Unfinished Conversations is dedicated to bassoonist and dear friend Eric Van der Veer Varner (1974-2019).
Eric and I met at Glickman-Popkin Bassoon Camp in 2001 and immediately became friends. We spent most of that session trying to figure out where we’d met previously and laughing about it as we realized that we’d never been to the same festivals or schools, but we strongly felt like we’d always known each other anyway. Eric’s sense of humor and excellent musicianship were always a treat and we spent a lot of time together every year at Camp planning shenanigans and playing duets and bassoon ensembles. Eric had a penchant for arranging, and he brought us his bassoon ensemble transcription of Shenandoah one year, lovingly written out by hand in pencil in his room at Camp, much to my delight. I began to get the idea that I might like to try writing something, as well. The next year, I put his transcription into Finale for him and returned it to him. Sometimes Eric would bring me chocolates (we both have serious chocolate addictions) and I would bring him mandalas I’d made.
We were nerdy bassoon kids together, and we grew into our careers and rich full adult lives alongside one another even though we lived in different parts of the country, sharing correspondence and serving as sounding boards for one another for nearly twenty years, and delighting in reuniting at GPBC. We played the orchestral audition game together, and it helped a lot with the stress and inevitable disappointments knowing we’d at least get to have a meal with a beer and a good catch up after we lost yet another crappy audition in some strange town.
I could always count on Eric to be the legs, arms, and more importantly the heart and voice of my compositions. He believed in my pieces long before I could believe in them myself. I knew he’d bring more to each of them than is obviously apparent on the page, just as I intended, because we shared one heart in music. Unfinished Conversations is for him, to honor that place we shared in our hearts. It is also for all of us still living, all of his loved ones that still have more to talk about with him. Our conversations with Eric continue in our hearts, always.
I. Elegy: what do we say to Death? Not Today. But when we must sit in the inescapable presence of Death, we love and praise and grieve, all at the same time.
II. Scherzo: Tell your pianist Eric’s favorite joke: Q: What’s brown and sticky? A: A Stick!
III. Romance (A Love Note To GPBC): A love note to the mountains, and to Camp, the place our bassoon family gathers together every year.