C.F. "Kip" Winger is coming to Tucson this week to see his mother.
He'll take his mom Margo to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra's world premiere performance of a new symphony, "Ghosts: Suite No. 1 for Orchestra."
Kip wrote "Ghosts." It's a new, yet much contemplated, direction for a rock 'n' roller who sang lead for the Alan Parsons Project, played guitar with Alice Cooper, and is headed to Europe next week for a four-week tour with his rock band, Winger. Symphony to hard rock? "Opposite ends of the extreme there," he said Monday from Nashville, where he lives and is preparing for the Europe tour.
This weekend's performances, Friday at Canyon Del Oro High School in Oro Valley, Saturday and Sunday at Catalina Foothills High School, "couldn't have worked out better," Winger said. "Your first symphony performance happens to be in your mom's hometown. It doesn't get any better than that."
Winger is "very excited, and a little nervous" about the premiere, he allowed. "You write the music and then you don't remember it. I've got to look back over it and see what I did."
It's a new experience in many ways. For one, Winger is about to sit in an audience and hear his music performed by a symphony orchestra. He's attending Wednesday and Thursday rehearsals by the TSO, "which is really cool. I'm hoping they'll let me take a photo."
As a live performer, Winger knows "how to get myself through a few mistakes." It might be "kind of a helpless feeling" if the TSO were to err in "Ghosts." He doesn't expect it. "They're a great orchestra. I just think it's going to be great."
Kip Winger studied ballet for years, and was in a ballet company at age 19. "Since then, in the back of my mind, I've known I would try to take on the idea of writing music for dance. I've always been wanting to write orchestra music for dance."
Between tours and rock recordings, he's studied music. He was encouraged by a professor at Vanderbilt University to translate his rock music writing "into these instruments and see what happens." The result – "Ghosts," and there are more to come.
When he wrote the first movement for "Ghosts," Winger had "a particular choreographer in mind," Christopher Wheeldon. Wheeldon heard it, "liked it," and "asked me to make it 20 minutes. Strange things in life where it actually worked." Wheeldon, in fact, has choreographed a dance to "Ghosts" that'll premiere with the San Francisco Ballet in February.
Winger is a friend with Dan Coleman, former TSO composer-in-residence. Through that relationship, a recording of "Ghosts" caught the ear of TSO music director and conductor George Hanson. Winger is "honored by the fact" Hanson decided to perform "Ghosts."
"To me, having the TSO do it is the ultimate compliment, because it isn't for dance" and there won't be dancers this weekend, Winger said. "You can't get by in the concert venue. It has to be good."
Winger said the transition from rock 'n' roll to classical music was "more natural" than might be expected. "I always approach the rock albums like classical records," he said. "I'm not a jammer. I approach them very orchestrated."
"Ghosts" is representative of a transition for Winger, who once aspired to be a rock 'n' roll superstar.
"It's been very surreal," he said. "Now I'm thinking, 'what are you going to do next?'"
For starters, Winger "added the C.F. (for Charles Frederick) to the beginning of my name, even in the rock world. It's a transition into that whole thing, to differentiate the old me and the new me.
"This is where I want to be," he said. "I've written every kind of rock and pop song you could ever imagine, I've kind of been there, done that. I'm not seeking to be a super famous rock star; I'm kind of over it. I want to focus on composing, and trying to be a better composer."
TSO MasterWorks Chamber Orchestra
Mendelssohn, Haydn and the premiere of "Ghosts" by Kip Winger
Friday, Nov. 13 at 8 p.m. at Canyon Del Oro High School.
Saturday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 15, at 2 p.m. at Catalina Foothills High School.