Saturday, April 19, 2014

   Quintet Tarantino: Ian Taylor, Aaron Laughlin, Thatcher Norton, Alex Espe

Jazz Combos: Traditional and Unusual 

 With instrumental lineups both traditional and unusual, four HSU Jazz Combos perform classic and contemporary tunes plus their own originals on Saturday April 19 at the earlier time of 7 p.m. 

 Quintet Tarantino has a weird name (especially since there are four of them) but a normal combo instrumental array: Aaron Laughlin on guitar, Alex Espy on keyboards, Ian Taylor on bass and and Thatcher Norton on drums. Among their offerings are “Actual Proof” by Herbie Hancock, “Stadium Jazz” by Donny McCaslin and “Space Revealed,” an original tune by Espe. 
Jessica Lurie

But with a unique all-reed instrument lineup, the Meantones do “La Lucce Azura” by Jessica Lurie, “Bugalu Monko” by Enrique Fernandez and Duke Ellington’s classic “Mood Indigo.” The Meantones are Kyle McInnis (alto sax), Abraham Loaiza (alto and tenor saxes), Nick Durant (tenor sax and clarinet) and Lauren Strella (baritone sax.) Kelsey Goldstein is guest vocalist. 

 Five Way Street is Alan Spencer (tenor sax), Josh Foster (trombone), Ryan Woempner (bass) and Kevin Amos (drums.) They play Stevie Wonder’s “Superstititon,” a tune by Alan Spencer and an original by bassist Woempner called “Fire Crayon Drawing.” 
Cab Calloway

 The Jazzmanian Devils play Cab Calloway’s most famous tune, “Minnie the Moocher,” as well as “Mr. PC” by John Coltrane, “Hold On Me” by Esperanza Spalding and “Zoot’s Ms. Manifesto (A Medley.)” The group’s lineup is Jessie Burns on trumpet, Craig Hull on trombone, Colten Sanchez on guitar, Bret Johnson on bass and Forrest Smith on drums. Once again Kelsey Goldstein does guest vocals. 

 HSU Jazz Combos perform Saturday April 19 at 7 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $8/$5, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door.  Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by HSU Music Department.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guitar Ensemble Stringing the Continents Together 

 HSU Guitar Ensemble continues its world music tour with tunes from all seven continents (sort of) in their spring concert on Friday April 18 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 “We will perform famous compositions, modern works by living composers, arrangements of folk music, and do a little improvising as well,” said Guitar Ensemble director and HSU Music professor Nicholas Lambson. “Students took the initiative to put together several of the pieces, including arrangements of jazz, blues and metal pieces.” 

 In various combinations, members of the Guitar Ensemble perform two pieces representing North America (a blues and a Broadway tune), three from South America (from Brazil, Peru and Argentina), and five pieces from western and eastern Europe (including dances from Ireland, Spain and Romania.) 

Philip Houghton’s “Lament” represents Australia, while works from Japan and Indonesia illustrate different styles of Asian music. “An African Puzzle” from Dusan Bogdanovic’s World Music Primer represents that continent. As for the seventh... “To Live is to Die” is a tune by Metallica, an American band that played a concert in Antarctica.

 One piece (“Cote Sud” by contemporary French composer Roland Dyens) features eight guitarists. “This is one of the largest groups we have had involved in one piece,” notes Lambson. “Putting it all together with the big group has been challenging but also a lot of fun. This may also be the last concert for this talented group of guitarists, since several will be graduating, and a few of the alumni performing with us may be moving on as well. I think this piece is a great way to culminate their time here as a part of the HSU Guitar Ensemble and studio, and I am really looking forward to sharing the stage with them for that.” 

The Guitar Ensemble includes Kenneth Bozanich, Sandee Castaneda, Alex Diaz, Jason Hall, Nick Hart, Allen Hernandez, Bryant Kellison, Nicholas Lambson, Kris Lang, Alex Lopez, Jake Masterson, Leo Plummer, Justin Santos, Leonardo Simmons, Charlie Sleep, Rory Urquhart and Greg Willis. 

The HSU Guitar Ensemble performs on Friday April 18 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $8/$5, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door.  An HSU Music Department production.

Guitar Ensemble: Director's Preview

This year, the HSU Guitar Ensemble has been focusing on world music. The guitar is a main element in so many musical styles and cultures, and we will actually be representing all seven continents in this concert in one way or another (the pieces representing Antarctica were actually written by a famous American band who played a concert there, but it’s as close as we’re going to get!) We will perform famous compositions, modern works by living composers, arrangements of folk music, and do a little improvising as well.

Students took the initiative to put together a few of the pieces on their own, including arrangements of Jazz, Blues, and Metal pieces. The concert will also feature an octet by the contemporary French composer, Roland Dyens, which incorporates a wide range of styles. This is one of the largest groups we have had involved in one piece, and it has been a major undertaking; each player’s part is on the technical and musical level of a big solo piece, and putting it all together with the big group has been challenging but also a lot of fun. This may also be the last concert for this talented group of guitarists since several will be graduating, and a few of the alumni performing with us may be moving on as well. I think this piece is a great way to culminate their time here as a part of the HSU Guitar Ensemble and studio, and I am really looking forward to sharing the stage with them for that.

There are also a few “non-Western” pieces on the program. The piece based on African music was written by an Eastern European composer who is heavily involved with World Music; he is also one of my old guitar teachers from my years at the SF Conservatory of Music. There are two pieces from Asia – one is a fusion of Japanese folk songs and Western compositional practices, and the other imitates Indonesian Gamelan percussion orchestras both in terms of the actual music and by creating a surprisingly similar timbre using prepared guitar techniques.

--Nicholas Lambson

Guitar Ensemble: Program and Notes

[Names of performers are in bold]

 My Favorite Things – Rogers and Hammerstein, Arranged by Jason Hall
Jason Hall, Kris Lang, Rory Urquhart, Kenneth Bozanich

Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Blues
– Jelly Roll Morton, Arranged by Greg Willis
 Blues Medley – Arranged by Greg Willis
Greg Willis, Leonardo Simmons, Alex Diaz 


 Brazil: Agua y Vinho by Egberto Gismonti
 Alex Diaz and Jake Masterson
 Xote – Celso Machado
Greg Willis, Leo Plummer, Bryant Kellison, Leonardo Simmons 

Astor Piazzolla
Argentina Tango Suite – Astor Piazzolla
 Justin Santos and Charlie Sleep 

Peru:  Two Andean Folk Songs, Arranged by Maldonado
 Leo Plummer, Sandee Castaneda, Kenneth Bozanich, Alex Lopez, Nick Hart


 Ireland:  Irish Dance – Arranged by Jeremy Sparks
 Kris Lang, Rory Urquhart, Jason Hall, Jake Masterson 

Spain:  Miller’s Dance – Manuel de Falla
 Kris Lang and Jason Hall
Roland Dyens

France:  Cote Sud – Roland Dyens
Nick Lambson, Justin Santos, Jason Hall, Kris Lang, Charlie Sleep, Rory Urquhart, Alex Diaz, Jake Mast 


 Russia:  Andante and Allegro – Igor Stravinsky, Arranged by Theodore Norman Greg Willis and Bryant Kellison

Romania: Romanian Dance – Anton Dvorak, Arranged by Jeremy Sparks
 Kris Lang, Justin Santos, Rory Urquhart, Jason Hall


Lament – Philip Houghton
Jake Masterson and Alex Diaz


 Rhapsody Japan – Shingo Fujii
Shingo Fujii
 Jason Hall and Kris Lang

Indonesia:  Gongan by Bill Kanengiser
 Charlie Sleep, Justin Santos, Jason Hall and Kris Lang


World Music Primer:An African Puzzle by Dusan Bogdanovic
  Justin Santos, Kris Lang, Rory Urquhart


 To Live is to Die – Metallica, Arranged by Jake Masterson
 Bryant Kellison, Jake Masterson, Allen Hernandez


William Kanengiser is an extraordinary guitar soloist, member of the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, pedagogue, and professor at the Thornton School of Music at USC. While he is not known for his compositions, these works are sophisticated, highly effective, and exciting pieces. Gongan utilizes prepared guitar techniques, requiring us to alter the sound of the instrument by placing foreign objects on the strings. We are using screws, bolts, washers, foam, and alligator clips for this one, and the effect is truly amazing! Musically, the pentatonic pitch collection is a clear representation of gamelan, and the rhythmic organization does this as well. Different “instruments” will be playing rhythmic cycles of various lengths, and gongs mark important moments where everything aligns. Kanengiser’s work is extremely unique, and a major contribution to the guitar repertoire.

Dusan Bogdanovic was born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1955. He completed his studies in composition and orchestration at the Geneva Conservatory with Pierre Wissmer and Alberto Ginastera, and in guitar performance with Maria Livia São Marcos. Early in his career, he received the only First Prize at the Geneva Competition, and gave a highly acclaimed debut recital in Carnegie Hall in 1977. He has taught at the University of Southern California, San Francisco Conservatory and is currently at the Geneva Conservatory. His performing and recording activities include work with chamber ensembles of diverse stylistic orientations: the De Falla Guitar Trio; a harpsichord and guitar duo with Elaine Comparone; and jazz collaborations with Anthony Cox, Charlie Haden, Milcho Leviev, James Newton, Arto Tuncbayaci, and others.

 Dusan Bogdanovic has recorded nearly 20 albums, and over 70 works have been published. His theoretical work includes polyrhythmic and polymetric studies, as well as a bilingual publication covering three-voice counterpoint and Renaissance improvisation for guitar and Ex Ovo: a guide for perplexed composers and improvisers. He has also collaborated on multi-disciplinary projects involving music, psychology, philosophy and fine arts. World Music Primer clearly displays Bogdanovic’s connection with world music in general. The African Puzzle utilizes three against two cross rhythms, heavy syncopations, and an improvisatory feel, which are all regularly used in that culture. The piece is arranged in small repeated sections which the performers are playing as written all the way through before jumbling the puzzle by improvising which cells they play next.

 Jeremy Sparks was born in London, England. He began his guitar studies under Oswald Rantucci at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Upon receiving his performance degree in 1976 he formed the Buffalo Guitar Quartet. At that time, published music for four guitars was virtually non-existent. To help fill this void, Jeremy Sparks has composed pieces for guitar quartet and has transcribed more than fifty works. He was also mentor to several highly successful guitarists including Jason Vieaux who heads the Cleveland Institute of Music, has toured to world, has recorded multiple albums, and has won extremely competitive competitions including the Guitar Foundation of America Competition. Irish Medley is perhaps his most performed work, which is popular due to the very colorful and effective arrangement. Sparks employs harmonics and percussive effects along with thoughtful placement of voices in terms of range and color; and he does so in service to the music and not for its own sake which makes it all the more effective.

Egberto Amin Gismonti began his formal music studies at the age of six on piano. After studying classical music for 15 years, he went to Paris to study orchestration and analysis with Nadia Boulanger and the composer Jean Barraqué, a disciple of Schoenberg and Webern. After his return to Brazil, Gismonti began to explore other musical genres. He was attracted by Ravel's approach to orchestration and chord voicings, as well as by "choro", a Brazilian instrumental popular music featuring various types of guitars. In order to play this music he learned to play guitar, beginning on the 6-string classical instrument and switching to a ten-stringed guitar in 1973. He spent two years experimenting with different tunings and searching for new sounds. This exploration of timbre is further reflected in his use of kalimbas, Shō, voice, bells, etc.

 By the early '70s, he had laid the groundwork for his current style which incorporated elements drawn from musicians as wide-ranging as Django Reinhardt and Jimi Hendrix. Agua y Vinho translates to “Water and Wine.” It features some very interesting harmonies with an extremely expressive melody, which also ends in an unorthodox whole-tone scale. The arrangement of this work was done for two guitars by Spanish guitar professor, Jesus Saiz-Huedo.

Regarded as the greatest Spanish composer of the twentieth century, Manuel de Falla developed an interest in native Spanish music - in particular Andalusian flamenco - while studying with Felipe Pedrell in Madrid in the late 1890s. From 1907 to 1914 he lived in Paris where he met, and was influenced by, Ravel, Debussy and Dukas. Works such as the ballet El amor brujo and the one-act opera La vida breve are notably nationalistic in character, though a Stravinskian neo-classicism can be heard in works such as the Harpsichord Concerto, composed when he lived in Granada from 1921 to 1939.

Homenaje is his only original guitar work and it is a landmark of 20th century guitar repertoire. However, his works are very frequently performed as arrangements on the guitar. The music is so inspired by the instrument, and by the flamenco tradition, that even his orchestral works suggest strumming, and the voicings of chords are similar to how they would be playing on guitar. In fact, Falla later arranged Homenaje for orchestra and he needed to change very little. The transference or these ballets to the guitar is so easily done, and so convincing, that it is hard to imagine the originals. The Miller’s Dance is from his ballet, The Three Cornered Hat, which features typical Spanish traits such as hemiola, the use of Phrygian and Phrygian Dominant modes, and a heavy emphasis on rhythm. However, Falla blends these traditional traits with contemporary harmonies. The Miller’s Dance is also notable for its clear references to flamenco guitar, and the use of rasgueado strumming techniques.

Melbourne-born composer Phillip Houghton was a relative latecomer to classical music. He spent a year studying painting at Prahran Technical College in 1972, breaking off his fine arts studies to concentrate on music. Houghton studied guitar at the Melba Conservatorium of Music for a year, then privately with noted classical guitarist and teacher Sebastian Jorgenson at the Montsalvat Artists Colony in Eltham, Victoria. Houghton’s compositions reflect the influence of many styles: classical, jazz, rock, ambient and world music, and his work continues to reflect a strong interest in art, mythology and the environment.

Phillip Houghton has written music for both acoustic and electronic media, for theatre, film and dance. He was appointed artist-in-residence at Montsalvat in 1977 and retained that appointment until 1981, the year in which he gave up his career as a guitar recitalist to concentrate on composition. Lament is the second of three pieces for two guitars. Houghton has synesthesia, a condition where sight and sound are intertwined. His scores often have interesting indications, such as including “green” and in this piece, “begin like firmly but gently pushing big doors open, into a world of light.”

Monday, April 07, 2014

  San Francisco Rising Stars at HSU 

 San Francisco’s popular Farallon Quintet showcases the clarinet of rising star Natalie Parker in concert at HSU on Monday April 7. 

 Principal clarinet with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and performer with the San Francisco Symphony, Natalie Parker co-founded the Farallon Quintet in 2012. “Come hear one of the Bay Area's most sought after musicians,” counsels one of the Quintet’s violinists, Matthew Oshida. “ She’s an up-and-coming clarinetist who may not be local to California for much longer.” 

 The other members of the Quintet are Elizabeth Prior (viola), Jonah Kim (cello) and Dan Flanagan (violin.) Appearing at HSU will be guest first violinist Emanuela Nikiforova. 

 The program to be performed at HSU called "The Virtuosic Clarinet" includes works by Mozart and Carl von Weber, plus some lesser known pieces written for this unique combination of instruments: a string quartet plus virtuoso clarinet.

 These include works by 19th century virtuoso clarinetist and composer Heinrich Baermann and 19th century conductor and composer Louis Spohr. Baermann, Spohr and von Weber are all known for their clarinet compositions. 

The Farallon Quintet website contains videos and more information on the ensemble.

 The Farallon Quintet performs a Guest Artists concert on Monday April 7 in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets are $10/$5 students and seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Produced by HSU Music department.

Farallon Quintet: Biographies

A native of South Carolina, NATALIE PARKER is currently the Principal Clarinet of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. She joined the Ballet Orchestra in January 2012 and received her M.M. degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music the following May. In 2010 she won second prize in the International Clarinet Association’s Young Artist Competition and performed in recital at their annual ClarinetFest. Since arriving in San Francisco, Natalie has played frequently with the San Francisco Symphony as well as with several regional orchestras and enjoys performing chamber music throughout the Bay Area.

 DAN FLANAGAN currently serves as Concertmaster of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera, the Modesto Symphony, Lecturer of Violin at U.C. Davis, and Instructor of Violin at U.C. Berkeley. Described as a “stellar musician” (Nevada Reviews), he has been praised for his “exquisite tone” and “forthright brio” (Sacramento Bee). A dedicated orchestral player, he has performed as concertmaster with the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the California Symphony, California Musical Theater, the Festival Opera of Walnut Creek, and Symphony Silicon Valley. Dan has played as soloist and chamber musician with many orchestras and ensembles. Born in New Jersey and trained in New York and Michigan, he holds a B.M. from the Cleveland Institute of Music and M.M. from the University of Oregon, where he was a graduate teaching fellow.

 Violinist and San Jose native MATTHEW OSHIDA has performed with orchestras throughout the country including the San Jose Symphony, Utah Symphony, Huntsville Symphony, Sarasota Opera, and Tulsa Symphony, Opera, and Ballet. He has appeared in principal positions with the orchestras in Berkeley, Fremont, Sacramento, San Jose, and Modesto, recorded with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and accompanied such popular artists as Sarah Brightman, Michael Bolton, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Steamroller, and Harry Connick, Jr. As a chamber musician, he studied with members of the Cleveland and Juilliard Quartets, performed with members of the Emerson Quartet, and participated in live broadcasts for BBC Radio 3. He received a B.M. from Indiana University and M.M. from SUNY Stony Brook.

 An active Bay Area violist, ELIZABETH PRIOR is Principal Violist with the Santa Rosa Symphony and is a season substitute with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. She is also associate principal with the Marin Symphony and performs regularly with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, the New Century Chamber Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony. A native of South Africa, she was a prizewinner in the International String Competition in Pretoria and gave her debut at Carnegie Hall with the Russian Chamber Orchestra. She tours regularly as a soloist with the Chamber Ensemble of Cologne in France and has done two recent tours with the New Century Chamber Orchestra.

 Cellist JONAH KIM made his solo debut with Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2003. The same year, he also appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra in DC where the Washington Post called him simply, “the next Yo-Yo Ma.” He graduated from the prestigious Curtis Institute in the spring of 2006 while only 17 years old, and has soloed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, New Philharmonia, Symphony of the Americas, Orquestra Sinfônica Nacional and many others. Mr. Kim’s recitals at venues like the Kimmel Center, Kravis Center, Kennedy Center, the Phillips Collections and the Arsht Center have been streamed live and re-aired on podcasts, radio and TV programs for WETA, WHYY, WITF, MPBN, WXEL, NPR, NBC, CBS and PBS. Currently he is Associate Principal Cello of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, of which he is also the youngest member.

 Educated in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as the United States, Bulgarian violinist EMANUELA NIKIFOROVA has performed professionally as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestra member since age 13. Emanuela has performed as a soloist at the International Menuhin Music Festival in Gstaad, Switzerland, Festival Lysy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and as a member of the Nikiforova-Pilibossian duo at Sofia and Varna Summer Festivals. She has recorded as a soloist for Bulgarian Radio and TV, as a member of Camerata Bariloche, and as Principal Second Violin of Camerata Lysy for Revista Classica and Claves. Currently, she is a freelance musician in the Bay Area and Artistic Co-director of The Annual May Celebration of Bulgarian Arts & Culture in San Francisco.

Farallon Quintet: The Program

The Virtuosic Clarinet

Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet in Bb Major by Carl Maria von Weber
            I.  Allegro 
            II. Fantasia:  Adagio
III. Menuetto

IV.  Rondo:  Allegro

Allegro in Bb, KAnh. 91 (516c) (Quintet Fragment) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Adagio in Db Major by Heinrich Baermann
Fantasy and Variations, Op. 81 by Louis Spohr
 Introduction, Theme and Variations Carl Maria von Weber

Saturday, April 05, 2014

         Humboldt Bay Brass Band Cornet section.
Legends of Brass with the Humboldt Bay Brass Band 

 With the brass band classic “California Legends” as its centerpiece, the Humboldt Bay Brass Band’s April 5 concert continues its romp through musical history during Humboldt State’s centennial year. 

 This time five separate brass quintets awaken musical nostalgia with radio hits of the 1920s through the 1960s. In addition to familiar tunes from Hoagy Carmichael to Dave Brubeck and the Beatles, there’s a song by Humboldt County composer Joseph Byrd about “Cockeyed Florence,” a town character in Trinidad. 

 Then the full 25-member brass band plus three percussionists perform Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture,” which he wrote to acknowledge an honorary degree from the University of Breslau. “We like to start with an overture,” HBBB director Gil Cline said. “We very much like that Brahms wrote this music for a University, and that it was first performed in that setting.” 

 The band continues with the Scottish tune “John Peel” (It’s just simply a beautiful song” Cline commented) and the second local work on the program, “Redwood Highway,” written by Professor Frank Flowers and arranged by Cline. “It was an effort deciphering Flower’s handwritten manuscript,” he said. “We have new percussion parts and basslines, and polished counterpoint by internal instruments. But we preserve the beautiful cornet solos in the trio, and the bass solo. The bass and baritone instruments play the melody, a la Johann Sebastian Bach. The final result is a very, very good march.”

 “California Legends” by Bruce Broughton the major work on the program, is conducted by Audrey McCombs, a recent HSU graduate just returned from a year studying in England. “She was able to immerse herself in the highly competitive but also highly social world of UK brass bands,” Cline said. “She performed with a number of top bands in the west of England which during her time won contests.”

According to Broughton’s dedication, this piece was inspired by a literary work published in Spain in 1510. It recounts fictional adventures in the New World that included visiting a “Terrestrial Paradise.”

"Broughton was a highly successful American composer who wrote this for the standard Brass Band found in the UK,” Cline said. “HBBB follows that standard instrumentation, so we can tackle works like this one.” 

 Rounding out a reflective evening is “25 or 6 to 4,” a tune recorded by the legendary 1970s jazz-rock group, Chicago. “I enjoyed arranging it, “Cline admitted. “It reminds me of playing all around Humboldt County in a cover band in the 70s called Open Road. We did lots of hits by Chicago, Tower of Power and Blood, Sweat & Tears.” 

 The Humboldt Bay Brass Band performs on Saturday April 5 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $8/$5, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door.  An HSU Music Department production.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Opera Workshop's Musical Discoveries

 Audiences for this spring’s HSU Opera Workshop concerts on March 28 and 29 will be among the first to experience recently rediscovered music from Portugal, including excerpts from a satirical opera never before heard on the West Coast. 

“Every second spring the Opera Workshop explores a special topic within the genre of dramatic vocal music,” explained director and HSU Music professor Elisabeth Harrington. This year’s concert results from the work of music scholar Dr. Ricardo Bernardes, who has “unearthed and edited selections of Portuguese vocal music and agreed to make them available for our performance.” 

Among his discoveries is an 18th century operatic farce that he found in a Washington archive. He provided his edited excerpts to the Opera Workshop for this work's West Coast premiere. 

Entitled "A Saloia Namorada," it’s about “a country girl in love,” Harrington said. “Themes include patriotism and the perennial ‘neutral ground’ for all operas: love triangles!” 

 This opera by Antonio Leal Moreira (music) and Domingos Caldas Barbosa (libretto) is historically significant as “the only known Portuguese opera from the 18th century that included composed recitative, rather than spoken dialogue. Several of our students have been working on short sections of the recitatives to include between their arias and duets.” 
Chris Parreira and Sean Laughlin review diction
with soprano and native of Portugal Ana Cruz 

Aiding the authenticity is soprano Ana Cruz, who is completing her HSU degree in Vocal Performance. “A native of Portugal, Ana has been the diction coach for the opera class this semester,” Harrington said. 

The concert features music from medieval to modern, including a liturgical piece in Latin ("Dixit Dominus") and an Italian aria ("Aria Alcione"), both also edited by Ricardo Bernardes. “They reflect the deep influence of European style on Portuguese music.” 

 Harrington will be among the 13 singers in the concert. John Chernoff accompanies on harpsichord, with Kinu Manabe on bass. 

 Humboldt County brass player Gregg Moore, who taught music in Portugal for ten years, performs with Ana Cruz on two pieces in the genre called Fado. With origins in the 19th century or earlier, Fado (“fate” or “destiny”) is a popular Portuguese song style, recently added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. 

HSU Opera Workshop performs on Friday and Saturday, March 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. in Gist Hall Theatre on the HSU campus. Tickets are $10, $5 seniors and children, and $3 HSU students, from the HSU Ticket Office (926-3928) or at the door. Produced by the HSU Music Department.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

All This Jazz: HSU Battle of the Orchestras

 The Humboldt Symphony plays jazz, the HSU Jazz Orchestra plays classical, and together they play an orchestral work by Duke Ellington: is it blurring musical boundaries or HSU’s orchestra slam? You be the judge at Fulkerson Recital Hall on Saturday March 8. 

 The HSU Symphony under the direction of Kenneth Ayoob performs Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to West Side Story, which melds classical, jazz and popular music elements. A major hit as a stage show, this concert version was adapted from the landmark 1961 film by Maurice Peress, New York Philharmonic assistant conductor to Bernstein.

 “Our part of the concert features pieces with a jazz feel and background,” Ayoob noted. The Symphony gets more specifically jazzy with Calvin Custer’s Salute to the Big Bands, which incorporates melodies made famous by Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and other 1940s bands, including excerpts from “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Sing Sing Sing.”

 “When Ken Ayoob told me that the Symphony was going to encroach on the Jazz Orchestra's territory with this piece,” said Jazz Orchestra conductor Dan Aldag, “I decided to return the favor by programming a piece of classical music arranged for big band.”

 So the Jazz Orchestra will perform a jazz band version of a song by 19th century French composer Leo Delibes, “The Maids of Cadiz.” Though the song was recorded by Benny Goodman and Miles Davis, this 1950 band arrangement by Gil Evans was only recently rediscovered.

The two orchestras combine for the evening’s centerpiece, Duke Ellington’s Harlem, conducted by Aldag. “This is generally acknowledged as one of Ellington's finest extended works,” he said. 

 The Jazz Orchestra gets back to jazz roots with the raucous “Better Git It In Your Soul” by Charles Mingus. 

 The Humboldt Symphony and HSU Jazz Orchestra concert is on Saturday March 8 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $8/$5, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. An HSU Music Department production.

Jazz Orchestra Notes

Notes by Dan Aldag, director of the HSU Jazz Orchestra:

rehearsing "Harlem"
The Jazz Orchestra is playing a program specifically tailored to sharing a concert with the Symphony. Most obviously, we are collaborating with the Symphony on Duke Ellington's Harlem... It has become a frequently performed work by symphony orchestras around the world and is generally acknowledged as one of Ellington's finest extended works.

 The Jazz Orchestra's own set will begin with "I Am" by the young Boston-based composer Omar Thomas. I chose this work because Thomas wrote it in a through-composed style much more like typical symphonic writing than jazz's customary repeating forms.

When Ken Ayoob told me that the Symphony was going to encroach on the Jazz Orchestra's territory and play a "Salute to the Big Bands", I decided to return the favor by programming a piece of classical music arranged for big band. The great jazz arranger Gil Evans adapted Leo Delibes' song "The Maids of Cadiz" for Claude Thornhill's band in 1950 (the same year Ellington composed Harlem), but Thornhill never recorded it. Evans wrote a new arrangement of "Maids" for his first album with Miles Davis, Miles Ahead, and the original arrangement for Thornhill was only recently rediscovered by Ryan Truesdell and recorded by his Gil Evans Project for their Grammy-nominated 2012 CD Centennial.

The Jazz Orchestra will close the program with a piece decidedly different from the refined sounds that will precede it. Charles Mingus's "Better Git It In Your Soul" was inspired by his childhood attendance at "Holy Roller" church services, with congregants shouting and moaning and speaking in tongues. Ending the evening with this will bring the Jazz Orchestra back to jazz's roots in African-American vernacular music.

Ellington's Harlem

According to Duke Ellington in his 1973 autobiography, he wrote Harlem in the summer of 1950 while he was aboard the Isle de France returning from Europe. He writes that it had been commissioned by the NBC Symphony Orchestra “during the time when Maestro Arturo Toscanini was its conductor.”

 Just when or if the NBC Symphony Orchestra ever played Harlem is still in question.  Recently Professor Donald C. Meyer of the Lake Forest College music department found a 1951 New York Times story about a benefit concert in New York in which some 70 members of this orchestra plus the Ellington orchestra together played it, with Ellington conducting. The Ellington orchestra had previously played it in 1951, and recorded it live in Stockholm, Sweden for release in 1955.

 Stanley Slome, former secretary of the Duke Ellington Society Los Angeles chapter, has chronicled various orchestrations and performances in the 1950s, though some mysteries remain. However, the version performed by the Humboldt Symphony and Jazz Orchestra was orchestrated by Luther Henderson and Maurice Peress.

 In his liner notes to a 1989 CD, Peress writes “Duke, a master title-giver, described the work as a concerto grosso for jazz band and symphony orchestra... It is one completely integrated movement, the first part of which is held together by the word "Har-lem" (a minor third), intoned by the growl trumpet. The second half is built out of the street funeral dirge (Duke refers to an Elks Band) which begins as an eight-bar blues for three marvelously interwoven clarinets and builds to a climax combining both thematic ideas.”

 According to Peress, Ellington described Harlem in this way: "...The piece of music goes like this (1) Pronouncing the word "Harlem," itemizing its many facets---from downtown to uptown, true and false; (2) 110th Street, heading north through the Spanish neighborhood; (3) Intersection further uptown--cats shucking and stiffing; (4) Upbeat parade; (5) Jazz spoken in a thousand languages (6) Floor show; (7) Girls out of step, but kicking like crazy; (8) Fanfare for Sunday; (9) On the way to church; (10) Church---we're even represented in Congress by our man of the church; (11) The sermon; (12) Funeral; (13) Counterpoint of tears; (14) Chic chick; (15) Stopping traffic; (16) After church promendade; (17) Agreement a cappella; (18) Civil Rights demandments; (19) March onward and upward; (20) Summary--contributions coda.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

East Meets West at HSU with Silk Road Junction 101

 According to two Fortuna musicians, the place that East meets West is Highway 101. On Saturday February 22, East and West will meet musically when their duo, Silk Road Junction 101, performs at Humboldt State’s Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 As Silk Road Junction 101, Sarah McClimon and Rahman Abdur perform an international array of music on both eastern and western instruments. She plays the flute, harmonium and the Japanese string instrument called the koto. He plays the South Asian tabla drums, which he began studying as a child in Bangladesh.

 “We draw on our experiences living in Bangladesh, India, Japan, Hawaii, and California to explore the rhythms and melodies of Asia and the United States,” Sarah explained. “The Silk Road was a network of trade routes that linked Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Highway 101 links three states along the U.S. West Coast. Our music is a junction between these worlds—old and new, East and West.” 

 Their program at HSU features music from Japan, the Middle East, South Asia and the West. Another Fortuna musician, Sherry Hanson, joins them on viola.

 Sarah McClimon grew up in Fortuna, where she studied piano with her mother, Ruth McClimon. She then studied flute at a college in the midwestern U.S. and the koto in Japan. With a PhD in ethnomusicology, she teaches at Fortuna High School and at HSU. 

 Rahman Abdur studied in India and Japan, also earning an ethnomusicology doctorate. He performs with a fusion ensemble (SquarPeg) and with the Scotia Band. 

 Silk Road Junction 101 performs on Saturday February 22 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. $10/$5 students and seniors, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. This Guest Artists concert is produced by the HSU Music Department.

Media: Tri-City Weekly, Mad River Union, HSU Now

Silk Road Junction 101 at HSU: Program and Notes

Part One: Japan and the Middle East
( Songs in the first part are performed on koto and tabla unless otherwise noted.)

 Kazoe Uta Hensōkyoku (Variations on Counting Song)
Arranged by Kikushiro Masaaki. Koto solo. A Japanese song that celebrates the New Year. This arrangement includes many ornaments, chords, and left hand techniques, demonstrating the range of sounds characteristic of the koto.

 Haru no Sugata (Arrival of Spring)
 composed by Eto Kimio.  Koto solo.This work for koto solo is a little gem that celebrates the coming of spring. There are many special techniques for the left hand including pitch bends, plucking with the left hand, and vibrato.

  Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)
 Traditional Japanese, arranged by Miyagi Michio. Perhaps the most famous Japanese song, Sakura celebrates the fleeting beauty of the delicate cherry blossoms that bloom for a short time in spring. Japanese cherish cherry blossoms and often arrange “cherry viewing” parties called hanami. This arrangement showcases the many techniques and tone colors that the koto can produce.

 Mugon Kashū: Gypsy no Uta (Song Without Words: Gypsy Song)
 By Yuize Shin’ichi. In the summer of 1955, kotoist Yuize Shin’ichi took a trip around Europe. During that time, he enjoyed listening to the folk songs of many nations. He used three of them to create the suite “Songs Without Words.” The final movement, “Gypsy Song,” is based on the Israeli folk song, “Zum Gali Gali.”

 Sasurai Warabe Uta Shū (Songs of Wandering)
By Tsutomu Sakamoto. Koto with daf. Sakamoto Tsutomu (1926-1996) was a blind kotoist and prolific composer who represents the postwar period of Japanese traditional music. This work represents a feeling of restless wandering. The scales and musical feeling depicts the Middle East. The left hand creates a tango-like rhythm in the main theme. Rahman accompanies on the Iranian frame drum daf.

 Haru no Umi – Spring Sea, Miyagi Michio (1894-1956)
 Koto and viola duet with Sherry Hanson, viola.  Miyagi Michio was Japan’s most notable koto performer and composer. He was born in late 19th century Japan and spent much of his childhood in Korea. He lost his eyesight at a young age and took up a traditional path for blind people at the time- that of a professional musician. His genius was the ability to blend traditional Japanese and Western classical musical elements, and he was a pioneer in the new koto movement. “Spring Sea” was composed in 1929 for shakuhachi bamboo flute and koto, but it is frequently performed with violin and koto as we will perform it this evening.

 Part Two: South Asia and Beyond
(Songs in the second part will be performed on flute and tabla unless otherwise noted.)

  Raga Bhupali: classical music of North India. A Raga is a framework for improvisation that includes a mood, time of day, scale, melody, patterns for improvisation, and a rhythmic cycle. Raga Bhupali portrays a feeling of devotion. It is best performed in the evening. Every raga begins with a slow section (alap) in free rhythm introducing each note of the raga. Then the tabla joins in, providing the rhythmic accompaniment to the melody. After playing the melody (gat), the flute alternates fragments of the gat with improvisational patterns (tan). After a period of call and response between solo and drum, the melody is played again. Then a series of fast passages set up for the ending. As the music becomes faster and faster, the final pattern (tihai) is played three times before a rousing end.

 Lahora: Tabla improvisational solo accompanied by harmonium.Lahora is a solo tabla improvisational piece. This lahora is based on Tintal, a 16 beat cycle improvisation, accompanied by the flute, showing the myriad tone colors and virtuosic rhythms of the tabla.

  “Bourée angloise” from Flute Partita in A minor by J.S. Bach.
 “Badinerie” from Suite in B Minor for flute by J.S. Bach.
What if Johann Sebastian Bach had a chance to visit India? He certainly would have written something for tabla… Here is an arrangement of two Bach classics for flute and tabla.

  Gram Chara (Remembering My Hometown)
 Lyrics and music by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Anjan Ganguly. Flute and khol. This is a song written by the famous Bengali poet, composer and writer Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 1913 for his book of poetry Gitanjali: My king’s road that lies still before my house makes my heart wistful. It stretches its beckoning hand towards me; its silence calls me out of my home; with dumb entreaties it kisses my feet at every step. It leads me on I know not to what abandonment, to what sudden gain or surprises of distress. I know not where its windings end- But my King's road that lies still before my house makes my heart wistful.

Majhi Nao Chairya De (Bangladeshi Boatman’s Song)
 Lyrics by S. M. Hedayet, music by Ahmed Imtiaj Bulbul. Flute and dhol. Oh Boatman, let’s start the boat, raise the sails and as we sail, you may sing as much as you like.

 Ektara Bhajayo na (The Importance of Preserving Tradition)
 Popular song of Bangladesh.  Harmonium and tabla. Ektara is a popular song of Bangladesh that reminds young people to cherish and preserve their traditional culture. It humorously juxtaposes traditional food, clothing and music with imported popular culture. Here is a translation: Don’t play the ektara (one-stringed lute); don’t play the doutara (two stringed lute). Play the conga drums and guitar instead. If you play the one-stringed lute and the two-stringed lute, I will remember that I was once a Bengali. Don’t wear a sari; don’t decorate your feet with henna. Wear pants and a maxi dress instead. If you wear a sari and paint your feet with henna, I will remember that I was once a Bengali. Don’t cook shukto (bitter gourd); don’t make pais (rice pudding). Make Mongolian barbeque and Chinese food instead. If you make bitter gourd and rice pudding, I will remember that I was once a Bengali.

  Purano Sei Diner Kotha (When I think of my Hometown—Bengali)
 Hotaru no Hikari (By the Light of the Fireflies—Japanese);
Auld Lang Syne (English), traditional Scottish Harmonium and tabla.
While “Auld Lang Syne” is very popular in the English-speaking world, its lovely melody has spread around the world. Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) visited English in 1878 and was enchanted by the folk songs of English and Scotland. He adapted the melody and added a Bengali poem about the importance and persistence of memories. The same melody was adapted for use in Japanese schools during Japan’s period of modernization in the second half of the nineteenth century. Inagaki Chikai published “The Light of the Fireflies” in his 1881 book of Children’s School Songs. Bengali: How is it possible to forget the old days of my life? Japanese: Time piles up, reading by the light of fireflies/ And snow by the window/ Years have gone by without notice. /Now the day has dawned on the cedar door/ And it’s time to say “farewell.”

Silk Road Junction 101: The Performers

Sarah McClimon, flutist, kotoist and singer, grew up in Fortuna and began studies on piano with her mother, Ruth McClimon. She studied flute with Judy Scott and Jill Petricca. She studied music education at St. Olaf College, and studied flute with Cynthia Stokes, flutist with St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She earned a Bachelor of Music in instrumental music education, magna cum laude, and an MA and PhD in ethnomusicology from University of Hawaii.

 While living in Japan for six years, she learned Japanese music with the support of the Japanese Ministry of Education and the Japan Foundation. At Tokyo University of the Arts (Toyko Geijutsu Daigaku), she studied koto with Dr. Andō Masateru. Sarah has taught at University of Tsukuba, Japan and at Humboldt State University's International English Language Institute. She currently teaches music at Fortuna High School and in the Department of Secondary Education at HSU.

 Rahman Abdur, tabla drums, was born in Bangladesh and began studying tabla at the age of six. In 1988 and 1992, he won national awards for tabla performance. Beginning in 1994 he studied percussion at Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta, India with the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, where he was awarded the Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees. He studied ethnomusicology in Japan at Tokyo University of the Arts, with a scholarship from the Ministry of Education, Japan, where he earned an MA and PhD in ethnomusicology.

 He has been an active performer of tabla in Bangladesh for national television, and at diverse performance venues in Japan. He performs with fusion ensemble SquarPeg and with the Scotia Band. He currently teaches tabla lessons.

Sherry Hanson joins Silk Road Junction 101 as a special guest this evening. She studied viola at Peabody Conservatory of Music and played with the Sacramento Symphony. She currently teaches music at Fortuna Elementary School District. She gives private violin and viola lessons and performs with the Eureka Symphony.

More information on Silk Road Junction 101 can be found at their website.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Good Vibes at HSU with Vibraphonist Ted Piltzecker

 Renowned jazz vibraphonist and composer Ted Piltzecker comes to Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU for a solo performance on Saturday February 8.

 With three successful solo albums and another with his group Steppe Forward, Piltzecker has won praise for his originality and flair. One jazz magazine described his solo album Standing Alone as “43 minutes [of ] expressive grace.” 

 A former director of the Aspen Music Festival, Piltzecker plays in concerts and festivals around the world. “Ted is not just a great jazz vibraphone player, he is an artist,” said HSU Music professor Eugene Novotney. “He plays with a full sense of the history of his art form, but he always sounds current and fresh. He is an amazing musician!”

Piltzecker will be on campus for several days working with HSU music students, so his concert may feature "special guests." 

 Ted Piltzecker performs on the vibraphone at 8 p.m. on Saturday February 8 in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. $10/$5 students and seniors, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. A Guest Artist concert produced by HSU Music Department.
Ted Piltzecker Biography
From his website:

Vibraphonist/composer, Ted Piltzecker toured internationally with the George Shearing Quintet as well as with his own unique ensembles. He has recorded three albums as a leader. His debut album, Destinations, climbed to number eight in national jazz airplay, and his second release, Unicycle Man on the Equilibrium label (featuring Bob Minter, Harvie S, James Williams, and Dave Meade) remained on the Gavin Jazz Chart for months. The Victory Music Review calls it "a thoughtful recording filled with tasteful flair, the product of confident mature musicians who are committed to the ensemble." Jazz writer and critic, Nat Hentoff praised the album as "a lyrical, thoughtful, relaxing meeting of mutually appreciative improvisers whose time is timeless."

 His most recent recording, Standing Alone, a collection of standards for solo vibraphone has also been critically acclaimed. All About Jazz reports that "He fills the 43-minutes with expressive grace, maintaining interest throughout." Muse calls it "a simultaneously technically impressive and deeply relaxing listening experience."

 The National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts have awarded grants to Ted in both performance and composition. His percussion music is available through Bachovich Music Publications, and his chamber works have been aired on National Public Radio’s "Performance Today" and the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s "Arts National."

 Ted has held faculty positions at the University of Michigan, William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, and the Manhattan School of Music. He is an associate professor at the Purchase Conservatory of Music, State University of New York, and he remains a popular clinician in universities across the country.

 For eight years, Ted directed the jazz program at the Aspen Music Festival where he regularly performed with many of the great names in jazz. (Jimmy Heath, Joe Williams, Clark Terry, Mel Torme, Ernie Watts, Hubert Laws, Slide Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and many more.) Ted has performed in New York area concerts and clubs with guitarists Gene Burtoncini and Vic Juris, bassists Rufus Reid and Todd Coolman, drummers Lewis Nash, Dennis Mackrel, and Clarence Penn, pianists Jim McNeeley, John Hicks, and Bill Charlap, and with saxophonists Chris Potter and Javon Jackson. Jazz USA commented on his recording with the Shearing Quintet featuring John Pizarrelli for Telarc - "The vibes are glassy and glamorous - this is Ted Piltzecker, who always finds the right thing to say."

 Ted appears as a featured soloist in percussion festivals around the world, from Hannover's Deutsches Percussion Symposium and London's Percussive Arts Society (UK) to Brazil's Ritmos da Terra. He performed at Puerto Rico Conservatory, at the Festival in La Patagonia, Argentina, at the Festival Internacional de Percusiones in Monterrey, Mexico, at the Festival de Vibráfono y Marimba for the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, and at the Encontro Internacional de Percussåo in Tatui, Brazil.

His appearances with orchestras, including the Tucson Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Regina Symphony Orchestras have variously spotlighted Ted as a performer, composer, and conductor. European engagements as a jazz headliner include the esteemed UMO Jazz Orchestra in Helsinki (guest soloist/composer) and several tours of German clubs and concert halls. His diverse performing interests have included tours with the Kenny Endo Taiko Ensemble of Tokyo, appearances at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York with organist Dorothy Papadakos, and concerts with classical cellists, Yehuda Hanani and Julia Lichten, violinists Calvin Wiersma and Rubén Gonzales, clarinetists Ayako Oshima and Dick Waller, and harpists Nancy Allen and Emily Mitchell.

 Ted is a graduate of the Eastman and Manhattan Schools of Music. He is also a licensed pilot and unicyclist.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Pictured: Ryan McGaughey, Levi Walls, Craig Hull, Gladys Arechiga, Ana Cruz, Sydney Chandler and Justin Santos.  Not pictured: Kevin Amos, Erin Laetz, Neil Bost and Angela Galioto.

HSU Music Students in Annual Honors Recital

 A Bach partita, an Offenbach aria, a composition for marimba and John Cage sonatas are among the musical selections on the program for the 2014 HSU Music student Honors Recital on Friday February 7 in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 The concert features eleven student players, selected by juried performances after fall semester. Faculty chose representatives from each performance area. “It is like a ‘best of’ showcase for the music students enrolled in studio lessons,” HSU Music professor Elisabeth Harrington explained. 

 The 2014 participants are Kevin Amos (marimba), Justin Santos (guitar), Ryan McGaughey (piano), Craig Hull (trombone), Erin Laetz (flute), Gladys Arechiga (alto saxophone), Ana Cruz (soprano), Levi Walls (piano), Sydney Chandler (horn), Angela Galioto (violin) and Neil Bost (vibraphone.) Staff pianist John Chernoff accompanies many of the selections.

 The 2014 Honors Recital is performed on Friday February 8 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. There is no admission charge. A public reception in honor of the players will be held after the concert.

2014 Honors Recital Program

Time for Marimba (1968) by Minoru Miki (1930-2011)
 Kevin Amos, marimba

 Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006a by Johann Sebastian Bach
 Justin Santos, guitar 

 Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 by Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
 Ryan McGaughey, piano

 Cavatine, Op. 144 by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
 Craig Hull, trombone 
 John Chernoff, piano

 Concerto for Flute by Carl Nielsen
 I. Allegro moderato
Erin Laetz, flute
 John Chernoff, piano

 Sonata, Op. 19 by Paul Creston
 Gladys Arechiga, alto saxophone
 John Chernoff, piano

 “Elle a fui, la tourterelle” from Les contes d’Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)
 Ana Cruz, soprano
 John Chernoff, piano

 From Sonatas and Interludes (1946-1948) by  John Cage
 Sonata IX  Second Interlude
 Sonata V
 Levi Walls, piano

 Parable for Solo Horn:  Parable VIII, Op. 120 by Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)
 Sydney Chandler, horn 

 Tempo di Minuetto by Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
 Angela Galioto, violin
 John Chernoff, piano

 Mourning Dove Sonnet (1983) by Christopher Deanne (b. 1958)
 Neil Bost, Vibraphone

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ceremonies and Carols with University Singers & Humboldt Chorale

 HSU University Singers capture the holiday spirit with Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and the Humboldt Chorale sings a liturgical work in their shared concert on Sunday December 15 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall. 

 Besides being appropriate for the holidays, performing the seven movements of Ceremony of Carols has two other occasions. “Britten was born in 1913, the same year that HSU was founded,” director Harley Muilenberg points out. “We perform it to celebrate HSU’s 100 years.” 

 That also means that this is Britten’s centennial, so “choirs all over the world are performing Britten’s choral works,” Muilenberg noted. 

 The University Singers also perform two movements from Randall Thompson’s The Testament of Freedom, which was written for another university-related birthday: Thomas Jefferson’s bicentennial in 1943.

 Thompson was teaching at the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, so the text was taken from Jefferson’s writings. The piece proved so popular that it was transmitted over short wave radio to Allied soldiers in Europe during World War II. It premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1945 on a memorial program for the recently deceased President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

Fiona Ryder
The concert also features the Humboldt Chorale, a community choir directed by Carol Ryder. The Chorale performs Magnficat by contemporary composer Imant Raminsh, who was born in Latvia and resides in Canada. This piece won the 1990 Canadian National Choral Award for outstanding choral work.

 The Magnificat or “Song of Mary” is a canticle sung in several Christian church services, related to the Virgin Mary. Various composers have written music to accompany the text, including Monteverdi, Bach and modern composers such as Ralph Vaughn Williams, Arvo Parte as well as Raminsh.
James Gadd

 Soloists for the Humboldt Chorale performance are Fiona Ryder and James Gadd.

 Humboldt State University Singers and Humboldt Chorale perform on Sunday December 15 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. $8/$5 seniors and children. HSU students with ID admitted free. Produced by HSU Music Department.

                          December 2013 University Singers (click photo to enlarge)
 Humboldt Symphony Plays The Nutcracker Suite   

 In its only concert this December, the Humboldt Symphony performs a holiday favorite, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite on Sunday December 15 at 3 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 Leading the program is Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture that conductor Paul Cummings calls “a masterwork—one of the great overtures in the symphonic repertoire. It’s perhaps the hardest piece the Humboldt Symphony has played in the last 5 years or so. But it’s also very rewarding music to play and to hear.” 

 In its fall concert the Humboldt Symphony played four movements of Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances. In this concert, the orchestra plays all seven dances. “What’s interesting about hearing the whole piece is that as these brief movements progress, Bartok gradually adds more wind instruments to what begins as mostly a string orchestra piece,” Cumming said. “This is fun music, lively and usually with quick tempos. They have nothing of the complexity of Bartok’s more famous works.”

 The Symphony also performs a portion of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Building around a Shaker melody called “Simple Gifts,” Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning music was originally intended to accompany a ballet by Martha Graham in 1944. It has since become best known in this form, as an orchestral suite. In this version, Humboldt Symphony returns to the original 13 instruments.

 Performing on Appalachian Spring are two HSU Music faculty members: Cindy Moyer plays violin, and Karen Davy plays viola. “We’re excited about doing this piece,” Cummings said. “It’s a great work, very challenging, and even to do just a portion of it is an ambitious undertaking." 

 At first, Tchaikovsky’s music for The Nutcracker ballet was more highly praised than the ballet itself when it premiered in 1892. This 20 minute suite he created for concerts was also a great success. In more recent decades however the ballet has become wildly popular at Christmastime. 

 Now, said Cummings, part of the appeal of the orchestral suite is imagining the images from the well-known ballet. “The magical qualities of toys coming alive after dark—it appeals to the imagination of children and adults.” But the suite itself is also appreciated for its “wonderful orchestration” of this familiar music.

 The Humboldt Symphony performs on Sunday December 15 at 3 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. $8/$5 seniors and children. HSU students with ID admitted free. Conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Humboldt Symphony Concert Notes

Notes edited from interviews with conductor Paul Cummings:

Academic Festival Overture by Johannes Brahms

 This is one of the great overtures in the symphonic repertoire—a definite masterwork by one of our greatest German composers of the 19th century.

 Brahms was a recluse if not a hermit, and he eschewed any sort of ceremony. He did not enjoy attention, much less any sort of pomp and circumstance. But when the University of Breslau gave him an honorary doctorate, he very reluctantly accepted it. He wasn’t any sort of orator, so instead of making a speech, he composed a piece for the occasion to express his thanks.

 The title, which Brahms hated, came from his music publisher. The publisher thought it was a catchy title but it also reflected the content, since Brahms quotes a handful of pre-existing tunes that students sang, into the overture, which gave the overture academic and festive qualities. I’ll point out the student tunes before we play the entire piece—we’ll perform extracts for the audience.

 Right after Brahms wrote this piece, he wrote The Tragic Overture. These are the only two full symphonic overtures he wrote in his life. This a great piece of music and quite difficult to play. It’s perhaps the hardest piece the Humboldt Symphony has played in the last 5 years or so. But it’s also very rewarding music to play and to hear.

 Romanian Folk Dances by Bela Bartok 

 Last time we performed four movements of this piece. This time we’re doing all seven. They’re all short—one or two minutes. What’s interesting about hearing the whole piece is that as the movements progress, Bartok gradually adds more wind instruments to what begins as mostly a string orchestra piece. It’s a good opportunity to highlight our more advanced wind players.

 Bartok was a collector and curator of folk music from Eastern Europe. Much of the music he renders in orchestral settings was familiar to him as a child. They’re all dances so it’s fun music, lively and usually with quick tempos. They have nothing of the complexity of Bartok’s more familiar works. These are simple folk tunes he set for small orchestra.

 Appalachian Spring Suite by Aaron Copland 

 Appalachian Spring was a ballet written for Martha Graham. It was originally written for 13 instruments—a chamber orchestra. Later Copland expanded it for full orchestra, and that’s how it is usually done. However, we’re doing portions of the suite for the original 13 instruments. It’s a concert version for 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, bass, flute, clarinet, bassoon and piano.

 Written in 1943 and first performed in 1944, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1945. The action of the ballet involves a pioneer celebration in springtime around a newly-built farmhouse in Pennsylvania in the early part of the 19th century.

 We’re excited about doing this piece—it’s a great work, very challenging, and even to do just a portion of it is an ambitious undertaking. We also feature two faculty players: Cindy Moyer plays violin, and Karen Davy plays viola.

 The Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

 This is the concert version of Tchaikovsky’s music to the well-known ballet. This is a wonderful orchestration that uses instruments such as the celeste, glockenspiel and piccolo to wonderful effect. It’s one of the best examples of program music because almost everyone who hears the piece associates it with images from the ballet—the magical qualities of toys coming alive after dark and taking on a life of their own.

 It appeals to the imagination not only of children who are always stirred by the images of the toys, but also of adults who can picture what’s happening in the ballet as they listen to the music—in the dance of the flowers, for instance.

 I’ve played this piece but this is my first time conducting it, so it’s exciting. The students are familiar with it, so it’s fun to play something you’ve heard your entire life, even if only on the p.a. system in Toys R Us.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Blurring Boundaries with HSU Jazz Orchestra

 HSU Jazz Orchestra blurs musical boundaries from country to Cuban pop, plus big band jazz classics on Saturday December 14 at Fulkerson Recital Hall.

 “I didn’t set out to do this,” said director Dan Aldag, “but I realized that the theme of this concert is ‘Blurring Boundaries.’ We’re playing arrangements of a ‘60s pop tune, a country song from the ‘50s, an obscure funk tune first recorded by James Brown, a Cuban pop song from 1912, an ‘80s French pop song and a couple of Tin Pan Alley standards.”

 Jazz purists also get a taste with classics from the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands, including music meant to be heard by just one person: the Queen of England. A contemporary touch is added with a brand new piece by young jazz composer Omar Thomas.

 The Jazz Orchestra concert features vocals by Jo Kuzelka, and solos by pianist Alex Espe, clarinetist Nick Durant, trombonist Josh Foster and guitarist Kris Lang. Recent HSU grad Dan Fair contributes two arrangements, including a version of “They All Laughed,” a tune the Gershwins wrote for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. 

 The HSU Jazz Orchestra performs on Saturday December 14 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU. Tickets from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. $8/$5 seniors & children. HSU students admitted free. Concert produced by HSU Music Department.

Jazz Orchestra Concert Notes

by Jazz Orchestra director Dan Aldag:

I didn't set out to do this, but I realized that the theme of the Jazz Orchestra concert is "Blurring Boundaries." We're playing arrangements of a '60s pop tune, a country song from the '50s, an obscure funk tune first recorded by James Brown, a Cuban pop song from 1912, an '80s French pop song and a couple of Tin Pan Alley standards.

 "Wichita Lineman" was composed by the great pop songwriter Jimmy Webb and made famous by Glen Campbell. The arrangement we're playing was written by John Hollenbeck for his recent album Songs I Like A Lot, and shows the influence of minimalism. Our performance will feature vocals by Jo Kuzelka and the band's guitarist, Kris Lang.

 "I Can't Stop Loving You" was written and recorded by country singer Don Gibson in the late '50s, and then became an even bigger hit for Ray Charles when he recorded it on his album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music in 1962. The version we're playing was arranged by Quincy Jones for the Count Basie album This Time By Basie.

 "The Chicken" was written by Pee Wee Ellis, saxophonist and music director for James Brown in the mid-1960s. It was recorded as an instrumental by Brown's band and released as the B-side of a single. It was rescued from obscurity by the groundbreaking electric bassist Jaco Pastorius. Our version further blurs the boundaries by incorporating Afro-Cuban percussion.

 "La Comparsa" was written by the great Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona when he was only 17. Lecuona is sometimes compared to George Gershwin, because both had success in both pop and classical music and both successfully incorporated elements of their native land's music in their classical compositions. Our arrangement was written by Oded Lev-Ari for clarinetist Anat Cohen's album Noir. We will feature Jo Kuzelka and clarinetist Nick Durant.

 "Le Cimitiere Des Elephants" was a French pop hit in the 1980s. The gypsy jazz guitarist Reinhardt adapted it for that idiom, and his version inspired recent HSU grad Dan Fair to arrange it for the Jazz Orchestra.

 Dan also arranged "They All Laughed", a George and Ira Gershwin tune, for our vocalist Jo Kuzelka.

The other Tin Pan Alley song we're playing is Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke's "Polka Dots and Moonbeams". Bill Holman arranged it for trombonist Carl Fontana to play it with the Stan Kenton band. We'll be featuring Josh Foster on it.
 The only "pure" jazz we're playing are classics from the libraries of the two greatest big bands, Duke Ellington's and Count Basie's, and a brand new piece by the young jazz composer Omar Thomas.

 After meeting Queen Elizabeth II during a European tour in the late '50s, Ellington and his partner Billy Strayhorn wrote The Queen's Suite. The Ellington band recorded it, Ellington had a single copy pressed, sent it to the queen, and ordered that it never be released to the public. After Ellington's death, his son Mercer thankfully had it released, because it's fantastic. We're playing the first movement of the suite, "Sunset and the Mockingbird", and will feature pianist Alex Espe and clarinetist Nick Durant.

 Benny Carter was one of the great musicians of the 20th century, excelling as an alto saxophonist, trumpeter and composer and arranger. He wrote several albums for Count Basie, and "The Swizzle" comes from The Legend.

 Omar Thomas is a young Boston-based composer who has just recently released his first album, and we'll play the title track, "I Am."