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Published October 28, 2013, 09:45 AM

Music for his hometown’s heart: Grand Forks Central students to premiere composition by graduate

A Grand Forks Central High graduate, now an emerging composer, is returning home Monday to premiere a concert inspired by his hometown. Performed on Central High School’s new stage, Matthew Peterson’s “The River” is only about seven minutes long but incorporates the full force of the school’s choir, band and string orchestra.

By: Jennifer Johnson, Grand Forks Herald

A Grand Forks Central High graduate, now an emerging composer, is returning home Monday to premiere a concert inspired by his hometown.

Performed on Central High School’s new stage, Matthew Peterson’s “The River” is only about seven minutes long but incorporates the full force of the school’s choir, band and string orchestra, he wrote in an email.

Peterson, a 2002 graduate who now lives in Sweden, has composed works that have been performed across the United States as well as in England and Sweden.

The concert, free of charge and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. in the new Grand Forks Central Auditorium. Several of the school’s music groups will perform other works, too.

Christie Aleshire, Central’s band director who had Peterson as a student, said they commissioned him to write a piece specifically about the area that would showcase all of the student musicians.

“The significance of having (his) piece also teaches kids you can graduate from high school and do big things,” she said.

‘Cultural heart’

Peterson said he was excited at the prospect of a commission for Central’s music groups.

“I thought it was a great idea, and a chance to be a part of musical life in my hometown,” he said.

As the piece was intended to be dedicated to the school’s music and theater addition, which he considers a new cultural “heart” of the city, he decided his work should focus on the city’s physical heart, the Red River, he said.

The composition also relies on American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, incorporating a few lines of his poem “On the River Charles,” and Peterson’s own text.

“Our community exists thanks to the river, and it has faced its greatest trials thanks to the river,” he said.

This work is among more than 50 by Peterson that have been performed in the United States and around the world.

The 29-year-old has composed music for solo performers and chamber ensembles as well as post-rock songs for his band in Sweden and other groups.

He’s also the recipient of numerous awards and a product of the North Dakota public school music system, which he said is perhaps the last in the nation “where a quality musical ensemble experience is available to all students.”

When he attended Central High School, he got involved wherever he could — band, choir, orchestra, jazz band, musicals, the Grand Forks Symphony, youth symphony and the Summer Performing Arts — and “somewhere in there, it took me over,” he said.

Although he began singing with his family and in church at an early age, he didn’t start to write music until he was 19, after prompting from his mentor, Aleshire, he said.

“So, musically speaking, I owe Grand Forks a lot,” he said.

Last spring, while visiting Grand Forks to hear his youngest sister sing at a concert, he was approached by Aleshire and asked to possibly write a commission for Central, he said.

Since then, students have been working on the piece and have sent emails and Facebook messages to Peterson, offering their thoughts and reaction to the music, he said.

“Interacting with a new generation of young musicians in this way has been the best part of this experience, he said.

If you go:

Who: Composer Matthew Peterson

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Central High School auditorium, 115 N. Fourth St.

On the web: For more on Peterson, visit: www.matthew-peterson.com/Matthew_Peterson.html.

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