APRIL 14/22 PROGRAM
-March from Second Suite in F Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
-O Magnum Mysterium Morten Lauridsen (1943-) arr. H. Robert Reynolds
-Jamaican Rumba Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960)
-Sunrise, Sunset Jerry Bock (1928-2010) and Sheldon Harnick (1924-) arr. David Branter
-Pavanne Morton Gould (1913-1996)
-Adagio Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
-Summer Festivals from Symphony no. 3 Robert Buckley (it's a secret)
-Barnum and Bailey's Favorite Karl L. King (1891-1971)
Bands, defined as any assemblage of wind and percussion instruments, have been around for a long time. Certainly, wind and percussion instruments were around in the pre-history of homo sapiens (I always imagine some sort of flute and a hollowed-out log) and perhaps in ancestral species. We know that all the components were around in ancient times with the Bible reporting one of the most dramatic instances of a performance: “The people shouted, the trumpets sounded. When they heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a mighty war cry and the wall collapsed then and there.” (Joshua 6:20). Talk about the power of music.
European composers from Gabrieli to Stravinsky used exclusively wind and percussion ensembles at times. Two notable examples are Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749) scored for 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, contrabassoon, 9 trumpets, 9 horns, 3 pairs of kettle drums and an indeterminate number of side drums (that Handel wrote no parts for indicating they should play ‘ad libitum’ a prospect most current band conductors would view with horror) and Berlioz’s Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (1840) that called for 4 piccolos, 5 flutes, 5 oboes, 8 bassoons, contrabassoon, 5 Eb clarinets, 26 Bb clarinets, 12 horns, 8 trumpets, 4 cornets, 10 trombones, bass trombone, solo trombone, 6 ophicleides (tubas now), 8 snare drums, bass drums, cymbals, gongs, turkish crescents and timpani (although timpani were unlikely to have participated in the first performance as the ensemble was marching in procession) for a total of over 100 players although 200 players is often cited as the complement for the first performance. These two pieces were intended for outdoor performance where wind and percussion players can make an impact.
The tradition that PSWE more directly connects to is of more recent times. This tradition encompasses professional bands of the late 19th and early twentieth centuries in the U.S. such as those led by John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor. Pryor was trombone soloist and Assistant Conductor for Sousa for seven years before forming his own band. Sousa was a prolific composer especially of marches. Marches feature prominently in the repertoire of military bands another facet of the tradition. Another important locus was school bands. These ensembles are, essentially, an American development of the 20th century. They are also where many PSWE players began their musical activities including this writer.
For tonight’s program I proposed the title “A Mixed Bag” simply because that allowed us to program pretty much anything. This included the possibility of chamber groups performing. As it happily turned out we had a full band from our very first rehearsal on November 18th. The one item that could be called chamber music remaining on the program is John O’Reilly’s adaptation of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings for woodwind choir. We have marches: the march from Gustav Holst’s Second Suite for Military Band in F and Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite by Karl L. King from the professional band repertoire. We have a beautiful adaptation of a choral setting of O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen. The band version was done by H. Robert Reynolds with Lauridsen’s permission. Also included are two delightful perennials Jamaican Rumba by Arthur Benjamin and Pavanne by Morton Gould. Both are wonderfully
melodic and energetically rhythmic. A setting for band and voices of “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof originated as a saxophone quartet arrangement I did in December 2020 essentially for something to do. I recorded all the parts and sent it out to various friends.
Amidst all this tried and true we have a bright and shiny new work by our own Robert Buckley. This is “Summer Festivals” from Buckley’s Symphony no. 3: Quebec Mosaics. In this the listener moves from stage to stage hearing a woodwind choir, a saxophone quartet, a brass ensemble, all of the instruments together, then a marching band and, finally, a rousing ending. It is a brilliantly skillful and colourful work.
So relax and enjoy, applaud enthusiastically, shout encouraging remarks and generally have a good time as PSWE returns to Evergreen.
Dr. David Branter
Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble