Purdue musical doubleheader: Dorsey jazz and “Windworks”
Monday, February 19, 2007
Lafayette’s Long Center plays host to a musical doubleheader Feb. 23 and 25 when Purdue’s American Music Repertory Ensemble presents a concert dedicated to Tommy Dorsey on Friday, Feb. 23, and Purdue’s concert bands present “Windworks” on Sunday, Feb. 25.
Admission to both events, sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestra, is free.
Nostalgia rules when the American Music Repertory Ensemble takes the stage at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 with music made famous by American swing era bandleader and trombone player Tommy Dorsey.
Tunes like “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” Tommy Dorsey’s “Boogie Woogie” and “Marie,” featured at the Feb. 23 concert, showcase the approach that made Dorsey’s band successful. His smooth, lyrical trombone style - whether on ballads or on no-holds-barred swingers - became one of the signature sounds of both his band and the swing era.
Dorsey’s band, created in 1935 after a falling out with his musician brother Jimmy Dorsey, was a hit from almost the moment it signed with RCA Victor, and it had a run of 137 Billboard chart hits. The band featured a number of the best instrumentalists in jazz at the time. Frank Sinatra also achieved his first great success as a vocalist in the Dorsey band and claimed he learned breath control from watching Dorsey play trombone.
“We’ll focus on the swinging Tommy Dorsey, not so much on the romantic ballads,” says M.T. “Mo” Trout, director of American Music Repertory Ensemble.
Among the other Dorsey tunes American Music Repertory Ensemble will play are “Yes Indeed,” “Song of India,” and “Birmingham Bounce.” Various singers, including a female trio reminiscent of The Andrews Sisters will sing with the band. Some of the vocals, like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” are not specifically Dorsey tunes but swing arrangements created by musicians who worked closely with Dorsey.
The Sunday, Feb. 25 “Windworks” concert set for 2:30 p.m. in the Long Center, puts four concert bands in the spotlight. The Varsity, Collegiate and Purdue Concert Bands welcome the Wind Ensemble of NorthWood High School in Nappanee as a special guest. NorthWood is one of two “partner” schools involved with Purdue’s “Partners in Music Education” program this semester. The program creates opportunities for high school students to work with Purdue’s music faculty, to meet college musicians and perform in joint concerts.
An annual event for Purdue’s concert bands, “Windworks” has become known for its wide variety of music and Varsity Band, under the direction of Pamela J. Nave, keeps that reputation going as it kicks off the concert. Varsity Band’s set stretches from a tune with folk music roots, Stephen Collins Foster’s “Slumber, My Darling” to a contemporary work by Daniel Bukvich titled “Voodoo.”
Inspired by the sounds of the jungle at night, Buckvich sees “Voodoo” as a theatrical event as well as a piece of music, calling for the use of flashlights, arm waving, chanting, singing, and playing on parts of wind instruments such as mouthpieces, trombone slides and trumpets with tuning slides removed.
Highlighting the Collegiate Band’s portion of the program is Francis McBeth’s “Of Sailors and Whales.” McBeth, a prolific composer who’s received the ASCAP Special Award every year since 1965, based this five-movement work on five scenes from Herman Melville’s classic novel “Moby Dick.” The ensemble, conducted by Andrew King, also performs J.F. Wagner’s popular “Under the Double Eagle March.”
Two pieces with ties to France highlight the Purdue Concert Band’s program. Max Jones conducts the band in Jacques Offenbach’s “La Belle Helene Overture,” dating to the mid 1880s, and James Barnes “Lonely Beach, Normandy 1944,” composed in 1992, among others.
Barnes’ “Lonely Beach” was inspired by film footage that recorded the assault on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. In the film, four soldiers are seen attempting to reach the relative safety of the sea wall. The first part of the tone poem begins with the sound of wind and waves. As the assault begins, the music builds to a frenzy, portraying panic and the death of one of the soldiers. The second half is a eulogy for all the soldiers who died on the beach.
The NorthWood Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Barry Houser, contributes upbeat notes to “Windworks” many moods. Among its tunes are Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Jesters and Otto Schwartz’ “Roller Coaster.” Pamela Nave will be featured as a xylophone soloist in Joseph Green’s “Xylophonia.”
Purdue’s three concert bands will next perform together on Saturday, April 21, in Elliott Hall of Music.