The last day is here, and with it, more excellent sessions and concerts along with some Very Important Meetings.

I got out of bed early this morning to attend a fascinating, multifaceted presentation on diversity in the college band world. It began with an overview of some repertoire written by minority and female composers, many of which I hope to highlight here in the future. One of them was William Grant Still’s From the Delta, which is well worth any band’s time and talents. The presentation continued with some information about the Mike Moss Conducting Grant for minority conductors, which pays grantees’ expenses to attend summer conducting workshops. The 2017 application is not available yet, but representative info from 2017 can be found at the link above. The final portion of the hour was a panel discussion on diversity, which really could have been a presentation in itself! There were some great discussion topics raised, but it ended far too abruptly. May these important conversations continue in the future.

The day’s concerts began with the CBDNA Small Band Program Intercollegiate Band (CBDNA SBPIB for short), led by the legendary Gary Green. Their membership came from almost 60 schools around the US and Canada. They played:

“Fever” from Lost Vegas – Michael Daugherty

Shenandoah – Donald Grantham (world premiere)

Pictures at an Exhibition – Modest Mussorgsky, arr. Lavender

This was easily the largest ensemble (excluding the UMKC choir) to grace the Kaufman Center stage, with nearly 100 members. Gary Green was a tremendous leader who got wonderfully expressive sounds from this group. The Daugherty was familiar to those who know his style, with a strong dose of kitsch and jazz. The Grantham is a wonderful addition to the repertoire, very different from Frank Ticheli’s famous treatment of the same tune. The Mussorgsky is a recent transcription that uses Maurice Ravel’s famous orchestration as its starting point. Even with all of its technical and musical demands, these fine small college players made great music.

 

While UMKC yesterday made a big impression by shattering all expectations of what was possible in a concert setting, the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Mallory Thompson impressed by taking the traditional concert to its highest conceivable level, demonstrating both total control and total expressive capacity at once. They began with Richard Strauss’s 1943 Festmusik der Stadt Wien, which was an awesome display of raw brass power, including some especially impressive trumpeting. The full Symphonic Winds took the stage for Joel Puckett’s that secret from the river. This piece began with sound masses and turned into compelling and contemplative textural play, complete with perfectly executed quarter tone harmonies. The intonation control was absolutely exquisite, as was the understated expression of the piece, and I cannot imagine another group playing this piece this well. The marquee piece was Carter Pann’s My Brother’s Brain: A Symphony for Winds, which looked at the genius and turbulence of Pann’s brother’s life in three movements. As is often true in Pann’s music, it was deeply expressive, personal, and organic. His use of the opening of Brahms’s Symphony no. 1 in the second movement was especially effective in portraying a mind at war with itself. The performance was heartfelt and deeply moving. That would have been enough, but a shuffling of horn players foretold an encore. Indeed, after several curtain calls, Thompson announced her desire to leave us with something from “a great American musician.” I recognized it from the first phrase: Leonard Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow.” I cried all the way through. I know I wasn’t alone. It was gorgeous and felt totally right. I left the hall emotionally shattered and wanting more. Bravo Mallory Thompson and the whole Northwestern team.

 

The final concert of the convention featured the University of Texas Wind Ensemble and some very challenging new repertoire:

Intrada 1631 (after Juan Pérez Bocanegra) – Stephen Montague

Concerto for Clarinet – John Corigliano, trans. Craig Davis (with solo clarinetist Jonathan Gunn and violinist Brian Lewis)

The Eyes of the World Are Upon You – Jennifer Jolley (world premiere)

Symphony no. 2: Migration – Adam Schoenberg (world premiere)

The Montague built from almost nothing into an enormous texture featuring the one-and-only appearance of the Kaufman Center organ and several antiphonal triangles and violins. The Corigliano was a virtuoso showpiece of extremes for both the clarinet and the ensemble. It also had some beautiful lyrical playing by the guest violinist in the second movement. The Jolley was a reflection on the UT campus shooting of 1966 and its coincidence with the campus carry law that went into effect 50 years later. The piece unfolded in an arch form, beginning and ending with a beautiful English Horn solo, and proceeding in a somewhat Copland-like language. The Schoenberg depicted a journey of relocation as reflection of the immigration debates happening in this country. It was immediately accessible and hued close to its program. The highlight for me was the gorgeous and subtle fourth movement. Both Jolley and Schoenberg are relatively new to wind band composition, so bravo to Jerry Junkin and UT for showing them to us tonight.

 

Having been to all of these concerts and sessions and seen many great new and old friends, it’s time to head home. See you again, CBDNA, at Arizona State in 2019!