Lawrence wind concert proves dynamic, promising

Amelia Perron

The Lawrence Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble are off to a strong start. The ensembles gave their first performance Saturday under the direction of Professor Andrew Mast.
The Symphonic Band, which opened up the program, was strong from the very beginning, showing off exceptional blend and ensemble in Andrew Boysen’s “Kirkpatrick Fanfare.” Their efforts were consistent through the next piece, a transcription of Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” for choir. In dealing with a few passages for a tenor solo, Mast got a bit creative. “I thought we’d have euphonium [played by Alison Boguski] play two of the solos, but have the French horn [played by Hannah Starr] do one for contrast,” he explained. “Then we were experimenting during rehearsal, and we decided to have the euphonium play from the organ loft. I think it created a nice dialogue between the instruments.” The Symphonic Band portion concluded with Saint-Sa‰ns’ “Orient et Occident,” which, although a rather amusingly outdated interpretation of Eastern music, was the group’s strongest piece and a great showcase for clean, articulate ensemble work.
The band, typically dominated by freshman, had an unusual problem this year: there were simply too many good musicians. “The numbers were actually a problem,” Mast says. “We had to rotate musicians, which is something that doesn’t usually happen with this group.” By all accounts, though, the class of 2009 is a strong one. Junior and principal trumpet player Joe Pfender observes, “It definitely seems like there is massive potential.”
As usual, Wind Ensemble gave a strong showing. The highlight of the program was “Harrison’s Dream” by Peter Graham, a piece portraying the 18th-century search for a clock that could function at sea, a surprisingly dangerous issue for sailors of the time. The work alternated between “clock” passages and “nightmare” passages, addressing the clockmaker’s frenzy to prevent more losses of lives due to navigational problems. Adding what Mast called “emotional ties” was Grainger’s “My Robin is to the Greenwood Gone.” This 1998 setting was written by Lawrence jazz director Fred Sturm and dedicated to Mast’s predecessor, former Lawrence band conductor Fred Schroeder, giving the music special meaning.
The Wind Ensemble’s program was geared toward the group’s performance at the Wisconsin Music Educators Association’s annual conference Friday. Playing for the conference was not only a great honor for the group, but “a great showcase,” says Mast, “and a great way to let people around the state know about us.” Accordingly, Mast selected pieces that wouldn’t be “too esoteric” and that would leave a good impression on the audience. And provided that the ensemble played with its usual quality, there’s no doubt that just such an impression was made.
Plans are well under way for the next concert, to be held Nov. 19. The focus will be the presence of Samuel Adler, a prominent figure in the music world who, according to Mast, “has done everything there is to do.” A professor emeritus at the Eastman School of Music, Adler will conduct a residency for several days preceding the concert, preparing his own pieces with the Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble and working with the music theory/composition department. Adler has been “a delight to work with,” says Mast, and the residency should be an exciting opportunity for all involved. And judging from this past concert, the next band concert should certainly be a satisfying performance.