Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Fall Concert "Centennials"

Last Saturday night (Oct. 22) the Concord Band performed the first concert of its 2011/2012 season. The band has now developed a strong following, especially for their winter pops concerts and their very popular summer concerts at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard. For those who haven’t heard the band in concert at the 51 Walden Street Performing Arts Center, I would strongly encourage you to check out their calendar and pick up some tickets. Concert band performances are very enjoyable by listeners of all ages and musical interests. Even the more serious pieces of contemporary band music tend to be accessible to the casual listener. Band works tend to be shorter than orchestral music, and generally very rhythmic and exciting. Saturday night’s performance was no exception.

The concert opened with “American Overture for Band” by Joseph Jenkins under the baton of James O’Dell. This stirring piece opened with a solid and dramatic fanfare very well played by the French horns. The piece continued with a pleasing melodic interchange punctuated with staccato elements cleanly articulated, especially in the brass sections. Louanne MacKenzie’s oboe “folk tune” solo was especially nice.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2011 Fall Concert

Centennials

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Concord Band

James O’Dell, Music Director
Steven Barbas, Assistant Conductor
Keith Brion, Guest Conductor

Program

James O’Dell conducting
American Overture for BandJoseph Willcox Jenkins (b. 1928)
Hymn to YerevanAlan Hovhaness (1911-2000)
Second Suite for Military Band in FMajor Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
  1. March
  2. Song Without Words “I’ll Love My Love”
  3. Song of the Blacksmith
  4. Fantasia on the “Dargason”
ContinuumRobert Buckley (b. 1946)

Intermission

Keith Brion conducting
Dwellers of the Western WorldJohn Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
  1. The Red Man
  2. The White Man
  3. The Black Man
The Boy Scouts of AmericaJohn Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
James O’Dell conducting
The GuideNoah D. Taylor (b.1982)
Keith Brion conducting
The National GameJohn Philip Sousa (1854-1932)

Read all notes for this program...

American Overture for Band

Joseph W. Jenkins (b. 1928)

This overture was written for the U.S. Army Field Band and dedicated to its conductor at the time, Chester E. Whiting. The piece is written in neo-modal style being strongly flavored with both Lydian and Mixolydian modes. Its architecture is a free adaptation of sonata form. The music material borders on the folk tune idiom, although there are no direct quotes from any folk tunes (Source: Band Music Notes, Norman Smith and Albert Stoutamire).

One of the most popular works of American composer Jenkins, the Overture is known for the virtuoso playing required of the French horn players. (Source: JRO)

Hymn to Yerevan

Alan Hovhaness (1911–2000)

Born in Somerville, Mass., Alan Hovhaness graduated from Arlington High School and The New England Conservatory, and taught at The Boston Conservatory. His compositional output spans hundreds of compositions for all ensembles and instruments (Source: JRO).

The ancient city of Yerevan, at the foot of majestic, towering Mount Ararat, is the home of Armenians who found refuge there from many massacres. The music, composed in the ancient fifth mode (“kimtza”) of the Armenian Church, is in Sharagan or Armenian Hymn style. A solemn contrapuntal motet expresses sorrow, strength and spiritual resurrection. A middle section, in free rhythmless chaos of bells and roaring trombones, celebrates a dauntless defiance of tragedy. The solemn contrapuntal hymn returns, heroic and triumphal. (Source: Alan Hovhaness)

Second Suite in F Major

Gustav Holst (1874–1934)

The Second Suite in F was written in 1911 and is considered one of the cornerstones of the concert band literature. Composed for “Military Band” (which is the English designation for full band instrumentation as opposed to a British Brass Band), the four-movement suite presents a variety of English folk songs and other dance tunes. The first movement begins with a “Morris Dance” with roots from the Renaissance, followed by the folk song “Swansea Town,” and then “Claudy Banks”. The second movement is a slow, lyrical love song “I’ll Love my Love.” The third movement, “The Song of the Blacksmith,” is a clever rhythmic display that includes the blacksmith’s punctuating anvil, and the fourth movement is a country dance and folk song titled “The Dargason.” (Source: JRO)

Continuum

Robert Buckley (b. 1946)

This exciting, innovative new work from Robert Buckley was commissioned by the Troy University Symphony Band in honor of the 37th annual Southeastern United States Concert Band Clinic in Alabama 2011. Using a recurring two-measure loop, this uniquely constructed piece is built up around various musical building blocks that are constantly evolving and transforming. The music is dramatic and dynamic, with full-blown ensemble passages suddenly dropping to quiet, powerful moments without ever losing the music’s continuous drive. Following an exotic, bluesy middle section, the piece builds, accelerating to a thrilling, rhythmic, percussive finish. (Source: published score)

Dwellers of the Western World

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)

This three-movement suite depicts the three major races who occupied the Western World: first, American Indians; then, white settlers from Western Europe; and finally, the great energy of the African population who followed. Each are represented by music that would have been thought to be characteristic in 1910. "The White Man" music depicts the settling and building of America. It is crowned with a grand symphonic setting of Sousa's religious anthem “Oh thou American, Messiah of Nations.” The suite was composed in anticipation of Sousa's celebrated year-long 1911 round-the-world tour, and was well received in each country where the band visited. (Source: Keith Brion)

The Boy Scouts of America

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)

This march, written in 1916, is a lighthearted, upbeat depiction of scouting, even including a whistling section. Sousa said the march “absolutely breathes the boy; it visualizes the supple step of the boy marching, and not the heavy tread of the man.” The Boy Scouts of America celebrated their 100th year anniversary this past year. (Source: Keith Brion)

The Guide

Noah Taylor (b.1982)

The Guide was written as a commission for the Metropolitan Wind Symphony after Taylor was named winner of the 2005 North American Student Composer Competition held by the group. The Guide was premiered in May of 2007 by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. The work is dedicated to the idea of those individuals that provide direction and leadership to others. (Source: published score)

The National Game

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932)

Composed at the request of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, major league baseball’s first high commissioner, Sousa’s setting featured four baseball bat solos and is a great musical tribute to “America's Pastime” (Source: Keith Brion). A true gem, The National Game captures all of the excitement of being at the ball park with the “boys of summer”. (Source: JRO)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Guest Conductor Spotlight: Keith Brion

Keith Brion
Guest Conductor
Keith Brion has led his popular Sousa at the Symphony performances with nearly all of America's major and regional orchestras and in countless repeat performances. In addition, he has led numerous general pops programs. He also tours nationally with his own New Sousa Band. The authentic Sousa programs are a fulfillment of his longstanding ambition to take a fresh look at America's musical traditions. These modern recreations have proved to be as alive today as they were over a century ago. Building on Sousa’s own considerable background as a violinist and orchestral composer, they are the result of research in libraries, newspapers, museums, interviews with former Sousa band members, and the study of old recordings. He is a past pops conductor of the Harrisburg Symphony and of Palo Alto’s Summer Symphony series. He has made numerous recordings. Mr. Brion is a former director of the Yale University Band, which he led at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

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