Concert 3 2023: Year of the Dragon

This concert program is shared with The Knox Wind Symphony and The Grainger Wind Symphony. Both are community ensembles that engender a love of music making.

For more information about The Knox Wind Symphony click here. Read about their past programmes, and the biography of their award winning music director Daniel van Bergen.

Below is the program being presented by The Grainger Wind Symphony alone, and the last two works are performed as a combined band. They may not be performed in this order.

For the concert program click here.

Howl’s Moving Castle – Symphonic Fantasy by Joe Hisaishi arr. Yo Goto

Zanzibar Boat Song by Percy Grainger arr. Preston Hazzard

Home Away From Home by Catherine Likhuta

Kosciuszko by Brendan Collins conducted by Shane Walterfang

Wayfaring Stranger by Christopher Nelson conducted by Roland Yeung

Year of the Dragon by Philip Sparke conducted by Daniel van Bergen


Howl’s Moving Castle – Symphonic Fantasy by Joe Hisaishi arr. Yo Goto

Based on Hayao Miyazaki’s animation of the same name, consists of five scenes.

  1. The Allure of Dawn (Image Symphonic Suite)
  2. Wandering Sophie (Soundtrack)
  3. The Courageous Cavalry (Soundtrack)
  4. The Boy Who Swallowed the Star (Soundtrack)
  5. The Merry-go-round of Life (Soundtrack)

Yo Goto writes “To maximize the wind band’s unique sound and function, I have taken some liberty in spreading active roles throughout the ensemble. This is the motive behind the subtitle, Symphonic Fantasy for Band.”

Joe Hisaishi.

Mamoru Fujisawa, born December 6, 1950), known professionally as Joe Hisaishi, is a Japanese composer, musical director, conductor and pianist, known for over 100 film scores and solo albums dating back to 1981. Hisaishi’s music has been known to explore and incorporate different genres, including minimalist, experimental electronic, Western classical, and Japanese classical. He has also worked as a music engraver and arranger.

He has been associated with director and animator Hayao Miyazaki since 1984, having written scores for all but one of Miyazaki’s films. He is also recognized for his music for filmmaker ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, including A Scene at the Sea (1991), Sonatine (1993), Kids Return (1996), Hana-bi (1997), Kikujiro (1999), Brother and Dolls (2002), and for the video game series Ni no Kuni. He was a student of anime composer Takeo Watanabe. Wikipedia

Zanzibar Boat Song by Percy Grainger arr. Preston Hazzard

Percy Grainger composed this work for “six hands at one piano” in 1902, and subsequently he began a version for percussion ensemble that was never completed. Using sketches of this incomplete arrangement, Preston Hazzard has created a unique setting for concert band. The transparent and delicate lilting nature of the original work comes through in this appealing arrangement for winds and percussion. Hal Leonard Music

Percy Grainger

Our namesake, Percy Grainger is an Australian born composer, inventor, virtuoso pianist. He left Australia to study piano and composition in Germany from the age of 11, but returned to his beloved Australia often. He has composed an enormous amount of wind band compositions, many of these are folk-song based. He paid for and built a museum, an auto-biographical museum, on the grounds of the University of Melbourne in Parkville. It has recently reopened and visitors can make appointments or visit on the first Monday of the month between 2pm and 3pm.

Home Away From Home by Catherine Likhuta

Contrary to what its title might suggest, Home Away From Home took a menacing tone, featuring thunderous drums, quietly creeping melodic lines, musical car chases, and screeching halts. Program Note by Abby Rooney for the Columbia Spectator

Home Away From Home was commissioned by Jason Noble for the Columbia University Wind Ensemble.

I was born and raised in Kyiv, Ukraine, and then lived in the United States for eight years before moving permanently to Australia in 2012. As a result, all three countries became home to me, and I always miss them and my friends in each of them when I am away. I feel equally at home in all three. It so happened that Jason’s commission came just before my family and I went on sabbatical to Ithaca, N.Y. (our home in 2005-2009) from Australia for six months, also stopping by the Ukraine on our way there. It was a very special time, filled with somewhat forgotten youthful thrill, wonderful reunions and nostalgic experiences. It made me realize that, in a way, each of these three places is my home away from home. I reflected on that thought and also started thinking about the university freshmen students for whom I was writing the piece, who just left their parents’ nest and were finding their home away from home and their new life and community on campus. It is an exciting yet emotional time for them, and I wanted to reflect that in the piece.

The opening section of the work represents the initial excitement associated with the new beginning, somewhat similar to a plane take-off: you are strapped in and have no control over what’s going to happen next, yet somehow you know you are in for an exciting experience. You hear the engine starting, which makes your heart rate go up (mine, anyway!).

The melancholic section that follows is a moment of reflection, inspired by the experience of visiting a house where your loved ones used to live, for the first time after they are gone. The experience cannot be put into words — it can only be lived through. I have lived through it and felt like sharing it by means of music. After the initial sadness and sorrow, which are inevitable parts of this experience, your mind brings forward wonderful memories associated with these loved ones, making you sad and happy at the same time.

The next section is desperate and determined, building the tension and bringing the listener to the gutsy climax inspired by Ukrainian folk music, before returning to the original youthful, optimistic and funky opening material. The piece ends on a positive note, with a little quirky waltz surprise thrown in just before the end. Program Note by composer

The composer Catherine Likhuta

is a Ukrainian-Australian composer, pianist and recording artist. Her music exhibits high emotional charge, programmatic nature, rhythmic complexity and Ukrainian folk elements. Catherine’s pieces have been played extensively around the world, including highly prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage), Glyndebourne Opera House (Organ Room), several International Horn Symposiums and World Saxophone Congresses, as well as many festivals and conferences. Her works have been commissioned and performed by prominent symphony orchestras such as Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Symphony Orchestra. It was last Sunday 28th May the world premiere performance of Likhuta’s Timpani Concert “Storm Chasers” Brett Miller soloist accompanied by the University of melbourne Wind Symphony conducted by Nicholas Williams.

Kosciuszko by Brendan Collins
conducted by Shane Walterfang

The Grainger Wind Symphony performed the World Premiere of this work in 2009 for Reed Music.

Thaddeus Kosciuszko was an outstanding military commander and strategist who fought for freedom not only in his native Poland against the Russians in the late 18th Century, but also in his adopted America during the War of Independence. To this day he is considered a Polish national hero and the fondness for which he is held in the United States is evident in Mississippi’s city and Indiana’s county that share his name. In 1840 Paul Strezlecki, the Polish-born explorer who first climbed the Australia Alps named its highest peak, Mount Kosciuszko.

This composition reflects three aspects of the life of Kosciuszko. After some plaintive themes reminiscent of Polish folk tunes, the first section represents Kosciuszko’s battle for freedom in his native homeland against the Russians and Prussians. The music reflects the chaos of war and the clash of tonality helps to represent the mayhem of battle. Kosciuszko led his troops to numerous victories during this campaign and there are moments in the score where uplifting major tonalities represent the joy of victory. Unfortunately for Kosciuszko he was seriously wounded towards the end of the war and was held prisoner by the Russians. His release was conditional on him not returning to his homeland, Poland. The solemn and mournful solo off-stage trumpet call at the end of the first section reflects both the tragedy of war and the circumstances faced by Kosciuszko at the end of this campaign.

The second section of the work represents Kosciuszko’s American experience. The music is open, free and hopeful, representing the ‘New World’. Kosciuszko served with distinction in Washington’s army and was instrumental in the success of many battles including the blockade of Charleston and the victory at Saratoga. As he was in Poland, Kosciuszko was a tireless defender of freedom in America and he used his military knowledge and skills to fight oppression.

The final section of the work is a ‘climb to the summit’ making direct reference to the journey undertaken by thousands of tourists each year when they endeavour to climb Australia’s highest peak. The music gradually intensifies as the journey nears its end and there is an explosion of joy and exhilaration as the summit is reached. While this section refers directly to Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko, the themes of struggle, striving and toil could easily represent the life of Thaddeus Kosciuszko and his endless dedication to the fight for human liberty and freedom.

Brendan Collins

is currently the Chief Brass Examiner of NSW for the Australian Music Examinations Board and the Composer-in-residence at Barker College, Sydney. His compositions are frequently performed and recorded throughout the world by many leading international artists and his music is broadcast regularly on ABC ClassicFM. Australian composer and performer Brendan Collins grew up in the city of Newcastle (just north of Sydney). He later studied trombone and composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Ron Prussing, Arthur Hubbard and George Golla. Collins won a scholarship to study in Los Angeles with Ralph Sauer, principal trombone of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. After 11 years as the associate principal trombone with Opera Australia, Brendan was appointed to the position of composer-in-residence at Barker College (Hornsby, NSW) in 2005, a position he still holds.

The following two works are performed by the combined bands of The Grainger Wind Symphony and the Know Wind Symphony

Wayfaring Stranger by Christopher Nelson conducted by Roland Yeung

Wayfaring Stranger is a setting of the American folk spiritual known as “Poor Wayfaring Stranger”. While many versions of the lyrics to this tune exist, they all tell the story of a Traveler who makes their way on a journey despite a tough road, difficult circumstances, and gathering darkness. He does this, the lyrics say, for the promise of green pastures and a reunion with his Father and Mother at journey’s end. This setting is intended to convey not only the difficulty experienced by the Traveler, but also resolve which is displayed as he moves forward despite hardship, and disappointment. Wayfaring Stranger is offered as a sort of resolute battle-hymn for anyone who must endure a long journey of challenge and trial before the promised green pastures can be enjoyed.

The song dates back 200 years. The song Wayfaring Stranger came out in 2000 and the best version is by Johnny Cash. Here are the original lyrics.

1 I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger,
I’m trav’ling through this world below;
There is no sickness, toil, nor danger,
In that bright world to which I go.
I’m going there to see my father,
I’m going there no more to roam;
I’m just a going over Jordan,
I’m just a going over home.

2 I know dark clouds will gather o’er me,
I know my pathway’s rough and steep;
But golden fields lie out before me,
Where weary eyes no more shall weep.
I’m going there to see my mother,
She said she’d meet me when I come;
I’m just a going over Jordan,
I’m just a going over home.

3 I want to sing salvations story,
In concert with the blood-washed band;
I want to wear a crown of glory,
When I get home to that good land.
I’m going there to see my brothers,
They passed before me one by one;
I’m just a going over Jordan,
I’m just a going over home.

4 I’ll soon be free from every trial,
This form will rest beneath the sod;
I’ll drop the cross of self-denial,
And enter in my home with God.
I’m going there to see my Saviour,
Who shed for me His precious blood;
I’m just a going over Jordan,
I’m just a going over home.

The composer Christopher M. Nelson (b. 1987)

is an educator, conductor, composer, and arranger. Currently, he serves as an Associate Instructor in the Band Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he is pursuing a Doctorate in Wind Band Conducting.

Year of the Dragon by Philip Sparke conducted by Daniel van Bergen

The composer writes “The 2017 version of The Year of the Dragon was commissioned by the Siena Wind Orchestra and given its world premiere on June 17th 2017 in Bunkyo Civic Hall, Tokyo, conducted by the composer. The original wind band arrangement of The Year of the Dragon was made in 1985, a year after I wrote the brass band version”. The original version was written for the internationally acclaimed Cory Band . He continues:

At that time I was still learning the intricacies of writing for wind band (I still am!) and in the 32 years which have elapsed since then, my approach to scoring for the medium has developed and, hopefully, improved.

Here are the main differences between the two versions:

  1. In the 1980s the wind band movement was much less international than it is now. British wind bands were still to some extent based on the military band tradition of the time, which tended to use rather smaller instrumentation than the then-dominant American university model. The new version embraces a much more international instrumentation, including low woodwinds and string bass, as well as an expanded percussion section.
  2. In the original version there was a touch of naivety in the way I wrote for the woodwinds; much of their articulation was transferred too literally from the brass version, resulting in some unidiomatic writing, which I have tried to improve in the new version.
  3. In addition to the above, my own compositional style has matured and developed in the intervening 32 years. There are some passages in the original which I simply would not write today – not because they are ’wrong’, but because my way of writing has changed. The new version is perhaps how I would have written it today, rather than simply dressing the original version in new clothes.

The work is in three movements:

TOCCATA opens with an arresting side drum figure and snatches of themes from various sections of the band, which try to develop until a broad and powerful theme from the middle of the band asserts itself. A central dance-like section soon gives way to the return of this theme, which subsides until faint echoes of the opening material fade to a close.

INTERLUDE takes the form of a sad and languid solo for alto saxophone. A chorale for the whole band introduces a brief spell of optimism but the saxophone solo returns to close the movement quietly.

FINALE is a real tour-de-force for the band with a stream of rapid semi-quavers running throughout the movement. The main theme is heroic and march-like but this is interspersed with lighter, more playful episodes. A distant fanfare to the sound of bells is introduced and this eventually returns to bring the work to a stirring close.

The composer Philip Sparke

was born in London and studied composition, trumpet and piano at the Royal College of Music, where he gained an ARCM. His catalogue of compositions is enormous. The works are regularly found on band competition set repertoire lists and Sparke has received numerous awards. His conducting and adjudicating activities have taken him to most European countries, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada and the USA. In May 2000, he took the major step of becoming a full-time composer by founding his own publishing company, Anglo Music Press. The company is devoted to publishing his brass band, concert band, fanfare band and instrumental publications as well as recordings dedicated to his latest works.