Masquerade for Band and Ensemble

The Lawrence University Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band held a concert in Lawrence Memorial Chapel on Saturday, Apr. 13, at 8 p.m. The two groups performed for about 45 minutes each with a 15-minute intermission between the Ensemble’s exit and the Band’s entrance. The show was titled “Masquerade,” each piece meant to represent a different character, a different mask.

Departing from tradition, Wind Ensemble performed first. Wind Ensemble is comprised of select wind and percussion students whose “repertoire consists of the finest wind music from Bach to major contemporary composers and occasional works by talented Lawrence students” (Lawrence University). Director and conductor Andrew Mast explained after the opening piece, “Nonet,” that unlike usual, the Ensemble was kicking off the show that night because the pieces in their program had an edge to them “like a dark German chocolate.”

Mast’s description proved accurate when the Ensemble jumped into their next piece entitled “Never Forget, Never Remember,” which began with a loud pound against the drum and a crash of the  cymbals. The steady banging of the drum and the cymbals throughout the song amplified the intensity of the clarinets, which sounded like buzzing bees, and the flutes, which at times reached a painfully high pitch. The piece certainly had a sharp edge to it that kept the audience on the edge of their seats throughout.

Following was the title piece “Masquerade For Band,” written by Vincent Persichetti. What began with slow, low drones from the tuba became a chaotic journey through a slew of different tempos and tones. The xylophonist came in intermittently with quick scampers across the bars which gave the song a feeling of a cat-and-mouse chase.

After the intermission, the Symphonic Band, which is open to students outside of the Conservatory as well as in, opened with a thrilling piece entitled “The Fly.” A clapper was used throughout the song, reminiscent of repeated attempts to swat a fly. At various points throughout the piece, different students would lasso a rope-like object above their heads. Clarinetists raised their instruments like trunks to create a buzzing sound; trombonists muted their instruments to produce a sound right out of a 1940s cartoon. The piece ended with a bang in which director Matthew Arau tok the fly swatter he had been conducting with (“It’s  not every concert that I get asked to conduct with a fly swatter”) and, in a final motion, brought it down with a shout of frustration; it was a wonderful, crowd-pleasing performance.

The next piece, “Diamond Tide,” was inspired by the image of melting a diamond into liquid (which, Arau mentioned, is only possible if the diamond is subjected to 10 million times the normal atmospheric pressure on earth). The piece definitely gave off a “melty” feeling, with slow, seamless scales climbing down in the first movement and a xylophone effect in the second movement that sounded like icicles being struck with mallets. 

The final piece only used the notes of the C blues scale and was written to sound like a train—specifically a train going from New Orleans to Chicago, two cities famous for their jazz scenes. The song did indeed sound exactly like a fast-moving train, and the whistle that was occasionally blown certainly added to this effect.

The Masquerade concert made for an entertaining and energetic spectacle that stood out from past performances by the Wind Ensemble and the Symphonic Band. The two groups’ next and final concerts of Spring Term, on May 18 and May 25 respectively, should not be missed.