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The Upcell Dog Parades (1993)

Essential Music was a New York percussion ensemble in the 90s that championed a lot of new music and older music in the experimental tradition. They commissioned this piece from me and performed it here as well as at the Kitchen (NYC) and at the Spoleto Festival (Charleston) in the next year or so after. 

From the program notes:

In the spring of 1976 I took on the position of musical director for a mummers string band in my hometown of Philadelphia. The mummers have a rich, if extremely retrograde, tradition in the blue-collar regions, with just about every band coming from heavily ethnic neighborhoods (mostly Italian and Polish). For someone such as myself (middle class Jew), this was somewhat akin to suddenly becoming a member of the Inuit Eskimos. This group had, however, finished dead last five years in a row in the most important competition of the year, the New Years Day Parade, so their desperation outweighed their suspicions, and perhaps they thought I had some Moses genes in me. I saw it, of course, in all of my naiveté, as a chance for experimentation. I conducted their sacred songs (Oh Dem Golden Slippers), and actually led the band (a million saxophones, two million banjos, glockenspiels and snare drums) in July 4th parades through a bunch of South Jersey towns. Unfortunately , the whole thing ended rather badly as soon as I made the mistake of bringing in my first score - a somewhat Glassian piece I had worked up for their band. The bubble had burst; I was summarily stripped of my uniform and sent back from whence I came; having probably lost the only chance I would ever have to revolutionize the world of minstrelsy.

Essential Music

Judith Gordon - piano
Maya Gunji - cowbells
John Kennedy - snare drum
Eric Kivnick - hihat
Charles Wood - bass drum

recorded live at Washington Square Church (NYC) 5/6/93