photo by Phil Addis


Driftless Spring for orchestra is inspired by the culture and geography of the Driftless Area that I have called home for the last 25 years.  Recalling that first visit to this region brings back memories of an astonishing discovery of a magical terrain so unlike other regions of the Midwest.  The music expresses the joy and elation I felt of being in a special place.  The title also alludes to the long-awaited arrival of spring jubilantly expressed in a musical language akin to the many styles of folk music that are prevalent in this area of the upper Mississippi valley. 

The Driftless region comprises southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, and the extreme northwestern corner of Illinois. This area during the last ice age was spared from the drift (therefore, “driftless” )  of the glacial deposits that leveled the terrain.  Instead, the area remained intact with steep hills, forested ridges, and cold-water trout streams. When traveling through the Driftless one experiences a mysterious metamorphosis of terrain. It’s all about the coulees,  the deep ravines with sloping sides, that were formed from the erosion of streams throughout the region over the centuries.  As one travels through this region the environment can change quickly from ridge-top farm fields to curving roads that quickly descend through rolling meadows, to valleys below made up of rich bottomland that is ripe for organic farming.  The musical themes of Driftless Spring advance with unexpected melodic nuances,  sudden key changes, and dynamic ranges that express the feelings that this environment evoked in my imagination.  

This area of the country is hit hard every year with severe winters.  When spring finally arrives, signaled by the blooming of the native Trillium flowers, the melting of ice, and the swelling of springs and creeks, a sense of rebirth fills the air.  I sought to capture this feeling in my music as well.  

Finally, the musical culture of this region ranges from Native American music, Norwegian folk music, Irish Celtic music, to Blue Grass music.  I began sketches of the piece by emulating the sound of the traditional Celtic instruments:  the pennywhistle, guitar, fiddle,  harp, hammered dulcimer, and the Irish bouzouki.  There is an exhilarating and rhythmic counterpoint that unfolds in the performance of “Irish session” music that completely engulfs the players and the audience that I desired to capture.  WGN


Driftless Spring will be premiered on the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra’s annual Summer Melodies concert at the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on Sunday, June 26th at 6:30 pm.  This concert is a partnership with the Dubuque Arts Council and part of the annual Music in the Gardens concert series.  The concert is free to the public and will also include light classics, movie music, and patriotic pieces.  For more information on the concert:


William Grosvenor Neil’s compositions present the listener with an intense brilliant effect (FANFARE MAGAZINE) and represents contemporary writing at its most intellectual probing  (CHICAGO TRIBUNE).  His extremely characteristic harmonic world  (CLASSICAL CD REVIEW) is fundamental to the unfolding of his music, and the range of sonic experiences (in his music) is astounding (SOUNDBOARD).  In the 1980’s Neil was appointed as the first composer-in-residence with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the first residency of its kind with a major American opera company.  His opera, The Guilt of Lillian Sloan was premiered by Lyric in June of 1986.  He then went on to produce award-winning concerts and events at the New Music Chicago Spring Festival for several years. He has composed music for celebrated musicians including John Bruce Yeh and Chicago Pro Musica, guitarist Michael Lorimer and soprano Barbara Ann Martin.  His Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, commissioned by the Abelson Foundation, was premiered in Prague by the Czech National Symphony conducted by Paul Freeman has been recorded and released on the New Albany label.   The Rome Prize and the Charles Ives Award are among his honors and his work has been recognized through grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, fellowships from the Fulbright Commission, and the American Symphony Orchestra League, and awards from ASCAP and BMI.  In 2008 he served as the McKnight Visiting Composer with the American Composers Forum for the city of Winona, MN.  Significant performances include the premiere of his piano trio, Notte dei Cristalli, at the Teatro Alla Specola in Padova by Trio Malipiero, the premiere of his Symphony No. 1 (Sinfonia delle  Gioie) by The La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, directed by Alexander Platt, and the premiere of  Out of Darkness Into Light at the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, NC.   Most recently, Italian pianist, Giacomo Dalla Libera premiered Nocturne No. 1, Prelude No. 3, and Tango No. 2 at Morely College in London, and clarinetist, Fàtima Boix Canto’ premiered Concerto for Piccolo Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, CA,  Duo Sureno premiered Love Poem with a Knife and pianist Martin Jones premiered Six Preludes for piano at Radford University.   Recent CD releases have featured his music including Out of Darkness Into Light on Ravello Records, Spiritual Adaptation to Higher Altitudes on Mark Masters Recordings, Six Preludes for piano on PnOVA Recordings.   His music was featured on several live broadcasts on WFMT radio in Chicago in 2019 including his Six Preludes for piano solo by pianist Martin Jones.  In the fall of 2020, Neil served as an Artist in Residence at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Most recently, his Sacrum Creaturea was be premeried by the Artaria String Quartet at the 2021 Stringwood Chamber Music Festival in Lanesboro, MN. 


Music Director, William Intriligator

William Intriligator currently serves as Music Director and Conductor of two orchestras, the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra in Wyoming. 

As a guest conductor, Maestro Intriligator has led performances with many distinguished orchestras across the country, including those of Honolulu, Houston, Minnesota, Richmond, Saint Paul, Savannah, Syracuse, and Tulsa. In 2017, he made his European conducting debut in Italy with the Bari Symphony Orchestra.  After the huge success of that concert, the orchestra immediately invited him to return to Bari and conduct two more concerts.  

Recent projects with the DSO include staged opera, musical, and ballet productions; concerts with world-renowned violinist Midori, as part of the Midori Residency Program; and an innovative program entitled “Star-Crossed Lovers” which combined concert, opera, and theatre in a staged retelling of Romeo and Juliet. 

Other special programs with the DSO have included composer festivals; concerts in the warehouses of the Millwork District; concerts with local rock and country musicians; special partnerships with area schools; and accompanying musical prodigy Ethan Bortnick in a concert that became a popular PBS television special, “The Power of Music,” which has aired over 1,500 times nationwide. 

About the Driftless Area

Mysteries of the Driftless
Living in the Driftless Region