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Music Program Notes for
Band and Wind Ensemble Music

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Richard Wagner

An intellectual and philosopher, Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883) was one of the world's greatest composers. He became obsessed with music as a teenager after hearing works by Beethoven at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany, and he used his musical inspiration and knowledge of the theater to compose operas. Wagner raised German opera to new heights by uniting music and drama.

Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral

“Lohengrin” is a three-act romantic opera based on mythological medieval themes. Set in 10th century Antwerp, Freidrich von Telramund and his wife Ortrud seek to usurp the dukedom by killing Gottfried, the rightful heir, and accusing his sister, Elsa, of the crime. With the issue to be settled by combat, Elsa prays for a champion that appears as a mysterious knight in a boat drawn by a swan. The knight will defend Elsa if she agrees never to ask his name or origin. Successful in battle, the knight spares Telramund, who is banished. Elsa agrees to marry her mystery suitor and Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral portrays the solemn and regal journey to the cathedral. It precedes the very familiar Wedding March known by most young girls. Ortrud sows seeds of doubt about the mysterious knight. In the bridal chamber, Elsa finally broaches the question. Before her new husband has time to answer, Telramund bursts into the chamber with cohorts intent on murder, but it is Telramund who is slain. Lohengrin reveals his name, his status as a knight of the Holy Grail and son of Parsifal, and having done so, he must leave. As he returns to the swan boat, Elsa’s grief over her brother elicits Lohengrin to say a prayer. The swan morphs into Gottfried, who had been bewitched by the evil Ortrud. At Lohengrin’s departure, Elsa dies of a broken heart for the loss of her true love.

Richard Wagner completed “Lohengrin” in 1847. In a run of bad reviews of his earlier pieces, he couldn’t get the opera produced by the Dresden Opera. Wagner took part in the short-lived May Revolution; evading arrest, he took exile in Switzerland. Seeking to have his opera performed, he was successful in gaining the support of Franz Liszt, composer and court conductor, who premiered the opera in 1850. It wasn’t until eleven years later that Wagner heard it performed on a visit to Vienna.

The Ride of the Valkyries

The Ride of the Valkyries opens Act III of Die Walküre, the second of four operas by Wagner that comprise The Ring of the Nebelungs. These operas are based on a Norse saga about the pursuit of a magical golden ring by maidens, dwarfs, gods, and giants. The scene opens with a view of a rocky mountain top crowned by storm clouds and lightning. The Valkyries, warrier-daughters of the god Wotan, ride through the rocky landscape on their airborne horses to transport the fallen heros of battle to Valhalla. Wagner’s music captures the energy of battle cries and the action of galloping horses and the wild stormy scene. Wagner strongly resisted public requests that The Ride be published as a separate concert piece, but he slowly relented after the full cycle of The Ring was premiered in 1876.


Samuel Augustus Ward

Samuel Augustus Ward was born in Newark, New Jersey, on December 28, 1847. Ward started playing the accordion at the age of six and went on to study music in New York City. He became organist at Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, New Jersey, in 1880. His hymn Materna, with lyrics from Psalm 46:1: “God is our Refuge and our Strength, Our ever present Aid, And, therefore, though the earth remove, We will not be afraid.” The melody was written on a boat ride home to Newark after a day’s outing to Coney Island, an amusement park on Long Island, NY. Ward never knew of the successful pairing of his music to Bates’ lyrics, as he died on September 28, 1903, more than a year before the publication of Bate’s new version in the Boston Evening Transcript on November 19, 1904.

America, The Beautiful

The lyrics to America, The Beautiful were written by American songwriter Katharine Lee Bates (1859 - 1929), an English teacher, during a 1893 summer   in Colorado Springs. She and other teachers hired a wagon to ascend nearby Pikes Peak; they had to take mules to reach the top. Though tired from the trip, the view from the top evoked strong emotions she jotted down in a notebook. She recalled: “It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind.” The words first appeared in print on July 4, 1895, in The Congregationalist, and attracted a great amount of attention as people tried to match the words to music. Bates “…rewrote it, trying to make the phraseology more simple and direct.” The revision was printed in 1904 and was quickly applied to Samuel A. Ward’s hymn Materna.

Carmen Dragon (1914 - 1984) was born in Antioch, California, and was very active as a conductor, composer of movie scores, and arranger. His Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra was broadcast to western U.S. elementary schools from 1928 through the 1970s. Dragon’s arrangement of America, The Beautiful is one of his most popular. While it may invoke a sense of Hollywood, the orchestration plays with rhythm and dynamics in a way that accentuates the patriotic emotions attached to this music.


Marcel Wengler

Luxemburg-born composer Marcel Wengler (1946 - ) studied at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Brussels and was assistant for many years to Hans Werner Henze in the Musikhochschule in Cologne. In his early years as a composer, he was profoundly influenced by the music of Mahler, with its broad symphonic thinking, dramatic development, and orchestration. He was also influenced Beethoven, Schoenberg, Hartmann, Henze, and even the film music at the time of his youth. Wengler has written over eighty works including symphonies, concertos, works for the stage, film, chamber groups, and the ballet. Since 1995, he has concentrated on composing works for solo instruments with orchestra. As a conductor, Wengler has been mentored by Igor Markevitch and Sergiu Celibidache and has recorded over 100 works. Besides his efforts with the symphony orchestra of Radio-Tele-Luxembourg, he has conducted in England, France, Spain, Romania, Germany, Brazil, and Russia. Since 1994, Wengler has served as President of the Luxembourg Society for Contemporary Music.

Marsch

Marcel Wengler's Marsch is subtitled oder die Versuchung (The Temptation). Written in the style of Charles Ives, it is modeled after the Association of Brass Bands March of Franz Schöggl. The march begins in the traditional fashion, but, as the work progresses, the composer succumbs more and more to the temptation to make fun of the march idea. He prolongs a bass solo and changes the bass accompanying figure until the rhythm is completely out of phase from normal; the listener can sense that something is amiss, but finds it difficult to identify, due to Wengler's skillful efforts. After his humorous diversions in the trio, Wengler returns to the opening theme and transitions to a classical finish. Luxemburg-born composer Marcel Wengler (1946 - ) was a student of Hans Werner Henze.


Eric Whitacre

Eric Whitacre (born January 2, 1970) began playing piano at an early age and played keyboards in high school. He played trumpet in the marching band, but was kicked out for being obnoxious. Despite this inauspicious beginning, Whitacre became a music major at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Bachelor of Music 1995). His first real exposure to classical music was when he sang Mozart’s Requim with the school choir. The experience caused him to learn to read music and to think like a classical composer. His first assignment, writing a work for 100 trombones and percussion, was a failure. Shortly afterwards, he overheard the sound of a wind symphony rehearsal and was drawn to it. The director, Tom Leslie, encouraged Whitacre’s ideas for a composition that, in 1995, became Ghost Train. His Godzilla Eats Las Vegas!, written in 1996 struck a whimsical chord with many, including the US Marine Band and international audiences. Whitacre earned a master’s degree in 1997 from the Juilliard School of Music. He currently lives in Los Angeles and composes film scores and works for chorus and band. In 2012, he received a Best Choral Performance Grammy as composer and conductor for the album “Light & Gold.”

Ghost Train

This piece is a musical depiction of a legend deeply rooted in American folklore. The Ghost Train is a supernatural machine that roars out of the night through forgotten towns and empty canyons. The work opens with a free cadenza by the solo flute that features bending notes imitative of a distant train whistle. The train comes to life slowly and agonizingly as the full band plays a stuttering rhythm. The snare and bass drums pick up the tempo through an aleatoric section as the great train rolls through the countryside. Written in 1993-4 as a composition project at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the work was dedicated to and premiered by the school’s wind symphony at the 1994 C.B.D.N.A. regional in Reno.

October

The composer described his inspiration for this work, completed in 2000: “October is my favorite month. Something about the crisp autumn air and the subtle change in light always makes me a little sentimental, and as I started to sketch I felt that same quiet beauty in writing. The simple, pastoral melodies and subsequent harmonies are inspired by the great English Romantics (Vaughn Williams, Elgar) as I felt that this style was almost perfectly suited to capture the natural and pastoral soul of the season.”

Sleep

Eric Whitacre was commissioned by a woman in Texas to write a choral work in memory of her parents, who had recently died in an automobile accident. She requested that the work be a setting of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” which was her parents’ favorite. Whitacre used great care to craft his composition to match the mood and meter of the poem. The Austin (TX) ProChorus premiered the work in 2001 with great acclaim. When Whitacre sought publication rights, he learned that the Robert Frost estate had recently withdrawn rights for any use of the poem. It may have been the more than twenty compositions based on the poem, from which Whitacre had naively assumed it was open for use, that had caused the shutdown. Extensive negotiations with the Frost estate were to no avail and permission to use was denied until the poem would fall into the public domain in 2038. Whitacre was determined that his moving composition would not lay fallow for the next 37 years, so he approached his friend and accomplished poet, Charles Anthony Silvestri, to create a poem with the exact same structure, rhyming, and vowel sounds as that of Frost’s. Silvestri has provided the following description of his creation of the replacement poem:
“Replacing one of the most beloved poems in the English language was a scary task, to say the least. I chose the title Sleep because Eric’s original setting had ended on a haunting meditation on the word “sleep”--“and miles to go before I sleep...” which was too beautiful to sacrifice. Another line, “both dark and deep” also simply had to remain in the text. While I was trying to come up with ideas for the piece, my son, then three years old, would not settle down for bed. That got me remembering what it was like to resist sleep as a child--all the games you play with yourself about monsters under the bed, or spooky shadows in the window, etc. and the idea for Sleep was born. I worked furiously, seized by the inspiration of the challenge, and gave Eric the finished poem the next morning!”
1)

The evening hangs beneath the moon
A silver thread on darkened dune
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon

  3)
If there are noises in the night
A frightening shadow, flickering light
Then I surrender unto sleep
Where clouds of dream give second sight
2)

Upon my pillow, safe in bed
A thousand pictures fill my head
I cannot sleep, my mind's a-flight
And yet my limbs seem made of lead

  4)
What dreams may come, both dark and deep
On flying wings and soaring leap
As I surrender unto sleep
As I surrender unto sleep


Kenneth Whitcomb

Kenneth Whitcomb did some of his first professional arranging in 1961 for the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point. The next year, Chief Warrant Officer Whitcomb completed the Warrant Officer Bandmaster Course in Anacostia, Virginia, as an Honor Graduate of the Class. Some of his classmates attribute his off-duty tutoring efforts from keeping them from washing out. He currently serves as Associate Bandmaster of the USMA Band and Cadet Glee Club. Coat of Arms, 23 Skidoo!, and My Old Kentucky Home are some of his more than 30 compositions and arrangements.

The Sheffordshire Regiment

Written in 1975, The Sheffordshire Regiment is a British march with all of the pomp and majesty of that genre. Original material is melded with more traditional themes with interesting changes in tempo and dynamics.


Clifton Williams

James Clifton Williams Jr. was born in Traskwood, Arkansas, in 1923. Despite the financial difficulties of the depression of the early 1930's, Williams fared well in school, learning the piano, mellophone, and french horn. In his senior class of 600, he was voted the most outstanding in artistry, talent, and versatility. In 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps as a bandsman, serving as drum major and composing works at every opportunity. After the war, he attended Louisiana State University and went on to earn his M. M. degree at the Eastman School of Music in 1949. He taught at the University of Texas at Austin for seventeen years. In the 10 years before his death in 1976, he served as chairman of the department of theory and composition at the University of Miami, where he was influenced by and became close friends with Frederick Fennell.

Fanfare and Allegro

In 1956, Fanfare and Allegro was the first composition to win the American Bandmasters Association's Ostwald Award for original band literature. It was the springboard to William’s national acclaim as the composer of serious music for concert band. The Fanfare begins with a dynamic brass and percussion statement. The woodwinds enter with an ostinato figure that gradually shifts pitch from high to low. There is a chordal development as a tympani roll leads directly to the Allegro movement, again introduced by the brass. A rhythmically complex interplay between the voices of the ensemble drives the movement forward to a dramatic climax.

Symphonic Dance No. 3, Fiesta

Fiesta was originally one of Clifton Williams' five Symphonic Dances, commissioned by the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 1964. In the original suite, each of the five dances represented the spirit of a different time and place relative to the background of San Antonio, Texas. Fiesta is an evocation of the excitement and color of the city's numerous Mexican celebrations. The modal characteristics, rhythms, and finely woven melodies depict what Williams called “the pageantry of Latin-American celebration - street bands, bull fights, bright costumes, the colorful legacy of a proud people.” The introduction features a brass fanfare that generates a dark, yet majestic atmosphere that is filled with the tension of the upcoming events. The soft tolling of bells herald an approaching festival with syncopated dance rhythms. Solo trumpet phrases and light flirtatious woodwind parts provide a side interest as the festival grows in force as it approaches the arena. The brass herald the arrival of the matador to the bullring and the ultimate, solemn moment of truth. The finale provides a joyous climax to the festivities.\

Symphonic Suite

This suite in five movements was commissioned by the San Antonio Symphony for its 25th anniversary in 1957. The composer had personal connections with the Symphony, having played French horn for 12 years. Later scored for concert band, the composition was awarded the Ostwald Award by the American Bandmasters Association. The solemn fanfare of the Intrada flows directly into the Chorale, which is introduced by the brass section. The tempo picks up with the March that is based on the work’s introductory fanfare. The Ancient Dance offers a change of pace with a flute with percussion accompaniment. Jubilee concludes the suite in an energetic manner including samples from the preceding movements.

The Sinfonians, Symphonic March

This march was commissioned by the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America. It opens with an extended fanfare introduction before the horns state the familiar Sinfonian theme: "Hail Sinfonia! Come, brothers, hail!" The words are by Charles Lutton set to the music of Arthur Sullivan. The melody is then completed, embellished, and extended in the style of the composer. The work is dedicated to Archie N. Jones, former president of the fraternity and later director of that organization's foundation. Williams conducted the first performance at the fraternity's national convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in July 1960.


John Williams

John Williams (b. 1932) studied composition at UCLA with Mario Castel­nueovo-Tedesco and later attended the Juilliard School. In 1956, he started working as a session pianist in film orchestras. He has composed the music and served as music director for over 70 films, including Jaws, E.T., Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and Memoirs of a Geisha. Williams has been awarded two Emmys, five Oscars, and 17 Grammy Awards, as well as several gold and platinum records. From 1980 to 1993, Williams served as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He has written many concert pieces and is also known for his themes and fanfares written for the 1984, 1988, and 1996 Olympics.

March from "1941"

The March from the movie “1941” is the most memorable part of this Steven Spielberg 1979 production starring John Belushi. The lack of success for the movie may stem from the plot that depicts hysteria in Los Angeles just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when fear of a Japanese invasion is imminent. It is hard to appreciate humor in the actions of manic servicemen, zealous store owners, and bickering Nazis. The March has the bright and patriotic theme that would capture such an event, though.

Midway March

This stirring concert march is from the movie Midway, produced in 1976, which told the story of the famous battle in the Pacific. The use of 12/8 time gives a jaunty lilt to this concert march; throughout the work, there is a subtle hint of the Scottish highlands. It is an energetic work that abounds with syncopation, containing colorful, challenging upper woodwind parts, consistently building intensity.

Star Wars Medley

George Lucas' high energy adventure film "Star Wars" is a highly imaginative entertainment experience that transports the audience to an unknown galaxy thousands of light years from earth. It is a blending of contemporary science fiction with the romantic fantasies of sword and sorcery. The story follows a young man, Luke Skywalker, on a journey through exotic worlds in search for the kidnaped Princess Leia, culminating in a dramatic space dogfight over the huge man-made planet destroyer, Death Star. Composed in 1977, John Williams' score reinforces the high adventure and soaring spirits of the film's story. Continuity is given to the score through themes for each of the characters; these leitmotifs appear in a variety of permutations determined by the dramatic action on the screen. For this medley, arranger James H. Burden has chosen representative portions and blended them into what might be suitably called an overture. The arrangement retains all of the fire and excitement, tension and exuberance of the original.

Star Wars Trilogy

In 1977, George Lucas' highly imaginative entertainment experience first transported an audience to an unknown galaxy thousands of light years from earth. The “Star Wars” experience was a blending of contemporary science fiction with the romantic fantasies of sword and sorcery. The story follows a young man, Luke Skywalker, on a journey through exotic worlds in a perpetual struggle of good against evil and the eventual success of love conquering all. “Star Wars” and its two companion films, “Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” form the center of a planned nine-part historical series. The five movements of the Trilogy were selected by arranger Donald Hunsberger to display the excitement, beauty, and contrast in these first three films.

The Imperial March, subtitled Darth Vader's Theme, represents the evil might of the Galactic Empire and the supreme villainy of its leader. Princess Leia's Theme is much gentler and pays tribute to the romantic music of the early film heroines. Musical themes are scattered and rapidly shifting in the Battle in the Forest, reflecting the cuts in the movie as the ground battle begins. The almost comedic theme of the teddy bear-like Ewoks contrasts against the huge, but mechanical, armament of the Empire's forces. The old Jedi Master of Dagobah is honored in Yoda's Theme. The gentleness and understanding of the Master is conveyed in the ethereal setting of the swamp where Yoda harnesses the power of the Force to raise Luke's crashed X-Wing fighter. The transition into the heroic Star Wars (Main Theme) seems natural as the power of good, embodied in the Force, is triumphant.

Symphonic Suite from “Far and Away”

This suite is derived from the summary music played during the roll of the end credits of the 1992 movie. The strong Irish ethnicity of the opening location in County Galway introduces the composition. The conflicts of commoners and gentry come forth as the lead characters form a pact to emi­grate to the freedom of America. Williams’ music takes the action and adventures through Boston and on to the land rush of the Oklahoma Territory. The rough life of the frontier and its settlers is contrasted with the pas­toral scenes of the prairie. The music and the film conclude on a distinctly upbeat theme for a bright future.

The Cowboys

This suite, arranged by Jim Curnow, is a typical example of John Williams' capacity to enrich a film story with an almost narrative musical score. Through music, we are transported to the Old West and experience the joys and hardships of cowboy life. Taken from the 1972 motion picture “The Cowboys” starring John Wayne and Roscoe Lee Browne, the music complements the story of a 60 year old Montana cattleman who enlists (and ultimately mentors) ten schoolboys as cowboys after the regular ranch hands have left with Gold Rush fever. The 400-mile cattle drive provides the boys with a different and harsher schooling as they learn the rigors of the job and have to deal with rustlers. The music conveys the high spirit of wild horses and their taming. Jollity around the campfire is contrasted against the loneliness of the open range. The plains have a beauty, though, which is reflected in the song of a lark. The hard work of the cattle drive, including the fording of the wide, muddy river and dealing with many fears and threats, succeeds in maturing the boys into men.

Theme from "Schindler's List"

“Schindler’s List” is Steven Spielberg’s 1993 black-and-white film based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi Czech businessman, who used Jewish labor to start a factory in occupied Poland. As World War II progressed and the fate of the Jews became apparent, Schindler’s motivations switched from profit to human sympathy. Assisted by his accountant, Itzhak Stern, Schindler devised a plan to employ concentration camp workers in his Czech factory, saving over 1,100 Jews from death in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The theme from the movie is performed by the solo flute, accompanied by the ensemble. The melody evokes the emotions of grief and despair, but finds sufficient hope to fulfill the desire for survival. The Motion Picture Academy awarded John Williams an Oscar for the best original score for the music he composed for the film.


Haydn Wood

Haydn Wood (1882 - 1959)

Mannin Veen

The title of this work translates to ``Dear Isle of Man.'' It was on this British island, situated in the Irish Sea, that Haydn Wood spent most of his childhood. Using four Manx folk songs from this heritage, Wood paints an enchanting tone poem. Mannin Veen is a remarkable work that demonstrates many of the nationalistic characteristics of English composers of this period.

The first theme, The Good Old Way, is an old and typical air written mostly in the Dorian mode to produce a somber feeling. A portion of the tune in the major key is attributed to Primitive Methodism introduced into the Isle of Mann about the time of Wood's birth in 1882. The second tune, introducing the lively section of the work, is based on the reel The Manx Fiddler. Chaloner, writing in the middle of the seventeenth century, remarked that the Manx people were ``much addicted to the music of the violyne, so that there is scarce a family in the Island, but more or less can play upon it; but as they are ill composers, so are they bad players.'' Sweet Water in the Common, the third tune, relates to the old practice of summoning a jury of twenty-four men, comprised of three men from each of the parishes in the district where the dispute took place, to decide questions connected with watercourses, boundaries, etc. The fourth and last tune is a fine old hymn, The Harvest of the Sea, sung by the fishermen as a song of thanksgiving after their safe return from the fishing grounds.


Guy Woolfenden

Guy Woolfenden (England, b. 1937) studied at Christ's College Cambridge and GSM. He has served as Music Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company since 1962. In that capacity, he has composed more than one hundred and fifty scores to support their productions. He has adapted other Shakespearean thematic material in his composition Gallimaufry.   His French Impressions was commissioned by the Metropolitan Wind Symphony of Boston. Woolfenden became a patron of the Birmingham (England) Symphonic Winds in 1997 and soon after completed Curtain Call under their commission. The Birmingham Symphonic Winds premiered his Firedance in November 2002.

Illyrian Dances

  1. Rondeau
  2. Aubade
  3. Gigue
Viola:  What country, friend, is this?
Captain:  This is Illyria, lady.
              Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

The composer writes: “The precise geographical location of Illyria was not important to Shakespeare. What excited him was the resonance of the word itself and the romance of all far away, make-believe places. Illyria is Never Never Land and the idea of inventing dances for such a place intrigued me.” This suite of three dances (Rondeau, Aubade, and Gigue) was commissioned by the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles and was given its first performance in 1986.