‘Landscapes of Britain’ opens Purdue Bands’ concert season
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Bound by history, language – even music – Great Britain and the United States have a lot in common but the differences will make for pleasant listening on Oct. 1 when the Purdue Symphonic Band and Fall Concert Band present “Landscapes of Britain.”
The free concert set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, in Lafayette’s Long Center, 111 N.Sixth St., focuses on music and composers inspired by Great Britain.
British marches and folk songs lie at the heart of the concert and serve to underscore some of the differences between the two countries.
Americans, whose fast-paced taste in marches was fashioned by John Philip Sousa and Karl King , value a quickness not generally found in marches like “The British Eighth March” by Zo Elliott which opens up the Symphonic Band’s portion of the concert.
“British marches have a much different characters because they’re played slower,” says Jay Gephart, the band’s conductor. “‘Pomp and Circumstance No. 1’ played at graduation is probably the most famous British march with its lazy march tempo. Overall, they’re not nearly as rhythmic as American marches but are often more tuneful with melodies that have more contour.”
Gephart’s Symphonic Band, which made its Carnegie Hall debut in spring 2006, also performs “First Suite in Eb” by Gustav Holst and “The Jig Is Up” by Daniel Kallman in its exploration of British music. Two non-British pieces, Von Suppe’s “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna,” often heard underscoring cartoons and TV shows, and James Barnes emotional “Finale” to “Third Symphony, Op. 89” add counterpoint to the afternoon.
Holst’s “Suite” carries historical significance as one of the first compositions written specifically for concert band. At the turn of the 20th century, most of the works available for concert band were transcriptions of orchestral pieces “so it was a really big thing then,” says Gephart, “and it’s still one of the three most significant works ever written for concert band.
“Every band director feels students need to play Holst’s ‘Suite’ at some time in their career because of its place in history, and because it’s just a magnificent piece of music. Likewise, audiences need to hear it regularly.”
Writing in the style of noted Australian composer Percy Grainger, Daniel Kallman takes a unique approach to “The Jig is Up.” Kallman transforms a traditional Irish jig into a concert band work with an emphasis on percussion “that goes beyond your basic cymbals to log drums and ago-go bells. It’s bursting with life and energy,” Gephart says.
Two works by Grainger will be featured on the Fall Concert Band’s portion of the concert directed by Purdue Bands’ newcomer, Andrew King, a visiting instructor from Carmel High School in Indianapolis.
British landscapes provided particular inspiration to Grainger who roamed through small villages all over Britain making recordings of folk songs on wax cylinders so he could preserve the music of the people. “Often the music he found was really quirky and used interesting harmonies,” says King. Grainger took that local flavor and incorporated it into works for concert band including “Early One Morning” and “Green Bushes” being performed on Oct. 1.
Adding to the mood is “Festivo,” a fanfare by Ralph Vaughan Williams who’s also known for his works evocative of the English countryside, and “Prelude, Siciliano & Rondo” by another Englishman Malcomb Arnold.
King adds a tribute to his own heritage by ending the Fall Concert Band’s performance with Edwin Franko Goldman’s “On the Mall,” a piece includes crowd participation in the form of singing and whistling. “I can’t give away the whole shtick but the audience will get a chance to rehearse their part,” says King who hopes the crowd will have fun with the piece inspired by Goldman’s regular concerts in New York’s famed Central Park.
It’s been a tradition of King’s father, a long-time, high school band director from Kalamazoo, MI, David King, to use Goldman’s “On The Mall” whenever he guest conducted or worked with a band for the first time. “So, I’m carrying on a bit of family tradition,” King says.
“Landscapes of Britain” is the first of an extensive series of concert band, jazz and orchestral concerts offered during the 2006-07 season by Purdue Bands & Orchestra. For a calendar brochure call (765) 496-6785 or visit www.purdue.edu/bands