Three bands, two concerts, two nights of music

The band department’s concerts for the 2012-2013 academic year end tonight and Thursday, April 22 and 25, in Sharp Hall at Catlett Music Center.  Monday night features the Symphony Band and the Concert Band in their final concerts for the academic year, followed on Tuesday night by the Jazz Band.  Details inside!

Monday, April 22, 8:00 PM: Concert Band and Symphony Band

Under Brian Wolfe, the Concert Band opens the program with Rossano Galante’s 2010 work Mt. Everest. Brian writes:

You will soon find yourself at the southeast ridge of Everest, the location where Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay began their journey to become the first team to successfully ascend the mountain on May 29th, 1953 as part of the British Mount Everest Expedition.

I have not heard the work. I just like to say “Tenzing Norgay” every chance I get. I am looking forward to it, though!

That’s followed by Cake Walk from Robert Russell Bennett’s Suite of Old American Dances (1949), one of Coach’s favorites, so much that he played it at his farewell concert.  The program notes will tell you more about how the piece came to be, and how Kansas City’s old “Electric Park” inspired it, but to me it just screams “1940s America.” I can imagine it behind an MGM short subject before a weekend double feature, or even behind a cartoon (the orchestration reminds me a lot of MGM animation composer Scott Bradley).

The Concert Band then concludes with V. Hobbits, the fifth movement of Johan de Meij’s 1980s Symphony No. 1, “The Lord of the Rings” (it’s not based on any cinematic treatment, but rather the composer’s own inspiration on hobbitfolk and their role in the events of Middle Earth), and March of the Steel Men (1937), written by Charles S. Belsterling, who was vice-president of U.S. Steel. (Hey, some of us didn’t make music a career and can still contribute something now and then!)

After a brief intermission, the Symphony Band performs under the baton of Dr. Debra L. Traficante. They begin with Vanity Fair: A Comedy Overture, composed by Percy Fletcher (1924) and edited by Dr. Brant Karrick (2006). That’s followed by Sunrise at Angel’s Gate (2001) by Phillip Sparke (you may remember the composer for his works Jubilee Overture, among many others), inspired by a full day, sunrise to sunset, at the Grand Canyon.

Then comes La Procession Du Rocio by Turina (1913), arranged by Alfred Reed (1962), the same year Dr. Reed arranged Greensleeves, which I still love. There’s no way I can summarize this work, so I’m copying from the program notes (supplied by

Every year in Seville, during the month of June, there takes place in a section of the city known as Triana, a festival called the Procession of the Dew in which the best families participate. They make their entry in their coaches following an image of the Virgin Mary on a golden cart drawn by oxen and accompanying by music. The people dance the soleare and the seguidilla. A drunkard sets off firecrackers, adding to the confusion. At the sound of the flutes and drums, which announce the procession, all dancing ceases. A religious theme is heard and breaks forth mingling with the pealing of the church bells and the strains of the royal march. The procession passes and as it recedes, the festivities resume, but at length they fade away.

Then there’s a fun interlude with Steven Bryant’s Chester Leaps In (1997). You may be familiar with William Schuman’s classic setting of the hymn tune Chester by William Billings. If not, here’s Revelli conducting the University of Michigan Symphony Band in a performance of it. You probably can’t improve on that—but you can have fun with it. In Steven Bryant’s words:

Chester Leaps In is intended as a humorous, cartoonish piece, contructed from the juxtaposition of two divergent musical ideas: a chromatic, angular melodic motive, repeatedly interrupted by the harmonic simplicity of William Billings’ well-known hymn tune, “Chester.”

The concert concludes with a classic modern march: Commando March (1943) by Samuel Barber, written during the composer’s time in the United States Army during World War II.

That’s a lot of music for one concert, and it’s all free to the public, beginning at 8:00 PM on Monday, April 22, in the Catlett Music Center.

Thursday, April 25, 8:00 PM: Jazz Ensembles

Finally come the Jazz Ensembles, who give their performances Tuesday night in a Sutton Concert Series appearance. Now, I don’t know as much about jazz as I do about concert band (a thought that’s undoubtedly scaring those of you who think I know very little about concert bands), but I will try not to mess this up. I will mainly try this by quoting the OU Arts District press release on the subject:

The OU Jazz Bands concert, 8 p.m. April 25, features gypsy jazz guitarist, Ivan Pena as well as the university’s jazz combos and the big band. Also featured are two of OU jazz director Jay Wilkinson’s new arrangements, “In My Solitude,” composed by Duke Ellington and “Plutonian Nights,” composed by Sun Ra. The evening will conclude with an intense performance of “Spain,” one of the most enjoyed tunes in all of jazz literature featuring guitarist Ivan Pena. “Ivan is returning to the OU campus, by popular demand, to perform with the OU Jazz Ensembles and we cannot be more pleased.” states Jay Wilkinson. “He is always a crowd favorite and he is bringing with him a band that will thrill the audience. This will be a perfect finale to a wonderful concert season!”

The early program I’ve seen has the six-person Jazz Tech ensemble performing first with three numbers, including the aforementioned In My Solitude, followed by two student combos, the Ivan Pena Quartet, and concluding with four selections by the 25-member Jazz Ensemble, ending with Plutonian Nights and then Spain.

There’s as much going on in this concert as at Monday’s, but with an entirely different feel of winds and percussion. This one is in the Sutton Concert Series, so tickets cost $9 (I think) and are available at the door, but it sure looks like it’ll be worth it. And besides, the Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game is on Wednesday, so there are no conflicts!

As I know so disturbingly little about jazz, I’ll refer questions on the Thursday program directly to OU Jazz Professor Jay D. Wilkinson. You know the channels in the band department and here to ask about the other concert. We hope you can make it to, and thoroughly enjoy, both concerts!