Skip navigation

Category Archives: WCSMA Intermediate All-County Band

Spring 2013 was a busy semester!  In addition to the usual Columbia Festival of Winds and EPIC concert(s) with the Columbia University Wind Ensemble, I also conducted an honor band for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in Westchester County, New York.  The repertoire was spectacular!  This semester at Columbia had special meaning: it was my last with the Columbia Wind Ensemble, as I’ll be starting my DMA in wind conducting this fall at Arizona State University with Gary Hill.  I’m very excited to move on, but also very sad to leave Columbia after 11 years!


EPIC – Monday, April 22 at 8pm at Roone Arledge Auditorium, repeated Sunday, April 28 at 2pm in the EPIC Barnard Quad.  It was also our Senior Choice concert, and my final concert with the CUWE.  EPIC it was indeed!

Raise of the Son – Rossano Gallante (for bassoonist Jimmy Caldarese)

Selections from Star Wars Trilogy – John Williams, arr. Donald Hunsberger (for trombonist and web wizard Curtis Cooper)

Italian in Algiers Overture – Gioachino Rossini (for multi-clarinetist Victor Chang)

Selections from Carmina Burana – Carl Orff, arr. Krance (for trumpeter and master politician Thomas Callander)

Hands Across the Sea – John Philip Sousa (for trombonist and future educator Sam Alexander)

Jupiter from “The Planets” – Gustav Holst, arr. Clark McAlister (for bass trombonist Matt Cowen)

Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah – Camille Saint-Saens (my choice, a repeat from my very first CUWE concert in 2002)


Westchester County School Music Association Elementary All-County Band
Saturday, March 16 at 11am, SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center
A wonderful experience – my first honor band!

Aquia Landing – Paul Murtha

Count Not the Hours – Patrick Burns

Joy – Frank Ticheli

Starscapes – Brian Balmages



Sunday, March 3 at 2pm – Roone Arledge Auditorium, Columbia University

The Columbia Festival Band opened the show with Chester Overture by William Schuman, conducted by Emily Threinen.

The Columbia University Wind Ensemble played:

Festive Overture – Dmitri Shostakovich (Senior Choice for trumpeter Tim Foreman)

Acrostic Song from “Final Alice” – David del Tredici, arr. Mark Spede

The Last Polka – Beck Hansen, arr. Andrew Pease

First Suite in E-flat – Gustav Holst
Sarah Quiroz, guest conductor

Reason for Hope in a Complex World – Oliver Caplan

At the end of the Festival, all of the participating bands massed together and played Sousa’s Liberty Bell March.


Paul Murtha (b. 1960) is a composer, arranger, and conductor who has distinguished himself through his work as Chief Arranger for both the United States Military Academy Band at West Point (1990-1996) and “Pershing’s Own” United States Army Band (presently).  He has written and arranged hundreds of pieces for bands at all levels.  He wrote Aquia Landing in 2011 “in the classic style of J.P. Sousa using the form that he perfected in the early part of the 20th century.”  He describes his inspiration in the program notes in the score:

Aquia Landing (pronounced /uh kwhy’ yuh/) is located at the confluence of Aquia Creek and the Potomac River in Stafford County, Virginia.  A pivotal transportation hub between southern states and northern ports, passengers, cargo and entire rail cars were transferred from the RF&P Railroad to steamboat vessels which carried them from the Aquia Creek up the Potomac River to Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD.  This key location also positioned Aquia Landing as a major gateway along the ‘Network to Freedom‘ through which fugitive slaves had to pass in order to reach freedom.

Shortly after the start of the Civil War, this important transportation hub became a site of interest to both sides.  Union steamships and Confederate artillery exchanged fire for three days over the landing during the Battle of Aquia Creek (May 31-June 2, 1861).  A year later in April 1862, the Union troops returned to Stafford, rebuilding the landing, and using it as an operations center for approximately five months.  During that period, an estimated 10,000 freedom seekers who sought refuge behind Union lines passed through Stafford, many of whom are believed to have been shipped north from Stafford to Alexandria, VA or Washington, DC.

So what makes Aquia Landing a “Sousa-style” march?  It can be summed up in the form: it opens with a 4-bar introduction, starting on the dominant chord (F major in this case).  It lands firmly on the tonic (B-flat major) for the repeating first strain (m. 5), in which the melody is in the higher instruments.  The melody shifts to the bass instruments in the second strain (m. 22), which also repeats.  An interlude in the percussion (m. 39) leads to the trio (m. 47), which is in a different key (E-flat major, one more flat in everyone’s part), featuring a slower-paced melody.  The trio melody appears a total of three times, each more intense than the one before, and each one separated from the other by a “dogfight” section in which the high and low instruments seem to fight each other.  The march then ends with a classic Sousa stinger.

Click here for a professional-grade recording of Aquia Landing.  If you prefer to hear a live performance, here is an actual middle school band doing it:

Also take a look at Paul Murtha’s publisher, Hal Leonard.

Joy and Joy Revisited both appeared in 2005.  They are companion pieces based on the same material, with Joy being geared for younger players and Joy Revisited designed for a more mature ensemble.  As usual, Ticheli describes his thinking in the scores:

Above all, Joy is an expression of its namesake: simple, unabashed joy.

A boisterous, uninhibited quality is implied in the music, not only at climactic moments, but also by the frequent presence of sudden and dramatic stylistic contrasts. The main melody and overall mood of the work (and its companion piece, Joy Revisited) were inspired by a signal event: the birth of our first child. The intense feelings that most any father would feel on such a day were, in my case, accompanied by a simple little tune which grabbed hold of me in the hours preceding her birth, and refused to let go throughout the day and many days thereafter. Indeed, until I jotted it down in my sketchbook, it did not release its grip.

Seven years and two children later, I stumbled upon that old sketch and discovered (or rediscovered) that it would serve perfectly as the foundation for a joy-filled concert band overture.

About Joy and Joy Revisited

Joy, and its companion piece, Joy Revisited, are the results of an experiment I have been wanting to try for many years: the creation of two works using the same general melodic, harmonic, and expressive content. In other words, I endeavored to compose un-identical twins, two sides of the same coin – but with one major distinction: Joy was created with young players in mind, while Joy Revisited was aimed at more advanced players.

Thus, Joy is more straightforward than its companion piece. Where Joy sounds a dominant chord (as in the upbeat to measure 10), Joy Revisited elaborates upon that chord with a flourish of 16th-notes. While Joy Revisited moves faster, develops ideas further, and makes use of a wider register, Joy is more concise.

Despite these and many more differences between the two works, both come from the same essential cut of cloth, both were composed more or less simultaneously, and both were born out of the same source of inspiration. In short, Joy and Joy Revisited serve as two expressions of the feelings experienced by one expectant father (who happens also to be a composer) on one wonderfully anxious and exciting day.

Here’s a nice professional recording of Joy:

And a comparable rendition of Joy Revisited.  The parallels between the two pieces are clear, as are the more rigorous challenges of the latter:

Ticheli’s publisher hosts a complete, downloadable set of mp3s of the vast majority of his large ensemble music on their website – quite a find!  Click the links for more from them on Joy and Joy Revisited.

Frank Ticheli’s personal website,

Ticheli bio on wikipedia.

Frank Ticheli’s Facebook fanclub.

A video interview with Ticheli in which he talks about composing.

For those who have forgotten, here’s my short bio on Frank Ticheli: Educated at the University of Michigan, composer Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) has become one of the biggest names in new wind band repertoire.  Since 1991 he has been a Professor of Composition USC-Thornton and, until 1998, Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony.  The recipient of many awards, he was most recently winner of the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2.

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 Count Not the Hours, which he wrote based on a tune attributed to Francis O’Neill:

Count Not the Hours was commissioned by the Franklin Avenue Middle School Band (James Frankel, Director), Franklin Lake, New Jersey, as a retirement gift for outgoing Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edward J. Sullivan.  The piece takes its title from an Irish jig of the same name.  The melody is here set as a waltz and therefore presents itself much less forthrightly than O’Neill’s original tune.

Patrick Burns main website. – includes a full biography and information on all of his music.  You can also leave the website open and just listen 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 Count Not the Hours in the grade 2 section.

Also check out Patrick Burns’s YouTube channel, which has performances of the great bulk of his music.  Here, for instance, is Count Not the Hours as performed by the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Wind Ensemble.

Have a look at the original tune (pdf).  Or learn to play it on guitar.  It appears to be just a fiddle tune with no lyrics attached.

Brian Balmages (b. 1975) is a young, prolific American composer with several new works making their way into the repertoire at all levels, from elementary school bands to professional orchestras.  His music has been performed all over the country, including at Carnegie Hall.  He wrote his own program note about his 2007 composition Starscapes, to which I’ve added pictures of the constellations that inspired him:

Starscapes  is a three-movement work based on various constellations and their Greek mythologies.  Orion (The Hunter), the opening movement, is one of the most well-known constellations, visible in the northern sky during the winter in the northern hemisphere.  While there are several versions of the Orion myth, typically it is agreed that he became the greatest hunter in the world and had incredible strength and stature.  While no consensus exists on the means of his death, it is often suggested that he was killed by the sting of a small scorpion–an ironic death for such a champion.  The movement opens with an introduction that paints a picture of a starry night, then portrays the majestic nature of Orion.

The second movement, Draco (The Dragon), depicts the most common myth that Draco inhabited a cave and killed Cadmus‘s attendants after they were asked to find fresh water as an offering to Jupiter.  Cadmus went into the cave, discovered the dragon, and killed it with his spear.  While there are many translations of Ovid‘s Metamorphosesa particularly vivid one describes Draco as “the serpent of Mars, a creature with a wonderful golden crest; fire flashed from its eyes, its body was all puffed up from poison, and from its mouth, set with a triple row of teeth, flickered a three-forked tongue.”

The final movement, Pegasus (The Winged Horse), pays tribute to the constellation and famous myth of Pegasus.  Pegasus was born as a result of the battle between Perseus and Medusa.  After Perseus killed Medusa, drops of blood fell into the sea and mixed with the sea foam.  The result was the birth of Pegasus, the brilliant white-winged horse.  The movement portrays the galloping of the horse, then takes the listener on a journey through the skies with the magnificent creature.

Follow the links inserted into the text to learn more about anything else there.

The ancient Greeks saw found pictures of many different mythological characters and other things in the stars.  For a list of some other constellations, click here.

Brian Balmages’s website, including bio and extensive works list with many recordings.

Brian Balmages profile at James Madison University, his alma mater (class of 1998).

A moving Baltimore Sun piece on a middle school concert in which Balmages was commissioned to write a piece in memory of slain band members.

A middle school band plays a fine performance of Starscapes:

Finally, you don’t want to miss the professional recording of this piece.