Symphonic Band does ‘ImPERCYnations’ of Grainger March 8
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Australian composer Percy Grainger’s love of lively British folk songs is the stuff of legend in the music world. And it’s likely he would love that fact that his original works were being paired with playful parodies of his pieces by the Purdue Symphonic Band at its Sunday, March 8, concert.
The free 2:30 p.m. event in Elliott Hall of Music features both the Symphonic Band, directed by Jay Gephart, and the Purdue Concert Band, directed by Max Jones. Besides Grainger the concert also spotlights works by such noted composers as Frank Ticheli, Clifton Williams and Francis McBeth.
“In a recent poll of wind band conductors, Grainger’s ‘Lincolnshire Posey’ was overwhelmingly deemed to be the most important wind band composition to date,” Gephart says.
“The quality of this piece rivals much of the orchestral repertoire.”
Grainger’s ability to run a gamut of emotions makes his works interesting, and he’s respected for his ability to write intriguing solo passages for small chamber ensembles in the midst of large ensemble pieces.
“Lincolnshire Posey” was conceived and scored for wind band early in 1937. This bunch of “musical wildflowers,” as Grainger referred to them, takes its inspiration from folk songs he collected in Lincolnshire, England. Each of the six movements represents a different song with its own story, and it’s intended to be a musical portrait of the singer who sang its underlying melody. They range from a lilting sailor tune in “Lisbon” to a military fanfare in “Lord Melbourne” and a brisk dance melody in “The Lost Lady Found.”
From Grainger’s “Three Tragic Ballads,” the band will also perform “No. 3 Father and Daughter.” Gephart says that although the story the tune is based on is indeed tragic, the “music is as light and cheerful as you might expect in any Grainger piece. How he came up with this piece from that story I don’t know.”
Contemporary composer Steven Bryant, found himself inspired by “Lincolnshire Posey” to create “ImPERCYnations,” the concert’s title piece. Bryant says that “melodic fragments from various pieces of music tend to embed themselves in my mind, and repeat in short little loops incessantly, necessitating some sort of exorcism.”
When “Lincolnshire Posey” tunes imbedded themselves in his brain he pulled out various melodies and melodic fragments from each of the six movements to make “ImPERCYnations.”
“If his (Grainger’s) music is a bouquet, then ‘ImPERCYnations’ is the genetically-altered, crossbred, hybrid offspring of his wildflowers - a musical ‘Franken-flower’,” Bryant says.
Bryant’s creative approach to music led Gephart to commission him to craft a band composition honoring the Purdue Band & Orchestra Department’s 125th anniversary in 2011, and Bryant will come to campus as a guest conductor that year.
The pieces closing out the Symphonic Band’s portion of the program also have ties to Grainger. Graduate student and pianist Evan Dawley will be featured in the First Movement of Grieg’s “Concerto in a minor.” Grainger often played the piece on concerts around the country, developing a unique interpretation that Dawley will perform.
Frank Ticheli’s “Postcard” was commissioned by H. Robert Reynolds as a tribute to his mother. Ticheli says his “brief ‘postcard’ is a musical reflection of her character -- vibrant, whimsical, succinct.”
“Grainger was so fascinated with folk melodies, that this Ticheli piece reminds me of him,” Gephart says. “Even though it’s not a folk melody, it’s very descriptive of this person so at times there’s a folk flavor to it.”
The Purdue Concert Band opens its section with “Through Countless Halls of Air” by Francis McBeth. The composer was inspired by a line from a poem titled “High Flight” that says “I fling my eager craft through footless halls of air and touch the face of God.”
McBeth says the first movement “celebrates the courage and fear of first light as seen in the mythical flight of Daedalus and Icarus. The second movement expresses the grand serenity of soaring over the dunes at Kitty Hawk. The last movement, named after two of the most famous and fastest planes every to fly, the BeeGee and Blackbird, expresses the combination of flight and speed.”
Clifton Williams, an accomplished composer and teacher who helped shape McBeth’s career, is represented on the program by “Dramatic Essay” which features graduate student Todd Ward in a trumpet solo.
David Bobrowitz’ “The Mall of America” and Bruce Yurko’s “Danza No. 2” complete the Concert Band’s set. The Bobrowitz piece depicts the hustle and bustle of activities in America’s second largest shopping mall and entertainment complex in Bloomington, MN. “Danza No. 2” was commissioned to honor a deceased student who had been a six year member of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania High School Honors Band. Instead of creating an elegy, the composer was directed to reflect the student’s energy and his love of life.
These bands will next be heard in concert at the Purdue Bands’ Showcase April 24.
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