Spring has seemingly always been tied to the emotional side of life, from love to freedom and renewal. For Garth Baxter, there is no better way to express that than through music.
The Carroll County classical composer’s work will be part of the “Music, Gettysburg!” series this month.
“My music is very melodic, and I always … want my music to be understood and enjoyed by people who — you don't need to have a music education to enjoy it,” he said.
The concert will be held Sunday, March 17 at 4 p.m. in the United Lutheran Seminary Chapel, 147 Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The concert is free and open to the public. More information is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the Seminary at 717-339-1334.
Baxter shares the bill with Maryland composer Hollis Thoms as well as a few classic pieces.
An ensemble of Annie Gill, soprano; Joseph Regan, tenor; Jason Thoms, baritone; and Andrew Stewart, piano will perform the pieces.
The series hosts a mix of performers from the local to the internationally known. This is Baxter’s first time being part of the concert series.
Those familiar with his work will recognize songs from 2018’s “Ask the Moon,” and “Katherine Unha Keem: Songs and Arias by Garth Baxter.”
Some of the song selections are tailored to the location in Gettysburg.
“A Wife in London,” touches on the moment a woman receives a letter from her husband who has been fighting oversees several days after learning he was killed.
“We chose this one because of the connection with the Civil War history in Gettysburg,” he said.
Many of his vocal compositions set music to works by poets from Edna St. Vincent Millay to Sara Teasdale to living writers like Nuala O'Connor.
Baxter said he is a voracious reader. When he is working to set pieces to music, he said, “I spent a lot of time with each one, sort of waiting for the poetry to speak to me. It sort of sounds corny, but it's actually the way it really works.”
He can’t qualify what makes certain poems call out to him.
“I certainly have limitations, but I'm pretty much open to anything. I think what works best for me is if I can feel sympathetic to the words, even though they may not be about me,” he said.
“Resistance,” Baxter’s latest album was released February of this year and is entirely instrumental.
He describes himself as a modern traditionalist, often using forms that have been around for hundreds of years. Only recently have these forms started to re-enter the public sphere after pushback in the early 20th century to traditional forms and melodies and harmonies in classical music.
For composers to whom traditional forms come naturally, it feels like a canal has opened back up for their work to be accepted, he said.
“Commencing with a haunting pick-up phrase from the flute that is joined by cascading chords from the piano, Baxter instantly establishes his harmonic colors as modern, but still based in the Classical tradition,” writes 5 Finger Review about the work.
Baxter has lived in the Union Mills area since 1986 and previously taught at McDaniel College and Carroll Community College.
“I always hope my music will be listened to and heard and enjoyed,” he said. “I've never had an idea that ... I'm going to make make a lot of money, and since I spend so much of my life involved in writing music. and it’s such an important part of my being that I really want people to enjoy it.”