Skip navigation

Category Archives: Perspectives Concert

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.

Advertisements

Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904-1987) was a Russian composer who managed a successful artistic career during Soviet times.  His music won many awards in his homeland during his lifetime.  He was also a force in music education: he set up a music education curriculum in 25 schools and even briefly taught a class of 7-year-olds.  He wrote “Comedians’ Galop” in 1938 as part of a broader suite of pieces, The Comedians, op. 26.  Originally conceived as incidental music for a play, he later chose 10 numbers for the suite, which became his most famous work.

Here’s the straight-up orchestra version of “Galop”:

And here it is in a bottle band arrangement:

If you do one thing while looking at this post, you MUST watch the first video posted below!  It really puts the whole piece in perspective.

Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) was the French composer of such famous works as Carnival of the Animals, the opera Samson et Delila, Danse Macabre, and the Organ Symphony.  He was a child prodigy who became France’s most renowned composer.  Late in life, he traveled to all corners of the world.

Bacchanale comes from his 1877 opera Samson et Delila, which is based on the Biblical story of those 2 characters.  In both the opera and the Bible, Samson is a leader of the Israelites, who are in the midst of a revolt against their malevolent rulers, the Philistines.  The Philistines want to bring him down, so they send one of their own, a woman named Delila, to seduce him and discover the source of his extreme physical strength. It turns out that secret is his long hair, which binds him in a vow to God. But Samson does not let that secret slip easily: he misleads Delila several times before finally revealing the true secret.  Yet when that is done, Delila shaves his hair while he sleeps, allowing the Philistines to capture and blind him.  After years of forced labor at their hands, Samson winds up in the temple of Dagon, one of the Philistine deities, in Gaza.  There, he prays to God to restore his strength, and he pulls down the central columns of the temple, killing himself and all of the Philistines inside.  Each version of the story has its nuances (e.g., the Bible says Samson killed 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass!) so it’s worth your time to investigate both.  The Bacchanale occurs in Act III of the opera, just before Samson is led into the temple of Dagon.  It is a depraved dance performed by the priests of Dagon.  Saint-Saens loved “exotic” sounds, so he used an exceptionally exotic sounding scale for a good chunk of the piece: it contains two one-and-a-half step gaps (from the 2nd to 3rd steps and the 6th to 7th steps).  While that does heighten the exoticness of the piece, it is not authentic to any world musical tradition.

Here it is in the actual opera.  They’re almost naked!

For something a little different, Gustavo Dudamel leads the Berlin Philharmonic in Bacchanale.  He plays a little fast and loose with tempo, but it’s really a thrilling version!

Here’s the band version done by a Japanese middle school.  As I’ve come to expect from young Japanese bands, they knock it out of the park: this is the only band version on YouTube that’s any good at all, and I looked at a couple dozen!

Saint-Saens bio at the Classical Archives.

Saint-Saens on Wikipedia.

Another Saint-Saens bio on thinkquest.

Some extra program notes on Bacchanale from the Immaculata Symphony

Did you know that the Bible is fully online?  Here’s the Samson and Delilah story in full, from the Book of Judges.

The William Byrd Suite is remarkable for showcasing the talents of 2 composers: the titular William Byrd (1540-1623), an English Renaissance composer and a founder of the English Madrigal School; and Gordon Jacob (1895-1984), a 20th century British composer who, along with Holst and Vaughan Williams, is known as an early champion of the wind band and a skilled composer in the medium.  Jacob assembled the suite in 1923, most likely as part of the festivities for the tercentenary of Byrd’s death.  He “freely transcribed” it from six pieces of Byrd’s keyboard work that appeared in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, a contemporary collection of almost 300 pieces written between about 1562 and 1612.  This collection contained keyboard works of more than a dozen composers.  While the collection had the virginal – a keyboard instrument that is essentially a portable harpsichord – in mind as its medium, the compositions inside could have been played on any contemporary keyboard instrument.

The virginal lacked any means of dynamic or timbral contrast: every note sounded the same and was just as loud as any other.  So composers for the instrument had to find other ways to make their music interesting.  Thus, the pieces in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book are full of melodic variation and rhythmic invention.  While Mr. Jacob preserved all of this in his suite, he also artfully added the dynamic shadings and instrumental color that the wind band is known for.

The William Byrd Suite has 6 movements.  At 18 minutes, it’s a rather large undertaking to play all 6 movements.  So, as is common practice, we will play a selection of the movements: the first 2 and the last 2.  I present here videos of every movement, not necessarily in order.  Enjoy!

First, a very accomplished high school band plays “No. 1: The Earle of Oxford’s Marche”, “No. 3: Jhon come kisse me now” (at 3:10), and “No. 6: The Bells” (at 5:20).  I have 2 beefs with this performance: the end of the 1st movement needs much more drama, and I think the percussion got lost at the end of the 6th – you should hear crazy ringing bells all the way to the end!

Now, another high school age group tackles a different set of movements.  “No. 1: The Earle of Oxford’s Marche”, “No. 2: Pavana” (at 3:20), “No. 3: Jhon come kisse me now” (at 6:10), and “No. 5: Wolsey’s Wilde” (at 8:04).

The UCLA wind ensemble in 1983 doing “No. 4: The Mayden’s Song”.

Finally, here’s what “The Bells” sounds like in its original form: played on a virginal (ok, it’s actually a harpsichord, but that’s still in the ballpark) from Byrd’s manuscript.

Now some links:

Gordon Jacob on Wikipedia – note the middle names!

GordonJacob.org – a website run by the Jacob family promoting Gordon’s life and music

Fantastic program note and resource (particularly the errata) on the William Byrd Suite at windrep.org.

William Byrd on Wikipedia and Naxos classical.

Huapango is the unofficial second national anthem of Mexico.  It was written in 1941 by then 29-year-old Jose Pablo Moncayo (1912-1958), a composer and conductor from Guadalajara.  Moncayo found his source material for the piece on a folk-song collecting trip to the villages Veracruz, where he encountered a dance called huapango.  The name for this dance comes from a corruption of the Nahuatl word huapanco, which means “on top of the wooden plank”, or, more poetically, “on the dance floor”.  Folk huapangos can be played in many forms, from a small chamber group to a large mariachi band, but all of them share a rhythmic playfulness with much of Mexican folk music.  Moncayo uses this rhythmic flexibilty to great effect in his Huapango.  He probes the boundaries of 6/8 time, often reveling in the space between duple and triple meter.  His setting was based on three huapangos that he heard on his trip: “El Siquisiri”, “El Balajú” and “El Gavilancito”.  His student, José Antonio Alcaraz, provides us with a quote from Moncayo about the piece:

Blas Galindo and I went to Alvarado, one of the places where folkloric music is preserved in its most pure form; we were collecting melodies, rhythms and instrumentations during several days. The transcription of it was very difficult because the huapangueros (musicians) never sang the same melody twice in the same way. When I came back to Mexico, I showed the collected material to Candelario Huízar; Huízar gave me a piece of advice that I will always be grateful for: “Expose the material first in the same way you heard it and develop it later according to your own thought.” And I did it, and the result is almost satisfactory for me

Huapango is Moncayo’s most lasting legacy in classical music.  He wrote several other pieces for orchestra.  He also was the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico from 1949 to 1954.  Along with other composers like Carlos Chavez and Silvester Rivueltas, Moncayo is closely associated with the Mexican Nationalism of the period.  His untimely death in 1958 is often considered the end of that era.

Huapango has been growing in popularity outside of Mexico.  Gustavo Dudamel recently took his Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra from Venezuela to the BBC Proms in London to play it:

And here’s an American military band doing it, arranged by Leroy Osmon.  This is the version that we’ll be playing:

The folks songs that Moncayo used are on YouTube now.  Here’s “El Siquisiri”:

“El Balaju” by a mariachi band.  Watch the rhythmic interplay:

“El Gavilancito” for guitars and voices:

These are all indeed quite different from Moncayo’s realizations of them.  Like he said, he never heard them the same way twice!

Moncayo on Wikipedia, DSO Kids, peermusic, and, interestingly, on Conservapedia.

More on the huapango dance, including some nice listening examples, from Wikipedia.

More on Huapango the piece from Colorado Public Radio.

This is a senior choice for trombonist and taste-maker Raul Ruiz ’12.

“His desire was to relate his art as closely as possible to life, especially that of the Russian masses, to nourish it on events and to employ it as a means for communicating human experience.”  These words, from the indispensable Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, describe the artistic aims of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881).  At times a loner and a collaborator, an artist and a bureaucrat, he emerged from a military upbringing to become a member of “The Five”, a group of Russian composers dedicated to promoting distinctly Russian music.  He died at age 42 after losing a lifelong battle with alcoholism.  He left behind many unfinished work which were completed (and somewhat recomposed) by his friend Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  His most enduring contributions to the musical canon include the opera Boris Godunov, the piano cycle Pictures at an Exhibition, and the symphonic poem Night on Bald Mountain.

Mussorgsky on Wikipedia.

Biographical excerpt from Grove’s Concise Dictrionary of Music.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra Kids Page about Mussorgsky – colorful, fun, and informative.  Includes an edited recording of the Ravel version of “Great Gate of Kiev”.

Written in 1874, Pictures at an Exhibition is a program piece that imagines a person looking a series of paintings at an exhibit in an art gallery.  It is a recreation of a memorial exhibition given in 1873 of the works of Russian artist Viktor Hartmann, a close friend of Mussorgsky’s who had died unexpectedly 3 years prior at age 39.  Each movement of the suite presents a musical depiction of one of Hartmann’s works.  These are often separated by the “Promenade” theme, which depicts the viewer walking between paintings.

The Wikipedia article on Pictures covers all the bases, including mention of the several arrangements that exist and copies of most of the original pictures that inspired Mussorgsky.  Highly recommended!

At Columbia, we’ve only ever done select movement of this.  In the past, it’s been “The Great Gate of Kiev” and “The Hut of Baba Yaga” (look for the video links below).  This time, it’s “Gnomus”.  Here’s an excellent orchestral version (Ravel’s famous orchestration) with the Rotterdam Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev:

Here’s a different version of “Gnomus”, for string orchestra, that features animation based on the paintings that Mussorgsky was supposedly looking at at this legendary exhibition:

This video features a fantastically expressive conductor doing the last two movements, “The Hut of Baba Yaga” and “The Great Gate of Kiev”.  These two are what we will play in April’s concert.  Unforunately the embedding has been disabled, but please go watch – it’s very much worth it!!