Purdue Bands PMO pull heartstrings with Aaron Copland works

November 17, 2009 Kathy Matter

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The uncanny ability of composer Aaron Copland to pull America's heartstrings will be showcased in a concert that features the Purdue Symphonic Band, the Purdue Glee Club and the Purduettes in a variety of Copland works on Sunday (Nov. 22).

The concert is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette. Admission is free.

"Aaron Copland speaks to our hearts in a way few American composers ever have and ever will," says Jay S. Gephart, who directs the symphonic band. "From a classical standpoint, he's the composer I consider to be a truly American composer because his music embodies the character of our nation."

Singers from Purdue Musical Organizations will join the Symphonic Band for selections from Copland's "The Tender Land," an opera written in 1952-54 for the NBC Television Opera Workshop, that tells the story of a farm family in the Midwest. "Stomp Your Foot" has the feeling of a good-fashioned square dance," says Gephart, while "The Promise of Living" is a Thanksgiving hymn. "It speaks to the meaning behind being thankful for incredible riches. The words loving and sharing are used in the text, which sums up Thanksgiving for everyone."

The Band-PMO collaboration on the concert is the first during the William Griffel era at Purdue Musical Organizations, and Gephart is anxious to find more opportunities to work together. "To do serious music with PMO is a breath of fresh air for everyone," he says.

The symphonic band also will perform Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait," which uses a narrator to provide a verbal portrait while the band plays. Roy Johnson, the "Voice of Purdue's All-American Marching Band," will serve as narrator.

"You don't have to be a trained musician to enjoy Aaron Copland's music. It speaks to people across all cultures," Gephart says.

To complete the concert, the symphonic band tackles Joseph Willcox Jenkins "American Overture," originally written for the U.S. Army Field Band and known for the virtuoso playing it requires of the French horn players; and Robert Russell Bennett's "Autobiography Part 2," a continued exploration of the Bennett piece introduced to audiences at the Symphonic Band's Oct. 3 concert.

"The thing I like about Bennett is that he was a very important composer in the time of Rodgers and Hammerstein. He had a huge impact on Broadway, and it had a huge impact on him," Gephart says.

"In "Autobiography," he tells a story using the style of music appropriate to the era, so it not only takes us through his life story but takes us through a music history lesson as well. The first of two movements to be performed draws its inspiration from the composer's move from his home state of Missouri to New York City, and the second reflects emotions he felt courting his future wife, Louise Merrill."

Opening the concert will be the Fall Concert Band under the direction of Ishbah Cox.

The band opens the afternoon with "Festival Overture" which is considered one of American composer Alfred Reed's most brilliant and powerful works for the modern concert band. The set will also feature "Ode to Greenseleves" and Caesar Giovannini's "Overture in B Flat." It concludes with a concert band tribute to the "King of Pop's" greatest hits in "Michael Jackson Through the Years."

Contact: Kathy Matter, public relations director, Purdue Bands, 765-496,6785, kcmatter@purdue.edu