American singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer once said that, “Life is like a piano, what you get out of it depends on how you play it.” By this advice, Dr. William Campbell, the chairman of the St. Ambrose University music department, is playing all the right notes.
On March 26 at the Galvin Fine Arts Center, Campbell performed original solo piano pieces during his CD release concert, entitled “Piano Songs.” Although he has composed film scores for award-winning documentaries, music for large ensembles, chamber and mixed ensembles, chorus, percussion and trios, Campbell hasn’t lost sight of the piano. Campbell has a good relationship with his creativity, which he credits to his relationship with God.
“I just have a lot of energy for creative things,” Campbell said. “I think that within myself there is a good balance between things spiritual, family, and work and because of that I am able to put out a lot of energy for these things.”
The Ambrose community has given Campbell a lot of latitude and support through the work put into his album. This album then turned into a collective work between Campbell and his colleagues. Assistant professor of graphic design Renee Meyer Ernst is the photographer and layed out the whole CD. Patrick Connelly, English professor, was asked by Campbell to write the linear notes. Those linear notes turned into poems by Connelly, who was inspired by the music to write them.
“Bill’s music and his titles were the inspiration for the poems,” Connelly said. “Bill’s songs are highly contemplative and impressionistic, so poetry seemed like the appropriate medium for reflecting upon them.”
Not expecting poetry, Campbell was thrown back, but in the best possible way.
“It’s so amazingly wonderful,” Campbell said. “They’re great vinyetes about the pieces that told a little bit about the music but not too much to get in the way. People were still able to get into the music with them [the poems].”
Although most of the tracks began as improvisational sessions, the opening track on the album is the piece he was commissioned to do for the inauguration of Sister Joan Lescinski as the president of St. Ambrose in 2007. The CD is be available on disc or by download services such as iTunes or CDBaby.
There is no relaxing for Campbell though. He is finishing up a quintent for Piano with Strings, which is being premiered on April 28. Along with some summer projects, the Quad City Symphony will be performing one of his pieces during their “Masterworks Concert Series” next year.