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Category Archives: 2014-2015

Spring 2015 was a milestone.  I finished up my doctoral work at Arizona State University and got my degree in May!  In the process, I conducted some of the ASU ensembles and did an honor band in Rockland County, NY.  I continued to work with my amazing conducting mentors, primarily Gary Hill and Wayne Bailey.  I also finished my DMA thesis: “An Annotated Bibliography of Symphonies for Wind Band.” (click for full text, PDF)

At ASU, the concert season kicked off with the annual Concert of Soloists by the ASU Symphony Orchestra on February 4. The highlight (though I’m hopelessly biased in this regard) was the Percussion Concerto by Joseph Schwantner with Bryan Hummel as percussion soloist and me on the podium.  We made a great team.

The ASU band season got underway the following evening.  We were in the midst of celebrating “ASU Bands at 100!” by playing music from each decade that the bands have existed.  So on February 5, we presented “The Fabulous 50s!”  The Wind Ensemble under Wayne Bailey started it off:

Air for Band – Frank Erickson

Divertimento – Vincent Persichetti

George Washington Bridge – William Schuman (Trae Blanco, Conductor)

The Wind Orchestra under Gary Hill continued:

Festive Overture – Dmitri Shostakovich, arr. Hunsberger

Pageant – Vincent Persichetti (conducted by me)

Symphony for Band – Paul Hindemith

On February 6 and 7 (yes, that was an intense week), I went to Rockland County, NY to conduct their Senior All-County Band.  We played some great rep!

Elixir – Michael Markowski

October – Eric Whitacre

Shepherd’s Hey – Percy Grainger

Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo – Malcolm Arnold

Next up at ASU was “War and Peace – the 40s and the 80s” on March 3.  Starting with Wayne Bailey and the Wind Ensemble, the repertoire included:

The Immovable Do – Percy Grainger (Seph Coates, conductor)

On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss – David Holsinger

Symphony no. 1 “Lord of the Rings” – Johan de Meij

Gary Hill and Wind Orchestra:

Smetana Fanfare – Karel Husa

Ballad for Band – Morton Gould (Trae Blanco, conductor)

Winds of Nagual – Michael Colgrass

The Wind Orchestra took a solo turn in “From the Great Depression to the Digital Age – the 30s and the 90s” on April 8 with some wonderful repertoire:

Outdoor Overture – Aaron Copland (conducted by Seph Coates)

Suite Française – Francis Poulenc

Desi – Michael Daugherty

Funeral Music for Queen Mary – Henry Purcell, arr. Steven Stucky

On April 14, the Wind Ensemble gave Wayne Bailey a semi-retirement sendoff with a concert of his “Favorite Things”, which include:

George Washington Bicentennial March – J. P. Sousa

Valdres – Johannes Hansen

Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral – Richard Wagner

Second Concerto for Clarinet – Carl Maria von Weber

Pineapple Poll – Sir Arthur Sullivan, arr. Sir Charles Mackerras

They were joined by the ASU Concert Band under Trae Blanco and Seph Coats.  Their repertoire for the semester included:

Scenes from the Louvre – Norman Dello Joio

Original Suite – Gordon Jacob

The Hounds of Spring – Alfred Reed

Three Ayres from Gloucester – Hugh Stuart

Firework – Jan Van der Roost

Chimes of Liberty – Edwin Franko Goldman (conducted by me on 4/14)

Dusk – Steven Bryant

Finally, the ASU Chamber Players, including students and faculty, rounded out the season with some large chamber pieces:

Sonatina/Symphony “The Happy Workshop” – Richard Strauss

La Creation du monde – Darius Milhaud

Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943) is an American composer and teacher.  He grew up in Chicago playing guitar and tuba.  He had early success at composition, winning the National Band Camp Award in 1959 when he was just 16.  He went on to undergraduate studies at the American Conservatory in Chicago, then masters and doctoral work at Northwestern University, which he finished in 1968.  He has served on the faculties of the Eastman School, the Juilliard School, and Yale.  His compositions have won him the Pulitzer Prize (1979), several Grammy nominations, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  He is known for his eclectic combination of compositional techniques and his mystical orchestrations.  His important wind band works include …and the mountains rising nowhere (1977), From a Dark Millennium (1980), and In Evening’s Stillness (1996).

His Percussion Concerto first came into being as the Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra in 1994.  It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for their 150th anniversary, and written with the percussionist Christopher Lamb as its intended soloist.  Lamb and the Philharmonic premiered the piece at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City on January 5, 1995.  It has subsequently been transcribed twice: once for two pianos and percussion, making it accessible to the recital repertoire, and again (by Andrew Boysen) for wind ensemble and percussion.  In both cases, the solo part is unaltered from the original.  The soloist uses an entire world of equipment in two different setups (behind the ensemble in the first and third movements, and dramatically in front in the second).  The three movements are motivically unified, making the piece a long development of a small amount of material.

Here is the wind band version by the University of Michigan Symphony Band (in three parts):

And the orchestral version, with Lamb as soloist:

Finally, here is the two piano version, with Bryan Hummel as soloist.  I had the privilege of conducting Bryan and the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra in the first movement of the orchestra version on February 4, 2015.  He’s a pro, and it shows here!

Bonus: the composer and percussionist Evelyn Glennie discuss the piece, with some performance and rehearsal footage:

To learn more about the concerto itself, visit the Schott page, read the LA Philharmonic’s program notes, read Shawn Michael Hart’s dissertation about it, or see what the Boston Conservatory has to say.  Joseph Schwantner has a biography on Wikipedia and his own website.

Edwin Franko Goldman (1878-1956) was one of America’s premiere bandmasters.  He was born in Lexington, Kentucky to a musical family.  They moved to New York in his youth, where he studied composition with Antonin Dvorak and later began his career playing trumpet in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.  In 1911, he formed the organization that would become the Goldman Band, a professional concert band that played outdoor concerts in New York City.  He also founded the American Bandmasters Association, an important and exclusive professional organization for band directors.  Through these groups, Goldman would commission and premiere numerous new works that are now standard repertoire for wind bands.  He was also a composer in his own right, with over 150 original works to his name.

He wrote The Chimes of Liberty in 1922 for the Goldman Band.  It is a standard American march, but with a chimes solo in the trio and a piccolo solo that sounds like it was ripped straight from The Stars and Stripes Forever. Like other Goldman marches, the trio section had words:

They’re the chimes of liberty,
Chimes that ring for you and me,
Where every loyal heart beats true,
They bring joy anew;
‘Tis a song of loyalty,
Of a nation brave and free,
Let us pray that they will ring for aye,
Our country’s chimes of liberty!

Feel free to sing along as The President’s Own United States Marine Band plays the march:

Loathe as I am to quibble with the US Marine Band on march style, I like to do a few things differently from this performance, which is largely by the book of the latest Schissel edition.  These changes add variety and excitement to the piece, and can be applied to any number of other marches.  They are based on my studies of march form with Wayne Bailey at Arizona State University, and have been tested in performance.

  • In the first strain, have the trombone countermelody folks play a little under dynamic the first time, then have them play out the second time.
  • In the second strain, take out everyone except tubas, horns, saxes, and clarinets the first time, and have the clarinets play down an octave.  Everyone who does play should stay at piano throughout.  Second time, as written.  All of these changes start on the PICKUP, by the way.
  • Trio first time, have the trumpets play the last note of their fanfare figure long.  Dr. Bailey also had them use cup mutes in this section.
  • Speed up ever so slightly in the last four bars, and place the stinger a hair early.

Read more about Goldman and his band.  If you’re looking for more information on the Goldman Band, look at print sources like Frank Battisti’s The Winds of Change or Richard Hansen’s The American Wind Band: A Cultural History. The websites that do exist (goldmanband.org and goldmanband.net) are relics from the Band’s acrimonious last days in 2005 (and have not been updated since), and they contain little in the way of history.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is undoubtedly one of Western music’s most controversial figures.  His operas (he called them music-dramas) redefined the genre and pushed it to its limits.  His epic Ring cycle spans four operas and about 16 hours of music.   For this, he invented the leitmotif, a recognizable melodic theme connected to certain characters, places, events, or moods in his operas.  He also invented new instruments (e.g. the Wagner tuba) and had his own opera house built (at Bayreuth) in order to get exactly the sound that he wanted.  He pushed harmonic boundaries ever further, eventually eschewing any tonal resolution in the opera Tristan und Isolde (which is often regarded as the first modern opera).  For all of these operas, he assumed near total control, writing the librettos and designing the sets himself.  He was also a writer whose opinions on many things,especially Judaism, have remained a stain on his character.  In short, he was a large, uncompromising personality whose effects are still strongly felt in music and beyond.

Wagner finished the opera Lohengrin in 1848.  It tells the story of Elsa, a princess in Brabant (what we now call Antwerp), who is rescued and wedded a by a knight in shining armor who insists on remaining nameless.  Drama and tragedy ensue, ending with the death of several characters in typical Wagnerian fashion. Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral comes at the end of Act II, when Elsa is on her way to be married to the knight, who we later learn is Lohengrin, knight of the Holy Grail.  Even in its original form, this section is almost a band piece, dominated by winds and percussion.  It has become a staple of the band repertoire as a standalone piece.

The Baylor University Wind Ensemble performs the classic band arrangement of Elsa, created by Lucien Cailliet in 1938:

Here is the version from the original opera, in a production at La Scala in Milan in 2012:

You can read more about Lohengrin on Wikipedia and at the Met Opera website.  As for Wagner himself, here is just a small sampling of what the Internet has to say about him: Wikipedia, Biography.com (video), the Jewish Virtual Library,WagnerOpera.net, ipl2, and PBS Great Performances.

David Holsinger was born in Hardin, Missouri, December 26, 1945. His compositions have won four major competitions, including a two time ABA Ostwald Award. His compositions have also been finalists in both the DeMoulin and Sudler competitions.  He holds degrees from Central Methodist College, Fayette, Missouri, and Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. Holsinger has completed course work for a DMA at the University of Kansas. The composer was recently honored by Gustavus Adolphus College with the awarding of a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree for lifetime achievement in composition and the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division’s highest honor, designed and sculpted by renowned artist, Paul Granlund. Holsinger, as the fourth composer honored with this medal, joins a distinguished roster which includes Gunther Schuller, Jan Bender, and Csada Deak. Holsinger is the Conductor of the Wind Ensemble at Lee University, in Cleveland, Tennessee.

(short biography courtesy http://americanbandmasters.org/award/HOLSINGER.HTM)

Holsinger is a prolific composer for band. While he has his occassional tics (ostinatos, an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to percussion), his music is consistently thrilling to play. His faster pieces blaze by in a whirlwind of excitement, and his slower numbers are thoughtful and genuinely beautiful. It is for these reasons that he is a favorite of players and audiences alike.

Holsinger has his own website: davidrholsinger.com, which answers really ANY questions you might possibly have about him, including a fascinating testimonial about the search for his birth mother. There is much multi-media content as well, including videos of him ruminating on expressive performance.  Definitely check it out!  Also, Absolute Astronomy did an extensive profile on him that is worth a look.

The score for On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss (1989) provides the following program note:

On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss is a radical departure of style of this composer.  The frantic tempos, the ebullient rhythms we associate with Holsinger are replaced with a restful, gentle, and reflective composition based on the 1876 Philip BlissHoratio Spafford hymn, “It is Well with my Soul“.  Written to honor the retiring Principal of Shady Grove Christian Academy, On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss was presented as a gift from the SGCA Concert Band to Rev. Steve Edel in May of 1989.

Here is the North Texas Wind Symphony performing Holsinger’s version:

Here is a contemporary reading of the hymn, complete with the lyrics.  They come from a dark place, penned by Spafford after he lost his four daughters in a shipwreck.

Read more about the hymn in Spafford’s bio (above), and on Wikipedia and ShareFaith.  You can learn more about Holsinger’s version at TRN Music.

In Fall of 2014 I began my second and final year as a doctoral student at Arizona State University.  In addition to taking classes, I guest conducted both the Wind Ensemble (undergraduate music majors) and Wind Orchestra (graduate performance students) here.  I also taught one section of undergraduate conducting alongside my mentor, Gary Hill.  Additionally, I was the trombone tech for ASU’s Sun Devil Marching Band, directed by James Hudson.  On top of all of this, I continued my research into symphonies for wind band and began the process of applying for my first full-time college teaching job.  Easy-Pease-y!

 

The ASU band season kicked off with a 50th anniversary tribute to Gammage Auditorium on September 23.  This was especially meaningful for the band at ASU, since Gammage was the venue for the CBDNA national conference in 1964, when the auditorium was brand new.  For this concert, the Wind Orchestra, under the direction of Gary Hill, played:

Sinfonietta – Ingolf Dahl

Prelude in E-flat minor – Dmitri Shostakovich, arr. Reynolds

Fanfare from “La Peri” – Paul Dukas

Strategic Air Command March – Clifton Williams

The Star Spangled Banner – Francis Scott Key, arr. John Williams

 

This year began a 2-year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ASU bands.  The idea was to have the bands look back at the past 100 years one decade at a time.  The first of these concerts happened on October 7, when the Wind Ensemble and Wind Orchestra teamed up for a Tribute to the 60s under Gary Hill’s baton.  The repertoire was set to include a reprise of the Dahl Sinfonietta, and the Shostakovich Prelude, plus:

Fiesta del Pacifico – Roger Nixon

Fantasia in G major – Johann Sebastian Bach

Elegy for a Young American – Ronald Lo Presti

Incantation and Dance – John Barnes Chance (conducted by me)

 

The Wind Orchestra moved on to the 70s with its November 5 concert: “The 70s: Looking Back, Looking Forward”:

Sweelinck Variations – David Noon

…and the mountains rising nowhere – Joseph Schwantner

Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble – Frank Ticheli, featuring ASU saxophone professor Chris Creviston

 

The Wind Ensemble and Concert Band followed with a 70s show of their own on November 25:

Concert Band (directed by graduate students Trae Blanco and Seph Coats):

Landscapes – Rossano Gallante

Prelude and Fugue in G-minor – J.S. Bach, arr. Moehlmann

Cajun Folk Songs – Frank Ticheli

Fantasy on a Theme by Sousa – Andrew Boysen, Jr.

Viking March – Karl King

Wind Ensemble:

Armenian Dances, Part 1 – Alfred Reed (conducted by Seph Coates)

Slava! – Leonard Bernstein (conducted by Trae Blanco)

Dog Breath Variations – Frank Zappa (conducted by Serena Weren)

 

On December 2, I presented my doctoral conducting recital with the Wind Orchestra.  I conducted a very unique program of two large chamber works that offer very different perspectives on the 1940s.  The concert was called “Shades of Black”, and it featured:

Symphonietta – Willem van Otterloo

Ebony Concerto – Igor Stravinsky, featuring Curtis Sebren as soloist

It was recorded live, and is now on YouTube forever:

It gets going for real around the 9-minute mark.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to see my lecture notes.

Willem van Otterloo (1907-1978) is best remembered as a conductor of international stature.  He began his career in his native Netherlands, conducting the Utrecht Municipal Orchestra in the 1930s and 40s.  From 1949-1973 he was the chief conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague.  From this post he built an international career, conducting orchestras around the world and landing other music director positions in Australia, first in Melbourne, then in Sydney.  What compositions he left behind largely come from the period before 1945, when he was still firmly based in the Netherlands and had not yet taken off as a conductor.

The Symphonietta for sixteen winds is among those early compositions, dating from 1943.  This was a dark time in The Netherlands, which was under the occupation of Nazi Germany with no end in sight.  This darkness is reflected in the Symphonietta, especially in its first movement, which alternates between abject despair and pleading desperation.  The mood lightens considerably in the second movement, an octatonic scherzo in sonata form.  A solo cadenza connects these two movements, as it does the second and the third.  Movement three is a quiet, reflective song anchored by D-flat.  The fourth and final movement continues after the slightest pause, again lightening the mood with running sixteenth notes on an octatonic scale.  It is currently available from Floricor Editions.  Here is a good, recent performance of the whole thing:

Born in Russia, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was on track to become a lawyer until he began composition studies with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  He started his career in Paris with three ballets written for choreographer Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes: The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring, the last of which is legendary for causing a riot at its premiere.   The Rite especially was a model of neo-primitivism, in which Stravinsky used very small cells of notes to create orchestral textures that often featured intense, driving rhythms.  In the 1920s he largely abandoned his primitivist tendencies and began writing consciously Neoclassical music, which at first baffled his contemporaries, although not as much as his turn to serialism in the 1950s.  Still, his music remained popular, and he was consistently seen as a bold and hugely influential composer, perhaps one of the most important of the 20th century.  His reputation endures today, with hundreds if not thousands of performances of his works happening every year.  He died an American citizen, having moved to California in 1939.

It was from this perch in sunny Hollywood that Stravinsky wrote his Ebony Concerto in 1945.  In it, he distilled American jazz through his own compositional lens.  The score (untouched since its first edition in 1946) has this to say about its origin and inspiration:

Ebony Concerto was written by Igor Stravinsky for Woody Herman and his Orchestra.  It was introduced by that orchestra in a memorable concerto at Carnegie Hall, New York, on March 25, 1946, to the acclaim of public and critics alike.

Igor Stravinsky is one of the greatest and most representative figures in modern-day music.  His music has shocked, delighted, amazed, and irritated, but never bored people.  Stravinsky’s revolutionary musical precepts, his constant search for the new, for the true mirror of our changing world, find expression in music that is based on sound musicianship and great genius.  That is why his Firebird SuiteRite of Spring, and Petrouchka, to name only a few of his major works, are modern classics.

That is why Stravinsky was so impressed by the Woody Herman Orchestra and by their recordings of Bijou, Goosey Gander, and Caldonia.  His creativeness, invention, and deep sense of the modern, matched the characteristics of the Herman Orchestra.  A few months after Stravinsky had met Woody Herman, he presented the popular bandleader with Ebony Concerto… a composition that marks an epochal collaboration between the “jazz” and the “modern” schools of thought.

In truth, this origin story is somewhat romanticized.  Another account (see the Chicago Tribune link below) has it that a member of Herman’s band boasted of a meeting with Stravinsky which never actually happened, leading their mutual publisher to arrange the commission for the cash-strapped composer.  Regardless, Stravinsky did possess enough affinity for jazz that he did not hesitate in completing the project.

Listen to the original recording, and notice the delicious clash of styles happening:

Now listen to another recording that Stravinsky conducted, this time with Benny Goodman as the soloist:

The astute listener in possession of a score will have noticed that in both recordings, Stravinsky does not take his own printed tempos.  The interpretations on these recordings have now become standard.

The tunes mentioned in the program notes give great context to what inspired Stravinsky.  Here is Bijou:

And here is Caldonia:

For further reading on the Ebony Concerto, visit the Center for Jazz Arts, the Chicago Tribune, New York City Ballet, and Boosey & Hawkes.  Get a partial look at the score here.

Stravinsky has biographies on Wikipedia, IMDb, and Boosey & Hawkes, as well as a Foundation in his name with an Internet presence.  So much has been written about him in print that the Internet hardly does him justice.  But here are some articles from humanitiesweb and Cal Tech (on his religious works), and some quotes from him, just to whet your appetite.

John Barnes Chance (1932-1972) was born in Texas, where he played percussion in high school.  His early interest in music led him to the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, studying composition with Clifton Williams.  The early part of his career saw him playing timpani with the Austin Symphony, and later playing percussion with the Fourth and Eighth U.S. Army Bands during the Korean War.  Upon his discharge, he received a grant from the Ford Foundation’s Young Composers Project, leading to his placement as resident composer in the Greensboro, North Carolina public schools.  Here he produced seven works for school ensembles, including his classic Incantation and Dance.  He went on to become a professor at the University of Kentucky after winning the American Bandmasters Association’s Ostwald award for his Variations on a Korean Folk Song.  Chance was accidentally electrocuted in his backyard in Lexington, Kentucky at age 39, bringing his promising career to an early, tragic end.

Incantation and Dance came into being during Chance’s residency at Greensboro.  He wrote it in 1960 and originally called it Nocturne and Dance – it went on to become his first published piece for band.  Its initial incantation, presented in the lowest register of the flutes, presents most of the melodic material of the piece.  Chance uses elements of bitonality throughout the opening section to create a sound world mystically removed from itself.  This continues as the dance elements begin to coalesce.  Over a sustained bitonal chord (E-flat major over an A pedal), percussion instruments enter one by one, establishing the rhythmic framework of the dance to come.  A whip crack sets off furious brass outbursts, suggesting that this is not a happy-fun dance at all.  When the dance proper finally arrives, its asymmetrical accents explicitly suggest a 9/8+7/8 feel, chafing at the strictures of 4/4 time.  In his manuscript (and reprinted in the 2011 second edition score) Chance provides the following performance note pertaining to these passages:

Because there is no musical notation to indicate a “non-accent,” it may be necessary to caution the players against placing any metric pulsation on the first and third beats of the syncopated measures of the dance: to accent these beats in the accustomed way will destroy the intended effect.

He goes on to demonstrate the first two bars of the dance as written in 4/4, then rewritten as the accents would suggest: 3/4, 3/8, 2/4, 3/8.

Incantation and Dance has been extremely popular with wind bands ever since it was written.  Wikia program notes has a page about it. David Goza wrote an indispensable, must-read article about the piece.  Even the blurb at Hal Leonard is informative.

Some links on the composer:

Listing of a John Barnes Chance CD on Amazon.com with an extensive customer review at the bottom that is required reading.

Also, here’s John Barnes Chance’s wikipedia bio.

The Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra plays Incantation and Dance: