By Paul Janes-Brown – When Robert E. Wills, the conductor and music director of the newly formed Maui Chamber Orchestra, selected Gabriel Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine for the inaugural upcoming concerts on Aug 8 and 10 at the Iao Theater, he looked high and low for an arrangement of the piece for chamber orchestra.
He searched in all of the major publishing houses and even approached other orchestras, all he could find was work that was available for rental, which would stretch the limited budget of the fledgling organization.
The other arrangements did not have the instrumentation required by the Maui Chamber Orchestra.
Wills, who spent many years in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area had a friend, Layton “Skip” James, the long-time, retired principal keyboardist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
James had done many orchestrations and arrangements over the years, many for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
James said, “When Bob Wills asked me to prepare a version for the Maui Chamber Orchestra, I was eager to comply. My own church choirs have sung the piece many times, and I felt it lent itself well to orchestration.
“Cantique de Jean Racine is a composition that won first prize at the Paris Conservatoire for its young composer, Gabriel Fauré, in 1865, who was 19 at the time.
Originally for SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) chorus and piano/organ, it was orchestrated perhaps by the composer in 1906, and arranged by many others during the 20th century to fit various sized performing groups.”
Wills informed James what the instrumentation of the new Maui Chamber Orchestra was and the keyboardist, who spent 42 years with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, completed the arrangements in a “few days.”
Wills said, “While it (this arrangement ) may not be the only one in the whole world, it may only be the second or more importantly, this arrangement was written for the Maui Chamber Orchestra on the title page for our first concert. So that, in itself, is unique.”
Tickets for the inaugural concerts of the Maui Chamber Orchestra featuring the Maui Masterworks Choir on August 8 and 10 at the Iao Theater are available at www.mauichamberorchestra.org/home or by calling 242-6969 Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 am to 3 pm.