Special Interviews

There is So Much Music
in the Words of the Poems

An elite member of the new generation of American composers, Maria Newman, composer of the musical piece "Prince," is the daughter of Alfred Newman, a nine-time Oscar Award winning composer.
George Thatcher, her husband and the conductor of "Prince," is also a prominent composer and lyricist.

The couple was interviewed by television actress Katherine Hudson
on December 3, 1998.(Originally in English)

MN: For the December 18 concert, I have written a piece based on Supreme Master Ching Hai's poem called "The Prince," which is absolutely beautiful. I picked it because it had so much music in the words right away, and I felt that it would be lovely to write a piece of music to it. It's a lovely poem. George will be conducting the piece with a full orchestra, and with a beautiful solo soprano named Anne Marie Ketchum.

GT: It's a very sensual poem - the way the words flow together, the imagery. I remember reading it - we read through it. They gave us quite a few of Her poems and they were all beautiful, but this one struck me as one that would really suit Maria's writing style and what we are trying to achieve - writing more of an art song than a pop song or a commercial style song.

MN: That's right, which is a good point. This piece is definitely an art song and not a pop song. We've set it in a definite, I don't want to say classical because classical is an era, like the era of Mozart, but maybe we can say a more classic style.

GT: More traditional. - more traditional orchestra, more traditional harmonic concepts. There's no rhythm section per se laying down a beat like you get with so many of the big ballads and pop music. There's a lot of tempo changes, a lot of rubato; a lot of the harmonic structure is more like what you find in, I don't want to say a Schubert song, but still once again, it's a lot more like a modern language harmonically than that, but I think it's a very beautiful piece for a very beautiful poem.

KH: Do you know much about the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association?

MN: Absolutely. When we met first with the people from the Organization, they brought us the most, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, the most beautiful artwork that She had done (GT: Right). Amazingly, She makes designs - clothing designs, jewelry designs, fan designs, lamp designs, furniture designs, poetry - everything that you can imagine. The woman is pretty amazing. I know the Organization is incredible when it comes to donating and giving, and putting on benefits and donating to various organizations.

GT: I was very impressed with their philanthropic work. They showed us a list of people they had donated to when they were acquainting us with their work, and it was farm subsidies and disaster relief as well as just a lot of charities - charities that I'm very familiar with and charities I've never heard of. I think it's very impressive that someone can be involved in the arts - I mean, I know a lot of people in the arts who are trying to do well and trying to make a living, and some who do, do very well. But here is someone who takes what She has created and turns around and gives back to the people who really need it. That is something that is very rare and very inspiring to see. You know, as artists, we sometimes get wrapped up in our own world and our careers and what we're trying to achieve. And I see some people who do very, very well, and a lot of people give back, but I've never seen anybody give back on this level - it's just very impressive.

MN: I remember once when I was in college, I was talking to my sister, and her husband is a wonderful doctor, who gives a lot of himself back to communities. He's been down in Ecuador every single summer giving free medical attention to people and all of this - for weeks at a time. Once I said to her, I feel so guilty for being in music school and being in music. I feel like somehow, I'm not giving as much as your husband is giving back to the community and to people who need him. She said, "Oh Maria, you're wrong. What would the world be without artists and what they give to the world, in that they bring so much joy to people". But, furthermore, I just wanted to say that in the case of Ching Hai, this has gone far beyond that. Not only does She create beautiful art in every sense of the word - the only thing I haven't heard Her do is music, but She creates music within Her other artworks.

GT: Well I'm glad She doesn't do music, because it gives us a chance to contribute as well; otherwise what could we do?

MN: That's right. But what I was going to say is that She gives back not only through Her art, but through the earning of funds for these organizations. So, She truly gives back, both literally and figuratively speaking. It's really quite an honor to be working in this situation with this Organization. We feel very lucky.

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