Skip navigation

Category Archives: Summer 2011

This weekend, 20 members of the Columbia Summer Winds are playing a Pet Parade in midtown Manhattan – the parade marches by us as we sit and provide the music.  The organizers asked for marches, so we are providing them in big numbers, 14 to be exact!  We’re getting all of our parts from the Band Music PDF Library, which makes public domain music available for free on the Internet.  Players, you’ll be able to access your parts here.  BUT, every time you go to this site, you have to first agree to their terms. So CLICK HERE FIRST, and then you should be able to follow the links to the parts (in the titles below) without any trouble.  These are in program order, by the way.

National Emblem

Washington Post

Radetzky March

Invercargill

The Thunderer

Semper Fidelis

King Cotton

Under the Double Eagle

High School Cadets

Colonel Bogey

The Invincible Eagle

The Mad Major

New Colonial

Stars & Stripes Forever

Advertisements

Summer 2011 has come and gone.  Check out the main Columbia Summer Winds website for information on our concert dates and locations.  Here’s what we did repertoire-wise:

Xerxes by John Mackey

Symphonic Suite by Clifton Williams

Theme from Monsoon Wedding by Mychael Danna, arranged by me.

Monument Fanfare and Tribute by Philip Rothman

King Cotton by John Philip Sousa

Poet and Peasant Overture by Franz von Suppe

Stars & Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa (again)

Selections from Wicked by Stephen Schwartz, as arranged by Jay Bocook.

Colonial Song and Gumsuckers March by Percy Grainger

Benediction by John Stevens

And 2010’s Outdoor Composition Contest winner, Metropolitan Overture by Alexandre Travassos

Also, I applied to 2 conducting clinics this summer.  Check out the repertoire here.

I first heard Chorale and Shaker Dance (1971) when I was a freshman in high school in 1994.  My school was small enough that I had met and become friends with a number of upperclassmen in the band through our Pep Band and Show Choir and things like that.  At the time, though, there were 2 bands at my school: the symphonic band (juniors and seniors) and the concert band (freshmen and sophomores).  We had our end-of-year concert together, and each group got to listen to the other.  I don’t quite remember what we in the concert band played (I’m pretty sure Alfred Reed’s Imperatrix was on the program), but I very clearly remember Chorale and Shaker Dance as played by my upperclassmen friends.  I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  It was so complex, so sophisticated, so riveting!  I thought multiple times, “how are they doing this?!?”.  It was really a mind-blowing experience, seeing my friends do something so big and impressive.

My band director, the legendary Bruce Schmottlach, retired at the end of that year.  My old middle school band director, Dean Coutsouridis, came up to replace him.  Couts (as we called him) programmed Chorale and Shaker Dance again my junior year, giving me the chance to experience it from the inside.  And what an experience it was!  Playing that ascending whole-tone scale trumpet solo always gave me a thrill.

I’ve been sent on this trip down memory lane by the piece’s inclusion in the Hartt School of Music 2011 Instrumental Conducting Symposium.  Looking through the score, 18 years and 2 masters degrees later, has made me reflect on my earlier experiences with the piece.  I can absolutely see why it’s still a classic among high school bands, but it’s so loaded with those intangible “high school band” qualities that I’m not sure I’d ever do it with my college or adult bands.  Still, it certainly helped put me on the path to becoming a band director!

But why talk when we can listen.  Imagine hearing this from the perspective of a small-town 14-year-old and you’ll understand why it stands out for me:

Now the requisite links:

John Zdechlik (the composer) was born in Minnesota, where he still lives and teaches, in 1937.  He has his own website, as well as a biography at Kjos, his publisher.  He wrote Chorale and Shaker Dance in 1971 for the Jefferson High School band in Bloomington, Minnesota.  To learn more about the piece, check out this guy’s “activity page”, the wikipedia article, and this instructional guide.

Bonus video: someone actually made a Chorale and Shaker Dance graphic novel of sorts…

Today, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is revered as one of the greatest composers of all time whose multitudinous compositions, with their combination of  intellectual rigor and transcendent beauty, are among the foundational documents of Western art music.  In his day, J.S. Bach was seen as a church musician who dazzled his contemporaries with his organ playing and churned out new compositions with almost alarming speed and frequency.  Though he was well-known and widely respected, he was not revered as he is now.  His reputation received a facelift in the early 19th century (long after his death) with the publication of a biography in 1802, the revival of his Saint Matthew’s Passion by the composer Felix Mendelssohn in 1829, and ultimately the creation of the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalog) in 1850.  Since then, Bach’s legacy has only grown.  Among his famous compositions are the Brandenburg Concertos, the Cello Suites, the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Art of Fugue, hundreds of cantatas and oratorios, and dozens of short chorales.  And that is but the tip of the iceberg.  Bach has over 1000 known compositions, and perhaps as many that have been lost forever.

Other interesting Bach facts:

  • He was a genuine patriarch, fathering 20 children (10 of whom survived to adulthood) with 2 successive wives.  See the family tree.
  • Several of his children became famous composers in their own right, most notably Johann Christian Bach and Carl Philip Emanuel Bach.
  • There are streets all over Germany named for Bach, although he never left the country and never lived more than 250 miles from his birthplace in Eisenach.  See the map.
  • He was once put in prison by an employer who didn’t want to let him move jobs.
  • He wrote a cantata about coffee addiction.  Read about it here.
  • Finally, Anthony Tommasini recently named Bach the greatest composer of all time.

“Komm, süsser tod” (Come, Sweet Death) is often counted among the chorales.  But it was originally published for solo voice and basso continuo as a set of 69 songs that Bach contributed to a collection in 1736.  Harmonic shortcuts aside, it follows the basic form of many of the chorales, with several short phrases separated by fermatas, and considerable harmonic rigor: each of the 12 chromatic tones gets intelligently used at some point in the 21-measure song.  Having been written with no particular instrumentation indicated, “Komm, süsser tod” has been performed and arranged in many different guises, including symphony orchestra, voice and organ, mixed choir, concert band, and just about every other imaginable combination.  Here are my favorite 2 performances from YouTube:

Leopold Stokowski’s moving orchestra transcription:

Klaus Martens sings while Ton Koopman plays:

Alas, the wind band recordings of this don’t do it justice.  They all take it way too fast, and aren’t as rigorously attentive to intonation as they need to be.  Perhaps this will change some day.

Finally, for those of you who have gotten this far, there are a whole bunch more links to check out!

“Komm, süsser tod” has its own wikipedia page which includes the original German lyrics and an English translation.  Well worth a look – it’s downright cheery!  Also very worth a look is the original publication of “Komm, süsser tod“.  The vocal line is in soprano clef (C is the bottom line of the staff), and the bass line uses figured bass.  But if you can navigate those, you’ll find it to be a great, authentic resource.

J. S. Bach on wikipedia, his own home page, Dave’s J. S. Bach page, and Facebook.  And that just barely scratches the surface!

Let’s not forget about Alfred Reed, the arranger of the wind band version in question.  Read his bio and more at the page for one of his great compositions, The Hounds of Spring.

This year I applied for 2 wind band conducting symposia. I’m always tempted to go to more, but, alas, given that the vast majority of band conducting workshops happen in the month of June, and that the elementary school where I work stays in session until June 40th (or so it seems), it’s pretty much inconceivable that I could take a week off for a conducting conference in June.  Thankfully, this year (and every year) Northwestern University and the Hartt School of Music are running symposia in July.  Alas, I applied too late to the Northwestern symposium to get in.  Totally my fault – I decided to study the repertoire anyways to make it up to myself, although nothing will make up for the missed chance to work with Mallory Thompson and Allan McMurray.  I did get into the Hartt School symposium, with Glen Adsit and Michael Haithcock.  This blog helps me do the background work on each piece: by giving you, the hypothetical reader, a look into the music, I get a more thorough understanding myself.  So, here’s a look at the repertoire for both:

Northwestern University Conducting and Wind Music Symposium
July 10-15, 2011
Mallory Thompson and Allan McMurray, clinicians

Full Band
Arnold/Paynter: Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo
Bernstein/Grundman: Overture to Candide
Bryant: Dusk
Copland: Outdoor Overture
Copland/Singleton: Promise of Living
Daehn: As Summer Was Just Beginning
Grainger: Lincolnshire Posy (mvts. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6)
Hanson: Chorale and Alleluia
Holst/ed. Matthews: First Suite in E-flat
Schuman: Chester
Shostakovich/Hunsberger: Festive Overture
Shostakovich/Reynolds: Prelude Op. 34, No. 14
Strauss/arr. Davis: Allerseelen
Ticheli: Shenandoah

Chamber Music
Beethoven: Rondino
Gounod: Petite symphonie
Jacob: Old Wine in New Bottles
Mendelssohn/Boyd: Overture for Winds, Op. 24
Mozart: Serenade No. 12 in C Minor, K. 388
Schubert/Reynolds: Little Symphony for Winds (mvts. 1 and 4)

Hartt School of Music Instrumental Conducting Clinic
July 25-29, 2011
Glen Adsit and Michael Haithcock, clinicians

Arbeau/Margolis: Belle Qui Tiens ma Vie
Arnold/Paynter: Four Scottish Dances
Arnold/Paynter: Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo
Bach/Reed: Come, Sweet Death
Bryant: Dusk
Erickson: Air for Band
Faure/Moss: Chant Funeraire
Forest/Turner: King of Love my Shepherd Is
Grainger/Fennell: Lincolnshire Posy
Grainger/Rogers: Irish Tune from County Derry
Grainger/Rogers: Shepherd’s Hey
Grainger: Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon
Hanson: Chorale and Alleluia
Holst, ed. Mathews: First Suite in E-flat
Holst, ed. Mathews: Second Suite in F
Lauridsen/Reynolds: O Magnum Mysterium
Mackey: Undertow
Persichetti: Divertimento for Band
Persichetti: Pageant
Schuman: Chester
Shostakovich/Reynolds: Folk Dances
Stuart: Hymn for Band
Ticheli: Amazing Grace
Ticheli: An American Elegy
Ticheli: Fortress
Ticheli: San Antonio Dances
Ticheli: Sanctuary
Ticheli: Shenandoah
Zdechlik: Chorale and Shaker Dance

Think that looks like a whole ton of music? You’d be right!  Thankfully, I only have to prepare one piece for each day of the symposium.  But if I’m going to finish this project, I’ve got to hunker down and fill up these empty links!

I have to confess: I still haven’t seen Wicked, despite having lived in New York for all of its run.  So I can’t give as full and deep a treatment of this as I probably should.  That’s sort of OK, since I’m not the conductor on this one for the Columbia Summer Winds 2011 season – that would be my good friend Bill Tonissen.

Here’s what I do know about Wicked, based on being around it for almost 8 years (and a little internet research): it’s a Broadway musical based on a novel of the same name (by Gregory Maguire) that imagines the story of The Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West.  It gives her a sympathetic backstory and a name (Elphaba).  I also know that Wicked is hugely successful, having run on Broadway since 2003, and with no signs of closing.  The music (by Stephen Schwartz) seems to be everywhere – I have several friends who claim it among their favorites.

Jay Bocook uses several of the highlights from the musical to piece together his 9-minute Selections.  Here they are, as played by a Hawaiian band:

Now, some original Wicked action – “Defying Gravity” at the Tonys with the original cast members:

And, for good measure, the Broadway production page and wikipedia page for Wicked.

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 PosyIrish Tune from County Derry, and Molly on the Shore.

Colonial Song began life as a piano solo.  Grainger wrote it in 1911 as a gift to his mother, Rose.  It represents a comparatively rare instance of Grainger relying on an original melody rather than extant folk sources.  Grainger created versions of the piece for different ensembles, as small as piano trio and as large as symphony orchestra.  The military band version appeared as a result of Grainger’s time in the US Army bands.  See more about Colonial Song on wikipedia.

But why write about these 2 pieces together?  Grainger neatly sums up the connection between Colonial Song and 1914’s Gumsuckers March, as well as the significance of his original melody, in this tidy program note:

A “Gum-Sucker” is an Australian nick-name for Australians born in Victoria, the home state of the composer. The eucalyptus trees that abound in Victoria are called “gums”, and the young shoots at the bottom of the trunk are called “suckers”; so “gum-sucker” came to mean a young native son of Victoria, just as Ohioans are nick-named “Buck-eyes”. In the march, Grainger used his own “Australian Up-Country-Song” melody, written by him to typify Australia, which melody he also employed in his Colonial Song for two voices and orchestra, or military band.

This note comes from the Wind Repertory Project, and is attributed to Grainger himself.

Here’s Colonial Song in a rendition by the Royal Australian Navy band:

Now the US Coast Guard band plays Gumsuckers.  The Colonial Song theme should pop right out at you!

The composer known conventionally as Franz von Suppe (1819-1895) was born to an Italian-Belgian father and a Viennese mother  in Croatia, which was then part of the Kingdom of Dalmatia in the Austro-Hungarian empire.  His full name befits his convoluted nationality: his parents named him Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo Cavaliere Suppé Demelli.  His early musical training was in flute and singing.  His parents pushed him to study law, but he continued his musical studies nonetheless.  He eventually moved to Vienna to complete his studies and find work conducting in opera houses.  He went on to compose over 100 works for the stage.

The Poet and the Peasant (Dichter und Bauer in the original German) is one of von Suppe’s earlier operettas, written in 1846 when he was 27 years old.  Like most of his work, the operetta itself is rarely performed.  But the overture has become a classic at pops concerts for both bands and orchestras.

Franz von Suppe on wikipedia, naxos.com, and Allmusic.com.

A nice program note on Poet and Peasant.

Here’s the overture played by a very capable concert band:

and now the original orchestral version:

Composer John Stevens (b. 1951) is on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches tuba and euphonium.  He is renowned for his series of tuba-euphonium quartets.  Benediction began life as one of these.  It was comissioned by the Sotto Voce Quartet in 2002 for inclusion on their recording of Stevens’s quartet ouvre.  The composer created this version for wind band with the encouragement of Scott Teeple, director of bands at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Benediction is a lyrical piece, intended as a vocal, sonorous contrast to his more lively quartets.

Program note on Benediction.

The original version of Benediction:

Version for euphonium and organ:

Wind band version:

Washington, D.C. native and legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) wrote a dozen operettas, six full-length operas, and over 100 marches, earning the title “March King”.  He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at an early age and went on to become the conductor of the President’s Own Marine Band at age 26.  In 1892 he formed “Sousa and his Band”, which toured the United States and the world under his directorship for the next forty years to great acclaim.  Not only was Sousa’s band hugely popular, but it also exposed audiences all over the world to the latest, cutting-edge music, bringing excerpts of Wagner’s Parsifal to New York a decade before the Metropolitan Opera staged it, and introducing ragtime to Europe, helping to spark many a composer’s interest in American music.

Here are some well-researched program notes on Stars & stripes from the Band Music PDF Library.

Stars and Stripes Forever (march) is considered the finest march ever written, and the same time one of the most patriotic ever conceived.  As reported in the Philedelphia Public Ledger (May 15, 1897) “… It is stirring enough to rouse the American eagle from his crag, and set him to shriek exultantly while he hurls his arrows at the aurora borealis.” (referring to the concert the Sousa Band gave the previous day at the Academy of Music). (Research done by Elizabeth Hartman, head of the music department, Free Library of Philadelphia.  [Quote] taken from John Philip Sousa, Descriptive Catalog of his Works (Paul E. Bierley, University of Illinois Press, 1973, page 71)).

The march was not quite so well received though and actually got an over average rating for a new Sousa march.  Yet, its popularity grew as Mr. Sousa used it during the Spanish-American War as a concert closer.  Coupled with his Trooping of the Colors, the march quickly gained a vigorous response from audiences and critics alike.  In fact, audiences rose from their chairs when the march was played.  Mr. Sousa added to the entertainment value of the march by having the piccolo(s) line up in front of the band for the final trio, and then added the trumpets and trombones [to] join them on the final repeat of the strain.

The march was performed on almost all of Mr. Sousa’s concerts and always drew tears to the eyes of the audience.  The author has noted the same emotional response of audiences to the march today.  The march has been named as the national march of the United States.

There are two commentaries of how the march was inspired.  The first came as the result of an interview on Mr. Sousa’s patriotism.  According to Mr. Sousa, the march was written with the inspiration of God.

“I was in Europe and I got a cablegram that my manager was dead.  I was in Italy and I wished to get home as soon as possible.  I rushed to Genoa, then to Paris and to England and sailed for America.  On board the steamer as I walked miles up and down the deck, back and forth, a mental band was playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ Day after day as i walked it persisted in crashing into my very soul.  I wrote in on Christmas Day, 1896.” (Taken from program notes for the week beginning August 19th, 1923.  Bierley, John Philip Sousa, page 71.)

Researched by Marcus L. Neiman, Medina, Ohio

 

The wikipedia article on Stars & Stripes is bit thin on references, but it does allow you to listen to a vintage recording of Sousa himself conducting the march, from 1909.  The Stars & Stripes page at the Dallas Wind Symphony has other old recordings and Sousa’s original lyrics for the march.

Read more about the Sousa Band and its history at naxosdirect.com. Click the link that says “Read more about this recording.”

Sousa shrine – including biography, complete works, and much more – at the Dallas Wind Symphony website.

John Philip Sousa on Wikipedia

Stars & Stripes is one of many Sousa marches (and other pieces by turn of the 19th-20th century composers) available at the Band Music PDF Library for free.  I encourage any enterprising band directors to take a look.

Check out this legit performance of Stars & Stripes, courtesy of the President’s Own United States Marine Band.  If you don’t like the conductor’s very informative monologue, skip to the performance at around 1:00.

Now, the Muppets’ take on Stars & Stripes:

Finally, an inspiring trombone choir version: