Tucson clarinetist Kevin Justus created the multimedia concert "Letter From Home: Aaron Copland's America."


Kevin Justus doesn't know how to do things small. Take the Tucson clarinetist's latest creation, "Letter From Home: Aaron Copland's America."

It was supposed to be a little memorial concert in honor of his late friend William Carter Cutlip.

But one idea from a year ago beckoned another, which gave birth to a bigger idea, which evolved into an homage to Cutlip and one of Justus's favorite composers Aaron Copland. The multimedia concert involves dozens of Tucson musicians diving into rarely charted musical waters.

"Letter From Home" explores rarely-heard gems that Copland composed between 1939-54, including "Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson," "Waltz" from his ballet "Billy the Kid" and works from his Hollywood film composing days.

"The whole point is to use Copland's music and Copland's words to tell the story of his work," said Justus, who met Copland in the 1970s when the composer was in Tucson receiving an honorary degree. "It's like musical theater."

Also on the program is Copland's "Two Ballads for Violin and Piano" and "Elegies for Violin and Viola."

"Those are two of the pieces you rarely get to hear live, if at all," Justus said.

The lineup includes Justus's 6-year-old Bella Carita Chamber Ensemble with 26 players and its offshoot The Zephyrus Wind Quintet, both being conducted next Thursday by Thomas Cockrell. Also set to perform: Mary Paul, Larry Alexander, Benjamin Nisbet, Woosug Kang, David Alexander Johnston and Elizabeth Young. Former Tucsonan, mezzo-soprano Korby Myrick, who now lives in Connecticut, returns for the concert with her pianist husband, Richard Hereld.

The concert is dedicated to the memory of Cutlip, a beloved St. Philip's parishioner.

If you go

•What: 'Letter From Home: Aaron Copland's America' benefit concert.

• Featuring: Bella Carita Chamber Ensemble and guests.

• When: 7:30 p.m. next Thursday. Gala reception begins at 6:15 p.m.

• Where: St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave.

• Cost: Suggested $25 donation, $50 for the pre-concert reception and a preferred seat. Proceeds benefit St. Philip's youth and children programs.

• Details: www.stphilipstucson.org or 299-6421.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.