The clock is ticking right now. “Rapido! A 14-Day Composition Contest” is again under way. The contest’s debut proved so energizing and musically successful that the award has gone national, or rather tri-regional — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago — with sculptures by Alexander Calder offered for inspiration.
Last year, the Atlanta Chamber Players and a local arts patron, Ron Antinori, cooked up a novel idea. Antinori, a banking software mogul, was intrigued by the “48 Hours” filmmaking contest, where you get a subject at 5 p.m. on a Friday and have the weekend to produce a finished film. He asked ACP founder and pianist Paula Peace (below) whether such a thing was possible in music, for composers. Peace said no, but two weeks might be viable.
Bankrolled by the Antinori Foundation, they hatched “Rapido!” and accepted entries from 11 Southern states. Interested composers submitted their names in advance. On the appointed day last summer, they were given an unusual instrumentation (oboe, violin, viola, cello and piano) and a musical form (theme and variations) to ensure that the music was original. The 38 entries, each about five minutes long, were ranked and the top four pieces were performed in October 2009, with three judges and the audience voting on the awards.
The winning work was by Jon Jeffrey Grier, a jazz musician and high school music teacher in South Carolina, who beat out several more prominent composers for the prize. Under the competition rules, Grier was awarded $5,000 to flesh out his short entry into a finished piece, which premiered in April 2010. In my review, I described Grier’s “Diverse Variations on A-C-P” as “13 minutes of marvelous, quirky, touching, moody and thoroughly engrossing music.”
So “Rapido!” worked on two levels: discovering talent and commissioning good music.
Now comes Year Two. The Atlanta Chamber Players are again scouting the South. Boston Musica Viva is performing the same task for New England, and Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble (in above photo) is covering the Midwest. The composers got started yesterday, June 7, and their deadline is June 21. About the sculptural add-on: “As a possible (optional) inspiration for your composition, we offer you three Alexander Calder sculptures, which are located in our three ‘Rapido!’ ensemble cities of Atlanta, Boston and Chicago. Note that contest entries will be judged on musical merit and not on interpretation of the Calder works.” (Below, Calder’s “Flamingo,” 1974, Federal Center Plaza, Chicago.)
The regional finalists will be announced August 13 and performed by each regional ensemble in October. The winners from that round will advance to the finals, to be performed in Atlanta on January 16, 2011. The “Rapido!” website has all the details.