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From backyard orchids, new music blooms

Dorothy Hindman isn’t your typical classical composer.

Her music is fearless, post-modern, tightly wound, sometimes digital, punctuated with punk, and always ear-opening. Music critics describe her compositions as visceral, profound, spectral. Some works cascade into a state of entropy, like a swirling black hole in deep space.

She has woven music to describe the ravages of cancer, the loss of a parent, and the challenges of managing a career alongside a family. She also writes music just for music’s sake, letting listeners decide what it means or doesn’t mean.

“I write about things that I feel strongly about, but every once in a while I need to write something that’s just fun,’’ Hindman said, referring to her latest creation, Orchids Grow Here.

Her new piece will be performed for the first time Feb. 16-18 on the Romeo and Juliet & West Side Story concert as part of the Florida Fanfare Project. Throughout its 50th anniversary season, the orchestra presents a series of world premieres by five composers from around the state.

When an orchestra committee looked into the talent at the University of Miami, they ended up with an associate professor of composition whose recordings and performances have received international acclaim.

“When the orchestra decided to do this fanfare project and they approached the university, three of us (composers) agreed to write something. But they only needed one, so we drew straws.’’

The guidelines are simple: Compose a “celebratory fanfare’’ on any subject you want. The only restriction: the piece must be between three and five minutes long.

Hindman began looking for inspiration. She had left Miami in 1994 for Birmingham-Southern College, where she met her future husband, and then they both moved back to Miami. She was struck by how much she missed the natural beauty of South Florida, especially its flowers. Particularly orchids.

“I kept getting these orchids and tying them to my back fence and they would keep blooming,’’ she said. “Then I thought, ‘Gosh, of all the things I could write about, this is the most personal and joyful about returning to Miami.’ “

Because her orchids are all in a row, she started writing in the form of a canon, which became the germ of her new piece. One canonic measure employs the trumpets, one the horns, one the trombones, and so on. When one section plays, the others take a break to catch their breath.

“Since I was writing so much for the brass, I thought ‘how I am going to use these players and not wear them out?’ ‘’ she said. “So I assigned them each a motive, so everybody gets their own idea, and each section gets to rest while others are playing.’’

In the moments of the four-minute, 34-page score, all the instruments come back in, one against the other.

“That’s pretty much the story of the piece,’’ she said. “It’s not something that has to be understood programmatically. It’s just a big, fun fanfare, and a real toe-tapper.’’

Orchids Grow Here’ is written for five saxophones, five trumpets, four horns, three trombones, timpani, percussion, and string bass. This is the group that will bring the work to life, allowing its composer to hear it for the first time.

“I write a piece of music and I want the performers to interpret it,’’ she said. “I love it when a performer or ensemble interprets what I write slightly differently than I expect. It means the piece has layers, and new things to discover.’’

Hopefully, the audience will discover Orchids Grow Here’ and enjoy it. But she’s prepared if it bombs: “By the end of the concert, if they don’t like my piece, well, they will have forgotten it.’’

Romeo and Juliet & West Side Story

Be among the first to hear Dorothy Hindman’s Orchids Grow Here, along with Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein’s West Side Story. Also, the “best trumpeter on the planet” Håkan Hardenberger performs HK Gruber’s jazzy Aerial. Michael Francis conducts.

Fri, Feb 16, 8 pm, Straz Center, Ferguson Hall – Limited seating available
Sat, Feb 17, 8 pm, Mahaffey Theater
Sun, Feb 18, 7:30 pm, Ruth Eckerd Hall

Tickets: $15, $30, $45

Free tickets for kids and teens 5-18 in advance

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