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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Spring 2012 will go down as truly legendary in the memory of the Columbia Wind Ensemble.  With only 9 rehearsals total, we put on a giant festival, our usual senior concert, and 2 run-outs.  The main event was the Columbia Festival of Winds, the Columbia Wind Ensemble’s band festival and fundraiser, which happened on Sunday, March 4.  Our final big concert of the year, on Saturday, April 14, was called PERSPECTIVES.  We also were invited to play at St. Paul’s Chapel on the Columbia campus on Tuesday, April 17.  To cap the semester, we played outdoors at Riverside Park on April 29 (although it felt more like March thanks to a chilly wind in the air).

 

COLUMBIA FESTIVAL OF WINDS – Sunday, March 4, 2012, 2pm-6pm

The Columbia Festival Band played Clifton Williams’s Symphonic Dance no. 3, Fiesta, under the direction of Dr. Christian Wilhjelm.

The Columbia University Wind Ensemble played:

American Overture for Band – Joseph Wilcox Jenkins (senior choice for Hannah Waldrip)

Cuban Overture – George Gershwin, arranged by Mark Rogers (senior choice for Andrea Gillis)

Slava! – Leonard Bernstein, arranged by Clare Grundman (conducted by Sarah Quiroz)

Kingfishers Catch Fire – John Mackey

At the end of the concert, all participating ensembles joined together in one massed band to play Sousa’s King Cotton.

 

PERSPECTIVES – Saturday April 14, 2012 at 12 noon

Huapango – Jose Pablo Moncayo, transcribed by Leroy Osmon (senior choice for Raul Ruiz)

William Byrd Suite – Gordon Jacob (senior choice for Toni Ma)

Gnomus from Pictures at and Exhibition – Modest Mussorgsky, arr. Mark Hindsley (senior choice for Jenn Altman-Lupu)

Second Suite in F – Gustav Holst (senior choice for Sean Healey)

Alas, we had to cut Bacchanale from Samson et Delila – Camille Saint-Saens, arr. Philip Egner from the program due to the aforementioned lack of rehearsal time.  Seriously, we put that concert together in 3 rehearsals, but we did it well!

 

ST PAUL’S CHAPEL – Tuesday, April 17 at 6pm.  We shared the concert with Columbia Classical Performers.

William Byrd Suite – Gordon Jacob

Comedians’ Galop – Dmitri Kabalevsky, arranged by Erik Leidzen (senior choice for Andrei Popescu)

Second Suite in F – Gustav Holst

 

RIVERSIDE PARK – Sunday, April 29 at 2pm

Flourish for Wind Band – Ralph Vaughan Williams

William Byrd Suite – Gordon Jacob

Comedians’ Galop – Dmitri Kabalevsky, arranged by Erik Leidzen

Second Suite in F – Gustav Holst

King Cotton – John Philip Sousa

 

In addition, I co-chaired the Rockland County Music Educators Association Intermediate All-County Band, which met on Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3.  That brought together the best 5th and 6th grade band students in Rockland County for a weekend of great music-making.

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Derek Bourgeois (b. 1941) is a British composer of music for all sorts of ensembles large and small.  He has written over 300 compositions, including 72 symphonies.  Serenade is a relatively early work (opus 22, 1965).  Says the composer:

Derek Bourgeois wrote this Serenade for his own wedding, to be played by the organist as the guests left the ceremony. Not wishing to allow them the luxury of proceeding in an orderly 2/4, the composer wrote the work in 11/8, and in case anyone felt too comfortable, he changed it to 13/8 in the middle! The work has now been released in a number of different orchestrations of the original version for organ.

Here is the band version (created by the composer in 1980) in performance:

And, for context, here’s the organ original:

Derek Bourgeois has his own website with a lot of information about himself and his music.

This summer, Columbia Summer Winds is taking a trip over the rainbow, down the yellow brick road, to the Emerald City.  James Barnes’s arrangement of Harold Arlen’s famous tunes is so ravishingly good, it almost makes it sound like they were originally written for band.  Here it is, performed by the Alabama All-State Red Band (in a gymtorium – what does that say about Alabama?) in a truly fine 2007 performance:

I’m not sure what I can possibly add to the mountain of Wizard of Oz knowledge that’s out there.  So here are a few highlights:

The movie vs. the book on Wikipedia.

There are too many spin-offs of The Wizard of Oz to even conceive of naming, but here are a few.  L. Frank Baum, the author of the original book, wrote two sequels himself, Ozma of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz (which was itself reinterpreted as a comic in 2010).  These two together spawned a nightmare-inducing movie sequel by Disney in 1985.  But most spin-offs come from the original.  There’s the 2005 Muppet version, and the crummy, steampunky Syfy version (how is it so bad with Alan Cumming and Zoey Deschanel?!) from 2007.   There’s the 1995 book and the 2003 musical (not to mention the band arrangementWicked, which recasts the Wicked Witch of the West as the misunderstood protagonist.  There’s also 1978’s the Wiz, which retells the tale through the lense of African American culture.  These two musicals have given us a treasure of excellent music.  But none of these have come close to rivaling the beloved status or the cultural pervasiveness of the original 1939 film.

For those who have spent their lives under a rock: The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy Gale, who lives on a grey farm in Kansas.  She wants to see what’s over the rainbow.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, a tornado comes to town and sweeps her, her house, and her dog, Toto, to Oz, where everything is in brilliant color.  Her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny.  The Munchkins and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, hail her as a hero and tell her to follow the yellow-brick road to the Wizard of Oz in Emerald City if she wants to get home.  Before she leaves, they give her the Wicked Witch of the East’s ruby slippers.  Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, who needs a brain, the Tin Man, who lacks a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, who lacks courage.  Together, they travel to the Emerald City, only to be told by the mysterious and powerful Wizard that they have to kill the Wicked Witch of the West in order to get their wishes granted.  The Witch captures them.  When all seems lost, Dorothy throws water on the Witch, causing her to melt away.  They return to the Wizard, only to find that he’s just an ordinary guy from Omaha with no powers at all.  Still, he makes things right, and in the end, everyone gets home.

Here’s the iconic performance of the film: Judy Garland sings “Over the Rainbow”:

Finally, I have to mention my favorite Oz-related thing: Play the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon along with the movie (sound off, of course), and a great many interesting coincidences happen!  They call this phenomenon Dark Side of the Rainbow.

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 teaches at Montclair State University and New Jersey City University.  His compositions, which range from beginning band to professional level,  have been performed on at least 3 continents.  He has received commissions from around the country.  He is much in demand as a guest conductor and clinician.

Burns offers his own program notes on Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem):

Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem) is a short, energetic work which was written in a ten-day period in January 2008.  Commissioned as a concert opener by the Westlake High School (CA) Wind Ensemble for the group’s performance at Carnegie Hall, the piece musically symbolizes the opportunities which lie before us in our lives and the spirit with which we strive to realize our dreams.  Each day presents a new chance for us to make the most of every moment with energy, passion, and optimism.

Patrick Burns main website. – includes a full biography and information on all of his music.  You can also leave the website open as it automatically plays a random sampling of Burns’s music.  He’s written a lot of it, and it’s all good!  For our purposes, though, check out especially the “music” page, where you can download a free recording of Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem) in the grade 4 section.

Also check out Patrick Burns’s YouTube channel, which has performances of the great bulk of his music.  Here, for instance, is Seize the Day! (Carpe Diem) as performed by the Cleveland Symphonic Winds.  Heads up, it’s a TOUCH faster than the composer has asked for.

So where does this famous bit of Latin come from?  Check it out here.

The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E-flat Major, Op. 42, more conventionally known as the 1812 Overture, may be one of the most recognized pieces of Western art music.  Tchaikovsky wrote it in 1880 on a commission for performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.  It was intended to be part of a festival to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1812 Battle of Borodino, in which Russian forces turned back Napolean’s invading Grande Armee outside Moscow.  This was an utterly improbable victory: the French forces were well-trained, battle-hardened, and large, numbering around 150,000. They had state-of-the-art artillery, and they had never lost a battle.  The Russians had no hope of matching them on any level.   However, the French were exhausted from a long campaign, while the Russians had their people from which to draw reserves.  Both sides suffered heavy casualties during the battle, but the French ultimately felt their losses more profoundly.  The Russians, though, were forced to retreat from Moscow.  Yet in doing so, they burned a large portion of the city, denying the French quarter in the cold.  A deep freeze set in, which froze much of the French artillery to the ground.  At this point, the Russians were able to force a retreat of the exhausted French forces, turning their own artillery against them.  Only about 23,000 Frenchmen made it back across the Russian border.

The 1812 Overture portrays the events in and around that battle.  It opens with a hymn based on the Russian Orthodox Troparion of the Holy Cross as the Russian people, hearing of the impending invasion, pray for deliverance.  Tense preparations for battle follow.  The French can be heard approaching to the tune of La Marseillaise, which grows ever more prominent as they gain the upper hand in battle.  A folk dance (“At the gate, at my gate”) comes in, depicting the Tsar appealing to his people to join the cause.  The battle continues with the French still dominating, followed by more appeals to the people.  With Moscow burning, the tide finally turns as the opening hymn returns punctuated by icy woodwind scales, heralding divine intervention by deep freeze in the Russians’ favor.  The famous finale features scored cannon shots and clanging bells, meant to reflect the Russian appropriation of the French artillery and the celebratory ringing of church bells at the conclusion of the battle.

Tchaikovsky was a rather miserable fellow, and that is evident in his feelings about this piece, which he saw as little more than a vapid propaganda exercise.  There are some truly choice quotes in this discussion of his correspondence relating to the 1812 Overture.  My favorite: “It is impossible to set about without repugnance such music which is destined for the glorification of something that, in essence, delights me not at all.”

Here’s a rousing recording, complete with pealing bells and roaring cannons at the end:

1812 Overture on Wikipedia, the Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra, classical.net, and the Hollywood Bowl.

A nice article from 2003 about how this Russian overture became an American 4th of July tradition.

Tchaikovsky info on DSO Kids, wikipedia, and Tchaikovsky Research.

The 1812 Overture has inspired countless pop culture responses.  Here are just a few:

Vodafone made an ad in which they used 1000 cellphones to recreate the finale of 1812.

An online game in which you fire cannonballs at the conductor.

A Subway commercial uses the finale music to good comic effect.

In case you were wondering, I do not endorse any of the stuff in these commercials.

Boris Kozhevnikov (1906-1985) was a prolific composer of music for Soviet bands.  He attended the Kharkov Music-Dramatic Institute, where he studied composition and conducting, graduating in 1933.  He later attended the Military School of Music in Moscow.  He was the conductor at several theaters and a faculty member of the Moscow Conservatory.  He wrote a handful of orchestral works and over 70 pieces for Soviet military bands, including 5 numbered symphonies for band.  His music was discovered by the west only after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain in the 1990s.  He is still much better known in Russia than anywhere else, although his Symphony no. 3, Slavyanskaya, enjoys popularity in the US thanks to an edition that former Marine Band commander John R. Bourgeois created for American bands in 1995.

Slavyanskaya is a fairly conventional Russian-sounding symphony in four movements.  The first is at times aggressive and lyrical, opening with a strong F-minor declamation.  The second is a slow waltz with an exuberant episode in its coda.  A spritely piccolo solo opens the 3rd movement, a rondo which whizzes by at lightning speed.  The fourth movement is an exuberant finale.  Throughout the symphony, Kozhevnikov uses folk tunes from his native city of Novgorod as the sources of his melodic material.  Although Kozhevnikov wrote Slavyanskaya in 1950, it did not receive its first performance in the US until the late 1990s.

The word “Slavyanskaya” in Russian (Славянская) appears to be nothing more than a proper name.  It’s also applied to a public square in Moscow, a fancy Radisson hotel also in Moscow, and a Russian brand of vodka.

There are bits and pieces about Kozhevnikov and his music, especially Slavyanskaya, at classical-composer.org, the University of North Texas Digital Library, and J. W. Pepper.

Here’s the definitive American performance of Slavyanskaya.  It’s “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band conducted by John R. Bourgeois, who edited the piece for American bands and was the first to conduct it in the US.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an influential British composer and folk-song collector.  His powerful and expressive orchestral music is notable for its very “English” sound.  His early adventures collecting folk songs in the English countryside profoundly influenced his later compositions.  Along with Gustav Holst, his works for wind band form a foundation for the serious literature in that medium.

Vaughan Williams wrote Flourish for Wind Band in 1939 as the opening to the pageant Music and the People in the Royal Albert Hall in London.  It was subsequently lost, only to be rediscovered and finally published in 1971.  Arranger Roy Douglas created versions of the piece for brass band and for symphony orchestra, but it has become part of the basic literature of the wind band for which it was created.  It opens with a simple brass fanfare.  This gives way to a lyrical melody before the fanfare returns to end the piece.   At just under 2 minutes long, Flourish for Wind Band is a concise gem of Vaughan Williams’s output.  I like to pair it with his Toccata Marziale, with which it shares the key of B-flat and some motivic material, in a prelude and fugue sort of arrangement.

Flourish for Wind Band at the Wind Repertory Project, Answers.com, and (not for the faint of heart) a detailed music analysis of the piece in the form of a master’s thesis.

A chapter on British wind band music from an online History of the Wind Band by Dr. Stephen L. Rhodes. Vaughan Williams features prominently.

Flourish played by the University of North Texas.  I prefer it a tiny bit slower, but they’re REALLY good!

The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society – the source for anything you might ever possibly want to know about the composer.

Vaughan Williams on Wikipedia.