Australian Wind Symphony
CAPTIVATING – LIVE
Courtesy of David Whitbread
Esprit de corps
Robert Jager (1939– )
Composed in 1984
The brilliance of Robert Jager’s Esprit de Corps was an irresistible opener to our debut album. It begins with bustling upper woodwinds, regularly intercepted by trumpet fanfares and forceful statements from the back line. Arlene Bachanov of the Adrian Daily Telegram said it is ‘a colorful, jaunty, tuneful work that is great fun to hear’.
The composer considers it a ‘fantasy-march’ and it is generally considered one of the most virtuosic pieces in the wind ensemble repertoire. Its themes are drawn from the Marines Hymn, and it is marked ‘Tempo de Bourgeois’ – a bright tempo to capture the spirit of boisterous US Marines music director John Bourgeois who commissioned the work.
Texture plays a major role throughout this work. Listen for the way musical statements are amplified by the addition of contrasting ideas from other sections of the ensemble. A variety of musical sections give it energy and drama, solemn moments and lighter moments. There are fanfares, marches, parades, flight, and even a quasi-waltz in the middle – leaving plenty to the imagination.
We delighted in recording this piece live at the Presbyterian Church of St Andrew, where the architecture not only broadened our acoustic reach, but added a wonderful juxtaposition with the Warrior’s Chapel.
Robert Jager was born in New York and was arranger/composer at the US Armed Forces School of Music for four years. He graduated from the University of Michigan and went on to be lecturer and later professor in composition in Tennessee for 30 years. He has written extensively for wind ensemble, and has more than 100 published works, including choral, orchestral and chamber works.
Prelude, siciliano and rondo
Malcolm Arnold (1921–2006)
Composed in 1963
Arranged by John Paynter (1931–2010)
This delightful three-movement work explores bold orchestral statements that make full use of the power and subtlety of a wind ensemble. Originally titled Little Suite for Brass, it was later expanded into this splendid arrangement for wind ensemble by John Paynter, with Arnold noting that it retained its ‘breezy effervescence’.
Born into a family of shoemakers, Sir Malcolm Arnold was an English composer, trumpeter and conductor, knighted in 1993. Michael Kennedy said his works are ‘notable for melodic invention, colour, exuberance, and craftsmanship’. He wrote many symphonies and concertos, ballets and choral works, chamber music and piano works. He famously wrote the film soundtrack for The Bridge on the River Kwai.
John Paynter was also an English composer, as well as a noted music educator. He wrote six books that were influential on the teaching of music in Britain. He was Professor of Music at the University of York for 12 years and Emeritus Professor on his retirement. His compositions include choral and chamber music, as well as two children’s operas.
The Prelude begins with square musical statements that employ contrary motion between brass and woodwinds. Its fanfare gives way to moments of melodic fragility, which enable the upper winds to shine against the full low brass.
The second movement is a liltingly expressive Siciliano which, while bringing an audience to tears, draws on the composer’s early interest in jazz with the use of a ‘blue’ note. A muted trumpet sings a pensive melody over a metronomic lilt from the middle of the ensemble.
The third movement commands attention from the audience with an ensemble-wide unison, before breaking into a rollicking Rondo that gallops towards its romping finale. A final accelerando has the audience holding on for dear life!
William Walker (1809–1875)
Arranged in 1994 by Frank Ticheli (1958– )
Commissioned by John Whitwell in loving memory of his father, John Harvey Whitwell (1920–1993)
The famous words of this hymn were written by English clergyman John Newton (1725–1807) in 1772 and it was published in 1779. It is unknown if there was any music accompanying it at the time, and it was likely chanted by the congregation, though it has later been associated with many tunes (more than 20 according to Wikipedia).
The famous tune was a traditional folk tune called ‘New Britain’. In 1835, it was added to the words by ‘Singing Billy’, the American Baptist song leader and composer William Walker. It was published in his collection Southern harmony in 1847 – which in those days sold over 600,000 copies – and is the version most often sung today. It became a popular spiritual in the USA. It is now one of the most-recorded and most-loved tunes in the world.
Frank Ticheli is an American composer who is professor of composition at the University of Southern California. For eight years, he was the composer in residence with the Pacific Symphony. Though he has written extensively for orchestras, choirs and chamber ensembles, a number of his most notable works have become standards in the wind symphony repertoire.
Lawrence A. Johnson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says that Ticheli is ‘one of the most interesting and attractive composers on the scene today … [his] music is immediately accessible, crafted with impressive flair and an ear for striking instrumental colors and timbres’.
This beautifully scored work is never overstated – and the soaring climax will bring chills to your spine.
Dancing in the wind | Kazenomai
Yosuke Fukuda (1975– )
Composed in 2003
Yosuke Fukuda was born in Tokyo and started composing at age 11, largely self-taught. Because he played a synthesiser, his first compositions and arrangements also employed the multimedia capabilities of his computer. But at junior high school, he became familiar with the different wind instruments. He also plays oboe, conducts and lectures.
At the end of high school he was employed in a music business and also composed for the theatre, opera, dance and TV. His music has since diversified even further to music and surround sound, earning him a reputation for his ability to compose multidimensional music. His styles vary from dynamic symphonic music to catchy simple tunes.
Dancing in the wind is immediately likeable with its rhythmic drive and complex intertwining melodic lines. It won first prize in the 14th Asahi Composition Prize in 2003.
Winds of hope
Composed in 2018
1 Traditional grandeur
3 Lament and hymn for the fallen
4 The new day
Michael Dooley is no stranger to Canberra audiences, but in 2018 – for the first time – he composed for the wind symphony. And in 2019, he was announced as Canberra City News Artist of the Year.
As a profilic composer who has produced hundreds of pieces for TV, film, classical recitals and beyond, Michael is a jewel in Canberra’s musical crown. His most recent projects have spanned big band, jazz duo and classical piano, crossing genres with ease and showing ingenuity and impressive mastery of orchestration.
Michael studied composition at the Sydney Conservatorium before traveling extensively, shaping many of the influences that are often heard in his music. Winds of hope is no exception.
In 2017, another Canberran, Nick Pearson, approached Michael to commission a work that would commemorate a significant birthday of Nick’s wife, Katarina, whilst also championing his passions of live music and local performers. Nick has been involved in Canberra’s music scene for decades, after graduating from the Canberra School of Music in the 1980s and going on to found Canberra Music Tuition more than 20 years ago.
Winds of hope musically commemorates Katarina’s journey in her migration from Belgrade to building and sustaining a prosperous family life in Canberra. At Katarina’s birthday in 2018, she was presented with the score to Winds of hope.
The music tells the story of change and hope born of struggle. It is a story that has taken place in the Balkan countries and continues to take place in the Middle East. The piece draws on influences from the composer’s time living in Jordan and Lebanon, and also listening to the infectious and energetic sounds of Balkan music.
Beginning with a haunting melody on bass flute, a hypnotic rhythmic theme takes over that could belong to the Balkans or the Levant. Struggle and conflict follow, finally giving way to a moving lament and ‘Hymn for the fallen’. The piece finishes with a triumphant theme of hope as a symbol of the courageous rebuilding of lives.
This was the world premiere performance on 11 November 2018 at St Andrews.
Franz Schubert (1797–1828)
Arranged in 2004 by Frank Ticheli (1958– )
Frank Ticheli’s Ave Maria is a polyphonic interpretation of Schubert’s famous composition for voice and piano from 1825. Dispensing with lyrics, Ticheli has built on elements of the original accompaniment to inform a whole new work, with modified meter, simplified form, and enriched harmonies, extended melodies and instrumentation.
‘I had lots of fun dissecting and re-assembling the piece, and I took occasional liberties in the process, but I never strayed far from the basic harmonic structure of the original, and I strove hard to preserve a Schubertian elegance and grace,’ Frank said.
Our favourite element of this work is Ticheli’s orchestration, which plays on Schubert’s harmonies to tweak and explore emotional dissonances. Ticheli has brought a new interpretation of a much-loved tune to the wind ensemble repertoire.
Percy Grainger (1882–1961)
Artistic Director Geoff Grey seems to think a lot of Percy Grainger. While Grainger is a well-known Australian composer, many don’t realise he was also a pioneer of compositions and arrangements for the wind ensemble genre – probably born of his time as an Army bandsman in World War I.
Percy Grainger ‘was a piano prodigy turned composer who was known for his strange personal habits, his blunt and colorful prose, and his equally unusual music – his many admirers still recognize that he possessed “the supreme virtue of never being dull.” Born in Australia, he began studying piano at an early age. … becoming an American citizen in 1918. He went on to explore the frontiers of music with his idiosyncratic folk song settings, his lifelong advocacy for the saxophone, and his Free Music machines which predated electronic synthesizers,’ says Andy Pease.
His unique style of orchestration has a quirky disposition, and we affectionately refer to him as ‘the great recycler’, as snippets of his melodies regularly crop up in other compositions, often with wildly variable instrumentations and applications.
Grainger’s hallmark is the use of folk songs as a base for original compositions. However, Children’s march is different. It was possibly his first work based on all original material, or at least, not directly attributed to other works.
Having said that, it exhibits many familiar characteristics of a rollicking folk song: a 6-8 meter and a melody that would not be out of place in any schoolyard. Grainger has taken this simple idea – wherever it came from – and built a work that begins with an innocent and light-hearted skip, and gradually develops into a full orchestral exploration of harmony and structure.
Though you may think you hear the nursery rhyme, ‘Goosey, goosey gander’ …
The stillness of remembering
Movement 1 from ‘Everything beautiful’
Samuel R. Hazo (1966– )
Composed in 2014
Optimism and introspection share the stage in Samuel R. Hazo’s The stillness of remembering, bringing with it both the joy and the pain of celebrating the life of a departed friend of the composer, renowned US conductor and music educator Charles (Chuck) Campbell Jr.
Teresa J. Elliott who commissioned the work said, ‘Charles … was respected nationally as a music educator, conductor and mentor to young music teachers. He passed away on July 30, 2011, after a four-month valiant battle with pancreatic cancer … He was my teacher, my mentor, my colleague and friend for 42 years. The idea for this commission actually came to me on the morning I received the phone call letting me know of Mr C’s passing … That morning of July 30, 2011, I had ventured into one of the most beautiful and serene areas of the Great Smoky Mountains that I had ever experienced … the sun glistening through the treetops and
the sound of the rushing water beside the trail were eerily soothing … as if he was whispering to me … “Don’t worry … I’m OK.” It was one of the most painful, but uplifting times in my entire life … I decided the best way to honor Mr C was to have one of his best friends and colleagues compose a piece of music that would forever be a fitting tribute to [his] life .. I knew I wanted Sam Hazo to write it, and I knew it had to be an incredibly moving, inspiring, emotional and musical work.’
Speaking about the premiere performance of the work, the composer said, ‘Great music played well starts on the inside and comes out and hits the audience on the inside before it ever hits their ears.’
In his program notes for the premiere, Sam said, ‘What I can’t say in these words, I hope I have said, more poignantly, in my music.’
We are only playing the first movement here, and this is what Sam said about it: ‘I distinctly remember learning of Chuck’s passing in an email … The grief was great enough that I immediately went to my piano and began to play. The notes matched my feelings so perfectly that I sketched out exactly what I played, never knowing I’d be asked to compose Chuck’s requiem. There are few textures that express pain and joy simultaneously, holding that balance between the optimism of open voicing and the introspection of subtle note clusters. My fingers just happened to land in the perfect places. Months later, I was able to find my sketch and, beginning to end, it is the first movement. I am convinced Chuck was with me.’
The title is taken from a line in a song called ‘Dreams’ by Stevie Nicks in 1976.
Samuel R. Hazo received his Bachelor and Master degrees from Duquesne University and has taught music at every educational grade level from kindergarten through college. He has been awarded Teacher of Distinction twice by the Pennsylvania Teacher’s Excellence Foundation. Since he turned 30, when he started composing, he has written original scores for television, radio and the stage, as well as numerous works for wind symphony. Two of his compositions were performed at the London Olympics in 2012.
Eric Whitacre (1970– )
Composed in 2000
Grammy-winning composer Eric Whitacre is one of today’s most popular musicians. His choral and orchestral works are performed worldwide. His ground-breaking Virtual Choirs project has grown from the original 2010 outing featuring 185 singers from 12 countries to last year’s 2020 global pandemic choir of 17,562 singers from 129 countries!
He was born in Nevada in 1970 and is a graduate of the Julliard School of Music in New York. For 5 years, he was composer-in-residence at the University of Cambridge in the UK. From his first piece for wind orchestra, Ghost Train, he has established a huge reputation for writing for this combination. He has also written extensively for orchestra, including working with Hans Zimmer on the Mermaid Theme for the movie soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Gary Green of the University of Miami Wind Ensemble commissioned a piece of music for a convention in 1997. But its composition turned out to be quite a long process – and missed the convention by a few years…
Eric was cleaning out some old computer files when a fellow composer heard one particular set of musical sketches and told him not ‘by any means’ to throw the music away, but to use it or have the musical idea stolen from him! Eric eventually developed it into a 10-minute virtuoso composition for symphonic band, the music you will hear this afternoon, Equus – which was ultimately premiered by Gary and the University of Miami Wind Ensemble in March 2000.
The composer calls the repetition of his notes and rhythms ‘dynamic minimalism’ which he describes as ‘joy’, as long as it doesn’t get boring. Someone once described his music as the ‘sort of music Vaughn Williams might have composed in the Cambridge branch of Dunkin’ Donuts’ … but that’s not necessarily very kind, given how much you are likely to enjoy his work!
‘Equus’ is Latin for ‘horse’ and you will hear a horse galloping throughout this piece. The piece shifts speeds as the horse changes pace – right up to a final sprint to the end!
London’s Daily Telegraph has said, ‘Whitacre is that rare thing, a modern composer who is both popular and original.’