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Category Archives: Summer 2013

Summer 2013 was full of great repertoire!  Columbia Summer Winds had a thrilling season planned, with performances all over Manhattan.  In addition, I was the conductor at the Young Musicians’ Summer Academy in Caroline County, Maryland.   That summer was my last as a full-time New Yorker,  as left to start my DMA in wind conducting at Arizona State University with Gary Hill.  It was an incredibly bittersweet time!

 

COLUMBIA SUMMER WINDS
FUNDRAISER – Tuesday, May 28 from 7:30-10pm at the Village Pourhouse, Amsterdam Avenue between 108th & 109th streets.
FORT TRYON PARK (Near Cabrini Blvd & 190th street) – Saturday, July 13 at 2pm – CANCELED
UNION SQUARE PARK (North Side near 17th street) – Thursday, July 25 at 6pm
CENTRAL PARK BANDSHELL (Near 72nd street) – Saturday, July 27 at 1pm
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK (Garibaldi Plaza) – Saturday, August 3 at 2pm – CANCELED

Procession of the Nobles – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, arr. Leidzen

A Summer Breeze – J. Scott McKenzie

Songs from the Catskills – Johan de Meij

Elixir – Michael Markowski

Down a Country Lane – Aaron Copland, arr. Patterson

Suite of Old American Dances – Robert Russell Bennett

Selections from Les Misérables – Claude-Michel Schönberg, arr. Barker

Light Cavalry Overture – Franz von Suppé, arr. Fillmore

Stars and Stripes Forever – John Philip Sousa

 

The Young Musicians’ Summer Academy
June 25-27, Caroline County, Maryland

9-12 BAND:

Adrenaline Engines – Randall Standridge

As Summer Was Just Beginning – Larry Daehn

King Cotton – John Philip Sousa

6-8 BAND:

Clouds – Anne McGinty

Midsummer Overture – Andrew Pease

Gypsydance – David Holsinger

COMBINED BANDS

The Machine Awakes – Steven Bryant

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Larry Daehn (b. 1939) is a composer, teacher, and music educator from Wisconsin.  Daehn’s program notes for As Summer Was Just Beginning (Song for James Dean) (1994) are moving and descriptive, so I defer to him:

I liken him to a kind of star, or a comet that fell through the sky, and everybody talks about it yet today. – Julie Harris

He seems to capture that moment of youth … where we’re all desperately seeking to find ourselves. – Dennis Hopper

He is not our hero because he was perfect, but because he perfectly represented the damaged but beautiful soul of our time. – Andy Warhol

James Byron Dean (1931 – 1955) experienced the brightest and briefest movie career ever. In 16 months he made three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Only the first had been released when he was killed in a car accident at age 24. His death on September 30, 1955, sparked an unparalleled outpouring of sorrow. For three years after his death, Warner Brothers received more letters to him than to any living actor.

And the James Dean phenomenon has never really ended. Thousands still come to the little town of Fairmount, Indiana, to see the farm where he grew up and to visit his grave there. His familiar image appears worldwide on posters and T-shirts. He has been the subject of many books, songs, TV documentaries, plays, movies, and hundreds of magazine articles. Forty years after his death, James Dean is still a hero to his own generation and to succeeding generations who keep his legend alive.

People were robbed of him. Whenever you’re robbed of something, it lingers with you. – Martin Landau

A bronze bust of James Dean by artist Kenneth Kendall stands near Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, California. There is a Greek inscription on the right shoulder which, when translated reads, “As Summer Was Just Beginning.” This sentiment, from a painting by John La Farge, is a Greek epitaph concerning the death of a young person. I chose it as the title for this piece.

I loosely based the main melody (heard at the beginning and at measures 33 and 57) on an old British Isles folksong, “The Winter it is past, and the Summer’s here at last.” I chose it because Dean’s Quaker heritage goes back to England, Ireland and Scotland, and because this simple bittersweet song about summer seemed appropriate for remembering James Dean.

The North Texas Wind Symphony presents As Summer Was Just Beginning with near perfection, as usual:

More on the piece at Literature for Small Bands (an excellent resource!) and a University of Michigan report (.doc).

As he says in the program notes, Daehn based As Summer Was Just Beginning on the British Isles folk song “The Winter it is past“.  Here is a sung rendition of that:

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)

Some more of my own thoughts on Holsinger: he is nothing if not 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.

Holsinger provides his own program notes for 1994’s Gypsydance:

Once again this composer draws inspiration from his admiration of the piano works of Bela Bartok for young players.  Many times in the early “Mikrokosmos“, we find Bartok attempting to free [his son] Peter’s mind from the “box” mentality by shifting accents in established meters or, as is done in Holsinger’s GYPSYDANCE, shifting keys within a single key signature.  The key signature says E-flat, but no… we obviously start in F minor, hop and skip our way through the home key… and end the piece in B-flat!  GYPSYDANCE also lets the student stylistically explore parallel staccato and full value melodic lines.

Holsinger goes on with learning objectives about style and tonality/modality.  To paraphrase: students should be able to play eighth and quarter notes in staccato, accented, and non-legato (regular, unmarked) style.  The piece explores modes, particularly F dorian and E-flat major (ionian), and it includes a scale exercise for wind players to help spell that out.

A middle school plays an admirable performance of Gypsydance:

For professional recording, see the J.W. Pepper page about the piece.  Also see GIA publications and this extensive lesson plan for more information about the piece.

Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, from which Holsinger drew his inspiration, is a progressive piano method spanning six volumes that begins with the very simplest melodies and progresses to full-fledged virtuoso concert pieces.  It uses Hungarian folk songs for much of its melodic material.  Here are some examples from volume 2:

Flautist and composer Anne McGinty (b. 1945) writes prolifically for bands of all levels, especially elementary and middle school.  She studied at Ohio State University and Duquesne University, where her teachers included Joseph Wilcox Jenkins.  Among many other honors in her career, she was the first female composer to be commissioned to write for the United States Army Band.  She has recently opened her own publishing company, McGinty Music.

From the conductor’s score of Clouds (1994):

   CLOUDS is an original composition based on the imagery of different cloud forms.  The first section depicts cirrus clouds, the white delicate clouds usually found at high altitudes.  Thunderclouds begin at measure 23 and the accents and tone clusters are used to symbolize the increasing electricity associated with these thunder and lightning producing clouds.  Eventually the sun comes out and the sky has the rounded cumulus clouds that gracefully float away.

See more about the piece at WynnLiterature and the Wind Repertory Project.  Also, watch this great performance by a sixth grade band:

Clouds  depicts three different types of clouds: the cirrus, thundercloud, and cumulus.  Cirrus are long, thin, and whispy:

What McGinty calls “Thunderclouds” are known scientifically as cumulonimbus clouds.  They are tall, dense, and unstable, which makes them produce rain, lightning and thunder:

Cumulus clouds are the cumulonimbus’s fluffier, happier cousins. They do not tend to produce rain:

See more about Anne McGinty at Queenwood, MySpace, Wikibin, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Alfred Reed (1921-2005) was born in New York City.  He studied composition at the Juilliard School with Vittorio Giannini after a tour in the US Air Force during World War II.  He was later a staff arranger for NBC in the 1950s and a professor of music at Miami University from 1966 to 1993.  He is remembered today as a distinguished educator, conductor, and composer.  His impact was the greatest in the wind band world, where he left behind more than 100 frequently performed works.  He was particularly popular in Japan, where he developed a close relationship with the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra, and where many of his works are required literature for all bands.

Alfred Reed biography at C. L. Barnhouse music publishing.

Reed wrote Imperatrix as a middle school band piece in 1972.  While it isn’t a specifically programmatic piece, the title (it’s the Latin word for empress) suggests something elegant, epic, and ancient.  Says Reed about Imperatrix:

Imperatrix, A Concert Overture for Band, was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, the G. P. Babb Junior High School Band of Forest Park, Georgia, and its director, Donald E. Wilkes.  The work was written early in 1972, and the first performance took place on April 7th, 1972, when the Babb Junior High School Symphonic Band appeared at a concert given for the Georgia Music Educators Association All-State Junior High School Band and Orchestra meeting, with Mr. Wilkes conducting.

The music is in sectional form, opening with a broad introduction that states all of the thematic material from which the work will be built.  This is followed by a brilliant Allegro, commencing with a fanfare-like figure in the Brass and proceeding through a hard-driving development in non-traditional harmonic structures that finally dies away as the third section begins.  This contrasting episode is built up from a long, lyrical line sung by all of the Flutes in unison over a rich, warm and quiet background in the Clarinets, Baritones and Tuba.  The closing cadence of this section, like that of the first, leads back to the Allegro once again, which this time drives on into the Coda where all of the themes are restated in the brightest colors of the Band.  The work ends with a joyous and triumphant conclusion.

Imperatrix on Youtube:

Michael Colgrass (b. 1932) has distinguished himself as an innovative composer and a dedicated teacher of the creative process of composition.  He started his career as a jazz drummer in Chicago and New York, studying composition all along.  That is where he has made his mark, with commissions from prestigious ensembles all over the English-speaking world and a Pulitzer Prize among many other awards under his belt.  He currently lives in Toronto when he is not touring the world teaching middle- and high-school teachers and their students how to compose.  To see deeper into Colgrass’s fascinating life, check out the blog related to his autobiography, or visit his website, or watch the Emmy-winning documentary that his son made about his music.  Or, for extra kicks, see his Wikipedia biography.

Colgrass wrote Old Churches in 2000 on a commission from the American Composer’s Forum.  From the score:

According to composer Michael Colgrass, Old Churches is one of the most challenging pieces he can remember writing. His goal was to create music that was interesting, expressive and challenging, yet playable by students in the early stages of performing on their instruments and who are also unfamiliar with modern music techniques.

His solution was to write a work based on Gregorian vocal chant with unison melodies. Playing in unison helps student musicians feel more confident, and allowed Colgrass to copiously double the melodic lines. The tempo is slow; the phrases are all in quarter and eighth notes, and the harmonies are simple. Some easy graphic notation and chance techniques are employed, such as pitches played without rhythm, and a murmuring effect that simulates the idea of voices echoing in monastic churches. Colgrass hopes that Old Churches is a piece that conveys emotion at the same time it makes young bands sound good.

Old Churches uses Gregorian chant to create a slightly mysterious monastery scene filled with the prayers and chanting of monks in an old church. Gregorian chant is ancient church music and that has been in existence for over 1500 years. The chant unfolds through call and response patterns. One monk intones a musical idea, then the rest of the monks respond by singing back. This musical conversation continues throughout the piece, with the exception of a few brief interruptions. Perhaps they are the quiet comments church visitors make to one another.

Old Churches as performed live by the Detroit School of the Arts Wind Symphony:

What does Colgrass mean by Gregorian chant?  Here is a shining example, complete with pictures of an old church, sung by a soloist:

So many avenues are available to explore Old Churches: GIA publishes a downloadable study guide for the piece.  Colgrass featured it front and center in his 2004 Midwest Clinic presentation  about middle school bands: the handout is here.  Old Churches has dedicated write-ups at the Wind Repertory Project, the American Composer’s Forum, and Hal Leonard.  It was also featured in a master’s thesis (pdf download) at Kansas State University.

I hope Scott McKenzie will forgive me for quoting his website on almost every important point here.  He writes with a wonderful sense of humor.  His bio:

Scott McKenzie is a composer, arranger, and conductor currently serving as a band officer in the United States Army.  His oath and personal ethics stipulate that he can’t use his grade or position for personal gain, so that’s all he can say about that.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Virginia Tech and a Master of Music degree in composition from George Mason University, where he was a student of Dr. Glenn Smith and Mark Camphouse. He previously studied music education and conducting at Old Dominion University and the Peabody Conservatory. Prior to doing a crazy thing and enlisting in the Army, he taught band, chorus, and general music at the middle school level for four years.  If you taught middle school general music for any length of time, you might not think joining the Army was that crazy, either.

His Fanfare for Enduring Freedom was a 2007 winner of Dallas Wind Symphony’s ‘Call for Fanfares,’ and most recently, A Summer Breeze was named winner of the 2012 Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest (even  though it was composed almost entirely indoors).

Mr. McKenzie and his wife, Anne, have three children, Jimmy, Colleen, and Allie.  They reside wherever the Army sends them.

As he mentioned above, A Summer Breeze won the Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest, so I will conduct the New York premieres of it with that group this summer.  It is a short overture driven by a spritely 6/8 figure that McKenzie plays with throughout the piece: he spins it out into a dancing theme, then plays it against a more lyrical melody, reminiscent of the final movement of Holst’s Second Suite.  Says McKenzie:

Composed for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Band and premiered during the Independence Day and Change of Command concerts July 3,4, & 5, 2012 with the composer conducting

This piece was composed as a farewell gift to the TRADOC Band at the end of my two-year command.  My goal was simple: to write a short, fun, energetic, tuneful work that an Independence Day audience would enjoy on a first hearing.

As of now, I’ve written two pieces inspired by the seasons.  They are not necessarily intended to be performed together or as a suite, but if you think they’d work together in that fashion, knock yourself out.  The other piece is A Winter Flurry.

McKenzie has a wonderful website and a Soundcloud page with recordings of some of his work.  He was even kind enough to put up a rehearsal recording of A Summer Breeze!  Furthermore, you can look at McKenzie’s description of it on his website (quoted above) and view the full score here.  Finally, the Columbia Summer Winds played it at Central Park, and it sounded like this:

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was a nationalist Russian composer and master orchestrator famous for symphonic works like Scheherazade and Capriccio Espagnol.  He was born into a family with a history of military service in which he eventually followed.  He started piano lessons at age 6 and composition at 10. Around the time of his graduation from military school, he met Mily Balakirev, who introduced him to fellow young composers César Cui and Modest Mussorgsky, heightening Rimsky-Korsakov’s interest in a composition career.  Eventually, with the addition of Alexander Borodin, these composers would call themselves The Five and advocate for a specifically Russian approach to composition.  Later in his career, Rimsky-Korsakov became the Inspector of Bands for the Russian Navy as well as a professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, which now bears his name.

Procession of the Nobles (Cortége) was written in 1889 as part of the opera-ballet Mlada.  Although it was originally begun in 1872 as a collaborative effort with three other composers, the initial project fell through.  Rimsky-Korsakov completed it himself  nearly 20 years later.  I defer now to Eric Bromberger’s excellent program note for the Los Angeles Philharmonic:

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mlada, first produced in 1892, almost defies the effort to describe it. In form it is half-opera and half-ballet, and its libretto is unbelievably complex, even by the standards of opera librettos. Set a thousand years ago in an imaginary kingdom called Retra on the shores of the Baltic, Mlada tries to fuse Wagnerian opera with ancient Russian legend, and the result is an absolutely fantastic story. Princess Mlada, a role that is danced rather than sung, has been murdered by her rival Voyslava, who sets out to secure the love of Yaromir, Mlada’s lover. The story involves magic, evil spirits, and trips into the underworld, and at the climax an entire village is submerged by an overflowing lake and Yaromir and Mlada are seen ascending on a rainbow.

Mlada has not held the stage, and the only familiar music from it is the Procession of the Nobles, the orchestral introduction to Act II, which begins with a festival of tradespeople. The music bursts to life with a rousing brass flourish, soon followed by the processional music, a noble tune for strings in E-flat major. This is music of color and energy, and in the opera it is punctuated by shouts from the crowd at the festival. A central section just as vigorous as the opening leads to a return of the march tune and a rousing close.

Rimsky-Korsakov made an orchestral suite from the opera, of which Procession of the Nobles is the final movement.  You can see the full score here.  Also, there is another great program note from the University of Wisconsin bands.

Here is the standard band transcription, arranged by Erik Leidzen:

And now the original orchestral version:

There is also a very nice version for young band arranged by Jay Bocook:

Want to read a biography of Rimsky-Korsakov on the Internet?  You have a lot of options!  Try Wikipedia, allmusic, ClassicalNet, and Encyclopedia Britannica.  Also check out his collected works on IMSLP.

I conducted this at my very first concert with the Columbia University Wind Ensemble in 2002.  It was then conducted by Ena Shin at our joint concerts with the Yale Concert Band in 2007.  This summer (2013) Bill Tonissen will conduct it with the Columbia Summer Winds.

Objectively, Les Misérables stands as a genuine cultural phenomenon of 3 different centuries: it was originally a hugely popular novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862; it was adapted into a French language musical by composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricists Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel in 1980, then translated into English by Herbert Kretzmer for a still-running London production in 1985, followed by a 1987 Broadway production that won 8 Tony Awards and set records for the length of its run; in 2012 that musical was adapted into a film, which won 3 Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway as Fantine.

It tells the story of Jean Valjean, who is about to be released from prison as the story opens.  Valjean violates his parole and starts his life anew as a good man, only to be pursued for by Javert, a justice-obsessed police inspector.  These two and the many other characters are set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, culminating in the last stand of a band of young revolutionaries (one of whom is in love with Valjean’s adopted daughter) at a street barricade during the 1832 Paris Uprising, 17 years after the story begins.

The music from Les Misérables has become well known all over the world, and has been arranged for band many times.  The arrangement we are playing was done by Warren Barker in 1987, right when the musical first hit Broadway.  Here it is, played by the Acadian Wind Symphony:

One note: I am not a fan of drum set parts in symphonic music, even semi-pop tunes like this, so we will leave them out of our performance.

To go to the source, here are some performances of the songs in the arrangement.  It starts with “At the End of the Day”, a primarily choral number which depicts the misery of the lower classes in early 19th-century Paris.  This performance comes from the musical’s 10th anniversary concert staging at London’s Royal Albert Hall:

“I Dreamed a Dream” is Fantine’s solo about her unfulfilled dreams, sung as she faces the darkest days of her life, having lost her job and her daughter and been forced into prostitution.  This is Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-winning performance, intercut with other scenes from the film:

“Master of the House” is our introduction to the Thénardiers, a corrupt innkeeper and his wife who have been caring for Fantine’s daughter, Cosette (and taking her money) while neglecting her and showering gifts on their own daughter, Éponine.  This performance comes from the 2006 Broadway revival.  The meat of the song starts around 1:00:

The teenage Éponine sings “On My Own” as she realizes and accepts that the revolutionary leader, Marius, is in love with Cosette rather than her.  Sung by one of the classic Éponines, Linzi Hateley:

“Do You Hear the People Sing” is the big choral number in which the young revolutionaries rally the people of Paris to their cause.  Here it is as sung by 17 different Valjeans from around the world:

Dutch composer Johan de Meij (b. 1953) studied trombone and conducting at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague.  He now resides in the New York City area. He rose to international fame as a composer with his Symphony no. 1 “The Lord of the Rings”.  Written between 1984 and 1987, it was premiered in Brussels, Belgium in 1988.  It went on to win first prize in the Sudler International Wind Band Composition Competition in 1989, and a Dutch Composers Fund award in 1990, and has since become a cornerstone of the repertoire for high-level bands worldwide.  His subsequent compositions have also won numerous awards.  He remains active as a composer, euphonium and trombone player, and guest conductor of ensembles on five continents.

Songs from the Catskills was completed on St. Patrick’s Day, 2011.  De Meij provides his own program notes:

The Catskill Mountains is a beautifully preserved region in Upstate New York, flanked to the east by the Hudson River. From the moment my wife and I settled in 2008 in Saugerties, a quaint Hudson Valley town 100 miles north of Manhattan, I started immersing myself into the area’s rich musical history. Discovering a fascinating mix of American, Irish and Scottish folk music, ultimately, it was not easy to choose from such abundance. I ended up using the following six songs:

The Foggy Dew – is of Irish origin, but was adopted with another text into the local folk song repertoire;
Last Winter was a Hard One – tells the story of two Irish immigrant women who complain that their husbands can not find work, and that ‘Those Italians’ steal their jobs;
A Poor and Foreign Stranger – a gorgeous, heart-breaking ballad;
The Bluestone Quarries – describes the hard work in the nineteenth-century stone quarries. This song is very similar to When Johnny Comes Marching Home;
The Arkansas Traveler – made famous by folk singer Pete Seeger (If I Had a Hammer) The music makes a side trip to The Old Tobacco Box before coming to a festive conclusion.

Songs from the Catskills was commissioned by Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) and Scott A. Jones, Director of Bands, for its 2011 Honor Band Weekend. In April 2011, the work was premiered during this event, conducted by the composer.
The work is dedicated to Marilyn and Travis Rothlein, our dear friends and neighbors in the Catskills.

Website for Johan de Meij and his publishing company. Includes an extensive bio and works list, as well as a link to the above program notes.  Also check out de Meij’s Facebook fan page and his Wikipedia entry, or follow him on Twitter.

The Rio Bravo Wind Ensemble performs the full piece:

Now to dig into those folk songs: the first, The Foggy Dew, comes with several different texts attached. A British version is about a young man trying to woo a serving girl.  The Irish version, featured in the video below, depicts a scene from the Easter Uprising of 1916 (lyrics are in the video description).  Several more versions are collected here, including several different love stories, one of which has to do with the Bogle Bo (boogeyman). Here it is as performed by Sinead O’Connor and the Chieftains:

Last Winter Was a Hard One doesn’t have any play that I can find on YouTube.  Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that, as de Meij says, it curses out “Those Italians” that steal Irish immigrants’ jobs.  Read the lyrics, see the melody, and listen to an excerpt here.

A Poor and Foreign Stranger also has a life as A Poor Wayfaring Stranger.  Here, Peter Hollens and the Swingle Singers put on a very contemporary a cappella version of it that leaves the melody and the lyrics largely untouched:

For a more authentic, unadorned take, listen to Burl Ives:

The tune that de Meij calls Bluestone Quarries is also known as Pat Works on the Railway.  The lyrics differ only in the nature of the backbreaking labor that the young Irishman is engaging in.  Listen to a performance of the Railway version below:

The Arkansas Traveler used to be Arkansas’s state song.  It’s famous now as both a fiddle tune and the children’s classic My Baby Bumblebee.  It was used to lampoon country yokels in several Looney Tunes cartoons.  Watch Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys perform it:

The Old Tobacco Box, or There Was an Old Soldier probably dates from the Civil War era, given the wooden leg of its soldier protagonist.  It can be sung to the tune of Turkey in the Straw, but has its own tune that matches another called The Red Haired Boy: