Theatrics - The Many Sides of Guinevere

Welcome to another issue of Meet the Composer Blog!

We met Maggie McGinity through our call for scores last month. She submitted her work, "Theatrics," which really resonates with the multi-faceted portrayals of Queen Guinevere that frame our project. Our ensemble was just accepted to perform part of our "Guinevere's Tale" program at the Mid-Atlantic Flute Convention (via prerecorded videos) later this month.


Maggie McGinity (b. 1992) aims to write music that is contemporary, yet accessible to a wide range of audiences. She recently earned a Master of Music degree in Composition from Central Michigan University (CMU), where she studied with Dr. Evan Ware. She has a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from Iowa State University, where she studied with Dr. Sonja Giles. She draws on her two decades of performance experience to inform and inspire her compositions. Ms. McGinity won the 2019 CMU ACDA chapter’s choral composition competition for her SATB work “I Have No Words,” and received an Honorable Mention in the 2019 CMU School of Music Annual Composition Competition for her work “The New Medusa” for SATB choir.


Her music has been performed in California, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, and New York City, with an upcoming performance in Columbus, OH. Her works have been read by the ÆPEX Ensemble and Akropolis Reed Quintet at the Spring 2019 and Fall 2019 CMU New Music Symposiums respectively. Recently she attended the 2020 Online Summer Composition Workshop with Jenni Brandon, The Walden School 2019 Creative Musicians Retreat, the 2019 Summer Composition Intensive at Saint Mary’s College, and the 2019 CORO Composer’s Intensive.


As we haven't formally connected with Maggie beforehand, we wanted to ask her a few questions to better understand her compositional style and vision for Guinevere.


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What inspired you to compose for traverso?


I hadn’t considered composing for traverso before I heard about this project, but now that I have, I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before. I have a Bachelor’s degree in flute performance. I’ve always loved studying and performing pieces that were originally written for traverso flute, sonatas and concertos by J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi. The traverso flute also presents interesting challenges to modern composers. It can be tricky to arrange modern music to fit the instrument, and composers need to decide how much, if any, of the Baroque and/or Classical spirit into the piece.


How does your piece relate to Queen Guinevere and any of the ways she's been portrayed?


I think Theatrics relates to Queen Guinevere's story because it, like Guinevere, is multifaceted. Theatrics starts stately and fanfare-like, then moves into a villainous section. A lush, sweeping, romantic section follows, and eventually, the piece combines all of the preceding elements into

a conclusion that is reminiscent of earlier moments but stands firmly on its own. These sections mirror different descriptions or tellings of Guinevere herself. The title Theatrics also relates to the story, as I believe many people nowadays are first exposed to Arthurian tales via plays, musicals, or film.


Tell us about your compositional process


My compositional process varies a lot depending on the type of piece I’m writing and how long I have to work on it. For projects with longer timelines, I try to map out the structure of the piece before I start, and also possibly assign some characteristics like tonal center, approximate tempo, and general feeling to each section. If I’m writing a piece in a hurry, I usually either write a through-composed piece or a theme and variations. I tend to write too much material for each piece, and both of those methods work well with that. Theme and variations form forces me to write a single melody and focus on it. Through-composing allows me to just keep writing whatever musical ideas come into my head until the piece is an appropriate length, then edit and revise whatever doesn’t work. Most of my pieces start as a musical idea that shows up in my head, which I then sing and record on my phone. Sometimes, though, I’ll sit down at the piano keyboard and mess around until I write something I like for the project I’m working on at the time.


What made you want to be part of this commissioned project?


I stumbled upon the call for scores for this project very organically: a Facebook friend from undergrad, American soprano Eliza P. Smith, shared a post about it. It was refreshing to see a call for scores on social media, especially one I didn’t have to go find on one of the usual composer websites. I was excited by the idea of a musical project tied to literature, and especially one that looks at a famous character through a feminist lens. I was especially struck by the poster for the project. Writing for Baroque instruments sounded daunting, but I like modern music that incorporates Baroque instruments, and I already have a lot of experience with the modern flute. The whole project just seemed very cool, and I wanted to be a part of it.


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Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, as we will feature our next composer from our Call for Scores. And if you want more information on Maggie McGinity and her works you can find her at these socials:


Twitter: @MaggieMcGMusic

Instagram: @MaggieMcGinityMusic

Facebook: @MaggieMcGinityMusic

Website: maggiemcginity.com

YouTube Channel: Maggie McGinity Music

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