Friday, December 07, 2012

vocal soloists  Dylan Kinser, Katherine Johnson and James Gadd. 

Sing the Hallelujah Chorus with the Humboldt Symphony and Choirs

The Humboldt Symphony and a chorus comprised of the Humboldt Chorale and University Singers perform the ultimate big finish to their holiday concert: the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, and the audience is invited to join in.

Plus, Hallelujah enthusiasts have two opportunities: on Friday evening, December 7 and Sunday December 9 in Fulkerson Recital Hall.

  The Symphony itself performs contrasting works by Hector Berlioz (big and bold) and Claude Debussy (short and delicate) before priming the holiday spirit with Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” in its original but seldom heard full orchestral version.

Then the community singers of Humboldt Chorale and the HSU University Singers join the Symphony for Franz Schubert’s Mass in G, featuring three vocal soloists: Dylan Kinser, Katherine Johnson and James Gadd. “Schubert looks back to his famous predecessors, J.S. Bach and Mozart in this work,” said Symphony conductor Paul Cummings. “Parts of this Mass are considered to be among Schubert’s best writing—and he was only 18 when he wrote it.”

Then the Symphony performs the overture to The Messiah by George Frideric Handel, and the choir joins in for two choruses: “Glory to God in the Highest” and “Hallelujah,” with the original orchestral instrumentation as Handel wrote it. “We’re excited to invite the audience to join us in the singing of the Hallelujah chorus at the end of the program,” Cummings said. “We hope to see everybody on their feet for what has become a great holiday tradition around the world.”

This holiday concert is performed on Friday December 7 and Sunday December 9 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. Humboldt Symphony is conducted by Paul Cummings, Humboldt Chorale is directed by Carol Ryder and University Singers are directed by Harley Muilenburg. Produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: Tri-City Weekly, Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye
Concert Notes by Paul Cummings, Humboldt Symphony Conductor

We’re doing a program every other year now in which the orchestra combines with the University Singers and the Humboldt Chorale.   As in the past, we’re doing the orchestral portion of the program first, then the orchestra combines with the two choirs after intermission.

The orchestra will perform 3 pieces in the first half:

“March to the Scafford” by Hector Berlioz, the fourth movement from his Symphonie fantastique, one of his most famous compositions. It’s about an artist who in this movement has a vision about being marched to his own execution, because of his reckless behavior while in love. Berlioz is known primarily as one of the greatest orchestrators ever, and his use of the instruments in a wide variety of combination is really remarkable. It really comes through in every measure of this short piece.

   Petite Suite by Claude Debussy: This is 180 degrees from the previous piece. Berlioz is extraverted and even bombastic—as a composer he liked to have 200 musicians on stage. Debussy wrote in a much more intimate style. As the title suggests, this is four short movements, miniatures really, originally written for piano four hands. It has gained popularity in this orchestral form, even though it is still done for piano four hand as much or perhaps more. We’re hoping to bring on two pianists to play just the first movement, to give the audience a sense of how a piece can be transcribed from piano to orchestra and still be effective.

  Debussy is very economical in his writing, and yet there’s incredible variety in this suite, with its movements of two or three minutes each. Debussy doesn’t repeat ideas—he writes one and moves on to the next, which is really a challenge to play because it keeps the musicians on their toes.

Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson:  This is a lighter, fun piece that everybody knows, but maybe not in its original orchestral form. It’s usually heard in all sorts of later arrangements and transcriptions, but this is the form in which Anderson originally wrote this piece.

Then the orchestra combines with the choirs for works by two major composers:

Mass in G by Franz Schubert. In this composition, Schubert is looking back to his German predecessors J.S. Bach and Mozart, who also wrote settings for the Ordinary of the Mass. Schubert uses the same musical structures such as fugue and chorale and a traditional or common practice counterpoint.

The Credo in particular represents some of Schubert’s best writing—it’s a very haunting portion of the Mass, with some very profound, almost hypnotic music. It’s generally considered the greatest moments in this Mass.I find it especially amazing that Schubert wrote this profound music when he was only 18 years old, all in a five-day period in 1815.

We have three vocal soloists: Dylan Kinser, Katherine Johnson and James Gadd. Katherine in particular has a very demanding solo part and she does a terrific job. The orchestra uses only strings—no winds or percussion.

Finally, we perform three movements from Handel’s Messiah. The orchestra alone performs the Overture, and with the choirs we perform two choruses, “Glory to God in the Highest” and “Hallelujah.”

These are very well known excerpts from the Messiah. They involve a lot of Baroque counterpoint, but Handel’s music can be distinguished from that of his contemporary J.S. Bach by its more extraverted style. You hear fanfares and flourishes, and there’s less dense texture in the music of Handel as compared to Bach. That comes out really clearly in these two choruses. I’ve often thought that Bach could never have written the Hallelujah chorus in particular. It’s almost as if Handel wrote music for the outdoors, whereas Bach’s music seems much more formal and based indoors, inside the Cathedral.

We’re attempting to be faithful to Handel’s original score, including four bassons, two oboes, two trumpets, tympani and string orchestra. And we’re especially excited to invite the audience to join us in the singing of the Hallelujah chorus. We’ll provide the words, and we hope to see everybody on their feet joining us.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Big Band Jazz at HSU December 6 and 8

Jazz of different styles and from different eras get the big band treatment in two concerts by HSU ensembles: the AM Jazz Band on Thursday December 6 and the Jazz Orchestra on Saturday December 8.

The AM Jazz Band plays tunes by Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington, as well as by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. They also feature an original composition by Armando Rivera called “Pescados Frescos.”

In their Saturday concert the HSU Jazz Orchestra performs a medley compiled by contemporary “free jazz” pioneer Carla Bley of two of her compositions plus an arrangement of a hymn by the iconoclastic American composer Carl Ruggles.

The concert also features tunes by Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and gypsy jazz great Django Reinhardt. Though Benny Carter arranged his tune “Doozy” for big band in the 1980s, Jazz Orchestra director Dan Aldag calls it “a foundational piece” that has all the features of classic 1930s big band music, including room for several solos.

The AM Jazz Band performs on Thursday December 6 and the Jazz Orchestra performs on Saturday December 8. Both concerts begin at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $7/3/free to HSU students with ID, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Dan Aldag, produced by the HSU Music Department. 

Media: Humboldt State Now, Arcata Eye.
AM Jazz and Jazz Orchestra Concert Notes by Dan Aldag, Director

On Thursday (Dec. 6) the AM Jazz Band is playing the usual assortment of jazz classics in a variety of styles: "Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West" by John Lewis (of the Modern Jazz Quartet); "Nardis" by Miles Davis; "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" by Charles Mingus; "Black Butterfly" by Duke Ellington, "Foot Pattin' Time" by Lou Donaldson and "Sweet Georgia Bright" by Charles Lloyd and one original composition for big band, "Pescados Frescos" by Armando Rivera.

On Saturday (Dec. 8) the HSU Jazz Orchestra performs:

A medley compiled and arranged by Carla Bley of "Exaltation", "Religious Experience" and "Major". The latter two are Bley's composition and "Exaltation" is a hymn tune written by the iconoclastic American composer Carl Ruggles as a memorial to his late wife.

"Manteca" by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo. This is one of the first Afro-Cuban jazz compositions, written for Gillespie's big band in 1947. We're playing the same arrangement that Gillespie's band recorded.

"Manoir De Mes Reves", composed by Django Reinhardt and arranged for Gerry Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band by Bob Brookmeyer.

"Tijuana Gift Shop", a Charles Mingus composition written for his album Tijuana Moods. We're playing the arrangement done for the Mingus Big Band by Michael Phillip Mossman.

"Bemsha Swing", written by Thelonious Monk and arranged by the legendary Bill Holman for his own band about ten years ago.

"Doozy", by Benny Carter, one of the architects of the jazz big band through his writing for Fletcher Henderson's band in the early 1930s. "Doozy" comes from later in Carter's long career. He first recorded it in a small group in 1961. He arranged it for big band in the late 1980s, and that is the version we'll be playing.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Annual Holiday Concert with Madrigal and MRT Singers

The HSU Madrigal Singers present their annual holiday show of 16th century English hits, followed by the Mad River Transit Singers creating some spontaneous jazz combustion in their joint concert on Sunday December 2 at Fulkerson Recital Hall.

The Madrigal Singers perform traditional works by Henry Purcell, John Dowland and Ralph Vaughan Williams as well as madrigals by Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Morely and Robert Jones—all beginning with “Fanfare for Christmas Day.” As usual the 28 singers will be in full Elizabethan costume, singing in various combinations: for example, four Ladies combine on Purcell’s “What Can We Poor Females Do?” Harley Muilenberg conducts and John Chernoff performs keyboard accompaniments.

Then the MRT Singers take over for an eclectic program, focusing on music of well-known vocal jazz arrangers. Among the tunes they perform are “Spontaneous Human Combustion” by Richard Greene and Joe Finetti, a vocal arrangement of Paul Simon’s “Baby Driver,” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia On My Mind.” They will also celebrate the salvation of Big Bird with the “Sesame Street” song.

Singers will be accompanied by a rhythm section of Steven Workman on bass, Dylan Williams on drums, and John Chernoff on piano, who also promises a solo or two.

The Madrigal Singers and MRT perform their holiday concert on Sunday December 2 at 8 p.m. in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Harley Muilenburg, produced by the HSU Music Department.

Media: Tri-City Weekly, Humboldt State Now

Members of the Fall 2012 Madrigal Singers:

Cayla Crofts, Ana Cruz, Rebecca Ashbach, Jacqui Hernandez, Shawny Hard,Erin Corrigan, Michaela Presler, Daniela Godinez, Savannah Bouton, Cynthia Stuart, Kristin Mack, Robyn Strong, Elena Tessler, Georgia Sack, Rosemary Torres,Natalie Whiting, Jason (JD) Garza, James Adams, Ken Montalvo, Dylan Kinser, John Pettlon, Kris Lang, James Gadd, Edress Nassir, Clint Rebik, Kobe Thompson, Matt Walton and Greg Willis. (Not necessarily in order of photo above.)

Fall 2012 MRT Singers are:

 Jacqui Hernandez, Anna Coleman, Katrina Beck, Trina Garrett, Hannah Fels, Kathleen Johnston, Dani Godinez, Jessie Rawson, Sandy Lindop,Tina Toomata, Steven Eitzen, Raymond Alvarez, Dolan Leckliter, David Vaughan, Alberto Rodriguez, Jerry Olofsson, Joseph Welnick. (Not in order pictured.)

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Calypso Band and Percussion Ensemble in the Groove

Humboldt State Calypso Band performs a steel band classic and the HSU Percussion Ensemble features dramatic rhythms of a Balinese chant in their joint concert on Saturday December 1 in the Van Duzer Theatre.

The world-famous composition Ketjak by Akira Nishimura is the Percussion Ensemble’s featured work. “Nishimura’s composition is based on the famous Balinese ‘Monkey Chant,’ said Percussion Ensemble director Eugene Novotney,” where 100 men sit in a concentric circle and chant ‘Ketjak’ in complex interlocking rhythm while characters play out the dramaturgy of the famous Ramayana. This virtuosic piece captures the deep emotion of the Monkey Chant in a dramatic percussive orchestration that pushes the 17-player ensemble to the limits of their technique and musicality.”

The Ensemble also plays works by John Cage, Michael Udow and Lynn Glassock. The first half of the show concludes with traditional Mandeng drumming of West Africa, presenting a classic from Ghana using only indigenous instruments.

Then the Calypso Band takes over with its high-energy dance music, emphasizing Panorama compositions of the Caribbean Carnival in Trinidad and Tabago. The evening includes the Panorama steel band classic, “Pan in A Minor.” “This piece has driving rhythmic energy with a distinct minor key harmonic foundation,” Novotney said, “which makes the piece both unique and infectious in its energy and its groove.”

The HSU Percussion Ensemble, HSU World Percussion Group and the Humboldt State Calypso Band perform on Saturday December 1 at 8 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets: $7/3, with first 50 HSU students free, from HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. Directed by Eugene Novotney and Howard Kaufman, produced by HSU Music Department.    

Media: Humboldt State Now , Tri-City Weekly