Tui St. George Tucker
Tui St. George Tucker
George Tucker, a person may at times have the impression he is hearing the work of a pre-Baroque master, a contemporary of Stravinsky, an innovator from the Be-Bop era, or a being from outer space. But all of her work is rooted in a profound understanding and deep love for music. Tui saw the Blue Ridge Mountain for the first time in the summer of 1946 when she visited her dear friend, the poet Vera Lachmann. Vera had escaped Nazi Germany, and in 1944 she founded the Camp Catawba for Boys, located near the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Boone side of Blowing Rock.
Beginning in 1947, Tui spent her summers as the camp’s music director. Imagine Beethoven as a summer camp instructor and you have some idea of what the young boys of Camp Catawba were up against. With fiery red hair and an explosive temper that coincided with her Dionysian lust for life, Tui seared an enduring impression on the campers. The children were often elevated to musical greatness, performing such works as Bach’s Magnificat, and Handel’s Messiah, and even performing at New York ’s Town Hall.
At least two-dozen of the boys from Camp Catawba have gone on to become professional musicians. Camp Catawba lasted until 1970. In 1985 Tui returned to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Camp Catawba , where she continued to compose, and also to conduct the Springhouse Farm Choir of Valle Crucis. Recently Tui was featured in the Appalachian State University concert series An Evening of Women Composers and also in the North Carolina Composers series.
In her twilight years she continued to be an inspiration and mentored many musicians including Lazybirds. Her deeply spiritual nature and unique poetic way of speaking will be warmly remembered by all who burned the midnight candle with her, shared music with her, caught hell from her, and learned from her. Tui St. George Tucker will be missed.
Plans are underway at the Appalachian State University School of Music for a performance of Tui St. George Tucker’s “Requiem” which was composed for her mother. She attended Occidental College , Los Angeles , from 1941 to 1944 and in 1946 moved to New York , where she became known as a recorder virtuoso and a composer, describing herself as ‘underground’. Much of the inspiration for her compositions came from her yearly summer retreats to the mountains of North Carolina, where she settled permanently in 1985; she began conducting and composing for the Springhouse Farm Choir of Valle Crucis in 1988. A strong melodic bias, ranging from plainsong-like expanses and baroque angularities to expressionist convolutions, characterizes much of her music, in which a pervasive sense of tonality, folk elements, musical quotations and startling, often humorous juxtapositions of disparate elements can also be found.
Tucker’s music for recorder reflects her highly developed capacities as a performer, making use of extended ranges, quarter-tones, unusual trills, nature sounds and multiphonics. Some of these devices, especially quarter-tones, are also used in other works, for example Little Pieces for Quarter-tone Piano. In later microtonal compositions such as Vigil 1 (1985) and Vigil 2 (1989), for microtonal organ, she focussed on key-orientated explorations of intervals above and beyond the outlined major triad of the overtone series (past harmonics 4:5:6). Ave verum (1992), an evening-length piano work, is written for a conventionally tuned instrument.
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