From tunes that conjure up images of slithering snakes to booming Broadway marches like "76 Trombones," and from the classical majesty of organ to the flash of mallets flying over a marimba, the Purdue Bands Showcase offers it all.
Designed as a musical extravaganza for Gala Weekend, Purdue Bands features six performing groups in two free concerts at Elliott Hall of Music to cap the spring semester. At 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21, Varsity, Collegiate and University Concert Bands will be featured at Elliott. The Purdue Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Band, and Alumni Band take the Elliott stage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22.
The showcase concept being debuted by Bands offers alumni returning to the campus for Gala Weekend a chance to return to the concert hall, while offering Greater Lafayette audiences a wealth of listening opportunities, according to Jay Gephart, Assistant Professor of Bands who designed the concept.
Composer James Swearingen - whose tunes will be heard throughout the weekend - guest conducts at both concerts. Swearingen, a music faculty member at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and a prolific composer for college and high school bands, initiates the tradition of inviting a composer to be in residence at Purdue during the Showcase weekend.
"Lead On, O King Eternal," "Blue Ridge Saga" and "In All Its Glory" are Swearingen tunes featured on the Saturday night concert. Symphonic Band performs "Let the Spirit Soar" on Sunday.
"One of the things that make his music so popular it that it has very lyrical melodies over driving rhythms. ‘Let the Spirit Soar’ is just a beautiful piece of music with lush harmonies," says Gephart, symphonic band and orchestra conductor.
Spicing up the musical mix on Saturday night is Thomas Duffy’s "Snakes," a mood piece filled with percussion and non-traditional ways of playing wind instruments that create images of slithering snakes. "It sounds very ethnic, very jungle like," says assistant professor Pam Nave, conductor of Varsity Band who’ll perform the piece.
Maracas, shakers and gongs join with drums in the piece, and voices of band members add a hissing sound at various times. Brass players employ a technique to make their instruments murmur, and trombones add a lot of down glissandos to enhance the piece’s eerie effect.
Adding to the variety on Saturday’s concert are Meredith Willson’s "Seventy Six Trombones" from The Music Man, George Gershwin’s Overture to Porgy and Bess, John Philip Sousa’s "New York Hippodrome" and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s "Procession of the Nobles."
Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. concert features three guest soloists - Michael Bottorff on marimba, Ed Moy on piano, and Marc Loudon on organ. Bottorff, a senior from Richmond majoring in English Education, won the right to solo with the symphony orchestra in the Purdue Bands Concerto Competition earlier this semester.
Bottorff presents Robert Kurka’s "Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra." It wasn’t until the 20th century a lot of concerti were written for marimba, and Kurka’s represents one of the first major solo works for the instrument, Gephart says.
"It’s marked by a heightened use of dissonance and angular melodies. It’s really a showcase musically and from the visual standpoint as Michael moves up and down the marimba. It’s really quite exciting," he adds.
Loudon, an associate dean in Purdue’s School of Pharmacy, will play the Elliott Hall organ in the finale of Saint-Saen’s "Organ Symphony." The finale, "becomes very grandiose when the organ enters in," says Gephart, and many will find the music familiar. This section of Saint-Saen’s symphony gained modern recognition in the 1990s from its use in the popular film Babe.
Adding a light moment to Sunday’s event is the Symphonic Band’s rendition of "Cartoon" by the noted British jingle composer Paul Hart. "It has all the components you find in a cartoon - a chase scene, romance and silly slapstick - but the cartoon itself is left to the imagination," says Gephart.
Pianist Ed Moy, a sophomore civil engineering major from Indianapolis, will also solo with Symphonic Band, performing the Grieg "Concerto for Piano in A minor."
Fifty Purdue Bands’ alumni returning to campus will be featured in an Alumni Concert Band segment of Sunday’s program. Among their tunes are "Totem Pole" by Eric Osterling and "Irish Rhapsody" by Clare Grundman.