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“Something Old…New…Borrowed…Blue” might initially sound like a concert for wedding planners. But good planners of any kind know how important it is to pull diverse elements together to create a memorable event. That’s what Jay Gephart attempts with the Purdue Bands’ season opening concert featuring its Wind Ensemble and Fall Concert Band.
The free concert is set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette.
In the 21st century, the wind band medium has a host of disparate styles that dominate its texture, and the concert will explore a few “new” works. Under Gephart’s direction, the Wind Ensemble performs John Mackey’s “Sheltering Sky” a nostalgic portrait of time suspended. It has a folksong-like quality intended by the composer. He carries on a long and proud tradition of composers who weave folk songs into the identity of their music that includes Percy Grainger and Ralph Vaughn Williams among others.
Works by both those men – Grainger’s “Irish Tune from County Derry” and Vaughn Williams “Sea Songs,” based on three English sailing songs – will be performed by the Fall Concert Band, under the direction of Ishbah Cox and Chad Downey.
Another 21st century tune is Samuel Hazo’s expressive work for wind band titled “Voices of the Sky,” which translates the many qualities and changes in the appearance of the sky into musical moods.
Two contemporary works borrowed from the 20th century are “March of the Steel Men” by Charles Belsterling and “Original Suite” by Gordon Jacob. “March of the Steel Men,” was the only march composed by Belsterling, who was a successful lawyer, vice-president of U.S. Steel Corporation (1938-42) and a lover of bands and music. It is assumed that in Jacob’s “Original Suite,” completed in 1928, the word “original” in its title was used to distinguish it from transcriptions that made up the bulk of the band repertoire at the time, or to alert listeners that the “folk song” themes were original.
There’s an old treasure in Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 5 Finale.” Shostakovich spent much of his life under the oppressive regime of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and the brutality of the time left its mark upon the sensitive composer. In 1936, his opera “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” came under fire from Soviet officials. He recognized how crucial the reaction to his next symphony, No. 5, would be. Failure would most likely result in his “disappearance.” At its debut in 1937, No. 5 won a resoundingly positive reception although some officials voiced suspicions regarding the sincerity of this symphonic apology.
“Testimony,” Shostakovich’s memoirs published after his death, offered the composer’s view on the seemingly triumphant Finale: “The rejoicing is forced, created under threat. It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing.’ ”
The concert concludes on a blue note with the Wind Ensemble playing John Philip Sousa’s “Who’s Who in Navy Blue.”The Sept. 30 concert is sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestras as part of an extensive season of free jazz, concert band and orchestra concerts.
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