'Resolutions' by Mason's Camphouse marks Fairfax County's 275th Anniversary

September 15, 2017   /   by Buzz McClain

Mark Camphouse said 'Resolution' has a brooding beginning but ends with optimism. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

Mark Camphouse is no stranger to composing music for and about historic figures and events.

In the past, the American history buff and music professor at George Mason University’s School of Music has written commissions commemorating Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Ronald Reagan and General Douglas MacArthur.

But he said it was a “real honor and a joy” when it came to his latest history-based composition: A piece commemorating the 275th anniversary of Fairfax County, Va., and celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra. The music was commissioned by the orchestra at the request of Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.

The FSO will premiere Camphouse’s “Resolutions” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Center for the Arts on George Mason’s Fairfax Campus. FSO music director Christopher Zimmerman conducts. Ticket information is here.

Camphouse’s seven-minute piece will be illustrated in a multimedia format along with projected images of Fairfax County through its 275-year history, beginning with its Colonial origins to the present day.

Those vintage themes will be echoed in Camphouse’s score for the 75-piece orchestra.

“The beginning is very brooding. It could be George Mason thinking about the concept of slavery,” said Camphouse, who is director of concert bands and a professor of conducting and composition. “It ends with a great deal of optimism, reflecting what I think is the future of the region.”

The title “Resolutions” has a double meaning, the composer said: Musical resolutions, in which harmonic dissonance resolves to consonance; and political resolutions, particularly, the “fundamental American principles of human freedom” found in Mason’s Fairfax Resolves.

The 24-point document, a precursor to Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, was introduced to the House of Burgesses by George Washington in 1774.

Camphouse took four months to write “Resolutions,” in addition to researching the past of history-rich Fairfax County. Camphouse, who has a large framed photo of Mount Rushmore over his desk at Mason’s School of Music, said he loves digging into American historical topics.

Those listening for tried-and-true themes from popular music from the past will have to listen closely. Camphouse said there are only two quick scene-setting snippets from previous compositions, including William Billings’ 1770 popular Revolutionary War hymn “Chester,” and an 1862 Civil War-era George F. Root composition, “Battle Cry of Freedom,” also known as “Rally ‘Round the Flag.”