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World Premier: Paul Dietrich's "Scenes from Lake Mendota"

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In honor of the 30th Anniversary of the Isthmus Jazz Festival, composer Paul Dietrich was commissioned to write a piece about the Terrace titled Scenes from Lake Mendota. The UW Jazz Orchestra is performing the world premier of this superb work.

Scenes from Lake Mendota

I. Bright
II. Twilight
III. After Dark

Composer Notes

I'm usually purposefully vague with titles, meanings and imagery in my music – I like to leave it up to the listener. But seeing as this piece was commissioned for a specifc event about a specifc place, secrecy is not necessary!

The concept for this piece, as discussed in our frst meeting about it, was to write, essentially, an ode to Madison's Union Terrace. The Terrace, overlooking Lake Mendota, is one of the city's most popular places to hang out. It is also the home of the Isthmus Jazz Festival, which is happening this summer (June 2017) for the 30th time. As I began to come up with ideas, I began picturing what one might see if they spent an entire day at the Terrace.

Movement I, entitled “Bright,” is all about the lake. It starts of peacefully, like the undisturbed, shimmering early morning water. As it enters its more playful 6/8 feel, I was picturing people in boats, swimming, taking their dogs out on paddle-boards –people who are seen on every beautiful summer day on the lake. As the end of the movement approaches, we hear the trombones doing their own version of the famous Terrace steam whistle, and – as any musician who has played at the Terrace while it has gone of can attest – it pays no heed to what else is happening in the music.

The second movement, “Twilight,” is pretty self-explanatory. Sunsets at the Terrace are breathtaking, and seem to create a sense of calm over the entire place, even when there are people everywhere.

Movement III, “After Dark,” is, simply, a celebration. There's no better place in Madison to sit back, be outside, listen to some music, and enjoy a beverage with your friends.

-Paul Dietrich, March 2017


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