Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review: Songs and Dances

Concord Band Fall Concert

October 21, 2017 

Review by Gretchen C. D’Andrea
Music Teacher, Whitin Elementary School

Concord Band’s Songs and Dances was a musical banquet of riches. Maestro James O’Dell, the wind ensemble’s director, confidently adapted to the demands of a stylistically ambitious program. The musicians were excellent. It’s a shame all seats weren’t filled.

John Rabinowitz
alto saxophone
Saucedo’s optimistic Song and Dance was first. A buoyant theme hinted at positive possibilities. It surrendered to sassy sixties-style syncopation, ending joyously with a return to the expansive theme.

Latham’s Court Festival, well suited to the acoustics of Concord’s 51 Walden, was a modern take on antiphonal Renaissance music, with conversations between brass and woodwinds. A tart little piccolo solo danced. Dynamic changes were difficult then, but no problem for today’s instruments.

In an arrangement of Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, expressive saxophone soloist, John Rabinowitz, played beautifully. After the ensemble entered, the tempo moved too quickly. Delicious crescendos needed more time to develop, and felt overwhelming in the space. Nonetheless, Debussy’s unique musical tapestry was a treat.

Gilmore’s intriguing Five Folk Songs involve characters ‘dancing’ to the tunes of various constructs of society; war, the cotton industry, villagers, beauty and music. This selection was the evening’s highlight; perfect for this ensemble.

Alyssa Becker
mezzo-soprano
Balance, blend and timing are crucial elements in an ensemble. O’Dell’s skill insured instrumentation didn’t obscure text.

Alyssa Becker’s smooth mezzo-soprano coaxed lyric to life. Becker’s spinning tone, lovely on sustained notes, displayed excellent control in a hummed coda on "All the Pretty Little Horses". Use of blues in descending melodic pattern was a striking reminder of people’s plight. Clarinet solos were clean, supple; akin to vocals; oboe incandescent. A triangle sparkled brightly. Though flutes were together, "Mrs. McGrath"’s cheerful intro lacked cohesion and dragged slightly in places, yet ironic juxtaposition of text and tune was evident. At its conclusion, a slower version of the theme might better mirror the song’s mood change. "El Burro," a plaintive flute solo on unique ebony instrument was lovely.

Superfluous Havendance was possessed of frenetic, exciting charm.

Programmed last, Cajun Folk Songs was the band’s ‘Heartbreak Hill’. A solo saxophone sang true, and gorgeous themes emerged, but concentration faded, and minor intonation issues resulted. The low brass section provided anchors; centering pitch.

Cantus was entrancing-from wind chime opening to resonant conclusion. Shimmery chord changes lent an otherworldly feel; ocean background track provided a gentle wash of sound. Large moments did not overwhelm, and a sense of peace pervaded.

Audiences never tire of Copland. Players seemed to enjoy it too, for everything was tight. The trumpet solo was crisp perfection. I wish this selection was programmed last, as a joyous bookend to the Saucedo.

This community band is a treasure, providing connections in our insular world. Stravinsky said, “I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I felt it.” When ensembles that are led with care play with thought and passion, music’s artistic mission is fulfilled, and we are moved.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fall Concert

Songs and Dances

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Concord Band

James O’Dell, Music Director 

Program

Song and DanceRichard L. Saucedo
Court FestivalWilliam P. Latham
  1. Intrada
  2. Pavan
  3. Galliard
  4. “The Horses” Branle
The Girl with the Flaxen HairClaude Debussy; arr. Moss
John Rabinowitz, Alto Saxophone Soloist
Five Folk Songs for Soprano and Wind BandBernard Gilmore
  1. Mrs. McGrath (Irish)
  2. All the Pretty Little Horses (American)
  3. Yerakina (Greek)
  4. El Burro (Spanish)
  5. A Fidler (Yiddish)
Alyssa Becker, Mezzo-Soprano Soloist

Intermission

HavendanceDavid R. Holsinger
Cantus (Song of Night)Thomas Doss
Old American SongsAaron Copland; arr. Moss
  1. The Golden Willow Tree
  2. Simple Gifts
  3. Ching-A-Ring Chaw
Cajun Folk SongsFrank Ticheli
  1. La Belle et le Capitaine
  2. Belle

Song and Dance

Song and Dance by Richard L. Saucedo begins by taking the form of a traditional fanfare/overture. Where the “dance” section of the piece begins is very obvious, due to the simple woodblock part. The dance section offers solo and soli opportunities for clarinet, flute, and bassoon. (Source: published score)

Court Festival

William P. Latham’s Court Festival is a suite in the style of instrumental dance music of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, used at various European court festivals and other ceremonies.  The “Intrada” (literally entrance) is an opening piece of festive or march-like character. The “Pavan” is a stately dance in duple meter; the “Galliard” is a gay dance in triple meter.  The “Branle” was a very popular 16th century dance. It was danced everywhere—in the country and in the courts—and included singing, swaying movements of the body and the hands, and pantomime. (Source: published score)

The Girl With The Flaxen Hair

Claude Debussy wrote two sets of preludes between 1910 and 1913. The best of them are among the finest miniatures in piano literature. Each prelude is relatively short in duration, free in form and has the character of an improvisation. A true musical gem in the collection is The Girl With The Flaxen Hair, which was likely inspired by a work by mid-century French poet, Leconte de Lisle. Evocative and enchanting, the melody of this piece is one of Debussy’s most exquisite. (Source: published score)

Five Folk Songs for Soprano and Wind Band

Five Folk Songs for Soprano and Wind Band was written in 1966 by Bernard Gilmore and cited as the best original composition at the 1967 College Band Directors National Association annual conference. It was inspired by folk recordings of Theodore Bikel and groups like the Limelighters. The bouncy opening Irish tune, “Mrs. McGrath,” is an ironic commentary on the horrors of war. “All the Pretty Little Horses” is a lullaby featuring a solo clarinet. “Yerakina” suggests a traditional Greek dance through the usage of slow, rhythmic ostinato and tonic pedal. “El Burro” depicts the tragic death of an animal important to a village through a mournful and processional dirge. “A Fidler” is a humorous and playful Yiddish tune depicting a young musician's first violin lesson and his mother's dream of him becoming a great virtuoso. (Source: published score and Wikipedia)

Havendance

David Holsinger’s first child, his daughter Haven, was the inspiration for his 1983 composition Havendance. Its driving rhythms represent the energy of an eight year old, who was constantly dancing and twirling around the house, dreaming of being a ballerina. The composition undergoes several variations in style, but it is always filled with energy. Some passages evoke the image of a single dancer, with solo pirouettes and leaps; these light efforts grow to draw in the full dance company with an unrelenting, underlying rhythm. (Source: David Bruce Adams)

Cantus

Cantus is the Latin word for song—and so this Thomas Doss piece is a meditation set to music in a vocal, melodious way. It should motivate to turn one's gaze inward, to switch off and let oneself be carried away by the music, to find an inner rest that opens up a window to the “Self.” The pictures and thoughts that are rising in this meditation can be of events, landscapes, life, or people we have close relationships with. (Source: published score)

Old American Songs

Aaron Copland arranged his second set of Old American Songs for piano and voice, drawing on American folk tunes as the source material. “The Golden Willow Tree” is an Anglo-American ballad known as “The Golden Vanity,” a melody used by English composer Benjamin Britten. “Simple Gifts” is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. Copland used the melody for the score of Martha Graham's ballet Appalachian Spring. The raucous and lively minstrel song “Ching-A-Ring Chaw” was originally arranged for mixed chorus by Irving Fine. The band arrangement by John Moss superbly captures the simple beauty of Copland’s American setting. (Source: JRO)

Cajun Folk Songs

Cajuns are descendants of the Acadians, a group of early French colonists who began settling in Acadia (now Nova Scotia) around 1604. In 1755 they were driven out by the British, eventually resettling in South Louisiana. Cajun Folk Songs was composed by Frank Ticheli as a tribute to the people of the old Cajun folksong culture. “La Belle et le Capitaine” tells the story of a young girl who feigns death to avoid being seduced by a captain. “Belle” is about a man who goes to Texas only to receive word of his sweetheart’s illness. Finding her unconscious upon his return to Louisiana, he pawns his horse to try to save her, to no avail. (Source: Composer)

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