Saturday, July 9, 2011

What's next, Brian?

What's this got to do with band music?

I know that readers of this blog (are there any?) must be waiting with baited breath for information on our upcoming concert, to be held on Thursday, July 14. I know it's Bastille Day and Dubuque was founded by a Frenchman (sort of) but we've been down that road before. Besides, our library is quite limited and our collection of French music even more so! Thus, it's up to the maestro to be creative.

This kind of program has been somewhere in the back of my mind for a few years now, but I never got daring enough to try to pull it off. But now that everyone knows that I'm a little crazy in terms of programing, I think I can get away with it.

We're a summer band, so what literature do we never get to perform? You've got it: Christmas music! So, this year, it's pull out all the sleigh bells and celebrate Christmas in July! (Yes, by jove, I think he's really lost it now.

We'll be opening in the expected manner, with our now "famous" fanfare and the national anthem, but any relationship to a "normal" concert ends right there. Even though there are countless Christmas tunes and medleys, there are bound to be some repetitions of tunes and for that, I will not apologize. It is interesting to see how different composers treat a given melody in very different ways.
Claude Smith
So as to not give away the entire program, there will not be a complete run-down of the pieces, but I would like to highlight at least three works. Lest anyone think I am crazy, we will begin and end the program with the same tune--but in radically different ways.

Alfred Reed
I like to call the late Claude T. Smith, the "composer who never met an irregular meter he didn't like." The guy would write the most wonderful pieces, but would always sneak in a bar of 5/8 or 7/8 (or something equally as funky) when you would least expect it. His Symphonic Prelude on Adeste Fidelis breaks the mold: except for a measure of two, the whole piece is written in common time. Smith fans, believe it or not, it is true. Basically, it's just three verses of the tune stated once in the brass, once in the woodwinds, and finishing with the entire ensemble. Sounds simple and it probably is. That's kind of it's appeal: no flash, no splash, just good solid writing for everybody.

Somewhere in the middle of the program (I'm still sorting that out as I write) will appear a piece probably as unknown to the audience as it is to the ensemble: Alfred Reed's A Christmas Intrada. This fabulous work, written by the composer of Russian Christmas Music (we'll save that one for another time: it's fourteen minutes long!) has five little vignettes, each depicting a different aspect of the nativity: a fanfare, lullaby, procession, carol and the closing Alleluia. I don't think that there is a single borrowed melody in the whole piece which adds to its interest. Still it is written with Mr. Reed's supreme command of the power and glory of the modern concert band.

Will we play it?
As I've said, we'll be ending the concert as we began, but the wine will definitely be in different bottles, as we'll present Leroy Anderson's magnificent Christmas Festival. I cannot count the number of times I have conducted this with bands and orchestras but, quite frankly, never tire of it. My own favorite section is near the end when Anderson "morphs" Jingle Bells into Oh Come, All Ye Faithful (emblazoned by the trombones). I always know it's coming and I always get shivers and hope you do too.

Maybe this one week I'm hoping for a really hot night so we can play some cool melodies!

In case you've forgotten: Thursday, July 14, 7:30 p.m., Eagle Point Park Bandshell (and feel free to sing!)

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