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Joyous music fills Purdue Bands' 'Celebration' concert
Approaching a major anniversary creates so much excitement it’s often hard to hold it in. That’s why Purdue Bands & Orchestras opens its 2010-11 season with a “Celebration Here We Come” concert on Sunday, Sept. 26, in anticipation of its 125th anniversary in 2011.
“We’ve got a lot to celebrate,” says Jay Gephart, director of the concert’s headliner group, the Purdue Wind Ensemble. Not only is the 125th anniversary rapidly approaching “but we’re celebrating the largest enrollment in our history which means multiple concert bands, jazz bands and orchestras. It translates to more and more students interested in staying involved in music and that’s something.”
Sunday’s concert, set for 2:30 p.m. in Lafayette’s Long Center, 217 N. Sixth St., will feature three concert bands and tunes with a celebratory nature.
Gephart’s Wind Ensemble, made up of the department’s top musicians, will open their portion of the program with “Water Fanfare” by Joseph Spaniola. One of a series of fanfares saluting the elements, “this brilliantly scored piece displays the brass section in a very powerful way,” says Gephart.
John Zdechlik’s “Celebrations” is “a modern day version of Dmitri Shostakovich’s ‘Festive Overture’ and requires the same fiery technique of the woodwinds. It’s a joyous piece,” he adds.
An unusual opportunity awaits in a Mark Watters “Rhapsody” – the chance to hear the baritone saxophone as a solo instrument. “No one will have heard an original composition for bari sax and wind ensemble. They just aren’t out there,” Gephart says. Graduate student Brett Sanborn, an aeronautical engineering major from Montrose, MI, will be featured in the piece “which demonstrates that the bari sax can be an incredibly beautiful, lyrical instrument.”
Their portion of the program concludes with Alfred Reed’s “Armenian Dances,” performed as a tribute to Harry Begian who passed away in July 2010. After a long career that gave him national stature in the music world, Begian came out of retirement to lead Purdue’s top concert band for several years in the 1980s. He was a personal friend of Reed’s and commissioned the composer to write “Armenian Dances.”
“As a youngster I vividly recall that after supper, my father would begin to sing, just for fun, old Armenian folk songs he learned and sang as a child. He was very honest and loyal to his heritage and the folk music of Armenia,” Begian once said. Begian asked Reed to use these same songs in “Armenian Dances.” Begian conducted the work’s premiere with the University of Illinois Band in 1973 and the piece, which has been played all over the world, has earned more royalties for Reed than any other piece he has composed.
Sunday’s concert features two other bands. Fall Concert Band Black, directed by Andrew King, opens the afternoon with “Flourish for Wind Band” by Ralph Vaughn Williams, a regal fanfare that exhibits many of the musical characteristics associated with British band music. The group will also perform Francis McBeth’s “Of Sailors and Whales,” a series of five musical scenes inspired by classic moments in Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick,” along with “On the Mall,” Edwin Franko Goldman’s most popular march. Written in 1923, this march was used to dedicate a new bandstand in New York City’s Central Park where the Goldman band gave summer concerts.
With the 2010 expansion of Fall Concert Band into two sections, Steve Cotten, Director of Bands at Harrison High School, has been brought in to conduct the Fall Concert Band Gold ensemble. They will open their set with Patrick Burns “Seize the Day,” an upbeat majestic work inspired by the Latin phrase “carpe diem.” The set also includes “Benediction” by John Stevens, “Kitten on the Keys” by Zez Confrey, John Philip Sousa’s “Boy Scouts of America” march and Gustav Holst’s “Second Suite in F.”
During Holst’s earlier years as a composer, he took interest, as did many English composers at the time, in writing pieces based on folk music. His contemporary Ralph Vaughan Williams had based his “English Folk Song Suite” on English folk tunes and Holst followed suit with his “Second Suite.” It includes bits and pieces of folk tunes like “Swansea Town,” “Claudy Banks,” and “I’ll Love my Love.”
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