Shaped by the very landscape she wants to protect, Cranston resident Noreen Inglesi has been a composer and environmentalist since she was 8.
This past weekend, her nature-infused work was featured as part of the State Ballet of Rhode Island’s (SBRI) production of “Cowboys, Cadets & Collaborative Works” at Rhode Island College’s Roberts Auditorium.
Inglesi wrote the music for “Dance of the Firefly” and “Heghnar & Buck,” the latter of which made its Rhode Island premiere. “Dance of the Firefly” was written for violin, viola and cello. Much of Inglesi’s work is inspired by nature and the environment. In this case, the musical story tells a tale of a single night at her parent’s home in Charlestown. As the day drew to a close, fireflies appeared one by one on a summer night and seemed to dance for her family. Inglesi composed the piece in 1996, and last year, Inglesi partnered with SBRI to include it in a ballet piece by SBRI choreographer Shana Fox Marceau.
“Heghnar & Buck,” choreographed by SBRI’s Ana Marsden Fox, tells the story of a sibling deer dancing in a forest. This work was a duet, composed for flute and harp. The piece was also inspired by nature.
While her inspiration comes from the outdoors, the tools she learned to help express these thoughts musically were learned indoors.
“My first introduction to music was at a very young age,” Inglesi said. “Many of my close relatives were very musical, and my mother played the drums and my father played the piano by ear. I loved hearing him play his favorite piece, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover.’ So my parents were my early influence for my enjoyment and love for music.”
Inglesi, who has been teaching music at public schools in North Providence since 1997 and was named Teacher of the Year in 2003 and 2008, started taking piano lessons when she was 8, and continued throughout high school.
“I loved making up my own tunes. I also joined the high school and college band as a drummer,” she said. “I continued to write my own music and began singing and playing the guitar after college.”
When it came time to start formally composing music, Inglesi had a couple of mentors in the form of professors at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) and the University of Rhode Island.
“Nancy Carroll at CCRI taught me a great deal about musical composition. Then, of course, there was my composition teacher, Dr. Geoffrey Gibbs from URI. Both of them taught me a great deal about musical composition and orchestration and prepared me for many of my commissions, such as the Colonial Theatre in Westerly and the American Band.”
Inglesi, herself, has also taught at CCRI from 1998 to 2005, teaching Foundations in Music and Music History. She also has a bachelor of fine arts and master’s degree in music education and composition. Her other commissions include the Insight Quartet in Italy, the Culver Chamber Music Series in California, the Nature Conservancy and the Colonial Theatre.
Her first contact with SBRI came several years ago when she met Ana Marsden Fox through Notable Works, a local non-profit organization started by Inglesi, who is the artist in residence, and director Bina Gehres. According to Notable Works, the mission is “to raise awareness for environmental and social concerns through the arts in order to foster communication, which will ultimately promote action.”
“The SBRI was very supportive of our projects such as ‘Working In Harmony for Home and Hearth,’ which addressed the housing crisis,” Inglesi said. “Our Notable Works director, Bina Gehres, shared some of my original music with Ana and Shana, which led to their choreography of two of my pieces, which were part of this event at RIC this weekend.”
Inglesi’s work isn’t limited to ballet, however. She also writes folk songs and chamber music, some of which have been published on “Where the Rivers Bend and Beyond 2000: The Future of our Planet.” And “Working In Harmony for Home and Hearth” features her music and poetry.
“Home and Hearth” is a CD comprised of a collaborative effort of 29 Rhode Island artists in conjunction with South County Habitat for Humanity to bring awareness to and help eliminate poverty housing and homelessness in Rhode Island.
When asked what it was like to hear her music live and see the audience, Inglesi said, “It is so thrilling to be able to get immediate audience reaction, both during and after the performance of my music. You can really tell from people’s facial expressions while the music is played if they like what they are hearing. Then, of course, the applause at the end and audience verbal feedback is very helpful as an artist. It is special to me when one of my pieces is well received. I will never forget the standing ovation I received at URI back in 1997 after the performance of my piece ‘Somalia,’ scored for soprano, alto cello and piano, written for the UN rescue mission to Somalia.”
How does one get time to compose with such a busy schedule?
“As far as time to compose,” Inglesi said, “I follow a schedule and always plan time to work on my new musical pieces and to write poetry.”
Inglesi and Notable Works are already underway with a new project called “Voices of Earth,” “which will highlight some of the key issues which are affecting our state, our country and our world through original music and poetry.”
Inglesi and Notable Works plan to perform pieces from the new project as early as this summer.
To learn more about Noreen Inglesi and Notable Works, visit noreeninglesi.com. To learn more about the Rhode State Ballet, now in its 54th year, visit www.stateballet.com