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Category Archives: Summer 2015

I learned this summer that summer itself is a somewhat squishy and pliable idea that means different things to different people.  As I write this recap on August 9, the eve of my first day teaching at a new school after more than three months at home, I have friends and colleagues who have been announcing on Facebook that their summer is just beginning!

This summer was the quietist I have had in many years, with no conducting obligations at all due to the arrival of our first child.  Days after that, I finished my work at Arizona State University, where I had a wonderful experience and came out with a DMA degree!  Among my greatest accomplishments is my thesis, “An Annotated Bibliography of Symphonies for Wind Band” (pdf).  A searchable web version of that is currently in the works, coming soon!

I remain on the board of the world’s best outdoor summer band, Columbia Summer Winds.  The conductors (William Tonissen, Sarah Quiroz, and Greg Whitmore) had a wonderful program lined up for their concerts in New York City this summer.  Remarkably, they had no weather cancellations at all!  See their full schedule here.

Ecstatic Fanfare – Steven Bryant

Molly on the Shore – Percy Grainger

If You Could Only See The Frog – Paul Richards

Second Suite in F – Gustav Holst

Selections from Into the Woods – Stephen Sondheim/arr. Bulla

The Hounds of Spring – Alfred Reed

The Stars and Stripes – John Philip Sousa

I also spent some time at the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles (WASBE) Conference in San Jose, California in July.  This resulted in a digest of each day of the conference (even after I left, thank you conference program and the Internet).

Day 1 – San Francisco Wind Ensemble and University of Maryland Wind Orchestra

Day 2 – James Logan High School Band (reading session), University of Houston Symphonic Band, Brooklyn Wind Symphony

Day 3 – Ohlone Wind Orchestra (reading session), Israel National Youth Wind Orchestra, Landesblasorchester Baden-Württemberg

Day 4 – Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble (reading session), Temple University Chamber Winds, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wind Ensemble, University of Louisville Wind Ensemble

Day 5 – University of Saskatchewan Wind Orchestra (reading session), Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble, New Edmonton Wind Sinfonia, Lone Star Wind Orchestra

Day 6 – New Edmonton Wind Sinfonia (reading session), University of Saskatchewan Wind Orchestra, San Jose Wind Symphony, Dallas Winds

Day 7 – Amador Valley High School Band (reading session), Showa Wind Symphony, WASBE Youth Wind Orchestra

This was a wonderful conference that I highly recommend everyone attend in the future.  Next one: Utrecht 2017.

Finally, I got into the music review business with a review of Twisted Skyscape, a new album of music for woodwind orchestra.

Stephen Sondheim (b. 1935) is a New York native and one of the most celebrated composers of musical theatre.  He began his career under the mentorship of Oscar Hammerstein II, one of the great names of 20th century Broadway.  Sondheim got an early career break writing the lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story in 1957.  He has since had a distinguished career that has encompassed almost two dozen musicals, many of which have been made into films, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1986).  He has won more Tony Awards (8) than any other composer.

Into the Woods, with music by Sondheim and book and lyrics by James Lapine, debuted on Broadway in 1987.  It tells the story of a childless Baker and the Baker’s Wife, who are cursed by an evil Witch.  Their adventures intersect several fairy tale stories by the Brothers Grimm, including Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk.  The original production won Tony Awards for Best Original Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason). The musical has been revived several times around the world.  In 2014, it was released as a movie version by the Walt Disney company.

Stephen Bulla’s band arrangement of Selections from Into the Woods covers four of the numbers from the musical, including “Into the Woods,” “No One Is Alone,” “I Know Things Now,” and “Children Will Listen.”  Here it is in live performance:

To give you an idea of the visuals, here is a preview reel from the Public Theater‘s production in 2012.  This also includes a substantial portion of the song “Into the Woods” that opens the medley:

Here is “No One Is Alone” from a 1989 PBS special that filmed the original Broadway production:

Next, “I Know Things Now” from the 2014 Disney movie version:

Finally, “Children Will Listen” sung in concert by Bernadette Peters, one of the great Sondheim interpreters and Into the Woods‘s original Broadway Witch:

Bonus: my personal favorite song from the musical, which did not make the Selections: “Agony!”

Read more about Into the Woods on Wikipedia and IMDB.  Sondheim has tributes everywhere and then some, but a look at his Wikipedia page will give you plenty of insight into the man and the artist.

New York City native Paul Richards (b. 1969) is an award winning composer who presently teaches composition at the University of Florida.  He has received commissions from organizations around the United States.  His works run the gamut from solo and chamber works to large ensemble and theatre works, including a dozen works for wind band to date.

If You Could Only See the Frog was written in 2008 on a commission from the Saint Mary’s University Concert Band, directed by Dr. Janet Heukeshoven, director, with support from the Sam & Helen Kaplan Foundation.  It was the winner of the 2014 Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest.  Richards explains it on his website:

“Si Veriash a la Rana” (“If You Could Only See the Frog”) is the title of a children’s song from Bulgaria sung by exiled Jews in the Spanish-Jewish dialect of Ladino:

If you could only see the little frog sitting on the oven, frying her fritas and sharing with her sisters!
If you could only see the little mouse sitting in the corner, shelling walnuts and sharing with her sisters!
If you could only see the little camel sitting on the dough-board, rolling out filo thinner than hair!

The deceptively simple and playful tune stems from a wide range of cultural influences, combining typically Ladino melodic figurations with a traditional Bulgarian metric construction, punctuated by a curious refrain in Turkish that simply means, “I love you so much”.
This concert band piece is a percussion-driven exploration of this infectious and time-tested melody.

The University of Florida Wind Ensemble gives a rousing performance:

To really get into the sound world that this melody came from, you should listen to the extra videos below.  Here is a folky version of the original tune:

And a more pop version:

And another folk version with a more instrumental emphasis:

Steven Bryant (b. 1972) is an acclaimed, award-winning composer whose works often straddle different media.  He is a three-time recipient of the National Band Association’s William D. Revelli Composition Award (2007, 2008, 2010). His first orchestral work, Loose Id for Orchestra, was “orchestrated like a virtuoso” according to celebrated composer Samuel Adler.  His unique works for wind band and electronics have received more performances than any other pieces of their kind.  His other work includes pieces for wind band (some with added electronics), orchestra, chamber ensembles, and electronic music.  He studied composition at The Juilliard School with John Corigliano, at the University of North Texas with Cindy McTee, and at Ouachita University with W. Francis McBeth.

Ecstatic Fanfare was extracted in 2012 from a larger work, Ecstatic Waters (2008).  The fanfare uses some of the tutti material from the larger work’s opening movement.  In Bryant’s words, “Unlike that work, this one does NOT require electronics, water glasses, a Celesta, or a Mahler Hammer. ;)”

Listen to the original band version of Ecstatic Fanfare as played by the US Army Band:

It also exists in a version for orchestra:

See more about Ecstatic Fanfare, including another recording and a perusal score, on Bryant’s website.

Bryant likes and is comfortable in electronic media.  He has a YouTube account, a Twitter handle, and a Facebook fan page.  He has a fantastic website with a blog attached.  He also numbers the revisions of his music like computer software: for instance, his latest version of Dusk is version 1.4.  In his words, “The old version (1.2) is NOT compatible” with the new.  He also writes dedicated electronic music.  My favorite, which I heard when I sat in at his session at the Ball State University Conducting Workshop in 2012, is called Hummingbrrd.  Click the link to listen, and prepare to be amazed!