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Category Archives: Postcards Concert

Joseph Wilcox Jenkins was born in the Philadelphia area in 1928.  He started composing at a young age as part of his piano lessons. His future in music was uncertain at first: he studied pre-law at Saint Joseph’s College while also taking composition classes with Vincent Persichetti at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music.  But composition was his calling: he went on to 2 further degrees at the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers, and Thomas Canning.  Soon after finishing at Eastman, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he became an arranger for the Army Field Band.  Doctoral work at Catholic University followed, then another stint in the Army, this time as head arranger for for the U.S. Army Chorus.  Jenkins later received a Ford Foundation grant to serve as the composer-in-residence of the high school in Evanston, Illinois.  In 1961, the same year that his Cumberland Gap Overture won an Ostwald award, he joined the music faculty at Duquesne University, where he remained until his retirement in 2000.

American Overture was Jenkins’s first work for band, written in 1953 when he was 25 years old.  It came about during his first military stint.  As an arranger for the U.S. Army Field Band, he composed the piece to match their instrumentation, which was idiosyncratic in many ways.  For instance: he included not just a string bass, but also a cello;  there are three distinct baritone parts;  the flutes divide into 3; the clarinets and trombones each divide in 4.  But the stars of this piece are definitely the horns.  They famously leap an octave in the first measure.  His original edition had the first note slurred to the second (written G4-G5), virtually guaranteeing a strident glissando.  A 2003 revision eliminated this slur, but horn players everywhere still treasure or loathe that famous opening figure.  The rest of American Overture is a high-energy expression of bold optimism that puts every section of the band in the spotlight.

Read more about American Overture at Wikia Program Notes and The Concord Band.

Professor Jenkins has a biography posted here.  There is also a nice story about a 2007 Army tribute to him here.

And now a listen.  This one features nearly professional-quality playing!

From Mychael Danna’s website:

Mychael Danna is recognized as one of the most versatile and original voices in film music. This reputation has led him to work with such acclaimed directors as Ash Brannon, Chris Buck (Surf’s Up), Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter), Catherine Hardwicke (Nativity), Scott Hicks (Hearts in Atlantis), Neil LaBute (Lakeview Terrace), Ang Lee (The Ice Storm), Gillies MacKinnon (Regeneration), James Mangold (Girl Interrupted), Deepa Mehta (Water), Bennett Miller (Capote), Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), Billy Ray (Breach), Todd Robinson (Lonely Hearts), Joel Schumacher (8MM), Charles Martin Smith (Stone of Destiny), Istvan Szabo (Being Julia) and Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher).

Recent work includes 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb), The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus (Terry Gilliam) and The Time Traveler’s Wife (Robert Schwentke).

He studied music composition at the University of Toronto, winning the Glenn Gould Composition Scholarship in 1985.

The composer has this to say of his music from Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding:

Baraat is the hindi word for the wedding procession of the bridegroom to the bride’s village, with the groom on horseback, surrounded by his family and friends and musicians, singing and dancing with the joy of the occasion. Traditionally, the music that would accompany this noisy journey would be the exciting rhythm of the dhol drums. But since the time of the British military brass bands, the more affluent weddings use this strange yet typically Indian absorption of marching band instruments into Indian popular songs… musical proof that outside influences will come and go, but there will always be an India. This piece was written by me in that style for Mira Nair’s film Monsoon Wedding.

I arranged this piece for band with the composer’s blessing for a 2005 Columbia Wind Ensemble concert.  This will be its second run of performances.

Mychael Danna on wikipedia, IMDB, and Amazon.

Monsoon Wedding on IMDB, wikipedia, rottentomatoes, and its own official site.

Now, from YouTube, the opening credits of the movie and a bit of the first scene.  The credits feature the theme song – enjoy!

Finally, here is my band arrangement of it, performed by Columbia Summer Winds in 2011 at Bryant Park with me conducting.  That white noise in the beginning is the fountain right behind us.

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was a piano prodigy turned composer who was known for his strange personal habits, his colorful prose, and his equally unusual music – his many admirers today still recognize that he possessed “the supreme virtue of never being dull.”  Born in Australia, he began studying piano at an early age.  He came to the U. S. at the outbreak of World War I and enlisted as an Army bandsman, becoming an American citizen in 1918.  He went on to explore the frontiers of music with his idiosyncratic folk song settings, his lifelong advocacy for the saxophone, and his Free Music machines which predated electronic synthesizers.  His many masterworks for winds include Lincolnshire Posy, Irish Tune from County Derry, Children’s March and Molly on the Shore.

Lincolnshire Posy is considered to be Grainger’s masterwork for wind band.  It is based on folk songs that he and Lucy Broadwood collected in Lincolnshire in 1905-06.  He intended it as a collection of “musical wildflowers” reflective not only of the songs but of the singers who sang them to Grainger and their personalities.  Thus style plays a big role in each movement.  Grainger uses every compositional device at his disposal to great effect: harmonies move unpredictably, meter is unstable or absent, countermelodies creep in and out of prominence, melodies go willfully in and out of phase, all in service of the singer’s implied interpretation of each folk tune.  Grainger recorded each singer on wax cylinders, using those recordings as reference to faithfully recreate each tune.  He began the process of assembling the various tunes into Lincolnshire Posy in 1937.  It was premiered by the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer factory worker’s band in Milwaukee that same year on March 7.  This premier was incomplete: as is often the case today, the PBR band was not up to the challenge of the harder movements.

Lincolnshire Posy has its own wikipedia entry, which mentions quite a few fun facts about it.  This page used to host the lyrics to each of the original folk songs, but they have sadly disappeared.  Instead, you’ll have to turn to individual sites for each movement:

I. “Lisbon” and “Duke of Marlborough” (actually another version of “Lord Melbourne”)

II. “Horkstow Grange

III. “Rufford Park Poachers

IV. “The Brisk Young Sailor” (also known as “A Fair Maid Walking”)

V. “Lord Melbourne

VI. “Lost Lady Found

The score of the Frederick Fennell edition of Lincolnshire Posy features an extensive program note that is a true treasure-trove of Grainger-isms.  It can be found in its entirety, along with extensive bonus material, here.

There are an incredible number of performances of Lincolnshire Posy on YouTube.  Most of them are no good, but thankfully Frederick Fennell and the Eastman Wind Ensemble and their classic recording of the piece have made their way onto YouTube:

Percygrainger.com – much general information on the composer with a focus on his wind band works.

International Percy Grainger Society – Based in White Plains, NY, they take care of the Grainger house there as well as the archives that remain there.  They also like to support concerts in our area that feature Grainger’s music.

Grainger Museum – in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, at the University there.

Grainger’s works and performances available at Naxos.com

Finally, I know this is already up on the other Grainger pages, but it’s just so good:

One more look at Grainger on YouTube, this time performing on the piano: