This past weekend on Saturday, April 18, the Lawrence University Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble presented their concert, “Innovations,” in Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The first half of the concert included various arrangements performed by the symphonic band, and was followed in the second half of the performance by the wind ensemble, which played four unique pieces.
Introducing the concert, the symphonic band played “March from ‘Symphonic Metamorphosis.’” Although originally written as an orchestral composition, this arranged piece contained instrumentation of the string bass along with the woodwinds and brass instruments. The front row, comprised of both the flute and oboe sections, shared the same musical phrases, and their accompaniment followed nicely with the percussion undertone. This performance differed from the second piece, a lament by Michael Colgrass, “Bali.”
Conductor Matthew Arau gave background information on the piece, stating Colgrass’ inspiration for his composition came from a visit to the small island. The piece was arranged in three different parts, emphasizing the natural order and beauty of the sun, life and death. To emphasize the beauty of life and lamentation for the dead, the oboe section played offstage on the balcony. The first part of the piece was as slow and searching as the second was fast and uplifting. The third was slower and mellow.
The piece also incorporated many style techniques from Johann Sebastian Bach such as a leading line with variations building off of each other. In addition to the classic style variations of the piece, there were also phrases that incorporated more whimsical techniques. The clattering of the drums, the flute trills and the eerie supplement of the offstage oboes added a unique effect to the overall composition.
The second half of the concert was introduced by guest composer John Frantzen. His piece, “Skronk,” was inspired by the busy, clattering life in the city. Similar to Gershwin’s famous piece, “Rhapsody in Blue,” the ensemble emulated the sounds of busy traffic and crowding that would be heard while walking through a large metropolis.
As a friend of conductor Andrew Mast, Frantzen was able to give a brief introduction to his piece, highlighting the quality and focus of his work. Frantzen explained that not only do cultures change when moving across the country from California to the East Coast, but so does the composition experience. The beginning of the composition fits perfectly with the congestion of the rest of the sections. This piece led in nicely to the second by the wind ensemble “… and the mountains rising nowhere.”
Mast explained how this piece, while originally arranged for woodwinds, was nontraditional in the way the composer had represented the notes. The emphasis on the percussion contrasting with the piano soloist also gave a different vibe, especially after hearing how Frantzen had composed his piece.
In this piece, there were offstage musical accompaniments as well. These included whistlers, singers and glasses filled with water to give an airy vibrating undertone. The two first pieces played by the wind ensemble differed greatly from the first half of the concert, though they showed the difference in style and great range of musical arrangements the band was able to play.
This past weekend, both the Lawrence University Symphonic Band and the Wind Ensemble presented very different pieces. “Innovations” presented the variety of music Lawrence University students take pride in learning and practicing, and the concert encompassed the unique and different aspects of the arts.