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Color's of Life's Garden (2023)

Technical Information:


Oboe, viola, piano

Duration: 13'

Commissioned by River Oaks Chamber Orchestra

Premiered January 27, 2024 at Rienzi

Alecia Lawyer, oboe; Milena Pajaro van de Stadt, viola; and Audrey Andrist, piano


Program Note:

"Colors of Life's Garden" is a musical reflection of the beauty and complexity of life, inspired by the magnolia trees at the estate of Rienzi with the generous commission from River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. As I observed the little buds filled with possibilities and prospects, I was struck by the cycle of life and death that these trees undergo every year. It made me reflect not only on the ups and downs of my own life, but also on the nature of love and relationships.


Love and relationships are an integral part of our own personal journey, much like the magnolia trees undergo their own cycle of growth and decay. Even though some experiences may cause pain and heartbreak, they make us who we are today. Through embracing our past and learning from our encounters and experiences, we can grow and become the person we hope to be. The blooming of the magnolia trees is a beautiful reminder of this process, as they fully embrace their "death" and decay in order to bloom anew each year.


The composition unfolds seamlessly in three sections, each symbolizing a distinct facet of this perpetual cycle. "Pale Beginnings" embodies anticipation and potential, mirroring the pale magnolia bulbs in the early stages of their journey. "Verdant Mystery” delves into the mystery and excitement of spring, capturing the essence of watching ice melt and flower buds unfurling, echoing the vibrancy of love's renewal. “Orange Glow”, radiating warmth like a golden sun, signifies the return of spring. It encapsulates the themes of personal growth, acceptance, and the embrace of the past, basking in the full light and warmth of the season.


Maintaining a stylistic continuum, these sections are intentionally interconnected, played attaca without pause. The three sections are primarily provided to guide performers in understanding the structure and interpretation of the work. While less apparent to listeners, they are invited to experience the cyclical nature of life within the piece — where every beginning is also an ending. Symbolizing this, each section shares a similar texture and sentiment throughout, contributing to a cyclical, continuous structure that mirrors the perpetual flow of life.


Colors of life’s garden reflects my own journey and my hope to continue to grow and learn from my experiences. Whether we are facing harsh weather or challenges, we too can endure the process and continue to grow, introducing new seasons of our lives and bringing happiness and joy to those around us. The blooming of the magnolia trees is a beautiful reminder of the resilience of nature and the power of love.

– Nicky Sohn

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