Noted composer directs original works at 'Bands Showcase'
Noted composer Robert W. Smith will conduct his own works with four different Purdue University Bands ensembles at the “Purdue Bands Showcase” on Saturday and Sunday, April 26-27, at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26, the spotlight will shine on the Varsity, Collegiate and Purdue Concert Bands as they present their season finale concert. At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, the Purdue Orchestra, Symphonic Band and Alumni Band will perform.
Besides Smith, who has written music used at the Olympics, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Sunday concert features another special performer. Purdue senior Monica Boothe, a classical studies major from Indianapolis, will solo on marimba with the orchestra as the winner of the Purdue Concerto Competition.
Music students know Smith’s name well. “Of all the composers writing for band today, his music is played more by more levels of groups, from elementary bands through college. I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a Purdue musician who has not played a Robert W. Smith piece sometime,” says Jay Gephart, who as director of Purdue’s Symphonic Band arranged for Smith’s visit.
The prolific composer has seen his works programmed by countless military, university, high school and middle school bands throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South America and Asia. They have also received extensive airplay on major network television. Smith is the co-creator of the Expressions music curriculum, a comprehensive pre-K through 12 music program written for school systems.
“What makes his music so popular is that his writing style uses driving rhythms and is exciting to play. It incorporates a lot of percussion which makes it colorful, and at the same time very powerful,” Gephart says.
Two Smith works programmed for the Saturday night concert include “Winds of Poseidon,” inspired by Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and “Africa: Ceremony, Song and Ritual.” William Kisinger, director of Collegiate Band, says his musicians are enjoying “Winds of Poseidon” because of the visual aspects created by the percussion.
In the piece’s center section, titled “Tale of the Sirens,” “there are all kinds of unique percussion. We have a 8 foot thunder sheet and colored whirling tubes, the kind of thing you buy in a toy store, that sound like the wind. There’s a lot of very visual stuff.”
The Pamela Nave-directed Varsity Band tackles Smith’s African piece. “I like his use of rhythms. The rhythm is the melody and you’ll recognize the rhythm from the conga to the cowbell, to the trumpet and trombone,” Nave says.
On Sunday, Smith directs the Purdue Symphonic Band in “Twelve Seconds to the Moon.” Of all the Smith pieces on the two programs, “it’s not typical of his writing. It’s an outside the box piece for Robert W. Smith, a very fresh piece,” Gephart says.
“The brass writing is very fiery, especially the trumpet parts. The trumpets lead the charge and the tempos are such that you really are drawn in the title’s connotation of an incredibly fast charge to the moon.”
The two “Bands Showcase” events draw the Purdue University Bands regular concert season to a close. The Purdue Summer Concert Band plans to present a July concert at Slayter Center, and the 2003-04 season will start in late September. For more information call (765) 496-6785.