Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25, 2010

If you missed the Timber City Band concert last evening, you missed out on a real treat. Director Jay Kahn put together one of the best ensembles in recent years and the group was definitely up to the challenges of the program. You missed a score of Sousa marches, including such well-known works El Capitan, The Thunderer and The Washington Post, as well as some of Sousa's lesser known, but still captivating marches: The Invincible Eagle and The Fairest of the Fair. There was also a tribute to other march composers--Henry Fillmore Americans We and Lassus Trombone, Karl King Barnum and Bailey's Favorite, and E. E. Bagley: National Emblem. Jerry Miller presided over the proceedings with a fabulous cornet solo, Herbert L. Clarke's Over the Waves. Of course, no concert of this sort would be complete without concluding with our national march Stars and Stripes Forever. It was a great joy to be a part of this wonderful concert (yours truly was half of the percussion section and even offered an unexpected solo when one of the cymbals went crashing to the concrete!)

Again I remind readers of the upcoming Tri-State Wind Symphony concert at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday July 1. Our own "Star Spangled Spectacular" promises to be an enjoyable evening of patriotic favorites.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22, 2010

This Thursday, June 24, brings the return of the Timber City Band to our summer concert series (at 7:30 p.m. as usual). My good friend Jay Kahn, who also serves as our concert announcer, has lined up a great ensemble and what promises to be a most enjoyable program. Jay is one of the most ingenious programmers I know, and the band will include a delightful mix of works both patriotic and novel, as the group prepares for concerts not in their home town of Maquoketa, but a special appearance on July 4 at the Tabor Family Vineyards. This is a show you won't want to miss (and the weather promises to be beautiful--after all, it's a Thursday night at Eagle Point Park!)

The Tri State Wind Symphony returns on July 1 for our annual Star-Spangled Spectacular concert, once again sponsored by our good friends at American Trust. I should also take the time to thank the other grant providers who have been so helpful to us this season. These include Mediacom and the Dubuque Racing Association. You have to be aware that only two years ago the band had no rehearsal facilities and very little equipment to speak of. Thanks to these kinds of grant dollars and the generosity of Westminster Presbyterian Church (for rehearsal facilities and storage), we're able to move forward toward becoming more and more independent. Largely our needs these days include grant dollars to assist us in increasing our music library. Band music is increasingly expensive, with the music for a given concert costing anywhere from $500 to $1000, depending on the compositions. But with the grant dollars we are able to gather, as well as our "passing the hat," our library will grow.

This week's concert will finally include a march by John Philip Sousa, his famous El Capitan. This was Sousa's number one encore march and was featured on nearly every concert that his famous band ever played. Originally composed in a vocal setting from an 1895 operetta of the same name, El Capitan was cast as a march in 1896. The original operetta was highly successful, but is seen very little these days. Fortunately, the march lives on as a delightful setting of Sousa's ability to adapt and expand.

America, or "My Country 'Tis of Thee, utilizes the same melody as the British national anthem "God Save the Queen." While the origins of the tune are largely unknown, it was apparently first performed in September 1745, making this tune the oldest selection on our concerts. John Cacavas' stunning concert slow march version was arranged especially for and dedicated to the U.S. Navy Band. It has been a part of the band's library for many years and is used on various important state occasions.

A native of Minnesota, John Zdechlik has written a large number of works for the concert band medium. Images of Aura Lee is presented as a peppy, two-step minstrel song; a somber, more serious statement symbolic of the Civil War, and a light-hearted Scottish dance. A section ensues which signals the struggles between the North and South before the conflict eventually subsides. In the last section, the song is stated in its entirety, and the piece concludes in a spirit of resolution and peace.

The sounds of the great American song book appear in Warren Barker's arrangement of Recorded by Sinatra. The "Chairman of the Board"'s greatest hits appear, including "High Hopes," "Young at Heart," "Love is the Tender Trap," "Love and Marriage." and "My Kind of Town."

The music of George M. Cohan has become synonymous with America and the Great White Way of Broadway. This music, which has inspired Americans for the last century with its rousing spirit and color, is ideally suited for the band. John Cacavas' arrangement of the music of Cohan--Star-Spangled Spectacular--includes some of the composer's most familiar melodies: "Mary's a Grand Old Name," "Give My Regards to Broadway," "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway." "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and "You're a Grand Old Flag."

Bob Lowden's Armed Forces Salute has been a part of these patriotic concerts since their inception many years ago. Containing the songs of each of the services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard), it is a fitting tribute to those men and women who have so nobly served our country in peace time and in war.

A symphonic prologue for winds, Rushmore by Alfred Reed was commissioned by the Rushmore Summer Music Camp in South Dakota in 1980. It was first performed that year by the camp's symphonic band under the direction of Kenneth Bloomquist (one of my former teachers!) As the composer writes, "A brooding, mystic opening, representing, perhaps, the four great faces carved in stone gazing over the plains of America, introduces a broad melodic line that is meant to symbolize the inner strength and calm majesty represented by these four great Americans as guardians of our tradition and faith in the freedom of man. As this theme is developed, rising ever higher in the band's registers, echoes of the opening fanfares enter, leading to a combination of this theme together with "America the Beautiful," and bringing the work to a close in all the majesty and colors of which the modern concert band or wind ensemble is capable."

John Philip Sousa wrote, "Here came one of the most vivid incidents of my career. As the vessel (the steamship Teutonic) steamed out of the harbor, I was pacing the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager's death and the many duties and decisions which awaited me in New York. Suddenly I began to sense the rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. It kept on ceaselessly, playing, playing, playing. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever been changed. The composition is known the world over as The Stars and Stripes Forever and is probably my most popular march.

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 17, 2010--The British Invasion Part 2

Another beautiful evening greeted the TSWS for its second Eagle Point concert of the 2010 season. As mentioned in my last post, the program featured music of the British Isles and the audience certainly appreciated this highly listenable but musically demanding program.

As expected, the highlight of the program (as evidenced by the appearance of dozens of cameras) was piper Bill McInnes joining the band for Highland Cathedral. Bill is the founder and leader of the Dubuque Fire Department Pipes and Drums and members of that group joined Bill for an encore. This marked the very first public performance of this ensemble and we were pleased to have them as a part of our TSWS performance. Several members of the fire department were on hand to support their colleagues and it made for a particularly grand evening.

Up next week (June 24) is the return of the Timber City Band from Maquoketa and their conductor and my good friend Jay Kahn. Jay really knows how to program a concert and I am sure that it will be a most enjoyable concert for all.

And of course, July 1 brings our annual Star Spangled Spectacular concert where we pull out all the patriotic stops, including a salute to veterans, an audience sing-along and much much more. But more about this is my next post.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The British Invasion

This week's (June 17) concert promises to be an enjoyable experience for audience and players alike. It includes works from the British Empire which have become a part of the canon of the contemporary wind band. There will be familiar pieces and some which may be new to members of the audience but we promise a concert which will be listenable in a very British style. So bring your picnic baskets and your wine (or better yet some appropriately British tea) and come and enjoy an evening of band music in the lovely surroundings of Eagle Point Park.

Kenneth Alford is best known for his march Colonel Bogey, which was featured by whistling British POW's in the classic film Bridge Over the River Kwai. Among his best marches, however, is Army of the Nile a British style "quick march." It is both stately and heroic, cast in a minor mode in its opening, before giving way to a major key in the trio. After a "dogfight" cast as a fanfare in the brass, the trio returns, with flittering woodwinds eventually handing off to the entire ensemble and closing in a glorious conclusion.

The suites for wind band by Gustav Holst have become landmarks of the wind band repertoire and the TSWS has performed the E-flat Suite on numerous occasions. Tonight we turn to the F Suite, which has not been presented for several seasons. It consists entirely of English folk songs and is cast in four movements, a march, a delicate "song without words, a spritely kind of scherzo (The "Song of the Blacksmith") and the concluding fantasia. Of particular interest is Holst's juxtaposition of two tunes, the "Dargason" and "Greensleeves" in the final movement. How he fits these two melodies together is a sign of his compositional genius. Also of note is Holst's orchestration in the conclusion where he crafts the piccolo and tuba in a most humorous duet. The Suite in F for Military Band is a favorite of the band and I am sure that the audience will feel much the same way.

Long before it was known as "Danny Boy," the Irish Tune from County Derry existed as a folk song which entered the collections of that unique musician Percy Aldridge Grainger. His setting of this lovely tune is simple yet stunning, cast in two verses. The brass and the saxophones present the first, giving way to the woodwinds in the second. The full band joins together in the concluding strains, enabling one of the most glorious climaxes in all of the band repertoire. I suspect that more than a few tears will be shed at the end of this beautiful work.

Piper Bill McInnes, a resident of Mount Horeb who leads the local bagpipe band, will be joining the ensemble for Highland Cathedral, following which he and some of his colleagues will offer a demonstration of the efforts of the local pipers. This should be a particularly special treat for all.

The English Folk Song Suite is another of those "old friends" of the contemporary band repertoire. Composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was a close friend and confident of Holst and the two shared a love of collecting British folk songs. Like the Holst Suite, the Vaughan Williams work consists entirely of folk songs but is crafted in a much different way, with two marches encircling an intermezzo.

The last three works on the program include tunes which will be well-known and well-loved. We offer Highlights from H.M.S. Pinafore, among the most well-loved operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Jim Parcel's London Bridge is a delightful romp through this familiar tune and includes a number of curious and interesting byways. John Cacavas has arranged a number of familiar melodies into his concert march Tunes of Glory, which is a fitting conclusion to this concert of the music of the British Isles. And who knows, this week we might even have an encore ready. Stay tuned......