It’s WASBE day 2! Before getting to today’s events, I need to mention three things that have come up regarding yesterday’s post:
- I spent a lot of my post yesterday going on about band directors. But as Anthony Reimer so appropriately pointed out on Twitter last night, WASBE is not just for band directors. It’s also a group for composers, performers, publishers, music industry people, and wind band enthusiasts in general. Thanks for the reminder, Anthony!
- I am not the only person running a blog about this conference. Fergus O’Carroll is also keeping a daily digest, and he is the official WASBE blogger. You can see his posts at this link. In a wonderful twist of fate, we sat next to each other at the University of Houston concert today! It will be interesting to see if there is any difference in our impressions.
- I am absolutely (and pleasantly) shocked at the amount of attention yesterday’s post got. It had over 100 hits overnight! That’s more than any of my repertoire posts have gotten in so short of time, by a lot. Some of my repertoire posts haven’t gotten that much attention over a period of YEARS. For instance, my favorite new piece of the 21st century is Steve Bryant’s AMAZING Concerto for Wind Ensemble. My post about this has had a paltry 52 views over its 17 month life. That tells me that this conference blogging really has legs (and that some of repertoire posts need more attention). I will thus continue to do my best to do this conference justice.
So, onto day 2. It started with an excellent repertoire session (the first of six, we’re told) organized by WASBE board member Cynthia Johnston Turner and Jeff Girard of Midwest Music. This first one featured the James Logan High School Band led by Adam Wilke and Patrick Refsnider. This was a truly phenomenal high school band: they sounded uniformly great and really brought life to this new and often difficult music. They played the following:
D’un Matin de Printemps – Lili Boulanger (arr. Francois Branciard)
Impressionist Prints by Aldo Forte (movements 4, 5, and 6)
Witches’ Cauldron (De Heksenketel) by Alexander Comitas
Letter from Sado by Jodie Blackshaw
Roma by Valerie Coleman
All of these were very well played by the band and were well-written pieces of music. The Comitas was a largely-dissonant setting of the poem around Shakespeare’s famous “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” for wind instruments. The Blackshaw was an easier (grade 2-3) piece with a heavy aleatoric element, sorting the instruments into color-themed teams and including specific score directions. I would have loved to see something other than colors used to name the different instrument groups, but the music itself is quite compelling and educationally-rich. It can be explored at Blackshaw’s website. I did not love the Coleman, with its rapid shifts between styles, yet I still found myself humming its main theme as I left the session. My favorite pieces in this session were the Boulanger and the Forte. The Boulanger has an instantly appealing sound, something akin to a more authentic American in Paris, very urbane and French. It is also within reach of high school players, which is a plus. The Forte was similarly appealing in its sound. Forte really knows how to handle the band to achieve a great deal of different textures and colors. This is especially key to this piece, which is based on impressionist paintings.
After a relaxing lunch with friends (see below), I attended the University of Houston concert, conducted by David Bertman. This was utterly amazing and unexpected. They began ordinarily enough, with Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (with, ironically, only two women out of the nearly 20 players on stage. Uncommon indeed!). This immediately displayed a strong and flexible brass sound. The bulk of the program was Leroy Osmon’s The Garden of Earthly delights, a ballet for wind band. It was, in a word, stunning. After an (overly long) introduction with a video projection, two dancers entered as Adam and Eve, and thus began an extremely sensual, vivid, and virtuosic dance display that lasted most of an hour, covering many a lustful, mystical, and terrifying story. The ensemble displayed not a single hair out of place, perfectly executing their accompaniment with flair, precision, and an outstanding grasp of its musical direction. In addition, it is worth noting the difficulty of putting on a live, accompanied dance concert, complete with lights and staging, at home. Bertman and crew did all of this ON THE ROAD in an unfamiliar hall, which is a herculean feat. This was an utterly unforgettable concert that they, as well as Leroy Osmon and the dancers and everyone else involved, should be extremely proud of.
After another break I headed over to Dr. Christian Zembower’s session on “Singular Successes,” essentially deceased composers who wrote only one work for wind band. He identified 11 of these, and he divided them into three categories, as follows:
Dionysiaques by Florent Schmitt
Commando March by Samuel Barber
Theme and Variation op. 43a by Arnold Schoenberg
Canzona by Peter Mennin
Vanity Fair by Percy Fletcher
A Solemn Music by Virgil Thomson
American Games by Nicholas Maw
Five American Folk Songs by Elie Siegmeister
March with Trumpets by William Bergsma
He suggested that Edwin Franko Goldman was instrumental in the creation of several of these. He also recommended more attention be paid to the lesser knowns and unknowns. All told, it was a very informative session.
Dinner with friends (again, see below) gave us a chance to enjoy the beautiful San Jose weather before heading to the Brooklyn Wind Symphony concert conducted by Jeff W. Ball. Full disclosure: I’ve known Jeff and BkWS for a long time, having spent a lot of time with them in my former New York City life. So I may be biased towards their style of doing things. After some very thoughtful and conceptual concerts at this conference, it felt really great to have an exciting, unpretentious BAND concert. There were no set changes, everyone played in every piece, and the house was PACKED. Their repertoire was extremely well chosen and nicely varied, as such:
joyRIDE by Michael Markowski
Concerto for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble by David Maslanka (soloist Jeffrey Hodes)
Flourishes and Meditations on a Renaissance Theme by Michael Gandolfi
Concerto for Flute and Wind Orchestra by Mike Mower (Samantha K. Enriquez, soloist)
Moth by Viet Cuong
Despite there being only one piece written before 2000 on this program (thank you, Dr. Reed), it still achieved a variety of styles and managed not to repeat itself. The Markowski, an energetic riff on Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” displayed his usual flare for color and excellent pacing. The McAllister requires HUGE amounts of control to pull off, and these Brooklynites did it with style. The Maslanka featured a truly stunning solo performance, and I loved almost every bit of its musical material. However, after the first movement came to very logical close but then kept going, I found myself counting the number of false endings (3 in movement I, 2 in movement II). Still, it is a concerto worth repeating. The Gandolfi sounded very hard, but fun. The intermission was well-deserved after that! They got going again with the Mower, which was sexy and sophisticated in its first movement, which featured excellent solo playing and masterful orchestration. The third movement was equally well-executed, but tried too hard to sound like a big band for my taste. That said, the BkWS players demonstrated a mastery of both Latin and swing style that few concert bands could match. This carried over into the Reed, of which the mariachi sections were among many highlights. Finally, Viet Cuong’s Moth was an audacious, energetic closer. Cuong’s flare for color (and horn torture) was on full display, as was Brooklyn’s utter commitment to their art form. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this show, and how proud I am to know many of its members. As much as I tried to do this myself back in my Columbia days, they REALLY ARE putting New York City back on the wind band map.
Now, I am late for the reception. I look forward to seeing my friends (see below) down there.
Below: I’ll cover the friends tomorrow!!