Composer Doug Ovens Presents Farewell Concert, a Celebration of Long Muhlenberg Career

News Image Part of Muhlenberg’s Contemporary Music Festival, the free concert of chamber works takes place Tuesday, April 10.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Monday, April 2, 2018 06:14 PM

Douglas Ovens, composer and professor of music, will present a concert of chamber works to cap a 28-year career at Muhlenberg College.

The concert is presented as a part of Muhlenberg’s Contemporary Music Festival and will take place 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 10, in the Recital Hall of the Baker Center for the Arts. It is free and open to the public.

Ovens, who served as chair of the College’s music department for 18 years, has composed music for the Allentown Symphony, the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra and many productions of the Muhlenberg Theater Association as well as for the North/South Chamber Orchestra (New York City), Asheville Symphony (NC) and several dance companies.

The concert will feature Muhlenberg performance faculty members Tony Simons, clarinet; Audrey Simons, cello; Vincent Trovato, piano; Elizabeth Manus, piano; Alexandra Porter, soprano and James Thoma, percussion as well as guest Julie Bougher, violin.

"Doug Ovens was one of the first people I met and worked with when I was appointed as the music director and conductor of the Allentown Symphony," said Diane Wittry in a recent article. "Over the years, I have worked with Doug many times and performed quite a few of his pieces with the Allentown Symphony. He is a consummate musician and composer, a great colleague, and someone who will be greatly missed in the Lehigh Valley."

Last fall, the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with the Allentown Art Museum, commissioned Ovens to write a piece for the sound sculptures of artist and industrial designer Harry Bertoia. His work is the first orchestral composition ever written to feature Bertoia’s creations. “I essentially wrote a concerto where the solo instrument is this group of nine sculptures,” Ovens says in a Morning Call article about the innovative performance and related art exhibit.

In addition, he recently produced an original score for the February premiere of Muhlenberg's theater production Ubu Roi directed by faculty member Francine Roussel.

Ovens wrote the music for five plays directed by Muhlenberg professor of theatre James Peck. "He has an uncanny ability to listen to my thoughts about a character or a moment, and to find a way to articulate that idea musically in a way that captures and extends what I've said,” said Peck in the same article. “His scores create a whole sonic world for the play. Each idea makes sense in its moment, but in addition, all the musical cues taken en masse develop a sophisticated aural texture that expands the work's emotional palate. And he's a joy to work with – supremely gifted, of course, but also one of the smartest, funniest, and most down-to-earth people I know."

"I like my music to seem to ask questions at least as often as it proposes answers," said Ovens when interviewed by WFMZ. "I take the position that if I like it, there is a good possibility some other human might like it, too."

Ovens has presented his music in festivals throughout the United States and in Japan, Scotland, Poland, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Finland. His music has been performed by such notables as Idil Biret, Gary Burton, Max Lifchitz and the Talujon Percussion Quartet.

Ovens and his wife, Cindy, will move to Monterey, California at the end of the academic year, returning to their West Coast roots.