Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble present “Foundation”

On Saturday, October 15, Lawrence University’s Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble performed in their first concert of the year. The concert was appropriately titled “Foundation” and showcased the two premiere bands at Lawrence playing several touching and mesmerizing works.

Symphonic Band, conducted by Assistant Professor of Music Education and Associate Director of Bands Matthew Arau ’97, started the concert with a piece by Peter Mennin called “Canzona.” The piece was written in the style of Gabrielli, an Italian Renaissance composer and cellist. This piece was majestic and showcased sections of extreme lyricism with the ensemble demonstrating their large sound throughout. The next piece was a sure standout on the program—Frank Ticheli’s “An American Elegy,” dedicated to those who lost their lives on April 20, 1999 at the school shooting in Columbine High School in Columbine, CO. Before playing the piece, Arau shared his experience on the day of the tragedy as a middle school band director in the nearby community of Loveland, CO. Freshman Daniel Green also shared words about the piece in a short, touching speech. Green shared how as humans we are all mountains coming together to form a mountain range. It is our experiences together that unite us as one. Through pressure, we only become taller. The band began the piece by singing the Columbine Alma Mater written by Ticheli in a four-part chorale, which led into the piece, a sorrowful testament to those who lost their lives. When the piece was finished, Arau invited the audience to stand to sing the Columbine alma mater which was printed in the programs. This moment was when the depth of the piece hit me—singing along with the rest of the audience and the ensemble brought forth the emotion that Ticheli put into the piece. Symphonic Band finished their half of the concert with “Suite of Old American Dances” by Robert Russell Bennett. Through several movements including a cakewalk, Western one-step and rag, Symphonic Band demonstrated their versatility as an ensemble during the performance of these short, lovable dances.

Wind Ensemble, directed by Kimberly-Clark Professor of Music, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands Andrew Mast, began after the intermission with an excerpt from Ned Rorem’s “Symphony No. 3.” In Movement No. 2, “Traffic,” Rorem highlighted the percussion in this bright and bubbly scene. After the piece, Mast introduced the ensemble and pictured the first piece as an “image of Carey Grant and Jimmy Stewart on a Manhattan night.” The second piece, “Shadja-maalika: Modal Illusions” by Associate Professor of Music Asha Srinivasan, served as another highlight of the concert. While it was first composed in 2010 for the Wind Ensemble to perform that year, Srinivasan remarked how it was incredibly fulfilling to work with a new generation of students on the same piece. Srinivasan brought up how this piece took root in several Indian traditions, some being heterophony, and the strong rhythmic patterns in the piece originated from the improvisatory tradition in Indian music. “Shadja-maalika: Modal Illusions” was an absolutely terrific composition that was incredibly fulfilling to listen to. Wind Ensemble closed the concert with “Passacaglia in C minor” by J.S. Bach and arranged by Donald Hunsberger. While this piece is standard in organ repertoire, as an organist I had never heard it arranged for band before, yet Wind Ensemble tackled the fugal nature of this piece with the utmost poise and control, ending with a wonderful performance.

Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band showed themselves as powerful ensembles last weekend, proving that performing repertoire of any style is achievable for these artists!