Sunday, December 11, 2011

Haley Cress as Little Eir and James Gadd as Oolarana the village leader in “A King Island Christmas” presented by the Humboldt Chorale.

Celebrate the Holidays with Humboldt Chorale and University Singers

 The holiday program sung by the Humboldt Chorale and the University Singers of Humboldt State on December 11 reflects two aspects of the season.

The University Singers perform the sacred music of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” a choral work in twelve cantata-like sections from the Latin Mass. Its twelve movements have been described as theatrical and rich in contrast: energetic, profound, buoyant, elegant, majestic, heart-rending and joyful.

Participating in this University Singers concert are 67 HSU students. Soloists include soprano Brandy Rose, soprano Elena Tessler, alto Tina Toomata and alto Claire Bent.

The Humboldt Chorale then celebrates family and community in “King Island Christmas” by David Friedman and Deborah Brevoort. Based on true events, it’s the inspiring story of Alaskan villagers who together devise and carry out an audacious plan to rescue a special passenger marooned on a freighter in the stormy sea, and by doing so rescue the island’s Christmas.

The lead characters are played by James Gadd, Cindy Cress, Haley Cress, Rachel Post, Irv Tessler and Bill Ryder. The oratorio provides for more than 50 soloists. The Humboldt Chorale is a choir of 90 singers from the community and the university.

The University Singers
The University Singers and Humboldt Chorale holiday concert is on Sunday December 11 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. University Singers directed by Harley Muilenburg, Humboldt Chorale by Carol Ryder, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Director Dan Aldag rehearses the Jazz Orchestra

Jazz Orchestra Swings Through the Decades

From Ellington to Radiohead, the HSU Jazz Orchestra swings through the decades on Saturday December 10 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

The 1940s are represented by Big Band classics, including a landmark Billy Strayhorn tune for the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Two pieces from the 1950s celebrate the Swing era, including a Nat King Cole tune featuring vocalist Jo Kuzelka.

From the 1960s comes the hard bop of Herbie Hancock, and from the 1990s a Kenny Wheeler piece that features Justin Bertolini on flugelhorn. Philip Sagastume performs a tenor sax solo on a Radiohead tune from the year 2000: “Everything In Its Right Place.”

After performing his composition “Energy Generation” with his quartet here in September, jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin left an orchestra arrangement of this tune with HSU professor and Jazz Orchestra leader Dan Aldag. Its performance features Matt Brogdon on tenor sax. The concert rounds out with an original tune by HSU student Aber Miller.

The HSU Jazz Orchestra performs on Saturday December 10 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 Dan Aldag, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye
Jazz Orchestra Director's Notes

The Jazz Orchestra is playing music from a broad variety of genres and time periods, from the 1940s to today. The oldest pieces are "Chelsea Bridge" and "Tippin' On The Q.T." "Chelsea Bridge" was composed in 1941 by Billy Strayhorn for the Duke Ellington Orchestra and is considered to be a huge leap forward in jazz composition because of the sophistication of its harmonic language. Gil Evans, whose music the Jazz Orchestra will be playing in the spring in honor of his centennial, once said, "From the moment I first heard 'Chelsea Bridge', I set out to try to do that. That's all I did--that's all I ever did--try to do what Billy Strayhorn did."

"Tippin' On The Q.T." was written by trumpeter Buck Clayton for the Count Basie Orchestra in the the late 1940s and it was re-recorded by them in the early 1950s, and that is the version the Jazz Orchestra will play.

The two pieces from the 1950s that the band will play are both dedicated to jazz heroes of the Swing Era. John Lewis's "Django", written for his group the Modern Jazz Quartet, was written in memory of the great Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Lewis utilized the old New Orleans jazz funeral tradition of a slow, mournful dirge meant to mark the deceased's passing, followed by upbeat, swinging music to celebrate his life, and then added to that a return at the end to the dirge to give "Django" a classical music-inspired arch form. The band is playing a new arrangement of "Django" for jazz orchestra by Mike Tomaro.

 Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" is dedicated to the great tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who was known for wearing the lid referenced in the title. The Jazz Orchestra is playing the arrangement written by Sy Johnson for the Mingus Big Band, with the addition of the lyrics that Joni Mitchell wrote for the tune for her 1979 collaboration with Mingus. The lyrics are sung by Jo Kuzelka, one of several vocal contributions she will make.

Jo will be featured on "Straighten Up and Fly Right", the old Nat "King" Cole hit in an arrangement done by the legendary Nelson Riddle for one of Linda Ronstadt's '80s albums of standards.

From the 1960s comes the hard bop of Herbie Hancock's "Driftin'", a tune he wrote for his debut album, Takin' Off, in a new arrangement by Dave Mills.

The rest of the Jazz Orchestra's set is music that, while all contemporary, is nonetheless quite diverse. Trumpeter and flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler composed "Gentle Piece" for his landmark 1990 album Music For Large & Small Ensembles. It will feature flugelhornist Justin Bertolini. Beneath its placid surface is a very sophisticated harmonic language.

The rock band Radiohead's influential and sophisticated music has inspired a number of jazz musicians to perform their songs. "Everything In Its Right Place" is a track from 2000 album Kid A that was arranged for jazz orchestra by James Miley and will feature a tenor sax solo from Philllip Sagastume

"Meditation" was written last spring by HSU student Aber Miller for his small jazz group. Its skeletal melody and chord progression was designed to inspire a free and creative performance from the musicians playing it. Nothing was added to the minimal music that Miller wrote for the small group when it brought to the much larger band, so listeners will hear the Jazz Orchestra improvise an arrangement in the performance.

"Energy Generation" is a tune that tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin wrote for his 2011 album Perpetual Motion. After performing here with his quartet in September, McCaslin left a jazz orchestra arrangement of this tune behind with HSU professor and Jazz Orchestra leader Dan Aldag. This performance will feature tenor saxophonist Matt Brogdon.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Gershwin Meets Beethoven with the Humboldt Symphony

The Humboldt Symphony performs popular pieces by Gershwin and Beethoven and other works on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, December 9 and 11.

George Gershwin’s symphonic tone poem An American in Paris is his most famous work, after “Rhapsody in Blue.” “You hear the sounds of the Paris streets of the 1920s, even the taxi horns,” said Humboldt Symphony conductor Paul Cummings. “It has elements of jazz, blues and ragtime—popular styles heard in a cabaret but in a symphonic setting. Gershwin was gifted at making this music work for orchestra—and in this piece especially, he did it with his orchestration as well as his composition.”

The Humboldt Symphony performs the version called “An American in Paris Suite” as arranged by John Whitney, which is basically selected from the original.

Gershwin himself described it as “a light, jolly piece, a series of impressions musically expressed...It’s not a Beethoven symphony, you know.” 
Beethoven’s Egmont Overture is not a symphony either, but in compact form it exemplifies the majestic power of his music. “It’s a great example of Beethoven’s mastery of musical form and structure,” said Cummings. “There’s a logical flow to this music that had a major impact on 19th century composers.”

This overture was composed for a play by Goethe, dramatizing the heroic sacrifice of the 16th century Flemish Count of Egmont, who took a stand against oppression and paid for it with his life. Beethoven’s overture was so effective in expressing this theme that it became the unofficial anthem of the 1956 rebellion against Soviet control in Hungary.

“Beethoven uses the entire orchestra to great effect,” Cummings said. “The writing in this overture features the instruments at their best. Woodwinds are especially called upon to be expressive. It’s a very exciting piece.”

The Symphony program also includes the first and second movements of Alexander Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, which all the dances from Act II of the play Dance of the Polovtsian Maidens. “There are a variety of moods in this music, depending on the character each dance depicts,” Cummings said.

The Brook Green Suite by Gustav Holst is entirely a string orchestra piece. “All the instruments have independent voice,” Cummings observed, “and there’s some wonderful counterpoint.” Known as Holst’s most accessible work, the Brook Green Suite was the last of his music that Holst heard performed.

Humboldt Symphony performs on Friday December 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday December 11 at 3 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, North Coast Journal, Humboldt Beacon.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Take Five (or Six) with the AM Jazz Band

For its December 8 concert, the AM Band plays six tunes:"Take Five" by Paul Desmond was made famous by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, while "Dat Dere" by Bobby Timmons was played by Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. "Jordu" by Clifford Jordan is best known from the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet.

The band also plays "Jumpin' At The Woodside" by Count Basie and "Song For My Father" by Horace Silver. "Bags' Groove" by Milt Jackson will be played in a head arrangement worked out by the band in rehearsals.

The AM Jazz Band performs on Thursday December 8 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 Dan Aldag, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

With director Harley Muilenberg, the fall 2011 Madrigal Singers
Celebrate the Holidays with the Madrigal Singers

It’s a holiday tradition: Beginning with “Fanfare For Christmas Day,” the HSU Madrigal Singers present their annual holiday program of Renaissance madrigals and songs on Sunday December 4 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

Tunes by Giovanni Gastoldi (“Hearts Lively Beating”), Thomas Ravenscroft (“Toss the Pot”), Henry Purcell (“Two Daughters of an Aged Stream”), Thomas Arne (“Which is the Properest Day to Drink”) and others are rendered in ensembles, duets and solos. Festive music is interspersed with news of the day---the day being 17th century England.

This year’s Madrigal Singers are Cayla Crofts, Aubrey Donen, Jacqui Hernandez, Danielle Murray, Cynthia Romano, Katie Wolter, Tiffany Guenter, Katherine Goodwin, Shany Hard, Rachael Heller, Erika Luna, Eboni Session, Tina Toomata, Victor Guerrero, John Pettlon, Chelsea Rothchild, David Vaughan, Cole Buxton, Tyler Ebright, Edrees Nassir and Elliott Pennington.

The Mad River Transit Singers follow with a rhythmic program of jazz and blues that emphasizes the solo bass as played by Charles Welty, particularly on the tune “Mr. P.C.,” honoring the famous jazz bassist Paul Chambers.

Also included on the program are “Blues for Jezebel,” “Cookin’ at the Continental” and “Chili Con Carne.” Comprising this year’s MRT are Jacqui Hernandez, Jocelyn Kuzelka, Sandy Lindop, Elena Tessler, Arianna Dobbins, Anna Coleman, Claire Bent, Sara Scibetta, Nancy Soriano, Tina Toomata, Steven Eitzen, Charles Welty, Kristofer Lang, Dolan Leckliter and Joseph Welnick. MRT is accompanied by Darius Brotman on piano, Dylan Williams on drums, and Charles Welty on bass.

HSU Madrigal Singers and MRT perform on Sunday December 4 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 Harley Muilenburg, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Calypso Band Introduces “Pan Army” 

It’s an all-percussion concert in the Van Duzer Theatre on Saturday, December 3, with world rhythms and a U.S. steelband premiere.

The HSU Percussion Ensemble plays Paschal Dances by composer David Gillingham, described by director Eugene Novotney as “haunting and beautiful, and at other times highly rhythmic and brutal. It is a true masterpiece of the contemporary percussion repertoire.” This piece is scored for piano and a dozen percussionists playing a host of instruments, including marimbas, vibraphones, xylophones, chimes, bells, timpani, snare drums, bass drums, tom-toms, cymbals, croatales and tambourines.

The Ensemble also performs works by Amadeo Roldan, Ed Argenziano, David Mac Bride, as well as Novotney’s composition Searching, performed on a quartet of “tube-o-phones,” instruments that Novotney designed and built based on metallophones of the Balinese Gamelan.

The HSU World Percussion Group closes the first half of the show with Samba music played on indigenous instruments from Brazil.

Then the evening belongs to the Calypso Band, featuring the high-energy dance music of the Caribbean Carnival known as Panorama. The main work will be the U.S. steelband premiere of Boogsie Sharpe’s composition Pan Army, as transcribed by Novotney, who played it with Sharpe’s band (the Phase II Pan Groove) for the 2010 spring carnival in Trinidad. Founded in 1986, the Calypso Band is continuing the celebration of its 25th anniversary.

The Calypso Band and Percussion Ensemble perform on Saturday December 3 at 8 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7 and $3 students and seniors, with free tickets to the first 50 HSU students, from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman, produced by the HSU Music Department.
Media: front page at Humboldt State Now, Tri-City Weekly, Arcata Eye, North Coast Journal

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