When composer David Amram was commissioned by Woody Guthrie’s family to write a tribute to the folk legend, he experienced an intense bout of writer’s block. “I really believe in ecology, but I must’ve poured through a tree and a half of paper that hit the wastebasket without ever being used,” says the prolific musician, whose impressive resumé includes working with Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and Patti Smith as well as penning three books and numerous musical pieces. What finally inspired him was a suggestion from Guthrie’s daughter Nora to read Joe Klein’s biography, Woody Guthrie: A Life, and retrace the steps the traveling musician took while writing “This Land Is Your Land.”
It worked, and Amram was able to create “Symphonic Variations on a Song by Woody Guthrie,” a piece that the Colorado Symphony Orchestra will perform tonight at Boettcher Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. “Song” takes listeners through all the places Woody traveled, from California to the New York island, from a Sunday-morning Okemah, Oklahoma, church service to Mexico. “It’s almost like a biographical journey of the places that Woody went when he was playing the piece,” says Amram.
You can follow along tonight at A Tribute to Woody Guthrie with David Amram, a celebration of Guthrie’s 100th birthday that also includes performances of the rambling man’s songs by Josh White Jr., the son of an old Guthrie friend, and an audience sing-along at the end. The tribute begins at 7:30 p.m.; tickets range from $20 to $65. Amram and White will be in town for a series of events throughout the week. For more information and tickets, call 303-623-7876 or visit www.coloradosymphony.org.
Sat., Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m., 2012