Friday, December 02, 2011

Stephanie Douglass
Guest Conductor and Percussion Solo Highlight Symphonic Band Concert

A military symphony conducted by the new director of the HSU Marching Lumberjacks, a virtuoso percussion solo, an Italian march and a Chorale and Alleluia by a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer: all in one eclectic concert by the HSU Symphonic Band on Friday, December 2.

Stephanie Douglass is the guest conductor for the 18th century “Military Symphony in F” by Francois Joseph Gossec. Douglass, a recent graduate of the HSU Music program, is the new director of the Marching Lumberjacks. “She’s played in the Lumberjacks for years, as well as in our ensembles,” said Symphonic Band conductor and HSU Music professor Paul Cummings. “She was playing clarinet in this piece, so I thought it was a great opportunity to ask her to conduct it. It’s exciting—especially since this is such an interesting composition.”

“It was written for a French military band around the time of the French Revolution, which was also the time of Mozart and Beethoven. It has a very classical feeling because of that. It especially sounds like Mozart. It’s exciting for students to play an original band work from the 18th century.”

A current HSU student, Tyler Hunt, performs a substantial percussion solo for a modern work by Gary Ziek. “He plays a number of pitched instruments—some with a bow,” Cummings said. “Yet it’s a reflective and quiet movement called ‘Meditation.’ Tyler creates some unusual effects with rich overtones—fascinating to listen to.”

Also on the program is an Italian march by D. Delle Cese that translates as “Little English Girl.” “I’m a big fan of European marches,” Cummings said. “They’re much less predictable than American marches, very tuneful, with wonderful contrasts. This one is like an opera overture.”

“Chorale and Alleluia” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Howard Hanson is notable as one of the first modern American pieces written expressly for band by an established composer. “It’s a great piece that builds a web of intricate counterpoint.” As a teacher at the Eastman School of Music, Hanson influenced a generation of American composers. But also notable, Cummings said, is his role in reviving interest in symphonic band. “By the 1950s, there was almost no music being written for band by established composers,” Cummings said. “This 1954 piece was one of the first, and it got other composers interested.”

“Dance Sequence” by contemporary Luxembourg composer Marco Putz is “ high-spirited, very melodic, with quick and lively tempos. It’s not dance music in the strict sense because the meter keeps changing. It’s challenging and fun to play but I wouldn’t want to try dancing to it,” Cummings observed.

The HSU Symphonic Band performs on Friday December 2 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 general, $3 students/seniors, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Free to HSU students with ID. Directed by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye

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