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Solstice Trailer


I wrote Solstice in the spring of 2020 when Aleksandra Sapok inquired if I had composed any new pieces. Aleksandra brought her impressive resume of guitar competitions and studies from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Musik in Warsaw, Poland, to apply for the Alexander L. Johnson, Song of Peace Guitar Educational Scholarship. She won by unanimous committee decision in 2016 and 2017.

Aleksandra writes here about how she approaches her art with the guitar: “When I have a new piece, I start with sight reading to get to know what kind of piece it is and what I can find inside. After that, I can expect what problems could occur during practicing. From the very beginning I try to make my vision of a piece in my head. I think that it is most important; the head needs to know what it wants to do and then fingers would follow that idea. It is changing during practicing, but I know what direction I want for that piece. “Also, I must notice that modern/contemporary music is very close to me. I have played many pieces by Brouwer, Rodrigo and Dyens, for example. I feel much more free and emotionally connected with that music than ones that were written in other periods. Both pieces by Lou V. Johnson, I liked from the very beginning. The differences between character, structure and possibilities made my process of learning very interesting and creative. I wanted to show two different worlds in those two pieces. From one side: lightness, good, calmness and the other side much more gusty, sharp, deep, also even painful. Especially I liked the slow movement in the middle part of “Portraits” which is the first movement of “The Peace Concerto.” Also I have read all the information on the composer’s website. The story of Alex could move every soul. I think it somehow helps for interpretation too.”

Aleksandra Sapok, April 15, 2016 Warsaw, Poland

The title Solstice from Rome 1st century BC (Latin: sol sun, sistere stand still) is when the sun hesitates in the sky. These phenomena are nature’s signals of shorter days to come.

Movement I, Summer, is our longest day with the most daylight of the year. It begins with a cheerful springtime allegretto melody in D Major moving quickly to A Major. A springtime pinnacle ensues with rapid scale passages, presenting sunlight. A grave section speaks to the beauty, pain, and joys of life. Harmonies tilt and gravity pulls.

Movement II Shadows from the North, is an autumn equinox transition. Harvest arrives. Colors light to dark imbue shades in between. There is a chill in the evening air. We light a bonfire. Portamentos, arpeggiations, tambouras, glissandos, bends, scale passages, tremolos and chords of yellow, brown, and orange touch our hands, ears and minds. Flowers fade and leaves fall from the trees.

Movement III, Winter, the shortest, darkest day of the year, arrives in a commotion as a repeating e minor suspended 2nd chord to illustrate the journey of wind over mountains, valleys, through every branch of each tree to finally touch us. Wind, snow, and ice abound. These harmonic transitions imitate unpredictable events with a (unusual for us guitarists) foray into the key of D sharp. A feeling of change is in the cool air of the season. Something different is happening. Short days and long nights bring a December chill. Firewood for below zero is more than a necessity. Hibernation becomes reality.

Live life, do your best, endure the difficulties and enjoy the rest. Winter ends with a storm. We stay warm inside longing for the sweet melody of summer.

Lou V. Johnson, June 20, 2020 Grass Valley, California


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