Final Wind Ensemble concert moves audience

Lawrence University Wind Ensemble performs onstage in the Chapel.
Photo by Taylor Blackson.

On Saturday, May 19, the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble played its final concert of the school year. LUWE is composed of Lawrence’s top wind, brass and percussion musicians, and it is directed by Kimberly-Clark Professor of Music and Director of Bands Andy Mast.

I immediately noticed the stage was empty, and the Wind Ensemble was stationed around the upper balcony. When the concert began, I immediately understood why they made this choice. Their opening selection was “Springtime Madrigal” by Claude Le Jeune. Le Jeune lived in the 16th century, and accordingly, his music instantly brought to mind the regalia of a medieval European palace or garden.

It began with an exquisite trumpet solo performed by sophomore Ricardo Jimenez. Other voices began to join in, creating a counterpoint that was reminiscent of a Bach fugue. Once the whole ensemble entered, I was blown away. I felt immersed in an ocean of sound. The positioning of the musicians meant that the closest voices were only a few feet away, while those further away faded into the mix. I could better hear individual parts and how they fit into the composition as a whole.

After returning to the stage, the group continued with “Mythology Suite” by Stacy Garrop. Each movement of this piece was intended to evoke a scene or event from ancient mythology. The first movement featured the Morse code signal for “SOS” as a rhythmic motif, which sounded similar to the famous rhythm from “Mars” in Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” Further invoking Holst, the music was extremely dramatic, filled with massive crescendos and violent-sounding percussion.

The Ensemble’s next selection was the “Concerto for Bassoon and Band” by Gordon Jacob. The soloist was junior Stuart Young, who was the Winner of the 2018 Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition. The concerto was upbeat and energetic with a classic British style. Young’s performance was emotive and confident. Near the end of the third movement, the music gave way to an incredibly fast and technical cadenza, which Young played flawlessly. He was given a well-deserved round of raucous applause afterward.

After a brief intermission, the Ensemble played “Symphony in B-flat,” by Paul Hindemith. Conductor Mast remarked that the piece is one of the most classic works for a wind band. To illustrate why, he asked the audience to listen for a technique used by Hindemith in which two different melodies are introduced at the beginning of each movement, and then slowly blended until they are played together at the end of the movement.

Before the concert concluded with a performance of John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” march, Mast called the Ensemble’s graduating seniors to the front of the stage to congratulate each of them. The concert program included a brief profile of each senior, listing their post-grad plans and favorite memories of their time in Wind Ensemble. This was a fun send-off and final romp for the seniors, and as is tradition, the flute and brass line stood up to belt out the second rendition of its famous melody. I’m sure this concert will be memorable for the soon-to-be graduates as they prepare to leave Lawrence.

Jay MacKenzie