hsutx.thundertix.com or the HSU Ticket Office
Singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey, who first made a notable mark on American music with the release of a 1975 album Blue Sky – Night Thunder,
will be in concert on the Hardin-Simmons University campus, September 15, 2012, with the HSU Orchestra. The album contained what would become a pop/country hit single that burst onto the music scene in the middle of an era dominated by Disco.
Dr. Peter Isaacson, HSU’s director of orchestra and associate professor of violin, says, “It is sometimes surprising to people that an orchestra can collaborate with a country music singer or a rock band,” referring to the Kansas concert at HSU two years ago.
It was Isaacson that brought the 70’s rock band Kansas to HSU’s Behrens Auditorium in September of 2010, pursuing the opportunity to make Hardin-Simmons one of only a handful of venues played during the Kansas Symphony Rocks! Tour to help university orchestras.
Isaacson says he was a little surprised when he got the call from Kansas representatives asking if the HSU orchestra would be interested in hosting the experimental fundraising tour for university music departments.
That unusual call put Isaacson and his orchestra members on a path which has now culminated in bringing another genre of music to mix with the 50-piece university orchestra, a genre known primarily as Cowboy Music, a gritty mix of Bluegrass and songs from the American West.
While Murphey is probably best remembered for the hit “Wildfire” from his Night Thunder album, a song about a folkloric white horse that saves people from the desert, he has recorded almost 40 albums and his resume includes working with some of the greatest names in music, from Willie Nelson to the Beach Boys.
In the 90’s, Murphey became the top-selling singer of American Cowboy Music in the world; in 2009, Murphey earned a Grammy nomination and bluegrass chart topper for “Buckaroo Blue Grass”. His most recent album is 2011’s “Tall Grass and Cool Water”.
The concert will be similar to the Kansas concert, with net proceeds from ticket sales going to the orchestra endowment scholarship that was set up to receive proceeds from the Kansas concert.
“I don’t think this music will be as rhythmically complicated as the Kansas concert was, with a lot of mixed meter and fast tempos, but there will be some challenges stylistically on how to fit with what Michael and his band does,” says Isaacson.
Isaacson says these kinds of concerts, collaborations with well-known artists, bring in audiences that might not otherwise come to hear the HSU Orchestra, “I hope that the interest generated, as we perform more unusual music styles, will bring some of these people back when the orchestra performs its traditional classical music concerts throughout the year,” says Isaacson.
Michael Martin Murphey was born in Dallas, Texas, the son of a Baptist deacon. Murphey began his professional career in the 1960s. Originally starting college at what is now the University of North Texas, he transferred to the University of California to study medieval history and literature.
His first of six gold records came in 1975, when the song “Wildfire” rose to number three on the pop charts. While the song was written in Los Angeles, it was first recorded at the Caribou Ranch in Colorado, ten thousand feet up in the Rocky Mountains. “Wildfire” also holds the record as one of the most broadcast songs in the history of radio.
Murphey says the song came to him in a dream when he was in his third year at UCLA. “My grandfather told me a story when I was a little boy about a mystical horse, part of the lore of the Southwest and a legendary story among some Native Americans.
“I can't tell you that I understand what the song means,” Murphey would later say in an interview, “but I think it's about getting above the hard times. In the ghost story, the horse is a symbol of the Savior, in the same way C.S. Lewis used animals in The Chronicles of Narnia. When I lived in California in the late 60s, a lot of my friends were into the culture of the day and I felt out of place there. After "Wildfire" came out, and was a hit for me, I was able to move back to Texas.”
Murphey was an integral part of the Austin, Texas, music scene in the 1970s, and as a songwriter, has written for Kenny Rogers, John Denver, Cher, Lyle Lovett, Bobbie Gentry, Roger Miller, and the Monkeys. In Texas, he has played alongside maverick performers such as Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Murphey is also credited with writing New Mexico’s official state ballad “Land of Enchantment.” One of his hit recordings, "Geronimo's Cadillac", a song about Indian rights, even became an unofficial anthem for the American Indian Movement in the early 1970s.
Other Murphey hits include, “Carolina in the Pines,” “Cosmic Cowboy,” ”What’s Forever For,” “Cowboy Logic,” and “Cherokee Fiddle.”
Isaacson says the concert music should be arriving soon, and with orchestra tryouts on Tuesday, he anticipates that students can start rehearsing the music by Thursday, August 30, giving them about four or five rehearsals to be concert-ready.
Isaacson says he chose Murphy because he already has a big West Texas following. Murphey has also played with more than 50 orchestras, including the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C.
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Honors and awards
• 2009 Grammy Award Nomination for Best Bluegrass Album “Buckaroo Blue Grass”
• 2009 Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
• 2007 National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Wrangler Award for Best Song, for "Long and Lonesome Road to Dalhart"
• 2007 Texas Music Award for Best Song, for "Close the Land (America's Heartland)"
• 2007 Letter of Commendation from the President of the United States, for Murphey's involvement producing John Wayne's 100th Birthday Celebration
• 2004 Western Music Association Hall of Fame
• 2000 The New Mexico Distinguished Public Service Lifetime Achievement Award
• 1999 Academy of Western Artists Award for Best Album, for Cowboy Songs Four
• 1998 The Golden Smokey Award for Outstanding Service to the U.S. National Park Service
• 1997 Will Rogers Cowboy Philosopher Award, Will Rogers Memorial Commission
• 1982 Academy of Country Music Top New Male Vocalist
• 1972 Rolling Stone Magazine Best New Singer-Songwriter in the Nation, for the album Geronimo's Cadillac
• CMA Award Nominations (three times)
• BMI Gold Record, for the song "Wildfire"
• BMI Gold Record, for the album Cowboy Songs, the first Gold album in Cowboy music since Marty Robbins
• Western Heritage Awards from the Cowboy Hall of Fame (six-time winner)
• International Charley Russell Western Heritage Society Red Sash Award for Outstanding Service in Preservation of Western Heritage, 1999-2000
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Behrens Auditorium, HSU Campus
Tickets on sale at:
hsutx.thundertix.com or the HSU Ticket Office
Monday - Friday, 1:30 - 5:00 p.m., Room 112 of the Hemphill Music Building on the HSU Campus
For tickets and/or information call (325) 671-2258
$26 General Admission
Proceeds to benefit the HSU Orchestra Endowed Scholarship