Saturday, October 05, 2013

Director's Notes: Symphonic Band

Julie Giroux
Among the selections scheduled to be played by the Symphonic Band:

 Culloden by Julie Giroux. We’re playing the third of a three movement work celebrating Scottish folk music and ancient Scottish culture. Julie Giroux is a prominent American composer who gained a lot of acclaim in the area of wind band composition. Her music is played all over the country and the world.

 She found some ancient Scottish folk song books—some went back hundreds of years, and some of these were in a kind of crude condition: just sketches of melodies and words. So this was quite a research undertaking, gathering these primary sources of Scottish folk music. She selected some songs to incorporate into this suite for concert band. Much of the piece has a military or warfare context because once you go back hundreds of years, Scotland was basically consumed by military battles—clan disputes over territory and battles with England. So you hear military fanfares, even simulated cannon fire.

 But interspersed with these calls to battle are some very beautiful lyrical passages, from these folk songs. She mentions in the program notes that some of our familiar folk songs have roots in these Scottish song sketches, including “London Bridge” and “Yankee Doodle” and several Stephen Foster tunes, like “Oh! Susannah” So what we may think of as American folk music has deeper roots.

 Old Comrades by Carl Teike.  Over the past few years I’ve slowly been working through a repertoire of European marches, and this old nugget of the band repertoire is a military march from Germany.

 Ave Maria by Franz Biebl. This piece was originally written for choir and transcribed for band by Robert Cameron. It requires the musicians to sing short excerpts of Gregorian chant. It derives its power as a piece of music from the combination of purely instrumental passages mixed with choral passages, all performed by the same musicians. It’s a very simple piece technically but does require great musical expression and control of breath and dynamics. It’s a slow, lyrical interlude that provides a contrast in this program.

--from an interview with Paul Cummings

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