.
In anticipation of our June 8, 2008 concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles which will feature the music of Cal Poly music professor, Dr. Craig Russell, I asked Craig to write a new work for violin and string orchestra to feature our mutual friend, the extraordinary violinist, Kathleen Lenski.
Dr. Russell said he would be delighted, but offered an alternative concept. "What if I use music that was written for the California Missions 200 years ago - bits and pieces that can be woven together - as the basis for this composition?" Dr. Russell is the world's leading authority on California Mission music. He has spent decades exploring church archives, discovering hidden musical treasures, even realizing entire works from mere fragments.
Craig Russell is very much like an archeologist who finds a lost city or an anthropologist who can reveal human history with a single prehistoric bone. In this instance, Dr. Russell has 'unearthed' music that was extremely popular here in California in the early 1800's at the mission communities of Santa Barbara, San Fernanado, and our nearby San Antonio. Music that was once beloved by the people who founded and grew the communities we now live in. Dr. Russell has taken this exquisite music and interwoven it with his own modern harmonic and melodic structures.
The result: "Ecos Harmonicos" (Harmonic Echoes), a work recently given its world premiere at Mission San Luis Obispo. This is music rich in historical and cultural significance and classically inspired. This is music transcending the boundaries of time, bringing together in joyous celebration, old and new.