Purdue Bands Showcase bursts with Gala Week musical treats
Bursting with talent and tantalizing tunes, Purdue Bands Showcase’ concerts on Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21, set a celebratory tone for Gala Weekend with a guest appearance by one of the nation’s leading contemporary composers, a concerto by Purdue’s top classical musician and innovative tunes that employ such unusual effects as a water gong, blast sticks and a lion’s roar.
Varsity, Collegiate and University Concert Bands will be featured in the Bands Showcase I concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 20, in Elliott Hall of Music. The Purdue Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Alumni Band will be featured in the Bands Showcase II at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21, in Elliott. Both events are free.
Works by Missouri native David Holsinger, whose tunes are widely performed by collegiate and high school bands, will be featured at both concerts during the music-filled weekend. “His compositions are pretty unique and very rhythmic. They use different effects to create unique and interesting sounds,” says Jay Gephart, director of Symphonic Band.
For many years, a Holsinger hymnsong has been part of the traditional repertoire played at Purdue commencements. The Gala Weekend concerts explore the full range of his talent through such pieces as “Scootin’ on Hardrock,” a jazzy depiction of a rural crossroads in Texas, “Havendance” and “Consider The Uncommon Man.”
Sven Schreiber, a Purdue Junior with an uncommon talent on bassoon, will be featured in Johann Hummel’s “Grand Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra” at Sunday’s concert. Typical of the multi-faceted students attracted to Purdue Bands’ ensembles, Schreiber pursues a mechanical engineering degree but could just have easily pursued music at a major conservatory.
“Sven is without a doubt the most talented musician I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. Period,” says Gephart. Bassoon, one of the most difficult instruments to master, “really takes someone who’s special, has a good ear and is very left-brained, very technically oriented,” Gephart, offering a link between the two sides of Schreiber’s personality.
“For someone his age, Sven plays with such a sense of maturity and knowledge. He’s an intuitive musician with a lot of natural skill,” Gephart adds.
Schreiber won Purdue’s annual concerto competition to earn the right to solo with the orchestra at its April concert. The Hummel concerto he’ll perform is both lyrical and technically flashy with lots of octave jumps that display the bassoon’s broad range. “I like it a lot because it shows off the instrument, and it’s kind of a fun piece, not super serious,” Schreiber says.
Purdue Bands also uses these season-ending concerts to showcase some unusual compositions.
Two of the most intriguing are “Crystals” by Thomas Duffy, to be performed by the Collegiate Band on Saturday night, and “Celebrate/Celebration” by Daniel Bukvich on the Symphonic Band’s Sunday program.
Duffy drew the inspiration for his 1992 composition from tiny crystals that form massive objects such as ice crystals in glaciers and rock crystals in structures like Stonehenge. The piece “has the most strange effects, stuff you don’t see all that often in band music,” says Matthew Conaway, Purdue Bands’ graduate assistant, who’s conducting the piece. Musicians will run their fingers around the edge of water-filled crystal glasses to create a high-pitched sound, for example, and a gong will be played as it’s lowered into a large vat of water. That produces “the kind of sound you expect to hear in horror movies. It’s a very eerie sound,” Conaway says.
The composer also incorporates a lion’s roar into the piece with instructions on how to rig a drum with a string and play it to obtain the desired effect.
Bukvich, the composer of “Celebrate/Celebration,” also includes unusual instruments and effects in his pieces. “Every rhythm in the piece is based on the rhythm of those two words – celebrate and celebration,” says Conaway. Party horns and blast sticks – pipes played by hitting them on the palm of the percussionists’ hands - are featured and the musicians are also called upon, at various times, to whisper the words “celebrate, celebration” to create a verbal percussion effect.