Accomplished Composer gives Salt Lake a sneak peak

By By Christie Franke

By Christie Franke

Tonight, the Utah Symphony hosts a world premiere.

The piece debuting is “Terpsichore’s Dream,” composed by Augusta Read Thomas. Terpsichore, in Greek mythology, is the muse of dance and lends her name to the word “terpsichorean.” She is the spirit of motion and she gives this spirit to the piece.

Written for chamber orchestra (a smaller orchestra consisting of about 40 performers), the piece is like a dance, very dreamy and rhythmic. Emotion shines through. Thomas imagined “a sort of imaginary ballet” when writing it, she said.

“Terpsichore’s Dream” is dedicated to conductor Cliff Colnot, who asked Thomas to write a premiere piece for him when he came to Utah. He’s a “terrific conductor” and a good friend of Thomas’s.

“I really worked hard on this,” Thomas said.

Thomas knew from the time she was a child that music was in her future.

“I used to lie under the piano and listen,” she said. “Basically, I took piano and trumpet lessons from 14 years onwards.”

She began composing in the ninth grade, when her teacher asked her to write for lessons.

By the time she reached high school, Thomas was into writing.

“I love creating things,” she said. “There’s a beauty to it.” Accordingly, her list of works is extensive. Thomas composes for orchestra, chamber music, band and chorus, and her works are extensive in each category.

Thomas attended Northwestern University, Yale University and The Royal Academy of Music. She was Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1997-2006, and served as chair of the board of the American Music Center for five years. Her tenure there ends next year. Seven years after she graduated from The Royal Academy of Music, Thomas was elected as an Associate of the Academy, an honorary degree. She has also received an Award of Merit from Northwestern University and the Distinguished Alumni Association award among many other distinguished awards. Her time is now devoted exclusively to composition.

Praise for Augusta Read Thomas is great. Gramophone magazine said, “Heart and soul in the breathtaking music of a thoughtful contemporary composer. Thomas’s brainy brand of modernism reveals a lively, probing mind allied to a beating heart.”

The Chicago Tribune agrees, saying, “Thomas’ music, particularly her orchestral music, fairly explodes with an extroverted boldness of utterance audiences and musicians alike find challenging yet immediate. It’s music that doesn’t sound like anybody else’s — music that insists you pay attention.”

Today is an exciting day for Thomas. It marks the first time she has heard an orchestra play “Terpsichore’s Dream,” a “very exciting and beautiful moment” for a composer. In addition to the morning dress rehearsal and evening performance, Thomas will be lecturing students at the School of Music on the composition of chamber and choral works. It promises to be a full and eventful day and a wonderful evening.

“Terpsichore’s Dream” premieres Thurs., Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at or by calling 1-888-451-ARTS(2787). Student tickets are available.

For more information about Augusta Read Thomas, visit her website at

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