Wind Symphony in concert April 16

The Red & White Game heralds the end of spring football practice because the semester is winding down. That means the final concerts of the 2012-2013 academic year are at hand for all the major performing groups: the choral groups, the OU Symphony Orchestra IApril 20), and the wind performance groups we know and remember.

That starts April 16 at 8:00 PM with the year’s final performance of the OU Wind Symphony, featuring 100 years of “music of reverence, piety, and awe.” Don’t mistake that for “boring,” because this is good stuff and music you can handle after filing your taxes. Let’s look at this impressive program.The concert begins with Paul Dukas “Fanfare” pour précéder la Péri (1912), a powerful memory for me because it opened the last OU concert I ever played in (OMEA 1988). It’s a bright and lively two-minute fanfare, conducted this time by Fred Alonzi.

Eric Shannon takes the podium next, conducting The Engulfed Cathedral (1910), by Claude Debussy and transcribed by Merlin Patterson. Also known as The Sunken Cathedral with a popular orchestral arrangement by Stokowski, the original form is a solo piano prelude by Debussy as musical impressionism, based on the Legend of Ys, in which a sunken cathedral off the coast of that Irish island arises from the sea on clear mornings. An MP3 is available here, but I doubt any sound system can match the power of hearing it in person.

Then things really get interesting.

Dr. Wakefield takes the podium for the world premiere of Until Our Rest (2012), commissioned by the OU chapter of Tau Beta Sigma from Oklahoma composer Chelsea Williamson, who celebrates her 24th birthday two days after this concert.  (Yes, that’s right, she was born over two years after my last concert. I feel older every time I write one of these things.) Allow me to share her composer’s note so I don’t mangle anything:

The name of the piece comes from Tau Beta Sigma’s affirmation hymn and the piece is a representation of the bright, cheerful personalities of the chapter. The main theme of the piece appears at the beginning in the vibraphone, then the oboe, and is passed around throughout the piece between the woodwinds and brass with variations on the theme. The piece ends with a return of the opening material in the marimba and vibraphone.

That’s followed by the consortium premiere of noted wind composer John Mackey’s The Frozen Cathedral (2012), commissioned by a consortium including the University of Oklahoma.  Although the names are similar, Mackey’s piece is unrelated to the Debussy—it’s inspired by Mount McKinley, “a towering mass per the Alaskan wilderness” and “the tallest mountain on land in the world” (measured from base to peak)

I think more of Mackey’s exciting, rhythmic-driven works (Redline TangoAsphalt Cocktail), but he’s also the composer of Kingfishers Catch FireAurora Awakes, and other works that feature more color and contrast. The Frozen Cathedral is this latter kind of composition, in two parts, with a “stark, glacial opening” that leads to a “cold and distant landscape whose mystery is only heightened by a longing, modal solo for bass flute—made dissonant by a contrasting key, and more insistent by the eventual addition of alto flute, English horn, and bassoon.” I’m looking forward to both of these premieres.

After an intermission, the program concludes with David Maslanka’s monumental Symphony No. 8 (2008). Three years ago, the composer was in residence at OU for a week, and the WInd Symphony performed his Symphony No. 4. Before that performance, he spoke at length of meditating and visions of destruction—the process that actually led him during composition of this work some two years earlier. Despite that, he writes, “This music is a celebration of life. It is about new life, continuity from the past to the future, great hope, great faith, joy, ecstatic vision and fierce determination.” Maslanka has written some powerful works for winds that you may remember, such as A Child’s Garden of Dreams and Laudamjs Te, so his full Symphony No. 8 live in concert should be most impressive.

The performance is a Sutton Series concert, with tickets available at the box office before the performance. There is also scheduled to be a live video stream of the concert at music.ou.edu during the concert if you absolutely can’t make it, but I hope you can. The Symphony Band and Concert Band end their semesters next week, so there’s more music ahead!