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Category Archives: Mediaeval Concert

Clifton Williams (1923-1976) was born in Arkansas and attended high school in Little Rock, where he became an accomplished french horn player. He studied composition at Lousiana State University and the Eastman School of Music. He taught composition for 17 years at the University of Texas at Austin before becoming chair of the composition and theory department at the University of Miami in 1966.  He held this post until his untimely death.  His first compositions were written for orchestra.  His career as a wind band composer took off in 1956 when Fanfare and Allegro, his first composition for band, won the inaugural Ostwald Award given by the American Bandmasters’ Association.  His Symphonic Suite won him the award again the following year.  He went on to write over 3 dozen works for band, many of which are considered essential repertoire.

Fanfare and Allegro proceeds through many moods.  It opens with a jubilant fanfare that gives way to a dark woodwind theme accompanied by busy ostinatos.  After an interlude of crescendoing chords, the brass introduces the allegro in a joyous fugato that again leads to plaintive woodwind melodies.  The tension builds as the rhythms tighten, tempos quicken, and tessituras are tested in every instrument. The piece ends in the midst of a thrilling accelerando.

Fanfare and Allegro will be the sole piece played by the CFW Festival Band , which will open the 3rd annual Columbia Festival of Winds on 3/6/2011.  Dr. William Berz of Rutgers University will conduct this band, which will be made up of members from each of the bands participating in the Festival.  We also played it in Columbia Wind Ensemble in 2004.

Since I won’t be conducting it this time around and don’t know exactly how Dr. Berz will like it, here are several version of Fanfare and Allegro for your listening (and hopefully practicing!) pleasure:

First, a vintage recording from 1957ish, just a year or 2 after the piece was written.  The band is made up of Chicago Symphony players and other Chicago-area pros.  Legend has it that they kept a case of beer handy at the session!  That may explain the insane fast tempos, especially at the end of the piece.  Thanks to Richard Schneider, CUWE’s longtime concert tubist, for the recording and the pictures used in most of the video:

A live performance by the FSU band:

A highly (overly?) polished studio recording:

A less polished live recording from Plymouth State University in Vermont that puts a couple extra beats in at the end:

Clifton Williams and Fanfare and Allegro at windband.org.

Clifton Williams bio at Wikipedia.

Clifton Williams on the Ostwald Award site.

Clifton Williams at the Wind Repertory Project.

Fanfare and Allegro at the Wind Repertory Project.

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Born in 1913 into a long line of Italian musicians, Norman Dello Joio followed quickly in his family’s footsteps.  His father was an opera coach and organist; by age 12, young Norman was substituting for his father on organ jobs.  He went to Juilliard on scholarship, where he shifted his focus from the organ to composition, studying with Paul Hindemith.  He wrote for a wide range of ensembles and won accolades from all corners of the music world, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1957 and an Emmy in 1965 for his score to the television series The Louvre.  His contributions to the wind band repertoire are significant, and include Scenes From The Louvre, the Variants on a Mediaeval Tune, a set of Satiric Dances, and several other beloved works.  Dello Joio died in 2008 at age 95 having never retired from composition.

Dello Joio on Wikipedia.

Dello Joio’s obituary in the New York Times

Dello Joio’s website.  It’s unfortunately very out of date and looks very much like the early-internet relic that it is.  But it is still an informative look into Dello Joio’s life and work.

Variants on a Mediaeval Tune was written in 1963 on commission from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation for the Duke University Band.  It consists of a set of five variations on “In dulci jubilo”, a tune that has been treated by composers for centuries.  Each variation is strikingly original in its character and treatment of the tune.

Variants as performed by William Revelli and the University of Michigan Symphonic Band (on my birthday, no less!  12 years before I was born…)

Finally, a little extra information about “In dulci jubilo” from Sibelius.com, and some more from a Christmas carol site.  And the most commonly-accepted version of its lyrics, in a mix of Latin and German, and a MIDI file to help you sing along:

1. In dulci jubilo,
Nun singet und seid froh!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
Leit in praesepio,
Und leuchtet als die Sonne
Matris in gremio,
Alpha es et O, Alpha es et O!

2. O Jesu parvule
Nach dir ist mir so weh!
Tröst mir mein Gemüte
O puer optime
Durch alle deine Güte
O princeps gloriae.
Trahe me post te, Trahe me post te!

3. O Patris caritas!
O Nati lenitas!
Wir wären all verloren
Per nostra crimina
So hat er uns erworben
Coelorum gaudia
Eia, wären wir da, Eia, wären wir da!

4. Ubi sunt gaudia
Nirgend mehr denn da!
Da die Engel singen
Nova cantica,
Und die Schellen klingen
In regis curia.
Eia, wären wir da, Eia, wären wir da!