Friday, November 30, 2012

A Bugler’s Holiday with the Symphonic Band

It’s a bugler’s holiday with the HSU Symphonic Band on Friday November 30 at Fulkerson Hall, but there’s more. It’s also a tribute to gum-suckers, a dramatic sunset, a visit to Electric Park, a Mexican anthem and a rare demonstration of the art of “the smear.”

Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday—a holiday favorite since the 1950s--centers the Band’s holiday concert, with solos by three student trumpeters: Jesse Burns, Andrew Henderson and McKenna Smith. “The audience should be very impressed with their playing,” commented conductor Paul Cummings. “They are really terrific.”

Percy Grainger learned to write band music in the U.S. Army Band in World War I, but he remembered the folk melodies of his Australian boyhood. He combined the two in “The Gum-Suckers March,” named for a local habit in Victoria, Australia of sucking on eucalyptus leaves. “It has a lyrical section but it’s mostly raucous,” Cummings said. “It’s a challenging piece for all the instruments, and not your typical march.”

When composer Robert Bennett as a boy walked past the dance hall in the turn-of-the-century amusement park called Electric Park, he heard snatches of popular tunes of the time. This music is reflected in his Suite of Old American Dances, the main work on the program. “The five movements show the music moving from dances like the waltz and the western one- step to ragtime, as popular music was becoming more influenced by jazz,” Cummings said. Bennett went on to become the legendary arranger for 1940s-60s Broadway musicals.

  “Zacatecas,” is a late 19th century march written by Genaro Codina to win a muncipal band concert, but its popularity grew to such proportions that it is now considered the second national anthem of Mexico.

  The only slow piece on the program is “Dusk” by contemporary American composer Steven Bryant, which reflects on the dual nature of the sunset, it’s “dramatic stillness.” “It’s the contrast of the calmness of that time of day with the intense fiery hues of the sky,” Cummings explained.

Now about that smear. “It’s a little known genre for wind band—a style of light march music in which the trombones use their slide to create melodic effects that cannot be done on any other instrument—at least not very easily,” Cummings said. Five trombonists display the smear technique in the most famous example of this genre, Henry Fillmore’s “Lassus Trombone.” “Lassus” stands for molasses, as in smooth as molasses... or as a slide trombone.

  The HSU Symphonic Band performs on Friday November 30 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets: $7/$3/free to HSU students with i.d. from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by the HSU Music Department. 

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye

No comments: