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Monthly Archives: October 2010

Daniel Kallman is a composer from Minnesota.  He writes music for varied media, including radio, worship, theater, and concerts. He has worked with such luminaries as Garrison Keillor and Philip Brunelle. His music has won him awards and recognition in the US, Europe, and east Asia. His Promenade and Galop was a finalist in the Columbia Summer Winds’s Outdoor Composition Contest.

Kallman has his own extensive website, kallmancreates.com, which features a full catalog of his works and recordings of several of them.

Kallman has a very detailed program for Groundhog’s Lament:

The Groundhog’s Lament is a musical “re-enactment” of the legendary purpose of the animal on its special day in February. The following note specifies the creature’s activities as they are mirrored in the music:

Nestled down deep underground in its burrow, a groundhog slumbers on well into the third month of a long winter nap, dreaming cozy dreams about the coming of a warm spring. Suddenly it stirs, sensing a primal need to awaken. It yawns…stretches…then remembers why it has awakened. It is February 2, a day set aside specifically for the creature to perform an important task. Slowly, still half asleep, it begins to make its way up from the burrow. As it ascends, the anticipation of the coming moment gradually awakens and excites the groundhog. Faster and faster it ascends until, finally — ah, fresh air! After a couple of magnificent gulps, the animal remembers its purpose. It looks to the ground and sees, alas, its own shadow! Disappointed (as will be so many of the rest of us), the groundhog descends once again, finally settling back down in the corner of its dark, cool underground home. It resumes the long nap, hopeful that it still has a six week supply of spring dreams to help it through the remainder of winter hibernation.

You can listen to Groundhog’s Lament here.

And to fill in your background knowledge of this piece, hear are some Groundhog Day resources:

Punxatawney Phil’s Groundhog Day FAQ site.

Groundhog Day on wikipedia.

The classic movie Groundhog Day on the Internet Movie Datebase.

Randall Standridge is a composer and band director from Arkansas.  His music has been performed all over the US and internationally.

Standridge offers the following program note on Adrenaline Engines:

In 2008, I wrote a piece entitled Afterburn, which I premiered with my Junior High ensemble. The kids loved the piece; even more amazing was the response from my high school band students. The next day, I was bombarded with requests from the senior band members that boiled down to “We want to play something like that!” I was happy to oblige, and Adrenaline Engines was born.

Adrenaline Engines is essentially “Afterburn II.” It explores some of the same rhythmic and motivic ideas, but is written for more advanced players. There are time signature changes, key changes, timpani changes, etc… and the rhythmic and melodic challenges are greater.

Adrenaline Engines was also the result of a commission from George Pokorski, band director at Marion Middle School in Marion, AR. He wished to commission a piece to premiere with the Arkansas Small Band Association All-Star Band. He premiered the piece with that ensemble in the Spring of 2009.

I hope you, your students, and your audience will enjoy the thundering percussion, driving rhythms, and kinetic (sometimes frenetic) energy that I tried to imbue in this work.

Here is Standridge himself conducting his high school band in Adrenaline Engines:

And the inspiration for this piece, Standridge’s Afterburn performed by his middle school band with the composer conducting.

Patrick Burns (b. 1969) is an American composer and music educator.  He has written extensively for wind bands at all levels.  He founded the Bloomfield Youth Band in New Jersey when he was 17, and continues to direct that group today.  He is much in demand as guest conductor around the country.

Pride and the Purpose was written as inspiration for Burns’s young students.  Says Burns:

Being involved in a performing ensemble can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. While participating in band is fun, being a member requires hard work and sustained effort in order to achieve the best possible results. Pride and Purpose is a musical portrait of the effort, dedication, and commitment that young musicians learn to develop on their path toward excellence.

Burns has his own website.  Click “music” then “grade 1” to find more information and a downloadable recording of Pride and Purpose.  Or just listen below:

Gary Fagan is a music teacher and composer in Virginia.  He has this to say about The Gates of Destiny:

This exciting work for beginning band uses a technique in which primary themes begin on a unison note, and then move stepwise away and back while the other voices remain static or proceed in contrapuntal inversion. This creates chords that expand and contract almost continuously beneath the melody. The percussion section plays an important role providing a rhythmic base which enhances the flow and development of the piece from beginning to end.

Or, to put it in simpler terms, Fagan builds the main melody by having one instrument play little bits of a scale while other instruments repeat the first note.  This gives the music a sense of expanding and contracting as Fagan says.  Listen to it here.

Composer Michael Story writes for all levels of musicians and is best known for his many compositions for young bands and marching bands.  Says the composer of his piece Chrysalis:

Although generally defined as any sheltered or growth stage of development, a chrysalis in its fundamental meaning is the third stage of growth in the development of a butterfly. Following the egg and larva (caterpillar) stages, the chrysalis stage is a dormant, quiet period where the adult features of the butterfly are developed. After this growth stage, the adult emerges from the pupa (chrysalis) and takes to the sky as a fully developed butterfly.

Try to imagine this sequence of events as you listen to Chrysalis here.  Enjoy!

G-Force Five! is about danger and excitement. A g-force is the feeling of something pushing or pulling against you when you’re going very fast, like in a tight turn in a car or a roller coaster. The “g” in g-force stands for “gravity”.  So G-Force Five (or 5 Gs) would be 5 times the normal force of gravity.  Here’s what it looks like to experience 1, 3, and 5 Gs:

1 man, 5 Gs

John Stapp experiencing G-Force 1, 3, and 5

Listen to this professional band play G-Force Five!  And then listen to an actual, live, 5th grade band performance below:

Composer Ralph Ford is Director of Bands and Professor of Music at Troy University in Troy, Alabama. He directs the university’s famous “Sound of the South” marching band.

The title Gentle Winds is a bit of a play on words: the music of this piece depicts a gently-moving breeze. This can only be accomplished by gentle playing from the wind (and percussion!) instruments that make up the band.  Many players will have to work especially hard to achieve that gentle quality!  But the results are well worth the effort.  Listen to this performance by the Washington Winds:

Composer Timothy Loest is well-known both for his award-winning compositions and his band method books.  He lives and teaches band in Itasca, Illinois.  Check out his website!

Program note from the score:

The title of this piece was inspired by the old Irish tale of the banshee. According to the legend, the banshee was a female spirit who foretold death in a household by wailing mournfully into the night air shortly before the actual event occurred.

Want to read more about the banshee? Check wikipedia.

About the composer: Dr. Roland Barrett is a professor of music theory at the University of Oklahoma. He has written over 100 original compositions that are performed all over the country.  He has his own website which is worth a look.

Listen to a recording of Flight of the Banshee at JWPepper.com.  Be sure to click on “Mp3 Audio” when you get there.

Jaromir Weinberger (1896-1967) was a Czech composer who emigrated to the United States and eventually became a US citizen.  His opera Schwanda the Bagpiper is his most famous contribution to the standard repertoire.  While the opera was wildly popular following its premiere in 1927, today it is all but forgotten, and its concert suite, Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper, is performed much more frequently than the opera itself.

As a side note, this opera has a fantastic German name: Schwanda der Dudelsackpfeifer.

Jaromir Weinberger on wikipedia.

Extensive article on Weinberger at the Orel Foundation, a group dedicated to uncovering neglected works of 20th century composers.

Description and plot synopsis of Schwanda the Bagpiper at boosey.com.

Link to the Naxos CD recording of the opera, as well as a thoughtful article about it and the composer.

Finally, some videos.  First, William D. Revelli and the University of Michigan Symphony Band from 1965:

Then a Cincinnati Pops version under Erich Kunzel.  Be aware that it’s slightly different in form from what we’re playing and is in a different key with one different modulation in the fugue as well.  And of course it’s for orchestra.

Dutch composer Johan de Meij (b. 1953) studied trombone and conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague.  He now resides in suburban New Jersey. He rose to international fame as a composer with his Symphony no. 1 “The Lord of the Rings”.  Written between 1984 and 1987, it was premiered in Brussels, Belgium in 1988.  It went on to win first prize in the Sudler International Wind Band Composition Competition in 1989, and a Dutch Composers Fund award in 1990, and has since become a cornerstone of the repertoire for high-level bands worldwide.

The Symphony is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy of fantasy novels by the same name, which has recently also been immortalized in director Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.  Each of the symphony’s five movements illustrates an important character or event from the Lord of the Rings story: “Gandalf”, the wizard; “Lothlorien”, home of the Elves; “Gollum”, the pitiful former keeper of the ring; “Journey in the Dark”, a chronicle of an expedition through abandoned Dwarf mines; and “Hobbits”.  Says De Meij of each movement:

I) GANDALF (The Wizard)

The first movement is a musical portrait of the wizard Gandalf, one of the principal characters of the trilogy. His wise and noble personality is expressed by a stately motif which is used in different forms in movements IV and V. The sudden opening of the Allegro vivace is indicative of the unpredictability of the grey wizard, followed by a wild ride on his beautiful horse “Shadowfax”.

II) LOTHLORIEN (The Elvenwood)

The second movement is an impression of Lothlorien, the elvenwood with its beautiful trees, plants, exotic birds, expressed through woodwind solos. The meeting of the Hobbit Frodo with the Lady Galadriel is embodied in a charming Allegretto; in the Mirror of Galadriel, a silver basin in the wood, Frodo glimpses three visions, the last of which, a large ominous Eye, greatly upsets him.

III) GOLLUM (Smeagol)

The third movement describes the monstrous creature Gollum, a slimy, shy being represented by the soprano saxophone. It mumbles and talks to itself, hisses and lisps, whines and snickers, is alternately pitiful and malicious, is continually fleeing and looking for his cherished treasure, the Ring.

IV) JOURNEY IN THE DARK

The fourth movement describes the laborious journey of the Fellowship of the Ring, headed by the wizard Gandalf, through the dark tunnels of the Mines of Moria. The slow walking cadenza and the fear are clearly audible in the monotonous rhythm of the low brass, piano and percussion. After a wild pursuit by hostile creatures, the Orks, Gandalf is engaged in a battle with a horrible monster, the Balrog, and crashes from the subterranean bridge of Khazad-Dum in a fathomless abyss.

V) HOBBITS
The fifth movement expresses the carefree and optimistic character of the Hobbits in a happy folk dance; the hymn that follows emanates the determination and noblesse of the hobbit folk.  The symphony does not end on an exuberant note, but is concluded peacefully and resigned, in keeping with the symbolic mood of the last chapter “The Grey Havens” in which Frodo and Gandalf sail away in a white ship and disappear slowly beyond the horizon.
The symphony in its entirety is quite substantial, so the movements are often performed individually.  “Gandalf” and “Hobbits” are the most frequently performed movements.

Website for Johan de Meij and his publishing company. Includes an extensive bio and works list, as well as a link to program notes of the symphony.

Review of a CD containing the symphony and de Meij’s trombone concerto.

One more program note on Symphony no. 1, from everything2.com.

Now some videos.  Notice, it’s largely different bands for each movement.  They’re not easy!

Gandalf, by the Amsterdam Winds.  I’m pretty sure they used cellos to beef up the low brass/bassoon solos that pepper the movement.

Lothlorien, by the TMK Bad Wimsbach Neydharting:

Gollum LIVE.  Watch this monstrous soprano sax player!

Journey in the Dark by a nameless ensemble (orchestra version).

Finally, Hobbits by an accomplished Dutch band.

Now some Lord of the Rings background for the uninitiated.  The various internet sources below can tell its story much more succinctly and completely than I can.  Suffice it to say that The Lord of the Rings laid the foundation for modern fantasy writing and has inspired countless tributes and adaptations to other media, including notably Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.

Lord of the Rings on wikipedia.

The official movie trilogy site.

Lord of the Rings Fanatics site, for true fans only.

National Geographic’s Beyond the Movie feature on Lord of the Rings.

J. R. R. Tolkien on wikipedia.

Video of the opening scenes of the movie (complete with Chinese subtitles).  Pretty much gives the context for the whole story.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Please go forth and find more on your own!