Emerson Meyers Clarinet Sonata

A few months ago I got an email, through the contact page of my blog, from a Steve Offutt, whom I had never heard of. Here's the text.

I serendipitously met someone at the post office in Arlington, VA who shared your performance of the Emerson Meyers Clarinet Sonata with me. I liked it a lot–both the music and the performance. Sounds challenging, but I’d love to a take a shot at working some or all of it up. Do you have the music or know where I can get a copy?

I had not heard of Emerson Meyers or his Sonata, and so wrote back that he must be mistaken. He responded.

Thanks. I have a recording in which a David Thomas played with pianist Bonnie Kellert at a concert on May 4, 1986 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. I googled you, but your name is not exceptionally unusual (although how many high caliber clarinetists named David Thomas are there, I wonder?) Do you know of any other David Thomases who play clarinet who might have been the clarinetist at that concert? I'm attaching the third movement. At the end there is an announcer's voice mentioning the name David Thomas.

I listened to the recording, and was impressed with the piece and the performance. I lived in Washington, DC in 1986, when it was performed at the National Gallery of Art concerts series. I soloed quite a bit around DC during that period, while playing Principal with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, whose schedule was not all that busy.

The playing in the recording is familiar, along with the warm up and the throat clearing before the performance began. The composer was the pianist with the National Symphony; the pianist, Bonnie Kellert, a graduate of Peabody Conservatory, which I attended from 1978-80. My teacher from Peabody, Sidney Forrest, probably knew both of them.

The pianist's playing is impressive, and I hope I complimented her at the time. But my memory of the event has not fully returned.

I'm including the recording below for your listening enjoyment.

How strange and wonderful that this obscure but delightful piece, and a recording of that performance with me playing, would pop up 22 years later! I think it's a great piece and should be published, if the parts can be located. I'm working on that.

The only information I have is from the announcer at the end of this recording, who states this Sonata for Clarinet and Piano was written in 1946 for his good friend Paul Garrett, and revised in 1958.

Meyers Sonata, Movt. 1Emerson Meyers, Clarinet Sonata, Mvt. 1
Meyers Sonata, Movt. 2Emerson Meyers, Clarinet Sonata, Mvt. 2
Meyers Sonata, Movt. 3Emerson Meyers, Clarinet Sonata, Mvt. 3

I did a little digging about the man. Apparently, Emerson Meyers was quite a figure in the Washington area, known equally as pianist, teacher and composer. He also left literally a mountain of writings (14 cubic feet), a few pages of which are quoted and summarized HERE.

To see the full text of his lengthy obituary in the Washington Post from 1990, I had to buy access. Ah, technology; liberation, for a price! The brunt of that obit is at the following link- Emerson Meyers- Pianist, Techer, Composer- 1910-1990.

PS- Randy Foster emailed me with a few things he found. The "google books" listing above is sold at Amazon, and the whole thing is browsable on Amazon's site. Here is the link to that. Check out page 306, where the whole program I played is listed!

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18 comments for “Emerson Meyers Clarinet Sonata

  1. Steve O
    October 19, 2010 at

    David,
    This is Steve Offutt. Did you get to the Library or see Bonnie while you were in Bethesda?
    I don't think I told you this, but Bonnie made me a photocopy of the music last year, so I have a copy, too.

    • October 19, 2010 at

      No. I haven't followed through on that. Still plan to. I need to make a definite appt. w Bonnie to plan how to proceed with publication. Thanks for reminding me.

      In the meantime, perhaps could you PDF the parts to me???

  2. Maurice Saylor
    August 23, 2010 at

    Yes, the other work is by Meyers and is earlier, 1941. The Clarinet Sonata is 1946. I was just going through some archival material and found a program for a performance of the Sonata in 1958 at the Pan American Union in DC with Paul Garrett on clarinet. It must have been the first performance of the 1958 revision.

    I heard back from LC. The majority of Emerson Meyers' manuscripts are in five boxes, classed as ML96 .M Case. Shelved separately is the Suite for String Quartet and Clarinet, in ML96 .M723. There is a list of the manuscripts that Meyers gave to the library. The manuscripts are available to view in the reading room. Access is unrestricted for registered researchers of the library. I have inquired about who holds the rights.

    Maurice

    • August 25, 2010 at

      Wow Maurice- You are a wonderful and welcome fount of helpful information. Perhaps I can traipse down to the LC and have a look at it while visiting family in Bethesda for the next week. Since I am not a registered researcher, would I have to reserve a time to see it? I guess I can call the LC and find out.

      Please do let me know what you find out about the rights. It would be a delight for me to be able to release this obscure but worthy work into the current clarinet repertoire. I'm sure it would be noticed.

      Best,
      David

    • October 19, 2010 at

      Maurice- Did you get a reply as to who owns the rights?

  3. Maurice Saylor
    August 23, 2010 at

    Meyer's manuscripts were given to the Library of Congress. They would have information with the collection as to who holds the rights and how to contact them.

    Unfortunately, as of about 10 years ago the collect had not yet been cataloged and was unavailable. This has prompted me to contact them to see if any progress has been made. I'll keep you posted.

    On a different note, I noticed LC has cataloged a work for clarinet and strings from 1941. I don't know anything about the work but it's available for perusal as it was cataloged years ago.

    Maurice

    Maurice

    • August 23, 2010 at

      Yes, please keep me posted.

      The other work you refer to; is it also by Meyers?

      David

  4. Maurice
    August 22, 2010 at

    David,

    Do you mean publish the music or the recording? Since you plan to contact Bonnie I suspect you mean the recording. Either way it would be nice to have the work reach a wider audience.

    Maurice

    • August 22, 2010 at

      No. I meant the music. I think Bonnie has the parts, doesn't she? Or do you?

  5. Maurice Saylor
    August 20, 2010 at

    This is an interesting story. I may have been the person that started this chain reaction as someone contacted me in 2008 requesting a copy of that very same recording of the Meyer's clarinet sonata. I'm the Music Librarian at The Catholic University of America where Emerson Meyers taught. I have a recording of the entire concert and listened to it again just in the past year. Pretty cool stuff.

    Maurice Saylor

    • August 20, 2010 at

      Hello Maurice- The circle is now complete. Thanks for your comment.

      I hope to publish the piece with Bonnie, if I can just get together with her to organize it. Any ideas of how to proceed?

      David

  6. floyd williams
    September 24, 2009 at

    The excellent principal clarinettist of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Australia) is named David Thomas, also.

  7. March 7, 2009 at

    David!
    Bonnie Kellert here! How are you?
    I emailed you after your phone call back in January but I didn’t get a response. My apologies for not calling you back – we left the country the next weekend and I have just returned home to face a frenetic teaching and performing schedule.
    Have you moved back to the DC area yet? Since you have my personal contact number, please let me know how things are—And I do want to talk about publishing Meyer’s pieces. As I told you in my email- and as I told Steve Offut- I have a complete and original copy of both parts for the Clarinet Sonata. (I’m expecting a call from Steve to arrange our making a copy for him and his wife.) I believe that Frank Conlon may have some manuscripts of other works by Meyers and there are other Washingtonian musicians who might have some pieces. I have a CD of the concert that my husband edited (to reduce noise, etc.). Really nice recording – and you sound terrific! Will be glad to give you a copy.
    I look forward to seeing you and performing together again.
    Best regards, Bonnie

  8. January 17, 2009 at

    Hi Soo- Glad you liked it. This story is so interesting, I will be posting more about it soon.

  9. Soo Goh
    January 17, 2009 at

    What a fantastic sonata! I was completely taken by your performance and the spectrum of emotions and colors that the piece portrayed. Do keep us updated. It’s one of those rare gems that deserved to be in our repertoire!

  10. David Huckaabee
    January 17, 2009 at

    Mr. Thomas,

    If you want .wav files, instead of the .mp3 version, I have a CD of the entire concert. If you would like a copy, I’ll burn you one and send it to if you give me your snail mail address.

  11. Randy Foster
    January 15, 2009 at

    That is the list of instrumental compositions by Emma Lou Diemer: http://www.amrhome.net/contents/diehome.html

    • January 16, 2009 at

      Thanks Randy. I’ll remove that link. It was strange that the page didn’t list whose repertoire it was! At least not obviously.

Comments are closed.