Saturday, June 27, 2015

Alums of Four Decades Sing for Harley

How to honor retiring professor Harley Muilenburg after 32 years of teaching Humboldt State students to sing? More than 20 of his former students who were members of his Mad River Transit jazz singers from the 1980s through 2015 will return to Fulkerson Recital Hall from all over California. They join HSU Music department faculty performers including pianist Daniela Mineva and violinist Cindy Moyer in a celebratory retirement concert on Saturday June 27 at 7 p.m.  Everyone is invited and admission is free. Program information is the post below.

 Born in North Dakota and a graduate of North Dakota State, Harley Muilenburg taught first at the high school level and then at couple of junior colleges. He was looking for a position at a four-year institution when choral music professor Lee Barlow was retiring from HSU. “The stars lined up,” he says now. He was hired to begin teaching at Humboldt State in 1983.

 As he prepared to head to the North Coast that summer he spoke with Barlow on the phone and asked about the Arcata weather. “Lee chuckled a little and said it’s really nice in the summer, although just about every evening you’re probably going to need a sweater if you’re outside,” he recalled. Muilenburg was still at his current teaching job in Loredo, Texas, where it was so hot and humid it was hard to breathe. “I didn’t really believe him until I got here.” 

 Over the years Muilenburg transformed the small HSU chamber choir into the large concert choir now called the University Singers. He started Mad River Transit as a smaller adjunct to the existing jazz ensemble, eventually combining the two in today’s slightly larger MRT. 

 HSU is one of only a few universities to have a Madrigal choir specializing in Renaissance music. But another was North Dakota State, and as an undergraduate Muilenburg had sung in its madrigal group. “Lee Barlow started the Madrigal Singers here in the 50s,” he said. “I added the Madrigal Dinner every December, based on the Elizabethan tradition of singing and feasting at Christmastime.” 

 In his 32 years, Muilenburg saw the Music department faculty grow and shrink back. “It’s kind of a bell curve in terms of numbers. But the number of majors has remained the same. The quality, the expertise, the care and concern, the excellence of the faculty have helped make this a great place to teach. In a lot of ways, the Music department at HSU has been a well-kept secret. Students find out about it when they come here, or when one of our groups tours in their community. But I’ve had distinguished, top-notch colleagues in the department here.” 

 Though he has been honored with teaching awards and published scholarly articles and vocal arrangements, Muilenburg talks less about his own accomplishments than those of his HSU Music faculty colleagues, and especially his students. He mentions such distinguished alums as internationally known blues singer Earl Thomas (whose entry in the Blues Encyclopedia notes his “powerful classically trained voice”) and jazz singer Juanita Harris, a mainstay in Mad River Transit during her years at HSU. She went on to Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music and a professional career based in the Bay Area. 

But he is equally pleased by his many alums who became music teachers, or who participate in community ensembles where they live. (They’ve kept in touch, he notes, even before the advent of email and social media.) “They carry on the legacy of music and keep it alive,” he said. “I’m really proud of that.” 

 One of those alums was Grant McKee, now a retail store manager in Santa Barbara. “He was my student in the 90s,” Muilenburg recalled. “He loved Humboldt, loved the Music department and he loved singing. He decided at least five or six years ago that when I retire, there’s going to be a concert for me. I smiled and thought it’s a great idea but it’s not going to happen.” 

But after Muilenburg’s retirement was announced, McKee got on Facebook to contact other MRT alums. Music department chair Cindy Moyer got involved, and the concert was scheduled. “There are probably 22 students who are going to trek from all parts of California, and this alumni group of jazz singers from the 80s right up until the past year. They’ll perform the second half of the concert,” Muilenburg said. “I couldn’t feel more excited and happy and blessed and proud.”

Among those making the trip to HSU to sing for Harley is Juanita Harris.

 Muilenburg’s retirement has been in the works for awhile. “Five years ago I had a student whose parents had been my students in the 80s. So I felt it was definitely time for me to retire.” 

He is currently busy preparing to move in July, to be near family in southern California. “I know I’m going to miss the students,” he admits. “August is going to come and I won’t have a choir. I’ll miss the rehearsal process, contact with students and my academic colleagues. I’ll probably sneak back here and drop in sometime, and see how things are going.” 

Pianist Daniela Mineva, violinist Cindy Moyer and other HSU faculty will open the Harley Muilenburg retirement concert on Saturday June 27 at 7 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Admission is free. Concert is produced by HSU Music department. 

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

Concert for Harley: The Program

Highlights of the planned program, but there may be surprises!

Two movements from Suite No. 1 by  Sergei Rachmaninoff
 Daniela Mineva, piano
 John Chernoff, piano

 “This is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde by  Frank Wildhorn
 John Schutt, tenor
 John Chernoff, piano

“Tomorrow” from Annie  by Charles Strouse
 Alexis Provencal, soprano  

Blues in the Night by  Harold Arlen, Arrangement by Harley Muilenburg
 Catherine Rippetoe, soprano
 Lorena Tamayo, soprano
 Jessie Rawson, alto
 John Chernoff, piano

 Sonata in G Major, Op. 78  by Johannes Brahms
 Vivace ma non troppo  
Cindy Moyer, violin
 Daniela Mineva, piano

Mad River Transit Students and Alumni
 Harley Muilenburg, conductor

 Selections to be chosen from: Sweet in the Mornin’ by Bobby McFerrin,  Loves Me Like a Rock by Paul Simon, After the Gold Rush by Neil Young, And So it Goes by  Billy Joel, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square by Manning Sherwin, Blackbird by  John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Chile Con Carne by Anders Edenroth, You Are the New Day by  John David, 23rd Psalm by  Bobby McFerrin.

Solos to include: One for my Baby (And One More for the Road) by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen
 Grant McKee, tenor

 In My Life by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Marcie Tatman, soprano

 Haven’t We Met by Kenny Rankin and Ruth Batchelor
Juanita Harris, alto

 Medley of Carl Anderson Favorites:  Sophisticated Lady  by Duke Ellington, My Funny Valentine by  Richard Rogers, Who Can I Turn To? by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley
Daniel Olson, bass

Participating Singers:
 Laura Arrington, Emily Beal, Shannon Dowling, Christina Fitts,   Katrina Eads Haeger,  Juanita Harris,  Heather Hutton, Grant McKee, Steve Nobles, Daniel Olson,  Steve Olson,  Chris Parreira,  Ellen Rosebaugh Petitjean,  Jessie Nicole Rawson, Catherine Rippetoe, Kevin Schieberl,  Molly Severdia,  Lorena Tamayo, Marcie Tatman,  Seanna Willett.

Instrumental accompaniment by John Chernoff (piano),  Ryan Woempner (bass),   Kevin Amos (drums), Ed Pierce (drums.)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Student Composer Wins DeLodder Prize

 HSU student Michael Donovan was awarded the $1000 prize in the John W. DeLodder music composition competition on May 4 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 Donovan’s winning entry was a composition entitled “Walled City.” “The piece is a ten-minute work written for a string quartet,” said composition professor Brian Post, “reminiscent of music composed in the early 20th century.”

 Humboldt resident John DeLodder created the competition in conjunction with the HSU Music Department. “It is designed to give budding composers a chance to spend more time writing music,” Post explained. “Mr. DeLodder plays a brass instrument himself and has had a great appreciation for music because of its positive influence on members of his family.”

 DeLodder presented the award to Donovan at the HSU composers read-through recital. “The recital is a chance for students to have their works performed, to help them determine how to refine the pieces for future performances, as well as the fall competition,” Post said. Although this spring’s winner is a music composition student, the every-semester competition is open to all HSU students.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

University Singers soloists include Raul Yepez, Olivia Bright, Mark Berman, Lorena Tamayo, Catherine Rippetoe, Chris Parreira and Jessie Rawson.
Carmina Burana and Into the Woods with University Singers & Humboldt Chorale

 Humboldt State University Singers perform selections from the popular cantata Carmina Burana, and the Humboldt Chorale sings music by Purcell, Mozart and Sondheim in their joint concert on Sunday evening May 10 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Carmina Burana, an audience favorite that has influenced popular music from Star Wars to hip hop, is a cantata by 20th century German composer and educator Carl Orff. Recorded more often than Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, it is based on a set of irreverent songs and poems by medieval minstrels and monks. The New York Times described it as “accessible and fun.” 

 Directed by Harley Muilenburg, the University Singers perform selections from Carmina Burana featuring soloists Mark Berman, Matthew Nelson, Meagan Blachly, Raul Yepez, Olivia Bright, Chris Parreria, Catherine Rippetoe and Jessie Rawson. The group also sings “City Called Heaven” a traditional song arranged by contemporary educator Josephine Poelinitz, featuring soloist Lorena Tamayo.

 Humboldt Chorale, a community choral group directed by Elisabeth Harrington, performs sacred music by 17th century Baroque composer Henry Purcell, and Mozart’s sunny Regina Coeli. “She’s Like the Swallow” is a Newfoundland folk song about love, adapted by contemporary American composer Luigi Zaninelli.

 The Chorale also performs two songs by Stephen Sondheim from the musical Into the Woods: “No One is Alone” and “Children Will Listen.”

 The Humboldt Chorale and University Singers perform on Sunday May 10 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $8 general, $5 seniors and children, HSU students with ID admitted free.  Produced by HSU Music department.

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

University Singers: Program and Notes

2015 University Singers: (not in order pictured; click photo to enlarge) Brynn Allen, McKinlee Burkhardt, Meagan Blachly,  Berenice Ceja, Olivia Bright,    Michelle Hy,  Ana Ceja, Emily Hilkere, Ana Cruz, Hannah Kelly, Stevy Marquez,  Joselyne Loaiza,Jessie Rawson, Nawlah Madu-Powell, Cora Rickert, Allie Merten, Julia Gotico, Krishel Moura, Katherine Nunes-Siciliani, Catherine Rippetoe, Lorena Tamayo, Kenneth Bridges, Alex Albin, Fidel Cortez, Mark Berman,Victor Guerrero, Carey Dakin,Bryant Kellison , Stefan Flores, Luis Landin, Michael Levan, David Paden, Carter Long, Joseph Mayer, Matthew Nelson, Raul Yepez, John Pettlon, Christopher Parreira, Ryan Woempner.

Carmina Burana by Carl Orff
 Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Fortune, Empress of the World)
 1. O Fortuna
 Mark Berman, Speaker
 2. Fortune plango vulnera
 Mark Berman, Speaker
 I. Primo vere (In Springtime)
 3. Veris leta facies
 Mark Berman, Speaker
 4. Omnia sol temperat
 Mark Berman, Speaker; Matthew Nelson, Baritone
 5. Ecce gratum
 Mark Berman, Speaker
 Uf dem anger (On the Lawn)
 10. Were diu werlt alle min 
 Mark Berman, Speaker
 15. Amor volat undique
 Mark Berman, Speaker; Meagan Blachly, Soprano
 16. Dies, nox et omina
Mark Berman, Speaker; Raul Yepez, Tenor
 17. Stetit puella
 Mark Berman, Speaker; Olivia Bright, Soprano
 18. Circa mea pectora 
Mark Berman, Speaker; Matthew Nelson, Baritone
 20. Veni, veni, venias
Mark Berman, Speaker
 21. In truitina
 Mark Berman, Speaker; Catherine Rippetoe, Alto
 22. Tempus est iocundum
 Mark Berman, Speaker; Christopher Parreira, Bass
 Jessie Rawson, Soprano
 23. Dulcissime 
 Jessie Rawson, Soprano
 24. Ave formosissima 
 25. O Fortuna (Fortune, Empress of the World)

City Called Heaven by Josephine Poelintz
 Lorena Tamayo, Mezzo-Soprano

Carmina Burana by Carl Orff

"Carmina Burana provides music that Carl Orff  hoped would cut across social, educational, and temporal boundaries to engage audiences in a powerful expression of music. For his text, Orff turned to a collection of irreverent medieval songs and poems discovered in 1803 at the Bavarian monastery of Benediktbeuren. Hence, Carmina Burana, or "Songs of Beuren." In these profane lyrics of minstrels and monks long dead, Orff heard clearly the voice of the human condition, with its indestructible hunger for the sensual pleasures of the world persisting through the capricious turns of Fortune's wheel. Setting this text to music of primitive force rivaled in our time only by Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Orff combined the medieval and the modern in a timeless vision of humanity's vitality and endurance.

Carl Orff (1895-1982) was a German composer and educator. After studying at the Academy of Music at Munich, he helped to found the Günter School there in 1924. As a composer Orff wished to simplify music, to return to its primitive components. He attempted to adapt old monodic forms to modern tastes, employing dissonant counterpoint and vigorous rhythms. In 1960 he became head of the Orff School for Music in Munich. His work in music education has attracted a considerable following in the United States."
--from Harley Muilenburg

"Carl Orff is among the most misunderstood and thereby underestimated composers of the last century – which is odd when you consider that one work, Carmina Burana, is among the most popular pieces of music ever written. There is at least one performance of it somewhere in the world every single day of the year, and that has been going on for the last 30 years. And with over 300 different recordings extant in the catalogue today, it easily outranks even Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony."
--Tony Palmer classical

"One of music's most resilient creatures is on the loose again, making tracks across the landscape of mainstream entertainment. It leaves traces on the vaguely medieval choruses of John Williams's score to ''Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace,'' and a heavier imprint on ''Hate Me Now,'' the creepingly catchy hip-hop hit by Nas. Its rhythmic echoes even resound behind a recent promotion for the ''South Park'' film.

What is that blasted music, ever present on soundtracks and in television commercials, surfacing everywhere from the video arcade to the ice skating rink? It is ''Carmina Burana,'' a cantata composed in the 1930's by the German music educator Carl Orff around a group of 13th-century ballads by wandering monks.

As the most likely musical background for jousting nobles or scary monsters, used in films from ''Excalibur'' to ''Natural Born Killers,'' Orff''s work defines the sound of the pop Gothic... Charlotte Church, the 13-year-old Welsh soprano sensation, sings from it on her album, ''Voice of an Angel,'' as did Barbra Streisand before her. Nancy Kerrigan and Torvil and Dean have skated to it, video game players annihilate enemies to it, and the German industrial rock group Einsturzende Neubauten and the teen-pop heartthrobs 98 Degrees have used it to herald the opening of their shows.

The piece's ubiquity is more pronounced in the classical world, where it is a staple for choruses, orchestras, opera companies and ballet corps. ''The audience turns out for it,'' said Julie Rushbrook, the outgoing president of the Grace Choral Society of Brooklyn. ''That's the bottom line for a community choral society. It really helps pay the bills.''

...It may not make for a sound legal argument, but the idea that ''Carmina Burana'' somehow belongs to everyone instinctively rings true. Its tenacious hold on the public imagination suggests a power that transcends most critics' dismissals of the piece as naive and overwrought. ''Carmina Burana'' exists between the high and the low, the modern and the traditional, reminding listeners just how seductive such border crossings can be..... Even its defenders value ''Carmina Burana'' particularly because it is accessible and fun...

 "The shadow of Nazism stains Orff's legacy. It is the main reason the cantata was not performed in the United States until 20 years after its debut... Orff never joined the Nazi Party, although he cooperated with it to survive."
--Ann Powers in New York Times June 14, 1999

City Called Heaven by Josephine Poelintz

"Poelinitz’s City Called Heaven expresses the deep longing a person feels during their pilgrimage through life. While the choir “trudges” toward the goal, the pleading, improvisatory-like solo lines evoke yearning for the heavenly home."
-- from Harley Muilenburg

"Josephine Poelinitz is an Elementary Music Specialist in the Chicago Public Schools. Her arrangement of City Called Heaven, a “sorrow song” performed in the style of “surge-singing,” has become a favorite of choirs of all ages."
--Dordt College 

Humboldt Chorale: Program and Notes

O Sing Unto the Lord (Psalm 96:1) by Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
 edited and arranged by Norman Greyson

 Magnificat: My Soul doth Magnify the Lord  by Henry Purcell
 edited and transcribed by Harold Aks

 Regina Coeli by W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)

 She’s Like the Swallow (Newfoundland Folk Song) adapted and arranged by Luigi Zaninelli 

 From Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim:
  “Children Will Listen”
“No one is Alone” arranged by Mark Brymer

Regina Coeli by Mozart

"The sunny C-major Regina Coeli, K. 276, is the last of three settings Mozart made of this antiphon in praise of the Virgin. Its autograph score is lost so its date of composition is conjectural. Scholars believe that its stylistic similarities to the precisely dated Dominican Vespers place it as a work from 1779. Among its many felicities is the thrice-repeated "Alleluia" whose rhythm immediately recalls in the listener a somewhat familiar chorus by Handel, though it is thought unlikely that Mozart knew Messiah in 1779."
-- Copyright (c) 1997 by John W. Ehrlich

She's Like the Swallow
"She’s Like the Swallow is a distinctive Newfoundland folk song about the yearning for and remembrance of love... The setting performed tonight... is by Luigi Zaninelli (b. 1932). A native of New Jersey, Zaninelli was discovered at an early age by Gian-Carlo Menotti who brought him to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to pursue studies. His studies at Curtis culminated in his appointment to the faculty there. Since then, Zaninelli has been the conductor and arranger for Metropolitan Opera soprano Anna Moffo, composer-in-residence at the University of Calgary, Banff School of Fine Arts and, since 1973, the composer-in-residence at the University of Southern Mississippi."
--Dr. Robert Duff

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Party On Endor with HSU Jazz Orchestra 

HSU Jazz Orchestra plays new tunes by Arcata’s recording artist Nathan Parker Smith and band grad Dan Fair as well as student originals and jazz classics of several eras on Saturday May 9 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

Now based in New York, Nathan Parker Smith grew up in Arcata. The Jazz Orchestra performs “Rhetoric Machine” from Not Dark Yet, an album by the Nathan Parker Smith Large Ensemble released in October.

 Also highlighting the Jazz Orchestra spring concert is a new tune by HSU grad Dan Fair called “Amazonia,” as well as his arrangement of “Summer Song” by steelband composer Cliff Alexis.

Current Jazz Orchestra members contribute two tunes to the program: “Party on Endor” by alto sax player Kyle McInnis, and “Fire Crayon Drawing” by bassist Ryan Woempner. Baritone saxophonist Lauren Strella steps to the microphone to sing on her arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly.”

 Jazz classics are not neglected when the band performs a 1960s arrangement of the Duke Ellington standard “Perdido.” Miles Davis is represented by a tune he played in the 60s (“Joshua”) and another from the 80s (“Tutu.”) Saxophonist Kyle McInnis is featured on “Roman Notes” by contemporary big band jazz artist John LaBarbera. 

HSU Jazz Orchestra performs on Saturday May 9 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $8 general, $5 seniors and children, HSU students with ID admitted free. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music department.

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

Jazz Orchestra: Program Notes

"The Jazz Orchestra program on Saturday, May 9 will include a number of pieces composed or arranged by current and former HSU students and a native of Arcata.

 Current Jazz Orchestra members Kyle McInnis (alto sax) and Ryan Woempner (bass) composed "Party On Endor" and "Fire Crayon Drawing," respectively. The band's baritone saxophonist Lauren Strella arranged Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly" and will sing on it. Recent HSU grad Dan Fair has two pieces on the concert, his composition "Amazonia" and his arrangement of "Summer Song," composed by Cliff Alexis for steelband.

"Rhetoric Machine" was composed by Arcata-born-and-raised Nathan Parker Smith, who now leads his own band (the Nathan Parker Smith Large Ensemble) in New York City. "Rhetoric Machine" comes from Smith's first album, Not Dark Yet, released last fall.

 The rest of the program consists of "Roman Notes" by John LaBarbera, a feature for alto saxophonist McInnis, two tunes associated with different periods of Miles Davis's career, "Joshua" (from the early 60s) and "Tutu" (from the mid-80s). The former was composed by Victor Feldman and arranged by Mark Taylor, and the latter composed by Marcus Miller and arranged by Michael Philip Mossman. Mossman also wrote the new arrangement of Sonny Rollins' classic calypso tune, "St. Thomas."

Valve trombonist Juan Tizol composed "Perdido" for Duke Ellington, and Ellington wrote the first arrangement of it. In the early 1960s, Ellington asked Gerald Wilson to write a new arrangement of the tune, and that is the version we will play."
--Dan Aldag

Friday, May 08, 2015

Guest Conductor for Humboldt Symphony 

Humboldt Symphony hosts a guest conductor and guest pianist to join HSU pianist Daniela Mineva on Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos on Friday evening May 8 and Sunday afternoon May 10 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Guest conductor Anna Binneweg is music director and conductor of the Londontowne Symphony Orchestra and the Anne Arundel Community College Symphony, where she teaches. Both are in Maryland. She has conducted at the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, among other prestigious venues. The Baltimore Sun called her “a rising national star.” 

 “We’re excited to have Anna here to conduct and to work with our student in the week leading up to the concerts,” said Humboldt Symphony director Paul Cummings. “Daniela Mineva knows her as a colleague from Michigan State, and she is also a colleague of mine—we’ve both served as officers of the College Orchestra Directors Association.” 

 Professor Mineva will play the Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos with guest pianist Dahao Guo, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music who has performed in China, Germany and Spain as well as the U.S. This work has been called one of Mozart’s most engaging concertos, which he wrote for himself and his sister to play. 

 Dr. Binneweg will conduct this concerto as well as Symphony # 8 by 19th century Russian composer Antonin Dvorak. In selecting this Dvorak work as one of the 50 greatest symphonies, music critic Tom Service praised it for “indelible melodies” cast in “crystal-clear orchestration.” 

 Paul Cummings will conduct “Songs of Eternity” by contemporary American composer Mark Del Porto. “It’s a short piece but it has real epic dimensions,” Cummings said. “It calls upon the whole symphony, and the full potential of every instrument." This piece won the composition award from the College Orchestra Directors Association in 2013. 

Humboldt Symphony performs on Friday May 8 at 8 p.m. and Sunday May 10 at 3 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $8 general, $5 seniors and children, HSU students with ID admitted free.  Produced by HSU Music department.

Media: cover of Times-Standard Urge Magazine, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now.

Humboldt Symphony: Program Notes

Piano Concerto #10 for Two Pianos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Daniela Mineva performs
Mozart concerto
"Although the music that Mozart wrote for more than one pianist was usually designed for himself and the company of a wealthy patron or a star pupil, it was probably inevitable that he would compose a concerto expressly to perform with his sister. The Double Concerto in E-flat major, written in the late 1770s, was conceived for the famous sibling act that was now grown up and had long ago stopped going on the road. It is one of his most engaging concertos. Throughout the work, Mozart delights in the almost operatic interplay of the two instruments, not to mention the wondrous racket of racing scales, rumbling Alberti bass lines, and clangorous trills—all in duplicate. The piece, however, is no mere stunt. It is a work of maturity, significance, and—particularly in the glorious slow movement—truly personal expression, but the sheer joy of sociability—of sharing music and friendship across two keyboards—is never absent."
--Phillip Huscher, Program Notes for the Chicago Symphony

Symphony No. 8 by Antonin Dvořák

Dr. Anna Binneweg conducts
Dvorak symphony
"Dvořák does have a gift that neither of his symphonic predecessors had in the same way, which is that he could compose a seemingly unending torrent of indelible melodies, and he could cast them in crystal-clear orchestration. What's more, in the Eighth Symphony he found a way simultaneously to serve his melodic over-endowment while also creating a kind of symphonic discourse that was definitively his own."
--Tom Service, "50 Greatest Symphonies" series, the Guardian 

"Something remarkable happened in the history of music during the 19th century: composers of symphonic music increasingly turned away from happy or cheerful feelings in favor of dramatic or even tragic ones. Instead of the light and unclouded tone found in many major works by Haydn or Mozart, Romantic composers predominantly used darker colors...

 There were two great exceptions to this general trend: Mendelssohn in the first half of the century, and Dvorák in the second half. Both had the unusual gift of writing radiantly happy music in an era where such an approach was often taken for either conservatism or naïveté. It was neither: it was merely a sign of a different artistic personality...

 Dvorák's Eighth opens with an expressive melody in G minor that prepares the entrance of another theme, a playful idea in G major first given to the solo flute. A dynamic sonata exposition soon gets underway. Dvorák "overshoots the mark" as he bypasses the expected secondary key, D major, in favor of a more remote but even brighter-sounding B major. The development section works up quite a storm, but it subsides when the playful main theme returns, now played by the English horn instead of the flute (two octaves lower than before). The recapitulation ends with a short but very energetic coda.

 The second movement ("Adagio") begins with a simple string melody in darker tonal regions (E-flat major/C minor) that soon reaches bright C major where it remains. The main theme spawns various episodes, in turn lyrical and passionate. After a powerful climax, the movement ends in a tender pianissimo.

 The third movement ("Allegretto grazioso") is neither a minuet nor a scherzo but an "intermezzo" like the third movements of Brahms's First and Second Symphonies. Its first tune is a sweet and languid waltz; its second, functioning as a "trio," sounds more like a Bohemian folk dance. After the return of the waltz, Dvorák surprises us by a very fast ("Molto vivace") Coda, in which commentators have recognized a theme from one of Dvorák's earlier operas. But this Coda consists of exactly the same notes as the lilting "trio" melody, only in a faster tempo, with stronger accents, and in duple instead of triple meter...

 Dvorák's handling of form is indebted to Beethoven and Brahms, but he filled out the form with melodies of an unmistakably Czech flavor and a joviality few composers at the time possessed... The music is always cheerful and optimistic, yet it doesn't lack grandeur."

'Gentlemen, in Bohemia the trumpets never call to battle -- they always call to the dance!' (Conductor Rafael Kubelik during a rehearsal of the trumpet fanfare opening the last movement of Dvorák's Eighth Symphony.)"
  --Peter Laki, Kennedy Center Program Notes

Songs of Eternity by Mark Del Porto

Paul Cummings conducts
Del Porto work
"This piece is so new there isn't much information about it but certainly you would say it is neo-Romantic, of the style of the late 19th century.  So think in terms of Bruckner or Mahler, or in the early 20th century, Strauss and Sibelius.  It's strongly neo-Romantic in its sweeping, epic proportions.

It's only about ten minutes long but it has real epic dimensions to it.  It calls upon the entire symphony, often playing in extreme ranges, at the very top of the potential of all instruments.  It's got a lot of rises and falls, peaks and valleys and swells.  It doesn't follow any traditional form but it's a very well constructed piece.

This piece won the 2013 composition award from the College Orchestra Directors Association, so it's being played all over the country now.  I met Mark Del Porto at a CODA conference in 2014 and he was thrilled.  Getting a premiere is great, but composers are much more excited by the second, third, fourth performances of their work."
--from an interview with Paul Cummings, who conducts the Humboldt Symphony in this work.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Soloists for MRT include Lorena Tamayo, Jessie Rawson, Ian Alexander, Catherine Rippetoe and Jordan Kramlich. 
Love Songs and Chili with Madrigals & MRT 

 HSU Madrigal Singers perform a program of love songs, and Mad River Transit sings blues, a jazz waltz, a Martin Luther King tribute and a swinging chili recipe on Sunday May 3 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

Madrigal singers Ana Ceja, Erin Corrigan and Edrees Nassir perform “Say Love If Ever Thou Didst Find” by Renaissance composer Thomas Morley. Catherine Rippetoe sings “The Lone Wild Bird,” arranged by Madrigals director Harley Muilenburg. The singers combine on the romantic ballad “Midsummer Song” by English composer Frederick Delius, and Orlando di Lasso’s madrigal “O Eyes of My Beloved.”

     Soloists for Madrigal Singers include Ana Cejar, Erin Corrigan, Catherine Rippetoe and Edrees Nassir.
Also on the program are three excerpts from the 2009 Patrick Hawes album “Song of Songs,” with solo by soprano Kellie Ventura. “Hawes’ choral writing is marked by flowing lines and beautiful harmonies,” said Muilenburg. “The keyboard accompaniment by John Chernoff provides contrasting music rich with rhythmic drive.” 

 Mad River Transit singers continue the evening with blues, a jazz waltz by famed pianist Bill Evans and a quick-witted novelty number that provides a musical recipe for Chili Con Carne. 

Jesse Carpentier solos on a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.: MLK by the British rock group U2. Other soloists and improvisers include Lorena Tamayo, Jessie Rawson, Ian Alexander, Catherine Rippetoe and Jordan Kramlich. John Chernoff accompanies both groups on keyboards.

 Madrigal and MRT Singers perform on Sunday May 3 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $8 general, $5 seniors and children, HSU students with ID admitted free. Directed by Harley Muilenburg, produced by HSU Music department.

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

Madrigal & MRT Singers: Programs and Notes

2015 Madrigal Singers (not in order pictured; click photo to enlarge):
Ariana Bustos, Sandee Castaneda, Tiffany Casparis, Erin Corrigan, Ana Ceja,      Jessica Currow, Michelle Latner, Catherine Rippetoe, Robyn Strong, Rosemary Torres,  Kellie Ventura, Victor Guerrero, Maximilian Cox, Fidel Garzia, Dylan Kinser, John Pettlon, Edrees Nassir, Felipe Pezzoli, Jeremy Rodda, John Schutt,     Jaime Sanchez, Leonardo Simmons. Keyboards: John Chernoff.  Directed by Harley Muilenburg.

Notes from director Harley Muilenburg:

HSU Madrigal Singers present a program of Madrigals and songs of love from the 1600’s and the 1900’s. Featured in the program will be a madrigal by Thomas Morley with solos sung by Ana Ceja, Erin Corrigan, and Edrees Nassir. This Madrigal examines the nature of the pursuit of young love.

 The singers will perform three excerpts from Patrick Hawes’s Song of Songs. Hawes’s choral writing is marked by flowing lines and beautiful harmonies. The keyboard accompaniment provides contrasting music rich with rhythmic drive. Frederick Delius’s Midsummer Song is an ABA romantic ballad with a Madrigal type la la section in the middle of the form. The singers will close the program with di Lasso’s beautiful madrigal O Eyes of my Beloved.

Madrigal Singers Program:

Say Love If Ever Thou Didst Find by Thomas Morley
 Ana Ceja, Soprano;  Erin Corrigan, Alto;  Edrees Nassir, Baritone

From Song of Songs by Patrick Hawes
 Kellie Ventura, soprano
 Love’s Promise
 Song of Songs

 The Lone Wild Bird arr. Harley Muilenburg
 Catherine Rippetoe, alto

 Midsummer Song by Frederick Delius
 O Eyes of My Beloved by Orlando di Lasso
 Fie on Sinful Fantasy by George Shearing

2015 Mad River Transit

Olivia Bright ,Jessie Rawson, Jordan Kramlich, Catherine Rippetoe, Jesse Carpentier, Lorena Tamayo, Ana Ceja, Linh Pham, Anna Duchi, Lizzie Thorne,       Ian Alexander, Christian Lesko, Sean Laughlin, Jeremy Rodda, Joshua Roa,       Alberto Rodriguez, Alberto Zamora, Luke Smetana, Daniel Szylewicz, Corey Tamondong , Greta Goshom,  Mari Harsch, Ian Taylor, Andrew Henderson, Ryan Woempner.  Keyboards: John Chernoff.  

MRT’s night of singing includes classic vocal jazz featuring Claire Fisher’s Latin arrangement of the German folk song “Du, Du, Leigst Mir Im Herzen.” The program includes a jazz waltz, Bobby McFerrin’s 23rd Psalm, and the beautiful song MLK, written in memory of Martin Luther King. Jesse Carpentier will be the soloist.

MRT Program

Moanin’ by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
 Solo: Jessie Rawson
 Improv: Jessie, Lorena, Ian, Linh Olivia, Alberto

 MLK arr. Bob Chilcott
 Jesse Carpentier

  Le Nommage  by Kerry Marsh and Julia Dollison
 Improv: Sean, Jordan, Jessie, Olivia, Alberto

23rd Psalm by Bobby McFerrin
 Chili con Carne by Anders Edenroth
 Du, Du, Leigst Mir Im Herzen arr. Claire Fisher
 Blues in the Night arr. Muilenburg
 Waltz For Debby by Bill Evans, arr. Muilenburg & Lorena Tamayo
 Improv: Jessie, Catherine, Lorena, Christian

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Calypso Band Dance Rhythms Return 

 HSU Calypso Band brings its authentic Caribbean dance rhythms home after a triumphant northern California tour, and the Percussion Ensemble features a work highlighting Hawaiian rhythms on Saturday May 2 in the Van Duzer Theatre. 

 Back for its second concert this spring, the Percussion Ensemble presents for the first time this year a 1978 work by American composer Christopher Rouse called Ku-Ka-Illimoku, evoking indigenous Hawaiian rhythms. The performance also features 24 dancers choreographed by HSU Dance professor Sharon Butcher. 

 The Percussion Ensemble also performs Marimba Spiritual by Japanese composer Minoru Miki and a reprise of Toccata for Percussion by Mexico’s foremost composer Carlos Chavez. The HSU World Percussion Group presents authentic Afro-Cuban folkloric music based on the traditions of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

 Then in what has become a pre-finals tradition, the HSU Calypso Band takes over for the rest of the high-energy evening. This year’s highlights include two Panorama classics by Len “Boogsie” Sharpe from the island of Trinidad: “Misbehave” and “Woman is Boss.” 

 The Calypso Band and its more than 40 steeldrums recently returned from a northern California tour, playing to enthusiastic audiences in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Tomales, San Rafael and Berkeley. 

The HSU Percussion Ensemble and Calypso Band perform on Saturday May 2 beginning at 8 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $10 general, $5 seniors and children, $3 HSU students. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman, produced by HSU Music department.

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

Percussion Ensemble & Calypso Band: Director's Notes

Notes by Eugene Novotney:

The featured work on the program is Ku-Ka-Ilimoku, composed in 1978 by Christopher Rouse on commission from the Syracuse Symphony Percussion Ensemble.

The composer writes: "In Hawaiian mythology, Ku is perhaps the most fundamental and important of gods, occupying a place similar to that of Zeus in Greek mythology or Odin in Norse legend. Ku is manifested in several forms: as Ku-Ka-Ilimoku he represents the god of war. Thus this work for percussion ensemble is best viewed as a savage, propulsive war dance. Hawaiian chants are often based on as few as two pitches, and Hawaiian percussion emphasizes short, repetitive patterns. Underlying this surface simplicity is a wealth of subtle rhythmic inflection and variation. I incorporated this diversity to great effect, creating a tightly knit, exhilarating work. Although indigenous instruments are not employed, the timbre of their voices is evoked. The dynamic power of the Western instruments adds an intense level of ferocity to the proceedings."

 This performance of Ku-Ka-Ilimoku will be accompanied by dancers from the Humboldt State University Dance Program presenting an exciting contemporary dance inspired by the folkloric rhythms and dances of the “Hula Kahiko” tradition. The dance is choreographed by dance professor, Sharon Butcher, and entitled, Standing Here, With Red-Feathered Gods.

 Other featured pieces on the program will include the classic work, Toccata for Percussion, by Carlos Chavez and Marimba Spiritual by Minoru Miki.

The first half of the show will conclude with a suite of traditional Mandeng Drumming from West Africa, and a special presentation by the HSU World Percussion Group of authentic Afro-Cuban folkloric music based in the traditions of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.

 The second half of the show will feature the festive dance music of the Humboldt State Calypso Band. For 29 years, the Calypso Band has been performing and entertaining local audiences, and has proven to be one of Humboldt County’s favorite and most enduring musical ensembles.

The Calypso Band is comprised of an orchestra of over 40 steelpans (or steeldrums) representing the full symphonic range. This spring, the Humboldt State Calypso Band toured Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Tomales, San Rafael, and Berkeley, California, entertaining hundreds of listeners, and sharing their authentic Caribbean sounds with their enthusiastic audiences throughout Northern California.

For their performance in the Van Duzer Theatre, the Calypso Band will feature several high-energy dance compositions from the Caribbean in their set, including two modern Panorama classics composed by steelband legend, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, from the island of Trinidad – Misbehave and Woman is Boss.

For 29 years, the Humboldt State Calypso Band has prided 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 remains dedicated to entertaining audiences with spirit, authenticity, and respect.

Friday, May 01, 2015

                          soloists Andrew Henderson and Craig Hull

Symphonic Band Celebrates Cinco de Mayo 

 HSU Symphonic Band marks Cinco de Mayo with La Fiesta Mexicana and the relentless rhythms of  Huapango, plus a World Music medley by North Coast composer Gregg Moore—and more, on Friday May 1 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 La Fiesta Mexicana, subtitled “A Mexican Folksong Symphony” is a three movement work by American band composer H. Owen Reed that tells the story of a festival that includes an Aztec dance and a solemn church service before ending in a carnival celebration complete with a traveling circus, a bullfight and a mariachi band. 

Huapango by Mexican composer Jose Pablo Moncayo is also based on a festival dance originally from the state of Veracruz. “This is basically a perpetual motion piece with a relentless driving rhythm,” said conductor Paul Cummings. “We feature two of our really advanced brass players on alternating solos—Craig Hull on trombone and Andrew Henderson on trumpet.”

 Two pieces focus on wind instruments. “These are musical vehicles for our more experienced players to shine,” Cummings said. They are Suite for Jazz Orchestra by Dmitri Shostakovich and Strange Humors by John Mackey, which is a piece for saxophone quartet and the African drum called the djembe. “It has to be one of the oddest combinations of instruments ever,” Cummings said. 

photo: Harvard Magazine
 Among other selections on the program is a World Music medley by well-known North Coast musical figure Gregg Moore. “Gregg adapts music originally played by bands in the public square, in South America or Spain for example,” Cummings said. “Too much of our modern wind ensemble music loses the authenticity of folk music it is based on. Gregg stays true to the origins of the music, and that comes through in his arrangements.” 

 HSU Symphonic Band performs on Friday May 1 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $8 general, $5 seniors and children, HSU students with ID admitted free. Produced by HSU Music department.

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

Symphonic Band: Conductor's Note

From an interview with conductor Paul Cummings:

Shortcut Home by Dana Wilson 

This piece with jazz elements in first on the program because it’s a short, super high energy piece, in the style of an overture or a fanfare. Dana Wilson is a highly regarded American composer, much in demand, who teaches at Ithaca College in New York. He’s lives in the classical music world but also in the jazz world as a musician himself, and he looks for ways to merge these two areas that we often want to separate. His music has received a lot of acclaim. This piece is loud, fast and fun.

La Fiesta Mexicana by H. Owen Reed

 Reed was a fixture at Michigan State University on the composition faculty from 1939-1976. He had a number of students who developed into composers themselves. He died just last year. He was an excellent composer who wrote for all mediums, including symphonic band. This is generally considered to be his greatest band piece.

 This is program music—it tells a story. His subtitle suggests that: A Mexican Folksong Symphony. He tells his story using a number of Mexican tunes. In the first movement, bells and fireworks call people to the cathedral square for a religious festival. They arrive to witness a midday parade and a frenzied Aztec dance. 

The bells ring again to call everyone into the cathedral for a ceremony. That’s the second movement, very slow, basically a chorale. The third movement is called “Carnival”—it’s the height of the fiesta out in the cathedral square with a traveling circus, a bullfight, a market bazaar, the town band and a mariachi group.

 This is a core work in the wind band repertoire, and it’s the longest piece on the program at about 22 minutes.

 Huapango by Jose Pablo Moncayo
 transposed for band by Leroy Osmon

Huapango is basically a perpetual motion piece—it’s got this driving relentless rhythm that hardly ever stops. There’s variation and melody but mostly it’s characterized by this driving rhythm in 6/8 time.

 It’s based on a dance--“Huapango” is a rhythmic Mexican folk dance performed on a wooden platform. It’s also the name of a festival celebrated in the state of Veracruz, where they did this dance.

 Moncayo was a 20th century Mexican pianist, percussionist and conductor as well as a composer. We feature two of our really advanced brass players—Craig Hull has a trombone solo that alternates with trumpet played by Andrew Henderson. They play back and forth, having a conversation between the trumpet and the trombone, with support from the rest of the band.

 Caccia and Chorale by Clifton Williams 

 This also is part of the core repertoire for wind ensembles. Williams was an American composer active from the 50s into the 70s. “Caccia” means a chase or a hunt. “Chorale” is a hymn.

 It does sound like it’s racing for much of the first section, the “caccia.” Even though caccia is a form of music that goes back to the Middle Ages, he is using it with specific application to the modern world. According to the composer, this section is intended to “reflect the preoccupation of most people in the world with a constant pursuit of materialism.” The chorale section “by contrast is an urgent and insistent plea for greater humanity, a return to religious or ethical concepts.”

 It’s interesting that he uses the caccia form to get that across, but you can certainly listen to the music without thinking about materialism. He also writes: “While it remains open to question whether music can convey any message other than a purely musical one, composers often tend to attempt to express philosophical, pictorial or other aspects within a musical framework.”

 The chorale is a beautiful slow hymn in which the brass and the woodwinds are often set off against each other.

 A Medley by Gregg Moore

photo: The Hum
Gregg Moore is our local World Music guru. I commissioned Greg to do some pieces that could work for our Symphonic Band. We’re using pieces he’d already written but he tweaked them a little and added some instruments to round out the instrumentation so it would work for us.

 Modern symphonic band students don’t get to do authentic World Music very much—music that has roots in indigenous music from continents other than North America. Too much of our modern wind ensemble music loses the authenticity of folk music by changing instrumentation, keys and tempos to make it "band friendly"-- more suitable to be played by a concert band in the 21st century.

 Gregg’s music often has South American roots, or from Spain and other places. There’s an upbeat flavor of his arrangements that comes from the tradition of the music originally being played outdoors in the public square, and Gregg’s band arrangements connect with the original performance medium. I think Gregg has stayed true to the origins of the music. He’s customized these pieces a bit for our band but I think the authenticity is still there—the respect for the genesis of the music—and it comes through in his arrangements.

 Gregg was kind enough to agree to perform some of his music and tweak some of it, so we’re all looking forward to doing a little medley of some of his world band music.

Chamber Winds: 
Suite for Jazz Orchestra by Dimitri Shostakovich
 Strange Humors by John Mackey 

 These pieces are on our program because we have advanced musicians that need outlets, and these are musical vehicles for our more experienced players to shine.

 Shostakovich wrote two of these suites—this is the first. I think the second is performed more often. He wrote this as a young man, in 1934 as Stalin was coming to power in Russia. Stalin’s government was looking for  music that was lighter than his great symphonies. I think this piece is a compromise to satisfy the government with something light and happy.

 Still, even though it’s pretty short and light, it shows his brilliant compositional genius—incredible harmonic modulations that you wouldn’t expect in a waltz, a polka and a foxtrot. Very unusual, creative, modern harmonic devices. So even under duress, Shostakovich and other Russian composers who didn’t want to emigrate found ways to be creative and modern.

 John Mackey’s piece is for a saxophone quartet—soprano, alto, tenor, baritone—and djembe, which is an African drum. It has to be one of the oddest combination of instruments ever. So it’s unique, but it works. The djembe sets up a groove for the melodic material by the saxes.

 John Mackey is a Julliard-trained composer, not yet 40 but getting a lot of play all over the world. He’s written orchestra and choir music but especially for band.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Exploring the Wild Sonata with Cindy Moyer and Friends

 Violinist Cindy Moyer is joined by pianist Daniela Mineva and other musical friends to explore the dynamic and varied form of the violin sonata through works by Handel, Beethoven, Brahms and Prokofiev on Saturday April 25 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 The sonata as an expressive combination of themes and rhythms in multiple movements has its roots in the Baroque period. Moyer is accompanied by Kira Weiss on cello and Greg Granoff on harpsichord for a sonata by Handel, a premiere and popular composer of that era, praised by Beethoven for achieving great effects by simple means.

 Pianist Daniela Mineva joins Moyer for a work by Beethoven, credited as the most important composer of violin sonatas. They play his second sonata, noted for its robust humor. Moyer and Mineva combine again on Johannes Brahms’ first sonata, praised as a magical work of graceful tenderness and intensity. 

 Moyer ends the evening with the seldom performed sonata for solo violin by 20th century Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. One of his last works, it has been called lyrical, sonorous, melodic and mysterious. 

 Moyer sees these four sonatas as an opportunity to highlight changing aspects of the form. “What is a sonata, and how did this form of music evolve over time?” she said. “We’ll be exploring these questions through these sonatas from four periods in its history.”

Cindy Moyer and friends perform on Saturday April 25 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets are $10/$5 students and seniors, from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. A Faculty Artist Series concert produced by HSU Music Department.

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

Cindy Moyer and Friends: Program

                   Daniela Mineva and Cindy Moyer

Cindy Moyer, violin
with Daniela Mineva, piano;  Greg Granoff, harpsichord;  Kira Weiss, cello.

 Sonata in F Major for Violin and Continuo , HWV 370 by Georg Frederick Handel


 Sonata in A Major for Piano and Violin, Op. 12, No. 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven

 Allegro vivace
Andante più tosto allegretto
 Allegro piacevole

 Sonata in G Major for Piano and Violin, Op. 78 by Johannes Brahms
 Vivace non troppo
 Allegro molto moderato

 Sonata in D Major for Solo Violin, Op. 115  by Sergei Prokofiev 
Theme and Variations
 Con brio

Additional Notes

Beethoven Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 2

"There is no doubt that the ten Beethoven sonatas represent the most important body of work for violin and piano. Only Mozart comes close in terms of a large-scale ‘cycle’, although there are later masterpieces by Schumann, Brahms, Franck, Bartók and others. As with so many of the genres that he touched, Beethoven set the standard to which all other composes aspired for many years afterwards. For a violin and piano duo, these works are central to everything we do.

The first sonata could almost be a particularly grandiose work of Mozart, but the robust humour in the second is far more Haydnesque. One of the only times Beethoven evokes the traditional ‘roles’ of the two instruments is to cock a snook and turn them on their head in op. 12 no 2."
pianist Daniel Tong (Feb. 2014)

Brahms Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 1

 "Brahms’ three violin sonatas are all extraordinary masterpieces that occupy their own rarefied world of elegant construction, romantic sweep and exquisite beauty. The designation of “Sonata for Piano and Violin” significantly expresses the equal partnership of both instruments in this chamber music for two. While the violin often sings first and foremost, Brahms frequently switches the parts giving theme and accompaniment a deeper sounding through new sonorities and “inverted” textures. The two parts generally imitate, echo and intertwine for a balanced chamber unity with ample lyricism and virtuosity for both players.

Brahms published his first sonata for piano and violin in 1879 at the relatively advanced age of 46, though, typical of his history, it seems that he may have consigned at least three previous sonatas to the fire of unremitting self-criticism. The Sonata in G Major, Op. 78 thus emerges as an astonishing “first” sonata by any standard; it is a magical work full of graceful tenderness, nobility, bursting intensity and sacred repose with a wealth of cyclic interconnections. It is a romantic sonata in the truest sense: there are literary and musical allusions to rain throughout and the prevailing serenity often gives rise to poignant reflection and nostalgia. It is revealing to touch upon each of its movements backwards, starting with the finale."
 Kai Christiansen, Earsense

"Composed in the high summer of his creative career after the completion of the Symphony No. 1 and the Violin Concerto, Brahms' Violin Sonata in G major is a gloriously lyrical work with long-breathed melodies rather than terse themes, and expansive extrapolations rather than concise developments. It is also one of Brahms' most tightly structured and cogently argued works, with a degree of formal integration rare in his works. The dotted rhythm of the opening movement's first theme dominates the second theme of the central movement and all of the closing movement, and the second theme of the central movement returns in the central section of the closing movement.

The sonata is in three movements: Vivace ma non troppo, Adagio, and Allegro molto moderato. The opening Vivace, significantly slowed by its modifying ma non troppo, is a sweet-tempered movement in sonata form with two lyrical themes. The central Adagio is in ternary form, with a heartfelt main theme full of double and triple stops in the violin. The closing Allegro molto moderato starts with a direct quotation from the opening of Brahms' Regenlied, Op. 59/3 (Rain Song), a melancholy minor-keyed song recalling the long-lost days of youth. In the Violin Sonata, Brahms likewise starts it in the minor, but with the return of the theme of the Adagio, he returns the music to the consoling tonic major of the sonata. The work ends with a warm, sunset coda of great beauty."
 James Leonard, AllMusic

Prokofiev Sonata for Solo Violin

“It was significant that he should return, after so many years, to writing for the solo violin; seemingly unconvinced of the utter futility of formalist experimentation, he renewed his youthful striving to express genuine human emotions, choosing for this effort one of the most singing of all musical instruments.”
Israel V. Nestyev, author and biographer





late compositional 
..  Because he was a pianist, Prokofiev’s writing for the violin often imitates pianistic percussive and rhythmic qualities, yet it also exploits and highlights the lyrical, singing qualities of the violin.

 The Solo Sonata is musically charming, sonorous, and challenging, yet remains the least recorded or performed of all of Prokofiev’s violin works... The Sonata, nevertheless, offers great musical satisfaction and pedagogical value, clearly reflecting Prokofiev’s late compositional style in its form, melody and harmony. As seen in the Solo Sonata and throughout the Soviet period, melody and lyricism became the most important aspects of his music. In any scenario, the Solo Sonata is an intriguing and mysterious piece of music, musically and historically unique, and a valuable example of Prokofiev’s late compositional style for the violin."  Joanna Steinhauser, doctoral thesis.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

HSU Percussion: Toccata, Canticle and A Woman’s Right to Drum

 HSU Percussion Ensemble breaks out all the instruments for classic works by Carlos Chavez, Lou Harrison and John Cage, and the World Percussion Group plays a traditional piece from Ghana that celebrates a woman’s right to drum, on Sunday April 19.

 Mexican composer Carlos Chavez combined Central American, Asian and European instruments in his 1942 Toccata for Percussion. “Musically, he combines exciting rhythmic passages and sudden dynamic changes with slower passages that employ exotic scales and timbres,” said Percussion Ensemble director Eugene Novotney. 

John Cage, who asked Chavez to compose the Toccata, is on the program with Second Construction  from 1940. Lou Harrison’s Canticle #3 adds flute and guitar to an array of percussion instruments. The HSU Marimba Band ends the set with folkloric music from Mexico, Guatemala and Africa. 

 Directed by Howard Kaufman, the World Percussion Group follows with a set that features “Takada,” Ghana’s traditional celebration of a woman’s right to drum. HSU student teacher Joe Bishop leads a suite of Mandeng drumming from West Africa. 

Percussion Ensemble and World Percussion Group perform on Sunday April 19 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $8 general, $5 seniors and children, HSU students with ID admitted free. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman, produced by HSU Music Department.

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

Percussion Concert: Director's Notes

The HSU Percussion Ensemble will feature an exciting and diverse program of material presenting the listener with contemporary percussion compositions and soundscapes, as well as traditional drumming styles based in the music of Africa and Cuba.

The featured work on the program is Toccata for Percussion, composed in 1942 by the Pan-American composer, Carlos Chavez. Chavez was born and died in Mexico City, and at the age of 29, he was named the director of Mexico’s National Conservatory and the director of Orchesta Sinfonia de Mexico.

 In Toccata, Chavez mixes Central American percussion instruments (claves, maracas, bongos) with standard European percussion instruments (timpani, snare drums, field drums) and Asian instruments (gongs) to create a true “mixed-world” instrumentation. Musically, he combines exciting rhythmic passages and sudden dynamic changes with slower passages that employ exotic scales and timbres. The result is a piece that is both fascinating and profound.

 The Percussion Ensemble will also be presenting one of John Cage’s most famous and innovative works from the 1940’s entitled, Second Construction. This highly experimental work calls for percussionists playing traditional Western percussion instruments combined with exotic instruments from around the world, including Balinese Gongs, Indian Oxen Bells, African Pod-Rattles, and Chinese Temple Bells.

One of the more unusual instruments employed is Cage’s infamous “water gong,” where the percussionist submerges a Chinese gong in water to alter and manipulate its pitch. Also featured in this work is Cage’s famous “Prepared-Piano,” an instrument created by taking a classical grand piano and adding nuts, bolts, washers, rubber, and other objects to the piano strings and sound-board. The effect creates an instrument that sounds more like an electronic synthesizer than an acoustic piano, and the effect is both stunning and surprising.

 Also on the program will be a beautiful soundscape by Cage’s contemporary, Lou Harrison, entitled Canticle # 3. It features the addition of flute and guitar to the percussion ensemble, and also features many “found objects” used as percussion instruments, as well as exotic percussion instruments such as Nigerian log drums, Indian elephant bells, sistrums, anvils, and a cajon.

Rounding out the Percussion Ensemble set will be a performance by the HSU Marimba Band of folkloric music from Guatamala, Mexico, and Africa.

 The HSU World Percussion Group will be presenting, "Takada", a traditional Ghanaian piece celebrating a woman's right to drum, and "Lucumî", an Afro-Cuban suite of rhythms and songs of Yoruba origin, originally from Nigeria. The show will end with a West African Drumming Ensemble, led by HSU student teacher, Joe Bishop. This group will be performing a suite of traditional Mandeng Drumming from West Africa using all indigenous instruments, featuring driving rhythms and a dynamic rhythmic interplay.

--Eugene Novotney

Friday, April 17, 2015

Jazz Combos: Eclectic and Electric

Four Jazz Combos perform an eclectic assortment of tunes on Friday April 17 at HSU.

 Cuttin’ Block (pictured above), a trio comprised of Leo Plummer (guitar), Eric Simpson (bass) and Jacob Partida (drums) play “Flim,” by the contemporary electronic composer and performer known as Aphex Twin. They also play “Red Clay” by jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and the 1959 Santo and Johnny hit “Sleepwalk”—one the most popular instrumentals of the rock and roll era.

 Another trio, Bright Lights Big Kitty (Trevor Kumec on guitar, Ian Taylor on bass and Aaron Katz on drums) performs “Afro Blue,” the jazz classic by Afro-Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria. Their set also includes tunes by jazz singer Gretchen Parlato and by bassist Jaco Pastorius, famous for his work with the 1970s jazz fusion band Weather Report. 

 The Noon Quintet performs two tunes by contemporary jazz trumpeter and writer Nicholas Payton, and “Peri’s Scope” by legendary pianist Bill Evans. They are: Andrew Henderson (trumpet), Max Marlowe (piano),Tyler Martin (baritone sax), Thatcher Holvick-Norton (bass) and Forrest Smith (drums.)

 The largest ensemble of the evening is Business Casual: Erin Laetz (flute), Kyle McInnis (sax), Nick Durant (tenor sax), Kenneth Bozanich (guitar), Ryan Woempner (bass), Kevin Amos (drums) and Tyler Burkhart (percussion.) They play band member Bozanich’s composition, “Moonstone” and “Well, You Needn’t” by classic jazz pianist Thelonious Monk.

 Jazz Combos, directed by Dan Aldag, also perform on Saturday afternoon April 18 at the Morris Graves Museum in Eureka.

Jazz Combos perform at HSU on Friday April 17 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door: $8 general, $5 seniors and children, HSU students with ID admitted free. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: cover of Eureka-Times Standard Urge, Mad River Union, North Coast Journal, HSU Now.

Jazz Combos: The Program

Business Casual
Business Casual
Erin Laetz, flute
 Kyle McInnis, soprano and alto saxes
 Nick Durant, tenor sax
Kenneth Bozanich, guitar
 Ryan Woempner, bass
 Kevin Amos, drums
 Tyler Burkhart, percussion

"Moonstone" by Kenneth Bozanich
"Well, You Needn't" by Thelonious Monk

Nicholas Payton
The Noon Quintet
 Andrew Henderson, trumpet
Tyler Martin, bari sax
Max Marlowe, piano
Thatcher Holvick-Norton, bass
 Forrest Smith, drums

"Let It Ride" and "2" by Nicholas Payton
"Peri's Scope" by Bill Evans

Bright Lights, Big Kitty
 Trevor Kumec, guitar
 Ian Taylor, bass
 Aaron Katz, drums

Gretchen Parlato by Jaylah Burrell 
"Nardis" by Miles Davis
 "Afro Blue" by Mongo Santamaria
 "In A Dream" by Gretchen Parlato
 "Trillium" by Aaron Katz
 "Continuum" by Jaco Pastorius

Aphex Twin

Cuttin' Block 
Leo Plummer, guitar
 Eric Simpson, bass
 Jacob Partida, drums

"Red Clay" by Freddie Hubbard
 "Flim" by Aphex Twin
"Sleepwalk" by Santo and Johnny Farina