These are program notes to accompany the performance of The Grainger Wind Symphony on Saturday 5 March 2016.
Irish Tune from County Derry by Percy Aldridge Grainger edited R. Mark Rogers
The Irish Tune is based on a tune collected by a Miss J. Ross of New Town, Limavaday, County Derry, Ireland, and published in “The Petri Collection of Ancient Music of Ireland” in 1885. The original setting was an a cappella version for mixed voices, which was much admired by Edward Grieg, with whom Grainger developed a strong friendship. An orchestral version followed and the military band version was completed in 1918. Grainger’s knowledge of instrumental voicings lends a richness to the sound and a blending of the interwoven melodies. The score is unique in that the principal melody is found on the top staff even though written in bass clef.
Shepherd’s Hey by Percy Aldridge Grainger arranged by Loris Schissel
Shepherd’s Hey was scored for wind band in 1918. The word ‘Hey’ denotes a particular figure in Morris Dancing. Morris Dances are still danced by teams of ‘Morris Men’ decked out with bells and quaint ornaments to the music of the fiddle or ‘the pipe and tabor’ (a sort of drum and fife) in several agricultural districts in England. The tune of Shepherd’s Hey is similar to the North English air The Keel Row that is very widely found throughout England. The ‘hey’ involves the interweaving of generally two lines of dancers, which may be symbolized by the use by Grainger of two parallel lines of music at the opening of the composition, rather than a simple statement of a theme that then moves into variants.
A Song of Swans by Barry McKimm
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Vier klarinetten mach viel krach! Andrew Harrison World Premiere
Which translates to, ‘Four Clarinets Make Much Noise’.
The composer, Andrew Harrison, has the following to say about his work:
“I have always been interested in writing music that focuses on a particular instrumental family. I am endlessly intrigued by the possibilities that emerge when combining instruments that derive their inherent timbral qualities from the same ‘sonic’ origin, yet fulfil fundamentally different roles within the hierarchy and context of their broader musical group. So when I was asked to write a clarinet quartet early in my compositional career, I jumped at the opportunity.”
Vier Klarinetten mach viel krach is a short, virtuosic work that explores the combination of two B flat clarinets, the E flat clarinet and the bass clarinet. The piece is generally driven by fast semiquaver passages in rhythmic unison and sudden shifts in dynamics. As suggested by the work’s title, these short bursts of energy may seem irreverent – almost frivolous – in nature. However, these frenetic moments are offset by occasional lapses into reflective repose, allowing the more melancholy timbral aspects of the clarinet family to be briefly highlighted.
Immortality by Natasha Pearson World Premiere
The composer, Natasha Pearson has the following to say about her work:
Cheating death has intrigued humanity for centuries. I became particularly intrigued with the concept of immortality upon reading Jennifer Fallon’s The Immortal Prince. One of the themes in the series is the boredom and madness that comes with eternal life. I wanted to explore these ideas through a musical story.
Immortality tells the tale of a man named Kyros who suddenly finds himself immortal. At first grand and exciting, through the course of four movements, his character changes, he falls in love but as she grows older, while he does not, she eventually dies. His grief drives him mad and he proceeds to wreck destruction on the world, but finally as he recalls the tenderness he had towards her, he regains his sanity, and at last comes to terms with his situation and experiences.
The Black Dog: a concert overture by Scott Cameron
Composed for the Grainger Wind Symphony, The Black Dog is a concert overture built upon a theme from Scott Cameron’s score for the film, Hitchcock.
Expanded with new material it spins rapidly from one extreme to another, fragmenting partially before regathering to deliver a final forceful blow.
Winston Churchill once used the metaphor of the Black Dog to describe his own battle with depression, and while this overture does not so much seek to express the agony of such a condition it does aspire to express the dogged way in which it pursues its sufferers and insists itself upon them.
Would you please welcome our Associate conductor, Shane Walterfang in his inaugural performance with the wind symphony, to the podium. They will perform The Black Dog by Scott Cameron.
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Peninsula Sketches by Tavis Ashton-Bell World Premiere
Peninsula Sketches is an exploration of harmony and rhythm, and how they influence each other to generate particular forms of musical gravity. It might be classified as being minimalist in style, with influences from jazz, impressionism, romanticism and modal structures. The musical element of acoustic space is a strong theme throughout the work: the overall texture is established through the combination of interdependent musical lines, much like a tapestry of sounds weaving through a canvas of time. In writing this way, I wished to convey the symbiotic experience that we influence our environment as the environment influences us.
Though the piece is through-composed, there are two prominent movements, signified by a change in tempo. Within each movement, several scenes pass, contrasting in style, character and mood. You will hear melodies emerge and sink back into the nebulous atmosphere, they are merely the strongest voice in a crowded room. There is no underlying narrative or story underpinning Peninsula Sketches. Instead, I invite you to sit back, clear your mind, and hear your own story.
Dancing with Dracula by Peter Chaplin World Premiere
Peter offers the following to describe his work:
The history of Dancing with Dracula, perhaps quite fittingly, is as dubious and metamorphic as Dracula himself. Sketches for the work appeared as early as 2005 and then a version for solo bass trombone with orchestral accompaniment was completed in 2008 for Eric Klay, the then Principal Trombone with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. This version was originally intended to be a
performance/recording with a synthesised orchestral accompaniment by the composer, but programming complications foiled the project and, like Dracula, the work was condemned to a period of dormancy. However, tonight the work receives its premiere as a composition for wind symphony. Not too much should be assumed about the work’s title.
Dancing with Dracula is more to do with the fantasy of the occult than with the protagonist in Bram Stoker’s novel. The music heard at the outset, which depicts the Wheel of Solomon, a hexagram in which magicians invoke various demons, transforms itself appropriately throughout the piece; eventually dispelling the very spirits it originally produced. In between, dances occur with Belial (a powerful devil and lord of malice), Countess Cilorga (a beautiful witch of considerable standing), Leviathan (a primeval, crooked serpent) and Choronzon (a terrible demon and dweller in the abyss). So what is it like to dance with such characters? You may well decide for yourself tonight, but the poet W. B. Yeats is quite discerning in his short story, Rosa Alchemica:
“I was dancing with an immortal august woman, who had black lilies in her hair, and her dreamy gesture seemed laden with a wisdom more profound than the darkness that is between star and star, and with a love like the love that breathed upon the waters; and as we danced on and on, the incense drifted over us and around us, covering us away as in the heart of the world, and ages seemed to pass, and tempests to awake and perish in the folds of our robes and in her heavy hair.
“Suddenly I remembered that her eyelids had never quivered, and that her lilies had not dropped a black petal, or shaken from their places, and understood with great horror that I danced with one who was more or less than human, and who was drinking up my soul as an ox drinks up a wayside pool; and I fell, and darkness passed over me.”
Pasquino by David Keeffe World Premiere
In David’s own words:
Pasquino is part of a series of works exploring relationships, and is a caricature of the typical romantic comedy plot: “lonely boy spies girl and there might be a spark; boy tries again and things get interesting; after a bit more wooing it all ends happily ever after and there’s a big party.” The title Pasquino comes from a battered classical statue in Rome where, since the early 1500s, locals have pasted up satires and parodies making political and social comment, and has given us the word Pasquinade.
Compositionally, Pasquino varies and develops a single theme, using the rock ballad and modern chromatic harmony to parody each other. And like the statue, each variation is pasted directly over/after the previous one, with a deliberate mixture of styles sometimes incongruous and sometimes not.
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We hope you have enjoyed the program notes and performance.
Music Director and Principal Conductor