Sunday, December 13, 2015

How Can They Keep From Singing? University Singers and Humboldt Chorale’s Holiday Concert 

With a seasonal flavor and a diverse menu of songs, the University Singers and Humboldt Chorale present their shared winter concert on Sunday December 13 at Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 University Singers (pictured above) perform “a very jubilant setting of the hymn ‘How Can I Keep From Singing?’” said director Rachel Samet, “and a beautiful setting” of a Kentucky folk tune associated with Christmas, “Bright Morning Stars.”

 Their program also includes a Hebrew love song and a hymn by Baroque composer Georg Phillip Telemann based on Psalm 117, with string accompaniment. 

 Samet describes “Famine Song,” as “really powerful and expressive.” Composed by a quartet from Bloomington, Indiana called Vida, it was inspired by Sudanese basket weavers who endured famine.

 In keeping with the season, the Humboldt Chorale performs “December’s Keep” (Greg Gilpin’s arrangement of a Chopin prelude), “Ose Shalom,” the spiritual “Go Where I Send Thee” and Handel’s “Awake the Trumpet’s Lofty Sound.”

 The Chorale also performs the haunting “Ashokan Farewell,” best known from the Ken Burns PBS series The Civil War.

 “Our signature piece this concert is Randall Thompson’s well-known ‘Alleluia,” said Chorale director Elisabeth Harrington. “I wanted to challenge the group to the fullest with this a cappella piece.” 

The University Singers (an HSU group) and the Humboldt Chorale (students and community members) combine to sing "Tshotsholoza," often called the “second national anthem” of South Africa.

Humboldt Chorale and University Singers perform on Sunday December 13 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Produced by HSU Music department.

University Singers & Humboldt Chorale: Program and Notes

University Singers:

VIDA, authors of The Famine Song
My soul is awakened -- music by Brad Burrill, poetry by Ann Brontë
Bright morning star -- Kentucky Appalachian tune, arr. Fred Squatrito
 Erev Shel Shoshanim -- music by Josef Hadar, lyrics by Moshe Dor, arr. Jack Klebanow
 Laudate Jehovam, omnes gentes (Psalm 117) -- Georg Phillip Telemann
Famine Song -- words and music by VIDA, arr. Matthew Culloton
How Can I Keep from Singing? -- arr. Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947)

University Singers are: (Soprano) Justine Bivans, Hope Botelho, Olivia Bright, Ana Ceja,  Ana Cruz, Lisa Ko, Jordan Kramlich, Michelle Latner, Gabriela Pelayo, Stephanie Price ,Cora Rickert, Kellie Ventura, (Alto) Berenice Ceja, Kaitlynn Deville, Jessica Golden,  Michelle Hy, Kylie Jenkins, Bree Marroquin, Ashlyn Mather, Allie Merten, Catherine Rippetoe, Taylor Shughart, Kira Weiss, (Tenor)  Ken Bridges, David Cadena, Will English ,Nick Hart ,Andrew Heavelin, Rich Macey, Victor Guerrero ,Angel Phommasouk, Raul Yepez ,(Bass) Devin Alcantara, Ethan Frank, Matthew Nelson, John Pettlon, Alberto Rodriguez, Luke Smetana, Daniel Szylewicz.

Humboldt Chorale:

“Awake the Trumpet’s Lofty Sound” from Samson by Georg Frederic Handel
 Alleluia by Randall Thompson
 “Ose Shalom” Traditional Hebrew text; music by Jeff Klepper, arranged by Joshua Jacobson
 “December’s Keep” based on the Prelude in C minor, Opus 28, No. 20 by Frederic Chopin; words and arrangement by Greg Gilpin
 “Ashokan Farewell” from the Soundtrack of the PBS Series “The Civil War,” a film by Ken Burns; words by Grian McGregor, music by Jay Ungar, arranged by Carole Stephens
 “Go Where I Send Thee” Spiritual, paraphrased by Maurice Gardner & Walter Matthews

University Singers and Humboldt Chorale:

Tshotsholoza -- traditional South African freedom song, arr. Jeffery L. Ames


"Bright Morning Stars"  "appears in Ruth Crawford Seeger's "American Folk Songs for Christmas" (Doubleday, 1953), where she credits it to "AAFS 1379 A1." In other words, she got the song from the Archive of American Folksong at the Library of Congress...The source is identified as "Kentucky." The song also appears on the Folkways LP of the same title (American Folk Songs for Christmas, FC 7553)...,

 In 1968, Robin Christenson rediscovered the song in the Seeger book and arranged it for four voices. [Her group]sang it at the 1968 Fox Hollow Festival, where it was picked up by many other singers. It rapidly entered the common repertoire... Meantime, it had also been widely sung in Kentucky."

“How Can I Keep From Singing?” appears in several contemporary Quaker songbooks, but its origins appear to be in a hymn written by Rev. Robert W. Lowry, an American Baptist minister in the 19th century. It was modified by, among others, folksinger Pete Seeger, whose source identified it as a Quaker hymn. In this form it became a hit song of sorts when recorded by Irish singer Enya in 1991. The notes to that album (Shepherd’s Moons) compounded the mistake by identifying it as a Shaker hymn. Ironically, it was the Seeger version that the Quakers adopted for their songbooks. However, versions of it appear in hymnals of several denominations. See Robert Lee Hall at American Music for a detailed history.

Alleluia:"To many music lovers, the name Randall Thompson brings first to mind the lofty sounds of his most famous anthem, based on the single word "alleluia"--whether heard in church service, choral concert, or academic ceremony such as Harvard Commencement.

The work was commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky and the trustees of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the spring of 1940 for the opening exercises of the new Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood... The date for the opening was July 8. Thompson had been preoccupied with another commission, but from July 1 to July 5 he was able to turn to Koussevitsky's request. [Director]Woody had his large chorus ready to rehearse, but opening day approached and no music arrived. On July 8, with 45 minutes to go, it appeared. Woody got his first look at the score and reassured his charges, "Well, text at least is one thing we won't have to worry about."

 Thompson's other works include three symphonies, two string quartets, and a scattering of instrumental pieces. But his writing for voice spans his whole life, from The Five Odes of Horace,written in 1924, to Twelve Canticles, written a year before his death. The Harvard undergraduate who, in trying out for the Glee Club, was unaccountably turned down by Archibald T. "Doc" Davison concluded: "My life has been an attempt to strike back."
---Harvard Magazine

"Ashokan Farewell"
"It’s haunting and mournful and hopeful and beautiful. It’s called “Ashokan Farewell,” and it’s the de facto theme song for the Ken Burns miniseries The Civil War, which premiered 25 years ago this week [of Sept. 25, 2015].

 “Ashokan Farewell” was not, as both its tune and the miniseries that made it famous would seem to suggest, written in the 19th century. It was written instead at the tail end of the 20th. And it wasn’t a Southern waltz; it was created in the style of a Scottish lament—and in celebration of a town, and a reservoir, in upstate New York. By a guy from the Bronx.

In the early 1980s, Jay Ungar and his wife and fellow musician, Molly Mason, were running the Ashokan Camp, a summer arts school specializing in fiddle and dancing, at the Ashokan Field Campus of SUNY New Paltz. Ungar composed the tune—Mason would later give it its resonant name—to commemorate the conclusion of the 1982 session of the camp.

Ungar had traveled through Scotland earlier in the summer, he told me, and he wanted to compose a tune in the style of a Scottish lament—something that would capture the sense of sadness that the camp, and all the camaraderie and community and joy it represented to him, would be ending. The song, Ungar remembers, “sort of wrote itself...”

“In writing it,” he says, “I was in tears, but I didn’t know why, or what was happening.” There was a kind of “tingling feeling,” he remembers, as the song took shape in his mind and on his fiddle. But when the song was written down—when Ungar was satisfied that he had made the tune what he wanted it to be—he kept it to himself. He wasn’t sure how others would react to it

. But when he was finally ready to share the tune, he was pleasantly surprised: It seemed to affect others as deeply as it had affected him. And so Ungar and Mason—and their group, Fiddle Fever—recorded the song, including it as part of their 1983 album Waltz of the Wind. The inclusion meant that the song would need a name. Mason suggested “Ashokan Farewell.” Ungar liked that. It was simple, but elegantly evocative.
--Atlantic September 25, 2015

" A South African song sung in a variety of settings and for a variety of reasons. The song began as an old miner's song, sung by those who toiled in the diamond and gold mines of South Africa. As with many types of a folk music, there are many different versions and variations of the song that have developed over time so it is impossible to say exactly what the meaning of the song is, however, the general idea is of freedom (perhaps at the end of the work day or from the hard labor entirely) and speaks about a train coming and taking them away.

 The version of the song presented in this arrangement draws text from both Zulu and Ndebele dialects and is translated as: "Go forward, go forward on those mountains; the train is coming from South Africa. You are running away on those mountains; the train is coming from South Africa."

 The song became a rallying cry for freedom as the apartheid system of government was brought to an end and Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Since then it has seen even more widespread use in popular culture and has served as musical "battle cry" for South African sports teams from rugby to soccer. The song received particular notoriety in 2010 when it was prominently featured in the World Cup games hosted in South Africa."
Diversity website

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Jazz Orchestra All Billy Strayhorn Tribute

 HSU Jazz Orchestra honors Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington Orchestra arranger and composer, celebrating the centennial of his birth with an all-Strayhorn program, including a never before-performed arrangement, on Saturday December 12 at Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

Strayhorn was a classically trained musician from Pittsburgh who composed, co-composed or arranged much of Ellington’s music for nearly 30 years. His best-known tune is “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Ellington’s theme song.

"Strayhorn didn't receive nearly the acclaim and fame that Ellington did,” Jazz Orchestra director Dan Aldag said. “Strayhorn was a shy, quiet man who was happy to remain in the shadows, in part because staying out of the public eye allowed him to live openly as a gay man at a time when most gay men were deeply closeted.” 

“We're playing everything exactly as Strayhorn wrote it,” Aldag notes. “Parts were either copied from the original Ellington band parts or painstakingly transcribed from Ellington recordings.” 

So in addition to “Take the ‘A’ Train” and other famous pieces, the Jazz Orchestra plays Strayhorn tunes that the Ellington band never recorded.

Even the familiar “Lush Life” is performed in an early and unrecorded arrangement. “I believe our performance will be the first done with a vocalist—Olivia Bright—singing Strayhorn’s remarkable lyrics,” Aldag said. 

The concert includes the last two pieces that Strayhorn wrote for Ellington, before his death in 1967. In addition to vocalist Olivia Bright, performers featured on various tunes include pianist Max Marlowe, guitarist and vocalist Kenneth Bozanich, alto saxophonist Kyle McInnis, trombonist Craig Hull and trumpeter Andrew Henderson.

The HSU Jazz Orchestra performs on Saturday December 12 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Produced by HSU Music department.

Jazz Orchestra: Director's Notes

Notes by Dan Aldag

The Jazz Orchestra concert celebrates the centennial of Billy Strayhorn, who was born on Nov. 29th, 1915. Strayhorn is best known as the composer of the song "Lush Life" and "Take The 'A' Train", the Duke Ellington Orchestra's theme song, but Strayhorn composed or arranged a wealth of material for the Ellington band from 1939 until his death in 1967.

 The Ellington/Strayhorn relationship was an extraordinarily complex one. Ellington is almost universally recognized as the greatest jazz composer of all time, and he also employed a composer who was perhaps his equal for over half of his career.

Strayhorn didn't receive nearly the acclaim and fame that Ellington did, partly because it was Ellington's name in lights, partly because Ellington was given credit for some of Strayhorn's work, but also because the two men, as close as they were, had very different temperaments.

 Ellington was a charming, charismatic showman who basked in the public's attention. Strayhorn was a shy, quiet man who was happy to remain in the shadows, in part because staying out of the public eye allowed him to live openly as a gay man at a time when most gay men were deeply closeted.

 We're playing everything exactly as Strayhorn wrote it. Parts were either copied from the original Ellington band parts or painstakingly transcribed from Ellington recordings.

We'll play "Take The 'A' Train" and "Lush Life", of course, with the latter in an arrangement that Strayhorn may have written for the Ellington band the night he first met Ellington. The Ellington band never recorded it, though. It has been recorded recently as an instrumental, but I believe our performance will be the first done with a vocalist (Olivia Bright) singing Strayhorn's remarkable lyrics.

 We'll do one other vocal, with our usual guitarist, Kenneth Bozanich, putting down his instrument to sing "Flamingo" in the 1940 arrangement that first brought Strayhorn attention.

 We're performing two rare works that were written for the Ellington band but never recorded by them. "Tonk" is basically a short piano concerto Strayhorn designed to showcase Ellington's instrumental abilities. Our pianist, Max Marlowe, will take the soloist's role. "Pentonsilic", which dates to 1941, is a stunning 12-minute work that demonstrated that even at the start of his career, Strayhorn had a complete mastery of form and development.

 "Chelsea Bridge" is a lovely 3-minute tone poem inspired by a Whistler painting. "Midriff" is a zesty swinger with a very well-designed architecture underlying it.

In the Fifties and Sixties, Ellington and Strayhorn wrote a number of suites, album-length collections of short pieces unified around a single idea. We're playing Strayhorn pieces from two of those suites. "Half the Fun" comes from the Shakespeare-inspired Such Sweet Thunder, and "Isfahan" is part of the Far East Suite. The latter features the band's lead alto saxophonist, Kyle McInnis.

 Ellington and Strayhorn also collaborated on an arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, and we'll perform the "Overture" from that.

 The concert will include the last two pieces Strayhorn composed for the Ellington band, "The Intimacy of the Blues" and "Blood Count". "Intimacy..." is a small-group tune that will spotlight the band's lead horn players, McInnis, Craig Hull on trombone, and Andrew Henderson on trumpet. "Blood Count", composed while Strayhorn was in the final stages of the cancer that killed him, is a heart-wrenching, albeit mostly subdued, raging against the dying of the light that will once again feature McInnis.

The concert will end on a life-affirming note, however, with the joyous "Raincheck", first recorded by the Ellington band in 1941, and re-recorded by them on Strayhorn tribute album they recorded shortly after the composer's death, ...And His Mother Called Him Bill.--Dan Aldag

Additional links:
official Billy Strayhorn website
Strayhorn bio at Black
and at Pittsburgh History

Thursday, December 10, 2015

AM Jazz Band Plays Blue Monk and More

The AM Jazz Band is playing arrangements of six jazz standards: "Ran Kan Kan" by Tito Puente; "Blue Monk" by Thelonious Monk; "Johnny Come Lately" by Billy Strayhorn; "Naima" by John Coltrane; "Cantaloupe Island" by Herbie Hancock; and "St. Louis Blues" by W.C. Handy.

The AM Jazz Band performs on Thursday December 10 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music department.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

                                            Fall 2015 Madrigal Singers
A Madrigals Welcome, Mad River Transit's Christmas Lullaby

HSU Madrigal Singers go all a cappella and Mad River Transit jazz singers offer a contemporary Christmas Lullaby on Sunday December 6 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Within their traditional program of mostly English madrigals (plus one surprise), new director Rachel Samet has challenged the Madrigal Singers in two ways: with a completely unaccompanied program, and with a step beyond the usual four part harmonies, to a few selections in five parts.

 Among the songs are a Shaker tune, “Welcome, Welcome Every Guest,” and madrigals of varied mood, from a lament by John Bennett to a playful tune by John Farmer and a John Dowland love song. 

 The Madrigal Singers also pair a Renaissance song by Thomas Morley (“My bonny lass she smileth”) with a contemporary take by the famous contemporary master of parody, P.D.Q. Bach (“My bonny lass she smelleth.”) 

 Then the Mad River Transit singers take over with their program of jazz, blues and popular music. They   anticipate the holidays with “Christmas Lullaby” by contemporary musical theatre composer Jason Robert Brown, from his show Songs for a New World

 A traditional African-American spiritual (“Soon Ah Will Be Done”) is given what Samet describes as a “fresh and exciting arrangement” by Philip Kern. “Bim Bam” by Joao Gilberto provides a bossa nova beat. 

Except for an a cappella version of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” MRT is accompanied by a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums.

This is the first concert with Rachel Samet as choirs director. “I’m very excited to be working with all these groups,” she said. “I’m impressed with what students have accomplished over a semester and excited for where they can go.” 

 Madrigal Singers and MRT perform on Sunday December 6 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

This year’s Madrigal Dinner will be held in the Kate Buchanan Room at HSU on December 10 at 6 p.m. as an evening of fancy hors d’ouvres and song. Tickets are $10 general, $5 students.

Media: Mad River Union, North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now, Eureka Times-Standard Urge

Madrigals & MRT: The Program

Madrigal Singers

Welcome, Welcome Every Guest:  from Southern Harmony (Shaker tune)
 Come again, sweet love doth now invite by John Dowland
 Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone by John Farmer
Weep, o mine eyes by John Bennett
My bonny lass she smileth  by Thomas Morley
My bonny lass she smelleth  by P.D.Q. Bach

Madrigal Singers: (Sopranos)Tonya Bills, Camille Borrowdale,  Ana Ceja,  Ana Cruz, Lisa Ko, (Altos) McKinlee Burkhardt, Jenna Donahue, Rayden Marcum, Renee Ramirez,  Rosemary Torres,  (Tenor) William English,  Victor Guerrero,  Kyler Hanson,  Dustin Kemp, David Vaughan,  (Bass) Luis Cardenas, Matthew Flint,  Joseph Mayer,  Edrees Nassir,  John Pettlon, Alberto Rodriguez, Jimmy Sanchez.
Mad River Transit

Blue Skies by Irving Berlin, arr. Steve Zegree
 God Bless the Child  by Arthur Herzog, Jr. and Billie Holiday, arr. Steve Zegree
 Take the A Train by Billy Strayhorn, arr. Steve Zegree
Bim Bam by Joao Gilberto, arr. Kirby Shaw
Yellow Submarine by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arr. Mark Brymer
Christmas Lullaby from Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown, arr. Mac Huff
 Soon Ah Will Be Done: traditional African-American spiritual, arr. Brian Tate Anything Goes by Cole Porter, arr. Philip Kern

Mad River Transit Singers: (Soprano) Olivia Bright, Michelle Latner, Kayla LeClair,  (Alto) McKinlee Burkhardt, Catherine Rippetoe, Skyler McCormick, (Tenor) David Cadena, Joshua Roa, Noah Sims,  (Bass) Mark Berman, Jimmy Sanchez, Corey Tamondong.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Calypso Band Greatest Hits Plus Marimba and We Got the Beat 

 A youth group’s return, a marimba classic and some of the Calypso Band’s greatest hits are featured in an all-percussion concert on Saturday December 5 at the Van Duzer Theatre. 

 We Got the Beat is a group of student percussionists (grades 2 through 7) from Fresno. They perform all over California, and last played at HSU in April 2012. “They bring energy, excitement, and a high level of musicianship,” said HSU percussion professor Eugene Novotney, “and will fill everyone’s hearts with the joy of music.” 

 The Humboldt State Marimba Band performs “Omphalo Centric Lecture,” a marimba quartet composed by Australian percussionist Nigel Westlake. Premiered in 1986, this piece is played regularly around the world. Describing it as “captivating” and “mesmerizing,” Novotney said “it explores the beauty of the sound of the marimba in its full range and capacity.” 

 The concert’s first half concludes with the World Percussion Group morphing into a 30-piece samba band playing Samba Maracutu from Northern Brazil, on instruments from the region.

The second half belongs to the Humboldt State Calypso Band, which gears up for its 30th anniversary this spring with some of its greatest hits from past shows, as well as new tunes never heard before at HSU. Included in the mix are three Panorama classics as well as the band’s signature high-energy Calypso dance music. 

 The all-percussion concert is Saturday December 5 at 8 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre at HSU. Tickets are $10 general, $3 students, seniors and children from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman. “We Got the Beat,” directed by Brenda Myers, also plays a pre-concert set beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now

Calypso Band & Percussion Concert Notes

Notes by Humboldt State percussion program director Eugene Novotney

The concert will start with a energizing set by the youth percussion group, We Got the Beat. We Got the Beat is a fun and interactive, hands-on, musical experience for young student musicians from 2nd to 7th grade based in Fresno, California.

 Led by percussionist Brenda Myers, "We Got the Beat" performs on a wide variety of percussion instruments and in many musical styles. They have performed throughout the state of California for events such as the California Music Educator’s Convention in Sacramento, the National Association of Music Merchants Trade Show in Anaheim, the Big Fresno Fair, and at the Oakland Day of Percussion with Pete Escovedo. They bring energy, excitement, and a high level of musicianship, and will fill everyone’s hearts with the joy of music.

In addition to starting the show, WGTB will be presenting a pre-concert set at 7:30pm as the crowd enters the theatre.

 The HSU Marimba Band will follow WGTB, and they will be featuring a truly virtuosic marimba piece entitled, Omphalo Centric Lecture, composed by the Australian composer Nigel Westlake. This piece is both captivating and mesmerizing, and it explores the beauty of the sound of the marimba in its full range and capacity.

 The first half of the show will conclude with the World Percussion Group, directed by Professor Howard Kaufman. The WPG will be presenting an authentic arrangement of Samba Maracatu from Northern Brasil on all traditional instruments. This arrangement is as good as it gets, and will feature a 30+ piece samba band playing authentic instruments from Brasil filling the room with pulsating sound.

The second half of the concert will showcase the festive island sounds of the Humboldt State Calypso Band. This fall, the Calypso Band is gearing up for their 30th anniversary by playing their “greatest hits” from the past 30 years of shows at HSU, as well as some new tunes never before heard at HSU.

The band will feature three Panorama compositions on this show - Ray Holman’s, “If We Really Want,” Boogsie Sharpe’s, “Misbehave,” and Andy Narell’s, “Coffee Street” - as well as a full mix of Calypso dance music. Many student steelpan soloists will be featured throughout the evening, and the Calypso Band’s performance is guaranteed to get you up on your feet!

The Humboldt State Calypso Band prides itself in maintaining an accurate and authentic connection to the roots of the steel band movement and the innovative musicians of Trinidad, the island on which this unique percussion phenomenon was born. The band is dedicated to the performance of traditional and contemporary music from the Caribbean, Africa, Brazil, and the United States.

 In addition to its regular performances at Humboldt State and throughout Northern California, the band has undertaken tours to San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Eugene, OR and Seattle, WA. Founded in 1986 by the band’s director, Eugene Novotney, the Calypso Band is celebrating its 30th anniversary at Humboldt State this spring, and holds the distinction of being the first ensemble of its kind in the entire California State University System.

Friday, December 04, 2015

    The Force Awakens at Fulkerson Hall 

 It’s not the new movie, but it is the signature music: HSU Symphonic Band plays two movements of the Star Wars Suite on Friday December 4 at Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 Just weeks before The Force Awakens, fans can warm up with “Yoda’s Theme” and the main Star Wars theme. 

 “It’s hard to find a good arrangement of Star Wars,” said Symphonic Band director Paul Cummings. “But this is a very challenging and exciting version of John Williams’ film music, in the definitive arrangement for college wind band by Donald Hunsberger.” 

 “This is very well written music, using the forces of the wind band in effective ways,” Cummings said. 

 These two movements are a preview in another sense as well, since the Symphonic Band will perform the entire Star Wars Suite in its spring concert, and also take it on tour to northern California junior colleges and high schools in April. 

 The December 4 concert also features Illyrian Dances by Guy Woolfenden, who for several decades wrote incidental music for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The title is taken from the fantasy locale of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” a play written to be performed as part of England’s Christmas celebration. 

 “It’s very dramatic,” Cummings said, “with a lot of variety, by a very gifted melodic writer.” 

 The Band also performs two classic keyboard transcriptions: the six-movement William Byrd Suite (“very tuneful music by one of the great English composers of the period”) and a Fantasia by J.S. Bach, both from eras in which the modern wind band did not yet exist.

 “The Bach piece was written for organ,” Cummings said, “and a good wind band can sound like a pipe organ. It’s is a rare opportunity for our band students to perform a work by one of the greatest composers of western music.” 

 The HSU Symphonic Band performs on Friday December 4 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now

Symphonic Band: Director's Notes

Notes edited from an interview with Paul Cummings, director.

Star Wars Suite:
Yoda's Theme
Main Star Wars Theme
by John Williams

We're doing a very challenging and exciting version of Star Wars by John Williams, the great film composer. It's hard to find a good arrangement of Star Wars--it's been hacked up and deranged by a multitude of people, but Donald Hunsberger has made the definitive arrangement for college wind bands.  That's the version we're going to do.

In this concert we'll play the final two movements, then the entire suite in the spring semester.  We're also going to take it on tour to various high schools and junior colleges in April.

The fourth movement is Yoda's Theme--very majestic music in keeping with the legendary trainer of the Jedi.  The last movement is the main Star Wars theme, representing the triumph of the Force. This is well-written music, using the forces of the wind band in very effective ways.

Hunsberger was the conductor of the Eastman Wind Ensemble from 1965 to 2001, and a professor at the Eastman School of Music.  This is one of several arrangements he did.  This version of Star Wars is definitely the most challenging one out there.  With the new Star Wars movie featuring some of the characters in the original coming out in just a few weeks, we decided to play it for this concert.

Illyrian Dances
by Guy Woolfenden

The composer was the main musical director for the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1963 until 1998.  He wrote all the incidental music for their productions.  When you're writing incidental music you become very good at your craft, just from the sheer volume of music you have to produce.  It has to fit the scenic and dramatic context as well. This particular piece is very dramatic in nature.

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night takes place in Illyria, which is basically an imaginary land.  "What excited me was the resonance of Illyria itself, and the romance of all faraway, make-believe places," the composer wrote. "Illyria is a never-never land, and the idea of inventing dances for such a place intrigued me."

The three movements of this piece are in fact dance forms: Rondo (which goes back to the medieval period), Aubade (a dawn or morning song) and then a Gigue (a lively dance that goes back to the Renaissance at least.)

There are some rhythmic challenges but Woolfenden is very much a British composer--he writes very tuneful music, a very gifted melodic writer.  He's a good orchestrator, he knows how to write for the instruments.  There's great variety in textures--some passages with the full band but more often alternation of many instruments with just a few, so you'll hear chamber music but also full ensemble playing.

Fantasia in G Major
by Johann Sebastian Bach
transcription by Richard Franko Goldman and Robert L. Leist

Bach didn't write band music.  The medium of the wind band--consisting as it does today of brass, woodwinds and percussion--did not exist in Bach's lifetime.  So band students don't get to play any Bach, unless we do arrangements like this.

Richard Franko Goldman had his own band in New York.  It was his father's band, and he was associate conductor beginning in 1937.  In 1956 he became conductor, and the Goldman Band of New York City played its last concert in 1984. It was a very famous band in and around New York.  Goldman was a great band leader and great arranger.  He commissioned and premiered a lot of band music.

This Fantasia is all one continuous movement.  A Fantasia is a through-composed form, meaning that it does not have a lot of sectional repetition.  Instead it just evolves over the course of the piece.  It's rather a free form, so the composer does not have to fit a prescribed structure.

This was an organ piece originally, so it works well for band.  A good wind band can sound like a pipe organ, so doing music originally written for organ makes a lot of sense.  The challenge is to keep the air flowing through the wind instrument so you do simulate the sound of a big church organ.

One reason we're doing this is to give our band students the opportunity to play music by J.S. Bach, one of the greatest composers of western music.

The William Byrd Suite
1.  Earl of Oxford March
2. Pavana
3. "Jhon come kisse me now"
4. The Mayden's Song
5. Wolsey's Wilde
6. The Bells

We performed a couple of these movements in October, and now we're doing all six. William Byrd was one of the foremost English composers of the Renaissance, known mostly for his sacred choral music.  But he did write secular music for a keyboard instrument of his time, the virginal, the English equivalent of the harpsichord.  These pieces were collected in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book but were forgotten until the 20th century, which is when Gordon Jacob rediscovered them.

Jacob selected these six out of some 70 Byrd pieces and arranged them for wind band. The Suite is now a classic in the wind band literature.  Like the work of most English composers, these pieces are very tuneful.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quiet Fire, one of five HSU Jazz Combos in two separate shows November 15: Eric Simpson, David Semon, Courtney Abajian, Vance Umphrey, Kyle McKinnis.

One Night, Two Shows: Jazz Combomania

 In two shows with different groups in each, HSU Jazz Combos take the Fulkerson Recital Hall stage on Sunday November 15.

 Three combos (Moon Carrot, Tuesday Combo and Hindsight Bias) perform at 7 p.m. and two more (Quiet Fire and the 2:00 Combo) at 9 p.m., mixing new and classic jazz with original tunes. 

 For the 7 p.m. show, the quintet Moon Carrot plays two tunes by contemporary jazz group Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, two tunes by classic trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and “Sister” by singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, featuring vocalist Olivia Bright.  Andrew Henderson is on trumpet, Craig Hull on trombone, Ryan Woempner on bass and Eric Tolfa on drums. 

 The Tuesday Combo (Siqueira Barros, alto sax; Leo Plummer, guitar; Christian Hower, bass; Logan Harriman, drums) goes international with tunes by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Japanese hip hop producer Nujabes, as well as “Close To You” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

 Playing classics by Miles Davis and John Coltrane, plus “Sky Turning Grey” by contemporary jazz pianist Brad Mehldau will be Hindsight Bias: Abraham Loaiza (tenor sax), Max Marlowe (piano), Ricardo Cueva (bass) and Felipe Pezzoli (drums.)

 In a separate show beginning at 9 p.m., Quiet Fire plays originals by alto sax player Kyle McInnis and guitarist David Semon, as well as its version of “When You Wish Upon A Star.” The quintet includes Eric Simpson on bass, Courtney Abajian on drums and Vance Umphrey on steel pans. 

 The 2:00 Combo goes entirely original with compositions by band members Jake Burns (guitar), Alan Spencer (tenor sax) and Jared Margen (bass.) Mike Deason is on drums. 

 HSU Jazz Combos perform on Sunday November 15 at 7 p.m. and at 9 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now.

Jazz Combos: Concert(s) Notes

There are two going to be two concerts on Sun., Nov. 15 - one at 7 pm and one at 9 pm. Performing the 7 pm concert are:

Moon Carrot
 Olivia Bright - vocals Andrew Henderson - trumpet Craig Hull - trombone Ryan Woempner - bass Eric Tolfa - drums 
They're playing two Freddie Hubbard tunes, "Red Clay" and "Little Sunflower" and two tunes first performed by the jazz group Ryan Keberle and Catharsis: Keberle's "Gallop" and a cover of the singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens' "Sister".

The Tuesday Combo 
Matheus Siqueira Barros - alto sax Leo Plummer - guitar Christian Hower - bass Logan Harriman - drums
They're playing "Trenzinho Caipira" by Heitor Villa-Lobos, "Close To You" by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and "Aruarian Dance" by the Japanese hip hop producer and DJ Nujabes.

 Hindsight Bias 
Abraham Loaiza - tenor sax Max Marlowe - piano Ricardo Cueva - bass Felipe Pezzoli - drums 
They're playing "Nardis" by Miles Davis, "Mr P.C." by John Coltrane and Brad Mehldau's "Sky Turning Grey"

 Performing the 9:00 concert are:

Quiet Fire
 Kyle McInnis - alto sax Vance Umphrey - steel pans David Semon - guitar Eric Simpson - bass Courtney Abajian - drums 
They're playing two original compositions, "Doo-Wah" by Kyle McInnis and "Running Water" by David Semon, along with "When You Wish Upon A Star", written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, and "Little Secrets" by Andy Narrell.

The 2:00 Combo
 Alan Spencer - tenor sax Jake Burns - guitar Jared Margen - bass Mike Deason - drums
 They're playing three originals, "Coeur D'Alene" by Jake Burns, "Morning Headache" by Alan Spencer and an as-yet-untitled tune by Jared Margen.

--Dan Aldag

Saturday, November 14, 2015

   Assistant Conductor Audrey McComb with members of the Humboldt Bay   Brass Band 

 Humboldt Bay Brass Band in “Destiny of Knights & Cossacks”

 From opera overture to musical comedy, a Veterans Day tribute to a holiday season preview, Humboldt Bay Brass Band presents its autumn mash-up and its only HSU concert of the school year, “Destiny of Knights and Cossacks,” on Saturday November 14 at Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 After the stirring overture to the opera Force of Destiny by Verdi, and selections from the musical Oklahoma, HBBB tackles Call of the Cossacks by contemporary British brass band composer Peter Graham that employs musical styles from Gypsy to Klezmer. 

“This five movement work tests all sections of the band,” notes director Gil Cline. “It highlights five soloists—one brandishing our so-called Cossack Horn.” 

Knights Templar by 20th century British band composer George Allen is “a roller-coaster major-minor masterpiece in counterpoint,” Cline said. Blades of Toledo by Trevor Sharpe, long-time musical director of the Coldstream Guards, “shreds notes at a furiously fast tempo, as if brandishing the famous swords of Toledo, Spain.” It features the HBBB trombone section.

  Also on the program are contemporary composer John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music” anticipating the December holidays, and a special version of Taps to commemorate Veterans Day.

 HBBB is the only authentic British-style brass band in northern California, featuring 25 brass instruments plus percussion. Assisting conductor Gil Cline is Audrey McCombs. 

 Humboldt Bay Brass Band performs on Saturday November 14 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Mad River Union, Eureka Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal, Humboldt State Now

Humboldt Bay Brass Band Concert Notes

Concert Notes by Dr. Gil Cline, director and conductor

Kicking off the concert is the powerhouse overture Force of Destiny by Giuseppe Verdi.

 Following is Raymond Burkhart’s tone poem “Ozark Point,” and then a selection of Rodgers and Hammerstein melodies from Oklahoma.

 Ending the concert's first half is the tour-de-force Call of the Cossacks by Peter Graham. This 5-movement work tests all sections of the band, and highlights five soloists (one brandishing our so-called “Cossack Horn”) from within the band.

 The second half of the concert begins with Knight Templar, a roller-coaster major-minor masterpiece in counterpoint by George Allan.  John Rutter's “What Sweeter Music,” anticipates the December holidays.

HBBB’s stellar trombone section is featured in Blades of Toledo -- shredding notes at a furiously fast tempo, as if brandishing the famous swords and sabres of Toledo, Spain.

 Closing is HBBB’s observance of Veterans Day, this year with an echo version of Taps, then our custom arrangement of songs of six of the US military service branches. Encores are typical!

 Humboldt Bay Brass Band is directed and conducted by HSU professor Dr. Gil Cline, with assistant conductor Audrey McCombs. HBBB is the only true U.K.-style Brass Band in the North of California with 25 brass and four percussion. Far from some old “summer-park-concert-brass-band,” HBBB plays a very wide variety of music: very old to very new; marches to movies; and Gabrieli to grooves.

HBBB has recorded a full-length CD, performed often locally and on tour in Oregon while on the way to a festival in Seattle, re-introduced local historic music, and contributed newly-written works to current literature for “world band.”

Friday, November 13, 2015

photo: front: Nick Hart, Adrien Bouissou, Sador Rangel, Leo Plummer. Back: Jonathan Hernandez, Evan Dowadakin, Andrew Heavelin.

Guitar With A French Accent 

From “Claire de Lune” to Ravel, HSU Guitar Ensemble plays with a French accent—including homegrown music in the same spirit—in its concert on Friday November 13 at Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Guitarists Andrew Heavelin and Leo Plummer perform the classic Debussy “Claire de Lune,” as the first of four selections by 20th century French composers.

 Heavelin and Plummer are joined by Kenneth Bozanich and Adrien Bouissou for Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess. Francis Poulenc’s “Mouvements Perpétuels” is played by Sador Rangel and Nick Hart. 

 “Paraboles” by French composer Jacques Ibert “is a decidedly Spanish piece,” said Guitar Ensemble director Nicholas Lambson. Hart and Jon Hernandez perform part of this work. 

 Besides also being captivated by Spanish music, Debussy and Ravel were especially influenced by the Impressionist painters (like Monet) and French symbolist poets (like Rimbaud.)  So was the Russian composer Alexander Scribian. Bozanich, Rangel and Evan Dodakin perform two of his Twelve Preludes.

 The concert also features “The Jester,” a piece for four guitars and bass by HSU guitar and composition student Kenneth Bozanich. “It includes some of the same stylistic elements as the other pieces on the program, with extended jazzy harmonies,” Lambson said. It’s performed by the composer plus Plummer, Heavelin and Bouissou.

 The HSU Guitar Ensemble performs on Friday November 13 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, North Coast Journal, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now

Guitar Ensemble: Program and Notes

 Claire de Lune by Claude Debussy
 Andrew Heavelin and Leo Plummer

 From Twelve Preludes, Op.11 by Alexander Scriabin:  No.4 & No. 17
 Kenneth Bozanich, Evan Dowdakin, Sador Rangel

 Paraboles by Jacques Ibert I
Jon Hernandez and Nick Hart

 The Jester by Kenneth Bozanich
 Leo Plummer, Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou

 Mouvements Perpétuels by Francis Poulenc
 Sador Rangel and Nick Hart

 Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess) by Maurice Ravel
 Andrew Heavelin, Kenneth Bozanich, Adrien Bouissou, Leo Plummer

Program Notes
 by Nicholas Lambson, director

This semester’s program is essentially French. We will be performing a wide variety of pieces within this theme, including immediately recognizable favorites such as Claude Debussy’s “Claire de Lune,” and an original student composition.

 Nationalism was an important theme for many composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some trends were universal, such as the use of national folk songs, but each nation had a unique style as well: the Italian style emphasized sing-able melodies; the Germans featured a more intellectual and bombastic style; and the French style included music that was textural and nuanced.

While some French composers continued to develop their national artistic identity in the 20th century, some were also influenced by music from other times and places. Claude Monet’s painting, "Impression, Sunrise" essentially coined the term "impressionist" that later became a buzzword for the music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel; this was meant to convey a somewhat abstract and textural "impression" of something else.

The impressionist composers' music remained tonal, unlike the music of some their contemporaries (such as Arnold Schoenberg), and was generally more progressive than radical. Debussy's infamous statement on the guidelines for music and practice, "pleasure is the law," conveys this sentiment succinctly: essentially, if it sounds good, then it’s good! Indeed, rather than dispose of hundreds of years of musical development, he sought out both new and familiar styles to cultivate something that he found to be pleasurable, including everything from medieval music to Indonesian gamelan music.

Similarly, Ravel was highly influenced by jazz and the music of other cultures. Therefore, these composers are not the revolutionaries that they are sometimes believed to be. They also did not particularly like being called impressionists; rather he and his compatriots preferred to be called symbolists. The French symbolist poets sought to describe the indescribable through reference, allusion, and suggestion, rather than tangible and overt statements.

While Debussy and Ravel where clearly linked with this French school of thought, other major composers were also heavily influenced by it, including the Russian composer,  Alexander Scriabin.  Scriabin, in a word, was kind of a weirdo. Beyond being part of the so-called Russian Symbolists, he was a mystic; a force for the Russian dictatorship; he had synesthesia (a neurological condition in which the other senses are associated with sound - in his case color); and although he went to school with Sergei Rachmaninoff and wrote in a similar style early on, he developed his own tonal language later in life, which shared some of the same aesthetic goals as the symbolists and atonal composers.

Also on this program is a decidedly Spanish piece by Jacques Ibert. Like many other French composers, including Debussy and Ravel, Ibert was captivated by the music of the exotic sounds of that bordering nation, and he wrote a number of highly effective pieces in the style, colored by his own French disposition.

Finally, there is one piece for four guitars and bass written by a current HSU guitar and composition student, Kenneth Bozanich, which features some of the same stylistic elements with extended "jazzy" harmonies.

This is the first of several more works to be written for the ensemble. Next semester, we will be doing a collaborative project with the composition majors at HSU, and we hope that you will join us for that on April 2nd, 2016 at 8pm in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Stormy Beethoven, Jazzy Bolcom with Cindy Moyer & John Chernoff

 Violinist Cindy Moyer continues her project of playing all the Beethoven violin sonatas with the stormy Sonata in C Minor, plus a contemporary jazz-influenced sonata by William Bolcom and a lyrical sonata by Gabriel Faure, in concert with pianist John Chernoff on Sunday November 8 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 "This is perhaps the most dramatic of all the Beethoven sonatas," Moyer said. "It's in the same key as the famous Fifth Symphony, and even more tempestuous."

 Contemporary American composer William Bolcom has won the Pulitzer Prize, National Medal of the Arts and two Grammy awards.

 His Second Sonata for Violin and Piano is "quite varied in style," Moyer said. "Some is very modern and dissonant--you gotta love a movement titled 'Brutal,' and it is. Some of it is very jazzy." The final movement is dedicated to Giuseppe "Joe" Venuti, an early 20th century Italian-American musician considered the first star of the jazz violin. 

 The music of 20th century French composer Gabriel Fauré is “famously lyrical and gorgeous,” Moyer said. His Sonata No. 1 “mixes the lyrical with some drama, though not nearly as intense as the Beethoven or the Bolcom.” 

Violinist Cindy Moyer and pianist John Chernoff perform on Sunday November 8 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets are $10 general, $5 students, seniors and children from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. This Faculty Artist Series concert is produced by HSU Music Department. 

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, North Coast Journal The Setlist, Humboldt State Now

Cindy Moyer & John Chernoff: The Program and Notes

Faculty Artist Recital: Cindy Moyer, violin
 John Chernoff, piano

Sonata in C Minor for Piano for Violin, Op. 30, No. 2  by Ludwig van Beethoven

 Allegro con brio
Adagio cantabile
 Scherzo: Allegro
 Finale: Allegro

 Second Sonata for Violin and Piano by William Bolcom
 Summer Dreams
 Brutal, fast
 In Memory of Joe Venuti

 Sonata No. 1 in A Major, Op. 13 by  Gabriel Fauré
 Allegro molto
 Allegro vivo
 Allegro quasi presto

Notes on the Program 
by Cindy Moyer

 Beethoven Sonata in C: Continuing my project of playing all the Beethoven sonatas.  This sonata is perhaps the most dramatic of all the Beethoven sonatas. It's in the same key as the 5th symphony – and perhaps even more tempestuous as that most-famous piece.

 Bolcom Second Sonata:  William Bolcom is  a living American composer. This piece is quite varied in style – some is very modern and dissonant (gotta love a movement titled “Brutal” – and it is…) – and some of it is very jazzy. The final movement is dedicated to jazz violinist, Joe Venuti – and is largely jazzy in style.

 Faure Sonata No. 1 : Faure’s music is famously lyrical and gorgeous. This piece mixes lyrical with some drama, although not nearly as intense as either the Beethoven or Bolcom.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Composers Concert Presents Prize-Winner

New works by three student composers, including a prize-winner, are presented in the HSU Composers Concert on Friday November 6 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Featured is a song cycle by Michael Barrett Donovan for voice and piano entitled “The Dignfied Lonely Person.” Donovan won this semester’s John W. DeLodder competition for best composition with this work.

 Mr. DeLodder, a local resident who sponsors the competition in partnership with the HSU Music department, will present Donovan with the $1,000 award during the concert. The competition is held every semester and is open to all HSU students. 

 Members of the HSU Jazz Orchestra will play works by Kyle McInnis and Kenneth Bozanich. Humboldt Symphony members will perform “Attribution” by Michael Donovan.

 Also on the program are a number of chamber works for instrumental ensembles including violins and percussion, saxophone quartet and guitar quartet. 

 “These works use various 20th century compositional techniques consisting of unique harmonic, rhythmic and tonal languages that produce an unusual tapestry of sound,” said HSU composition professor Brian Post. 

 The Composers Concert is presented on Friday November 6 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: Eureka Times-Standard Urge, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate: Reviews and Final Weekend Ahead

The Kiss Me, Kate reviews are in:

 “It takes a couple of strong actors to pull off the fireworks demanded by Kiss Me, Kate, and happily director Susan Abbey found them in Anna Duchi and Gino Bloomberg.” With a “regal bearing and rich, warm voice” Anna Duchi “is utterly convincing as a ‘40s film star...Bloomberg brings just the right mix of over-the-top cockiness and wounded vulnerability...” 
 Lauraine Leblanc, Mad River Union

 “A scintillating score of marvelous, memorable music...A staggeringly lavish production...sparkling, comedic...a truly classy, classic musical comedy.”
 Beti Trauth, Eureka Times-Standard “Urge” Magazine 

 “It’s awfully fun to watch. Make sure you don’t miss it.”
 Kate Haley North Coast Journal

 Kiss Me, Kate is on the Van Duzer Theatre stage Thursday through Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 2.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate: Oct. 16-25

Is it real or is it Shakespeare—or is it both? High-spirited singing, dancing and a classic Broadway-sized orchestra take you back to a 1948 theatre stage, where couples behave badly but love conquers all in Cole Porter’s most applauded musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate. 

The HSU production of  Kiss Me, Kate is performed in the Van Duzer Theatre on Friday and Saturday October 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday Oct. 22-24 at 7:30 with one matinee on Sunday Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15, $10 seniors, students and children from the HSU Box Office (826-3928.) Kiss Me, Kate is a co-production of the HSU Music department and the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance department. More information in the posts below, and at HSU Stage & Screen.

Advance Media: Mad River Union (photo & story), Humboldt State Now (photo& story), Lumberjack (photo & story), Times-Standard Urge (photo & calendar), North Coast Journal (calendar.)
“It’s a big musical the way big musicals used to be,” said director Susan Abbey. “It’s not the spectacle-based musical of today—it’s driven by a great story that’s fun and funny, celebrating the magic of theatre and the power of love.”

Adding excitement for audiences is an orchestra of 20 community and HSU musicians, playing the original arrangements as they were performed on Broadway—an increasingly rare event. Though this music was meant for a full orchestra, “often it’s watered down to a combo or a few synthesizers and a drum machine,” said Paul Cummings, musical co-director and conductor of the orchestra.

Lilli (played by Anna Duchi) is a fading and angry movie star, Fred (Gino Bloomberg) is her recent ex-husband, an egotistical actor-producer with a roving eye. 

From Shakespeae's sunny Padua to the Baltimore backstage of a 1948 production of The Taming of the Shrew (Modernized), they are fuming and fighting-- as are the characters they play (Kate and Petruchio)-- and it gets harder for everybody to tell the difference.

Plot twists involve Shrew actors Lois (Tossa Hayward) and Bill (Christopher Moreno), Lilli's new beau General Howell (Matthew Atkins), and a couple of sometimes comic gangsters (Ivan Gamboa and Mickey Thompson.) Many songs and dances ensue while lessons are learned so that true love can triumph.

The original Kiss Me, Kate opened in 1948 and won multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical while setting box office records. It is generally considered to be the best musical of Cole Porter’s long and legendary career.

 “People know these Cole Porter tunes,” said musical director Elisabeth Harrington, “even if they don’t know they are from this show.”

Kiss Me, Kate: Our Cast and Production

Our Cast

Lilli/Kate: Anna Duchi
Fred/Petriuchio: Gino Bloomberg
Lois/Bianca: Tossa Hayward
 Bill/Lucentio: Christopher Moreno
 General Harrison Howell: Matthew Atkins
 Gangsters: Ivan Gamboa, Mickey Thompson
Harry/Baptista: Bob Service
Sadie/Priest: Janet Waddell

 The following members of the cast play multiple roles and/or are members of the Company: Makenna Baker, Joshua Banuelos, Justine Bivans, Camille Borrowdale, Ambar Cuevas, Tyler Ewell, William English III, Ethan Frank, Erin Henry, Christopher Joe, Stephanie Lemon, Magdelinda Leyra-Garcia, Luz Meja, John Pettion, Fuafiva Pulu, Carolina Rios, Elio Robles, Samantha Kolby, Noah Sims, Ayanna Wilson, Jonathan Wisan, Britney Wright.

Our Production

 Director: Susan Abbey
Musical Directors: Elisabeth Harrington, Paul Cummings
 Choreographer and Dance Director: Sharon Butcher
Scenographer/Scenic Designer: Derek Lane
Lighting Designer: Santiago Menjiver
 Costume Design: Alexander Sterns, Izzy Ceja, Veronica Brooks
 Props Designer: Brynn Allen
 Stage Manager: Heidi Voelker
Asst. Director: Chelly Purnell
Asst. Music Director: Jessie Rawson
 Asst. Orchestra: Starsong Brittain
 Asst. Scenic Designer: Maggie Luc
Asst. Stage Manager: Sarina Rodriguez

Publicity photos by Kellie Brown
Publicity/site text & design by Bill Kowinski

Kiss Me, Kate: The Voices

Anna Duchi as Lilli Vanessi
Kiss Me, Kate is often called a classic musical comedy. It’s from the American musical’s golden age, and it has stood the test of time in entertaining audiences and thrilling them with its songs. But in terms of the music itself, it also means a closer relationship to classical forms.

 “This is classic musical theatre,” said Elisabeth Harrington, musical co-director of the HSU production. “Voices are used in their full range—vocally and emotionally. There’s a lot of sustained singing and high singing. There are classical demands that today’s students may not be used to, so it’s a continuing challenge.”

 “At the same time, our students are totally digging the upbeat quality of the music, the jazz chords, the sexiness of songs like ‘Too Darn Hot.’ They love the comedy. They’re enjoying all the colors in Cole Porter that make his songs so unique. It helps them understand and embrace the difficulty of the vocal techniques involved, and that’s really neat to see.”

 The two leads—Anna Duchi as Lilli and Shakespeare’s Kate, Gino Bloomberg as Fred and Petruchio—are experienced singers as well as actors. “Anna Duchi has sung in the Mad River Transit jazz choir. She comes from a musical theatre family—her mother owns and operates a musical theatre in the Bay Area, so she has grown up with all kinds of music. Gino Bloomberg has been in tons of musical theatre locally. He’s studied voice for a long time, he’s grown up doing that.”

 But the show also features a fair amount of ensemble singing, which includes those who are primarily actors or dancers. “When I saw the scope of this—it’s a ton of music and it’s hard—I decided to approach this in a different way than I had before. I started with the whole group together learning the ensemble songs, rather than with the leads. Sometimes it’s a stretch for them but they’re really embracing it.”

 For some this includes joining voice classes. Nine members of the cast took private lessons from Harrington.

 Apart from operatic high notes, there are tempo changes, “tricky harmonies that are very tight, with syncopated rhythms,” and those famous Cole Porter lyrics, which include words and phrases in German and Italian.

 But experiencing the artistry of it is part of the excitement, for singers and the audience. “The songs are expertly crafted, and that shows through, regardless of the singers’ level of experience. That will be great for audiences, too, because they’re going to recognize the skill of the material itself.”

 “People know these tunes—even if they don’t know they are from this show. They’re going to love the production—the students are coming at it with such energy and enthusiasm.”

 “I’ve never actually been involved in a production of Kiss Me, Kate before," Harrington said. "I’ve sung songs from it and taught songs from it, but never got to go through every bar of music. It’s a real joy to be able to do it. It’s a beautiful score.”

Kiss Me, Kate: The Orchestra

Two nights before the first ever public performance of Kiss Me, Kate, the company had a complete run-through of the show, including songs and dances, but without costumes, scenery or the orchestra. The music was played by a rehearsal pianist.

 The show’s producers had several notables observing from the darkened auditorium, in order to get their reactions. Eminent playwright and director Moss Hart thought it was a disaster. So did eminent choreographer Agnes de Mille. So did others.  The cast knew nothing of this, but nevertheless some also had their doubts about the show.

 The first performances were in Philadelphia, a tryout before Broadway. From the first night, the show was a major hit with critics and audiences. After being held over for three weeks in Philadelphia, the same response was repeated on Broadway: immediate success, and eventually one of the longest running shows in Broadway history to that point.

 What was the difference? Writes Cole Porter biographer William McBrien, quoting the female lead of the show, “Pat Morison recalled that only in Philadelphia, when the cast heard the orchestrations of Robert Russell Bennett for the first time, did they realize what a brilliant show Kate was.”

Robert Russell Bennett
 “We’re going to fill up that pit in the Van Duzer Theatre with players,” said Paul Cummings, Kiss Me Kate musical co-director for the HSU production, and its orchestra conductor. “We’re using the original full Broadway orchestration. The show was revised in 1999 and it’s difficult to know just what changes were made. But by and large I think we’re dealing with the 1948 orchestration by Robert Russell Bennett.”

 “Bennett did most of the major Broadway orchestrations from 1945 to 1965. He was the go-to guy, an absolutely brilliant orchestrator.”

 “ Bennett often doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his creative contribution because he’s listed as an arranger or orchestrator. But a Broadway orchestrator was more than a guy who transcribed notes to instruments—he actually did some composing. In fact he is responsible more than anyone else for the sounds that live in our memory from many famous Broadway shows in that 20 year period, including Kiss Me, Kate.”

 “It’s very difficult music. There are many uptempo dance numbers with the notes just flying across the page. There’s lots of great lyricism in this score, lots of great tunes. The ballads are beautiful, lovely vehicles for the lead singers.”

 Twenty community and HSU student players will be in the pit, but the range of instruments will be even greater than that number. “Not only is the music freakishly difficult, many will be playing it on five or six different instruments. So as soon as you’ve finished 25 measures on tenor sax, you switch to an English horn, then to an oboe, and then to a soprano saxophone.”

“So it’s very challenging, but we’re happy to be doing the original orchestration. Often these shows are watered down to a combo or a few synthesizers and a drum machine. If you go to a New York show now you’re likely to see four or five instruments in the pit, two of which are synthesizers, one a drum machine and maybe a bass and guitar. You’re not likely to see any woodwind or brass instruments.”

 “That probably is an economic issue more than anything, but in a university setting we do try to do things as the original calls for. It’s especially rewarding to be doing Bennett’s original orchestration because it’s great writing. It fits the instruments, and players can tell.”

 “So nobody whines or complains, or says why am I switching to oboe when this could have been done on clarinet. The music fits the instrument it is written for. That’s true in his own compositions as well. He has total command of what each instrument is capable of. That’s the genius of Robert Russell Bennett.”