Monday, January 14, 2013

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in its Original Setting


The Concord Band continues a significant 54th season with its annual Winter Concert, presented at the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden Street in Concord, on Saturday, March 2, at 8:00 PM. Rhapsody in Blue, features internationally acclaimed pianist Michael Lewin playing two monumental works for piano by American composers: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin and Célèbre Tarantelle by Louis Moreau Gottschalk. The program (subtitled “Made in America”) consists of works written between 1858 and 1950, all but one by American composers.


Henry Fillmore dedicated Americans We “to all of us”. It is is a thoroughly happy work, widely recognized as one of his best marches.

Variations on America was originally written for organ by Connecticut native Charles Ives in 1891, and performed by the composer for his organ recitals in Danbury and Brewster, NY. This clever and inventive work is one of the earliest examples of polytonality and in many moments presents musical material in two and three keys at the same time.

The music of Robert Russell Bennett has had a monumental influence on American music and composers, and his orchestrations of more than 200 musicals established his distinctive and unique “Broadway sound” ―recognized worldwide. One of his original compositions for concert band, written in 1950, is Suite of Old American Dances, a five-movement work that captures the festive character and mood of a traditional Saturday night barn dance. Described by the composer as “native American dance forms treated in a ‘riot’ of instrumentation colors”, the Suite superbly presents the undeniably American sound of the composer.

Combination March, one of composer Scott Joplin’s earliest works, was his second published march (1896). Gunther Schuller arranged the March in the early 1970’s for the New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble, which performed the arrangement under Schuller’s direction at the Festival of American Music at NEC.

Percy Grainger came to America from Australia in 1915 as a recognized pianist and a leading interpreter of the Grieg Concerto. His distinctive orchestrations and use of instrument timbre (tone color), specifically in the larger lower reeds (bassoon, bass clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophone) are clearly evident in the composition Children’s March, Over the Hills and Far Away. This lighthearted and fanciful march was one of the first works for concert band to include piano as an integral part of the arrangement.

One of the most widely performed works for piano and instrumental ensemble is Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. Written in 1924 and performed on February 12 of that year by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra with Gershwin on piano, the work was orchestrated by the famous arranger Ferde Grofé. The original orchestration was scored for Whiteman’s jazz band (consisting of 24 winds) plus strings, and was later re-orchestrated by Grofé for larger and larger ensembles. In 1938 Grofé scored it for concert band (four years before the orchestral score) but the published band version required substantial editing and contained many errors and reharmonizations not true to the original version. The accompaniment featured on the Winter Concert is a special setting by Thomas Verrier, carefully constructed from authentic original resources, archival materials and manuscripts. Piano soloist Michel Lewin has performed Rhapsody in Blue more than 50 times with orchestras throughout the US and abroad, but this is his first performance of the solo with concert band!

Louis Moreau Gottschalk was born in New Orleans in 1829 and at a young age moved to France to continue his musical studies. At 16 he presented a recital at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, where Chopin predicted he would become a major piano soloist. Composed between 1858 and 1864, Célèbre Tatantelle is a bright, fast Italian folk dance in 6/8 time, featuring whirling rhythms and traditionally accompanied by tambourines. Piano soloist Michael Lewin is featured on this arrangement for piano and concert band.

Music Director James O'Dell
James O’Dell became the third Music Director of the Concord Band after the Band’s 50th Anniversary concert in March 2009. He has been professionally active in instrumental music and music education since 1980. Mr. O’Dell holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Southern Oregon University and a Master of Music in Tuba, Euphonium, and Bass Trombone Performance from the University of Oregon. His graduate work also included residency at Arizona State University in the DMA program.

Mr. O’Dell is currently the Associate Dean of the Boston Conservatory, a post he assumed after serving as Director of the Conservatory’s Music Division and most recently Dean ad interim. He is Associate and Principal Guest Conductor of the Metropolitan Wind Symphony and past Music Director of the Middlesex Concert Band and the Southeastern MA Community Concert Band. Mr. O’Dell has served as Director of Bands at Boston University and Mansfield University (PA). He is founder of the New England Collegiate Jazz Festival, Boston Tuba Christmas, and cofounder of the Boston Tuba Quartet and The Brass Consortium.

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