Saturday, February 24, 2018

Anniversaries

The Concord Band is joining music groups around the world in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of American composer Leonard Bernstein. The Band’s Winter Concert on Saturday March 3, 2018 will include three selections by Bernstein: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town, the Overture from Candide, and “A Simple Song” from Mass. In addition, the Concord Band’s Music Director James O’Dell is programming other pieces that involve anniversaries in 2018, including works by Charles Gounod, Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Leroy Anderson.

Leonard Bernstein wrote his first Broadway musical On the Town based on the successful Bernstein-Jerome Robbins’ ballet Fancy Free earlier in 1944. On the Town follows the adventures of three sailors on shore leave in New York City and is focused on a series of dance episodes choreographed by Robbins; the three dances were selected by Bernstein for an orchestral suite. The band transcription is by Paul Lavender.

Leonard Bernstein
composer and conductor
Candide is a comic operetta written by Bernstein in 1956 and is based on Voltaire’s 1759 novella. Although the operetta was not successful at the time, the overture was well received from the start, and it promptly became a very popular curtain-raiser. Bernstein himself conducted the overture with the New York Philharmonic in January 1957. Brilliantly scored, it has a certain type of vitality that is not easy to match.

Bernstein wrote Mass in 1971 on commission from Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. “A Simple Song” is the second movement and has become the best-known and most often recorded song from this 32-movement theatre piece for singers, players, and dancers. Featuring a trumpet solo as well as solo spots for trombone and baritone, this beautifully poignant setting has been transcribed from the original by Michael Sweeney.

French composer Charles Gounod was born in 1818 and the Band will perform his Petite Symphonie (Nonet) and Funeral March of a Marionette. The latter was originally written for solo piano and then orchestrated a few years later by Gounod. It is perhaps best known as the theme music for the television program “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” The Petite Symphonie is for 2 each oboes, clarinets, horns, bassoons, and one flute.

Gustav Holst’s The Planets was premiered in 1918. The Concord Band will play the first movement, “Mars: The Bringer of War.” For another noted composer for British military bands, Percy Grainger, 1918 was also a significant year. Grainger became a U.S. citizen that year after serving throughout World War I as a U.S. Army bandsman, and that year he published two of his enduring settings for band based on British Isles’ folk songs: Irish Tune from County Derry and Shepherds Hey. These separate pieces were published together and so will be performed as a suite.

In 1918, Gustav Holst’s friend Ralph Vaughan Williams became the director of bands for the British Army. In 1924 Vaughan Williams composed an original work for band, Toccata Marziale, in commemoration of the British Empire Exhibition. The piece is considered a masterpiece of both counterpoint and instrumental color, and holds an important place in the wind band repertoire.
Richard Given
trumpet

A Trumpeter’s Lullaby was written by Leroy Anderson at the request of Roger Voisin, principal trumpet of the Boston Pops, who asked that Anderson write a trumpet solo for him to play with the Pops. Voisin, who was born in 1918, suggested it be different from traditional trumpet solos “which are all loud, martial, or triumphant.” Anderson said it occurred to him that he had never heard a lullaby for trumpet so he wrote a quiet melody based on bugle notes played by the trumpet and with the rest of the orchestra playing a lullaby background. The piece is now famous around the world in orchestra and band versions orchestrated by Anderson himself. At the March 3 concert, the trumpet solo will be played by the Concord Band’s principal trumpet Richard Given, who for four years was a student of “his hero” Roger Voisin.

The Concord Band’s March 3 concert will be held at 8:00 pm at the Performing Arts Center at 51 Walden Street in Concord. The concert is free with donations gratefully accepted. The Concord Band is supported by grants from Concord, Harvard, and Bolton Cultural Councils, agencies of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

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