Andrew Boysen works enliven Purdue Bands Showcase
From a playful work named "Tricyle" to a somber piece inspired by 9/11, "Grant Them Eternal Peace," a variety of works by American contemporary composer Andrew Boysen will be explored through the Purdue Bands Showcase, April 19-21.
The Showcase consists of three concerts. Boysen's works will be featured at the Friday, April 19, concert featuring the Symphonic Band and Purdue Wind Ensemble; and also at the Saturday, April 20 concerts featuring Varsity, Collegiate and Purdue Concert Bands. Both events are at 8 p.m. in Elliott Hall of Music. Admission is free.
At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 21, the Purdue Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras take the Elliott Hall stage with masterworks by Dvorak, Wagner and Strauss. Admission is also free.
Each spring, Purdue Bands invites a composer to work with its concert bands. For the past month, all five concert bands have been tackling different Boysen pieces. The composer will work with each group during the Showcase weekend to refine the piece, then guest conduct the pieces in performance.
A winner of the International Horn Society Composition Contest and a two-time recipient of top honors at the Claude T. Smith Memorial Band Composition Contest, Boysen is currently on the music faculty of the University of New Hampshire.
The weekend kicks off with the Purdue Wind Ensemble performing "Pulse" and the Symphonic Band, "Grant Them Eternal Peace."
Boysen was just beginning work on a commissioned piece when a terrorist attack leveled the World Trade Center in New York City and changed the focus of his commission. "The overwhelming emotions that I experienced on that Tuesday were something that I had never before experienced in relationship to an event outside of my personal sphere. I can't begin to explain them. I simply knew that I wanted to express them somehow," Boysen recalls.
"I had no interest in exploring or re-living the moments of that day. Instead, this work is simply a prayer to bless those who died so needlessly. Each movement is intended to reflect the text of the requiem mass, with the Dies Irae movement forming the centerpiece and giving the whole piece an arch form."
Boysen's "Pulse" is music for music's sake. It begins simply, with a steady, constant beat, but quickly transforms into a dense thicket of rhythms and textures.
The Friday concert will also feature the Symphonic Band playing such pieces as Jan Ver der Roost's "Dynamic" and Scott Boerma's "Cityscape," where intense, clashing harmonies combine with moments of calm to depict the atmosphere within the endless canyons of metal and cement in the heart of New York City.
The Wind Ensemble will add "Celebration Fanfare" by Steven Reineke and "Fantasy Variations on a Theme by Paganini" by James Barnes showcases various wind instruments as it tosses the theme among instruments, or pairs of instruments, from woodwinds to brass. There is also a striking variation for percussion.
On Saturday, April 20, Varsity Band presents the first of three Boysen works, a light, happy work titled "Tricycle." Collegiate Band presents "Havener Fanfare." Featuring offstage antiphonal trumpets and percussion, "Havener Fanfare" climbs out of the depths of uncertainty to a bold statement of boundless joy. The Purdue Concert Band presents "Song for Lyndsay," a tune with personal resonance for Boysen.
"The musical materials for the work are mostly derived from a short piano piece that I wrote for my wife, Lyndsay, in 2005. Although the structure of the work is much more complex than its forerunner, 'Song for Lyndsay' is still more than anything else a simple love song dedicated to Lyndsay and what she has meant in my life," Boysen says.
Other Saturday night pieces include Vaclav Nelhybel's "Festivo" and Elliott Del Bargo's "Chant Rituals" by Varsity Band; Frank Ticheli's "Shenandoah" and John Mackey's Foundry" by Collegiate Band; and John Williams "Jurassic Park Highlights" and "American Civil War Fantasy" by Jerry Bilik.
On Sunday, April 21, the orchestral section of the Showcase will kick off with the Purdue Symphony performing Antonin Dvorak's "Symphony' No 9" also known as the "New World Symphony."
One of Dvorak's most beloved works, the "New World" Symphony captures the essence of the composer's travels to America. He set sail for America in September1892 and his exposure the "new world" he encountered left a stamp on his works that can be heard, especially in this symphony. The piece contains allusions to famous American tunes woven throughout, including 'Three Blind Mice,' 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,' and 'The Little Alabama Coon,' as well as hints of 'Yankee Doodle.' Even more influential is the character of the African-American spirituals and Native American tunes throughout his work.
"It is this spirit which I have tried to reproduce in my new symphony, the composer said. " I have not actually used any of the melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, harmony, counterpoint and orchestral color."
The Philharmonic Orchestra will present Richard Wagner's "Siegfried's Death and Funeral Music" and Richard Strauss "Death and Transfiguration."
Strauss was only 25 when he composed this work which marked a departure from literary sources like "Macbeth" and "Don Juan" that he had used in the past to a narrative of his own imagination. There was much speculation at the time about why he chose such a dark theme but the composer said, "It was an idea like any other." His idea was to illustrate, through music, the dying moments of a man who had "striven toward the highest artistic aims."
The Purdue Bands Showcase is sponsored by Purdue Bands & Orchestras which offers a variety of free concerts.