Composed in September of 2002 for Elizabeth Leehey and Sarah Tenney, The Veldt of Night is an extended nocturne based on three lines of an evocative poem by the versatile British writer Ronald Duncan. From the 1977 poem "Sorry," the lines read:
…here's this panther for you.
see how it hunts the stars
over the veldt of night
The duo I composed first imagines the panther experiencing an expansive night scene. Then with increasing but muted agitation, the panther begins searching for the stars. Is the night overcast? Is the veldt (plain) of darkness too overwhelming? Although the piece doesn't substantially answer any of these questions, I hope it poses them by creating a somewhat obscure, questioning atmosphere in which we, the listeners, can pretend to be the panther searching for some kind of illumination. The work ends as searches often can -- without knowing if the answer has been found or not.
Recently described as “the New England master of the short piece” in a recording review, John McDonald is a composer who tries to play the piano and a pianist who tries to compose. He is Professor of Music at Tufts University, where he has served both as Music Department Chair and Director of Graduate Music Studies. He teaches composition, theory, and performance at Tufts. His output concentrates on vocal, chamber, and solo instrumental works, and includes interdisciplinary experiments. He received the 2009 Lillian and Joseph Leibner Award for Distinguished Teaching and Advising from Tufts University, and was named the 2007 MTNA-Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year by the Music Teachers National Association.
He is the pianist of The Mockingbird Trio (with Elizabeth Anker, contralto and Scott Woolweaver, viola) and The Turina Trio (with Marco Granados, flute and Ken Radnofsky, saxophone), and has collaborated throughout his composing and performing life with singers and instrumentalists, most notably soprano Karol Bennett.
John has recorded widely (on the Albany, BMOP Sound, Bridge, Hungarton, and New World labels, to name a few) as both composer and pianist, and has recently completed a number of commissions, including a suite for A Far Cry, Boston’s conductorless string orchestra. His most recent recording is Cadenza!, an album of clarinet or basset horn music with piano; Ray Jackendoff is the soloist, featuring music by Berger, Carter, Copland, McDonald, and Yehudi Wyner (Albany Records; Troy 1598). On sabbatical from Tufts in 2015-2016, he is currently completing a biography project on composer T(homas) J(efferson) Anderson. McDonald will serve as the Joseph E. and Grace W. Valentine Visiting Professor of Music at Amherst College in 2016-2017.