In a two part concert series for Winter Term, the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble performed an evening of music on Saturday night that featured a faculty soloist, a world premiere, and a preview of the tour program in March. The concert presented works by Hjertmann, Corigliano, Daugherty, and Mayrose, each of them unique whether they used music to describe an invasive plant species or how crystals make a ray of light explode into color.
This coming March, the LU Wind Ensemble will bus down to Greensboro, North Carolina to play in the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) 2013 Conference after being chosen from a pool of college and conservatory ensembles around the nation to perform. Three of the pieces on Saturday’s concert will be played at the conference.
First on the program was Ben Hjertmann’s “Catclaw Mimosa,” named after an invasive shrub and filled with prickly rhythms and pokey dissonances that created an aural image of a plant slowly spreading itself across a patch of flowers. The piece was unpredictable with its disjointed rhythms and beat, beautiful yet jarring melody, and piercing versus gentle volume.
Following the plant-like piece were two movements from John Corigliano’s “Gazebo Dances,” a more standard piece amid the more recently written works, filled with powerful ensemble parts and short, solo lines. The first movement, “Overture,” opened with triumph and flair while the second movement, “Waltz,” was an atypical waltz shifting between being in three and five beat patterns.
The third piece played was Michael Daugherty’s “Brooklyn Bridge,” featuring Associate Professor of Music David Bell as a clarinet soloist with the Wind Ensemble. Three movements were performed, filled with technical flourishes, slides from note to note, call and response between soloist and ensemble, Afro-Cuban beats and jittery, jazzy melodies.
Concluding the program was a piece entitled “Bending Light,” written by former Fellow of Music at Lawrence and composer at University of Indiana in South Bend, John Mayrose. Saturday’s performance was a world premiere of the work, which was written for the LU Wind Ensemble. The title refers to Mayrose’s interest in the refraction of light, the way a beam of light reacts to a crystal, and how the location a straw is shifted when placed in a glass of water. It is also, of course, a play on Lawrence’s “light, more light” motto.
In a minimalist style, the piece contains repetition and constant forward motion, involving every musician to create a driving machine sound. Influences of rock were heard in the pounding repetition and syncopated rhythms and seven-beat patterns. By the end, the ensemble is doing their version of a head bang to the pulse of “Bending Light.”
The LU Wind Ensemble’s concert at the CBDNA conference gives the ensemble an opportunity to showcase our Conservatory and the focus on contemporary music, particularly with two pieces being written specifically for the ensemble. Saturday’s concert presented the audience with a variety of musical styles: quirky and playful, powerful and heroic, flourishing and edgy, and rock n’ roll minimalism, continuing to surprise and entertain listeners throughout the performance.