Premiere: The Stretch

In 2020, I saw a call from the International Double Reed Society for new works for oboe and bassoon. A former bassoonist, I thought it would be nice to help create a work for oboe and bassoon and voice. I posted on Twitter about the opportunity, looking for collaborators. Oboist Allison Welch suggested I contact Galit Kaunitz and Jacqui Wilson, who perform and podcast together as Double Reed Dish. Composer Kate Pukinskis, whose music I truly love, came aboard for the project, and we met to discuss things. Galit and Jacqui are strong believers in Shine Theory, which holds that women can succeed more if they collaborate instead of compete with one another. The developers of Shine Theory, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, phrase this as “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” They suggest that women create deeply committed friendships with a very small, select group of other women who will return that commitment to them. In many ways, it’s new packaging of what the nineteenth century called romantic friendship, in which friends were emotionally devoted to one another, relished time spent together, and built their lives around one another. After we met through Zoom, I kept in touch with Galit and Jacqui via email about their relationship, wanting to capture the strength they give one another and how it’s hard to be physically apart when your professional and personal lives take you to different places. I used words Galit and Jacqui used to describe each other and their friendship. The lyrics I created are called “The Stretch.” I wrote then, “I write about the physical distance between Galit and Jacqui and their strong emotional bonds, working in some everyday music terminology. I wanted it to have a sassy voice, full of grit and resilience and fun.”

We kicked around applying for additional grants and opportunities, and in May of 2021 I suggested the idea of a consortium commission for the piece. Galit and Jacqui had been thinking along the same lines, and announced a project that would be a consortium commission not just for “The Stretch,” but for composers Mason Bynes, Connor Chee, and brin solomon as well. The consortium was a huge success, and on Friday, 16 September, Galit, Jacqui, and Aaron Agulay will perform “The Stretch” for the first time, along with the other works from the commission project, at Washington State University. The concert will be streamed on WSU’s YouTube Channel. The piece will also be performed in Houston in November by ROCO. My name, year of birth (1974), and the text aren’t on the WSU program, so here’s the text:

The Stretch
by Kendra Preston Leonard
for Galit Kaunitz and Jacqui Wilson

stretch through the air
electrons

our voices
oh girl
friend,
warrior sister

where I could lean on you
there’s a
space here

I miss your shoulder
and mettle
the flash of keys
where we
were the fulcrum

we have
the joy
and the rage and the
laughter
and the shine

I love your cackle and
I love your midnight messages

our
chorus of two
singing lift me
all held up by
forte full-voiced
vibrations

before long,
we’ll be
meeting on

long rising roads

we’ll move it along:
kick it, sister

talk about time,
rehearse,
all ears and reeds

we are unconditional:
all the long stretches
I’ll pull you up to me

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