Michael E. Anderson decided to take a few months to contemplate his task after receiving a musical commission back in February. The thought process fell in line with the way the 24-year-old Platte City native and composer likes to work anyway.
Probably not a bad idea when trying to compress 175 years worth of Platte County’s history into 8½ minutes worth of music.
“It was very important because I was talking about the county’s anniversary, but it felt a lot more special in that the people I was writing it for cared about it more because it was about their home,” Anderson said before the world premiere of his composition entitled “The Heart of a Land” at the finale event for Platte County’s 175th Anniversary Celebration this past Sunday at the Wilson Center for the Performing Arts inside Platte County High School. “Of all the pieces I’ve written to date, it’s probably the one I’ve had the most fun with because I’m dealing with community musicians.
“You’d think professionals would snub at that, but the cool thing is these people are here because they just want to play. They just love it, so they’re having a good time, and I’m having a good time.”
Anderson’s composition served as the centerpiece for a concert that concluded a year-long effort to honor the 175th anniversary of Platte County’s founding. The Parkville Symphonic Band and the Platte City Community Band came together to play the original work of a Platte County High School graduate, along with select other numbers, including Park Hill South High School graduate Stephanie Berg’s Pick Up Your Sword and Follow Me.
“The October 26th Anniversary finale was a grand celebration of Platte County’s 175-year history through art, culture and music,” said Platte City Friends of the Arts president Susan Anderson. “Platte County has two outstanding community bands directed by Steve Berg (Parkville) and Gavin Lendt (Platte City) and it was a thrill to experience the sound of both playing together.”
Michael Anderson’s piece sought to infuse overriding themes from Platte County’s history, rather than pick out specific events.
Agriculture, the Missouri and Platte rivers, grassroots and the long-running Platte County Fair were the main ideas he tried to convey, along with natural splendor present in this region. He said in a brief synopsis provided in the event’s program that it became evident through his research that Platte County’s history is “steeped in local pride and forward thinking” and that “agriculture was the vehicle through which its culture was championed.”
Anderson sat in the crowd while the bands performed under Lendt’s direction. The composer then greeted the conductor on stage to accept the warm applause from the hundreds in attendance.
“I’m not a historian; I’m rather young; I don’t have all this documented knowledge,” said Anderson, also a graduate of the University of Missouri. “While this is my home county, I didn’t spend my every waking hour learning its history, so I asked for help.
“I wanted to make sure I wrote a piece that would have longevity.”
Prior to the concert, displays were put up in the school’s hallway with various historical artifacts, original artwork and remembrances of the year’s other events. The anniversary started with a commemorative ceremony on Dec. 31, 2013 on the Platte City Courthouse steps and, with the help of anniversary chairperson Pat Medill and others, grew into monthly events starting in the spring and concluding last Saturday with the finale, which also included a performance from the Platte County High School Jazz Ensemble.
Events included dedication of a new placard to honor Parkville’s ties to the famous Steamboat Arabia work, a look back at famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde and their time in Platte County and a series of events dedicated to local Native American roots. All were well attended, and organizers considered the effort a success.
“We have such a rich history in Platte County,” Platte County Parks and Recreation Department director Brian Nowotny said. “It was simply amazing to see the diversity of events offered, from the Native American symposium to the Bonnie and Clyde driving tour and civil war re-enactments — all put on by a small army of volunteers. We have some very talented individuals in Platte County and the Parks and Recreation Department is very grateful to them for sharing their expertise through the program series.”