A Buffalo composer puts Andromeda—constellation, myth and meteors—to music

May 2, 2019

Caroline Mallonee's compositions are often inspired by science, such as her previous collaboration with BPO 'cellist Feng Hew and conductor Chris Weber's Camerata di Sant'Antonio string orchestra called "Whistler Waves" (an atmospheric phenonmenon). The triple threat is back to premiere "Portraits of Andromeda" this Sunday, May 5.

Cellist Feng Hew, composer Caroline Mallonee, and conductor Chris Weber visit the WBFO studios to talk about "Portraits of Andromeda"
Credit Peter Hall

With other compositions illustrating Newton's Three Laws of Motion "Unless Acted Upon," "Net Force," and "Reaction" not to mention "Curtains of Light" or "The Butterfly Effect," Mallonee has poured a lifelong fascination with science into her original compositions for various instruments.

Following up on the successful 2012 "Whistler Waves" collaboration with the chamber sized string orchestra directed by Christopher Weber, in 2015 she expanded the score for large orchestra where it was recorded by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta for their "Built for Buffalo 2" CD on the BPO's house label "Beau Fleuve." 

L-R JoAnn Falletta, Feng Hew, and Caroline Mallonee at the BPO recording session of Mallonee's "Whistler Waves" for cello and orchestra (samples of which can be heard in this interview).
Credit Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

And that has led to a NYS Council on the Arts commission for the three-movement "Portraits of Andromeda."

In this conversation, Hew, Mallonee, and Weber talk about the myth of Andromeda (chained to a rock but rescued by Perseus) and her presence in the heavens, how 'cellist Hew and composer Mallonee worked together (lots of email), and why the venue (St. Anthony of Padua church) is the right venue for this concert.

Mallonee is based in Buffalo, earned her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, a master’s degree from Yale School of Music, and her Ph.D from Duke University. Feng Hew has been the BPO’s Associate Principal Cellist since 1999. A native of Taiwan, she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music on a full scholarship. She has worked extensively with Emmanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma at the Irving Gilmore International Music Festival. Christopher Weber is the founder, Artistic Director, and principal conductor of the "Camerata di Sant'Antonio" whose home base once again is the acoustically superior St. Anthony of Padua (Sant'Antonio) church located directly behind Buffalo's City Hall. 

"Portraits of Andromeda" can be heard live in concert, Sunday, May 5 at 7 p.m. at St. Anthony of Padua church (behind Buffalo's City Hall).
Credit Christopher Weber

 The concert, titled "East Meets West" will also include works by "Eastern" composers Zhou Long and Yoshimatsu, Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness, and "Western" composers Mallonee, Copland, and Mercury. That's Freddie Mercury and the concert will end with a string orchestra arrangement of "Bohemian Rhapsody," the symphonic rock song made famous by Freddie Mercury's group Queen. (Picking up on the science theme, that song references the great scientist and astronomer Galileo, although it should be noted that the Andromeda Galaxy was discovered by another Renaissance astronomer named Simon Marius). 

Conductor Chris Weber, cellist Feng Hew, and the Camerata di Sant'Antonio take a bow.
Credit Camerata di Sant'Antonio

The concert will be held Sunday, May 5, at 7 p.m. at the St. Anthony of Padua Church, 160 Court Street, Buffalo 14202, right behind Buffalo's City Hall at Court and Elmwood. There's plenty of on-street and off-street parking. Tickets are $20, although students 17 and under accompanied by an adult will be admitted free.