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            Montgomery is a native New Yorker, a graduate of the Juilliard School in violin performance, and holds a master’s degree from New York University in music composition.  Her publications focus on various combinations of strings, and enjoy wide performance popularity with noted ensembles throughout the country.  She is a devoted supporter of educational activities, and youth musical ensembles.   Her musical style is, if anything eclectic, and is obviously a reflection of the enormous variety of musical art in her native New York City.  Mahler once somewhat fatuously remarked something to the effect that a symphony should contain “everything.”   Well, Montgomery dips into a remarkable universe of musical traditions, and reinterprets them in her own voice—just not all in one piece, of course.

            Montgomery relates that she was commissioned in 2009 by the Providence String Quartet and Community Music Works for a composition to celebrate the election of Obama.  In that work, Anthem, she more or less wove together elements of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  The latter, of course, is often referred to as the Black National Anthem. Later, in 2014 the composer was commissioned by the Sphinx Organization for a work to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the “The Star Spangled Banner.”  According to the composer, the result, Banner, takes the previous composition as a point of departure for a rhapsody that incorporates such disparate elements as the national anthem and the Black national anthem, as well as the national anthems of Puerto Rico and Mexico, and other patriotic and folk songs.  Montgomery is a self-confessed fan of marching bands and drum corps, and imitates their sectional musical form as well as incorporating the entertaining and dazzling virtuosity of their “drum lines” into Banner as a forceful rhythmic element at the end.  An important symbolic element is the musical contrast and exchange between the solo string quartet and the rest of the orchestra—a Baroque touch, indeed.  Montgomery avers that it represents societal change driven by individuals interacting with the consensus. The various motifs and melodic snippets come together in the peroration in kaleidoscopic layers of teeming elements.

             Banner, employing a challenging and often enigmatic musical language, and positing the warts in our nation’s history, comes close to “grievance art” so predominant among young artists on the “woke” political left.  It certainly will not please all. While it may seem an odd, even disrespectful “tribute” to our beloved national anthem, all art is by its nature personal and subjective.   Withal, Montgomery creates a work that incorporates the remarkable diversity of our country, and within the context of an homage acknowledges “the contradictions, leaps and bounds and milestones that allow us to celebrate and maintain the tradition of our ideals.”

--Wm. E. Runyan

©2021 William E. Runyan