Friday, December 05, 2014

Symphonic Band Rides the Range with John Williams

The HSU Symphonic Band rides the range with John Williams’ movie music for The Cowboys, plus music based on English and Korean folk melodies, and three works featuring some unusual percussion, on Friday December 5. 

The Cowboys was a 1972 film starring John Wayne. Although written early in Williams' film career and overshadowed by his better-known scores such as Star Wars, the American Film Institute considers it one of his ten best.

 This arrangement by Jim Curnow preserves the variety of the film score that accompanied scenes of riding and roping, of cowboys around the campfire and the vastness of the open range. “It’s very exciting music,” said Symphonic Band conductor Paul Cummings. “It’s very tuneful, as is all of John Williams’ film music.” 

 Earlier in the evening the Band performs the entire Second Suite for Military Band by Gustav Holst. “Holst’s First Suite is often described as being a folk music suite but it isn’t based on any actual folk songs,” Cummings commented.

 “The second suite is based on folk songs like 'Greensleeves' and others that would have been familiar to Holst’s first audiences in 1911. So we’re going to present a small group of singers performing several of those songs before we play the suite, to give the audience a sense of what inspired the composer.” 

 The band moves from English folk music to Asia with Variations on a Korean Folk Song by contemporary American composer John Barnes Chance. The composer uses unusual percussion instruments such as the temple block as well as different rhythms to explore the song “Arirang.” “This is really a masterwork,” Cummings said, "and enjoyable to listen to, because it’s got that unifying element of the folk song.” 

 Two other pieces by contemporary American composers also prominently employ unusual percussion instruments to create a variety of musical effects: Shadow Rituals by Robert Markowski and Night Dances by Bruce Yurko. In its faster section the Yurko piece also features brass instruments. “We have a terrific brass section this semester,” Cummings said, “so it’s fun for them to really show what they can do.” 

 HSU Symphonic Band performs on Friday December 5 at 8 p.m. in the Fulkerson Recital Hall at HSU in Arcata. Tickets are $8 general, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students, from the HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. Conducted by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music Department.

Media: North Coast Journal, Mad River Union, Humboldt State Now

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