Unconventional Composer Spins Music and Story
From Extraordinary Whale Rescue
and violinist Steve Schuch has a penchant for unconventional venues
and uncommon accompanists. It is not unusual to find Schuch playing
on a gusty mountaintop, in a sequestered sea cave, or in the shadows
of a Celtic ruin on the shores of Loch Ness. Seeking true to life
sound effects for a rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas,"
he lugged his recording equipment to a New Hampshire farm, where
an obliging cow lent some verisimilitude to the lyric "eight maids
So it comes as no surprise that Schuch's latest project
celebrates a real life whale rescue involving thousands of Beluga
whales off the coast of Siberia. The whales were trapped in the
ice flows and faced certain death, until resourceful villagers played
classical music to lure them to freedom. The incident inspired Schuch
to write a piece for violin and whales called "Whale Trilogy," as
well as a book for young readers, A Symphony of Whales (Harcourt
Brace; $16.00, hardcover).
book has been featured on National Public Radio's "Performance
Today," won five national book awards and attracted the interest
of symphony orchestras across the country.
Schuch first learned about the little known rescue
when he was touring Alaska in the dead of winter. While performing
in native villages on the Arctic Circle and surviving an emergency
plane landing on a frozen river, dog sled rides in 40 below temperatures,
and his first taste of llama lasagna Schuch found time to write
the "Whale Trilogy." "This piece for violin and whales is really
a musical telling of the rescue," the composer explains. "It came
out of listening to recordings of whales, being moved by the rescue,
and wanting to express my feelings on the violin."
Schuch has recorded the "Whale
Trilogy," and performed it widely, everywhere from schools and
town halls to The Kennedy Center. When a children's book editor
ran across a live recording of the piece, she tracked down the New
Hampshire musician and asked him to write a book based on the rescue
story. A Symphony of Whales is the result.
The book tells the story of the rescue and a young
girl named Glashka who hears the plaintive call of the whales before
the other villagers. Schuch says he created Glashka because "many
children, like writers and musicians, hear music and voices in their
heads, and I wanted to tell this story through the eyes (and ears)
of such a child."
Steve Schuch, who devotes equal time to performances
and workshops for children and adults, stresses the importance of
sparking the creativity and curiosity of the next generation. With
both the "Whale Trilogy" and A Symphony of Whales he is doing just
Like a growing number of other artists, Schuch donates
a percentage of the royalties from book and CD sales to world hunger
and environmental groups.
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