Concert 4 2019 Stravinsky and Nestico

Program Notes

These are all the works being performed, but the order in the concert may differ.

Olav Trygvason Op.50, scene III by Edvard Hagerup Grieg arr. Chalon Ragsdale

One of Grieg’s dreams was to compose the “Great Norwegian Opera”, and in 1873 he appeared to have the makings of just such a project at hand. Bjørnsterne Bjørnson, the great Norwegian poet and playwright, had developed three scenes of a libretto for an opera on the subject of Olav Trygvason, the revered Norwegian historical figure and King of Norway from about 995 A.D. to 1000 A.D. Scene III is a series of pagan ritual dances, leaping over fires, a sword dance, etc. The participants are celebrating their gods and pagan ceremonies, while at the same time summoning their courage to face the approaching intruder, Olav Trygvason. The following selected lyrics may give a sense of the underlying action. The work was never completed.

For more details about this work, go to the publisher’s website click here.

Sleep, My Child by Eric Whitacre arr. Jeffrey Gershman

Sleep, My Child is a piece from Whitacre’s work for music theater, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings. The work, set in two acts, is a collaboration between Whitacre and David Noroña. It is based on a book by poet Edward Esch. The innovative music combines styles of opera, musical theater, cinematic music, as well as electronic music techniques of trance music, ambient music, and techno to portray the story of an abandoned tribe of angles in search of their wings. Although it has various nonclassical influences, the original composition is meant to be performed by singers with operatic or musical theater backgrounds.

The 2012 adaptation for band was done at the request of the composer. It was completed in part thanks to a select consortium of eleven high school and university band program throughout the United States. It was premiered at Indiana University Symphonic Band in 2012. Program Note from Teaching Music Through Performance in Band

Concerto for Piano and Wind instruments by Igor Stravinsky

This concerto numbers among many works for piano written about the same time to be played by the composer himself. He kept the performance rights to himself for a number of years, wanting the engagements for playing this work for himself, as well as urgently desiring to keep “incompetent or Romantic hands” from “interpreting” the piece before undiscriminating audiences. The concerto, as described in its name, is scored for solo piano accompanied by an ensemble of wind instruments. The instrumentation of the wind section is what would be found in a standard symphony orchestra: two flutes, piccolo, two oboes, cor anglais, two clarinets, two bassoons (second bassoon doubling contrabassoon), four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, and tuba. The work also calls for double basses (divisi in 3) and a timpano. Although combining winds and piano was unusual at the time, the form had been explored earlier in the twentieth century and would be explored later. Our version is the one revised in 1950.

The concerto debuted under Serge Koussevitzky at the Opera of Paris on May 22, 1924 under the direction of the composer, who played the piano. Koussevitzky had requested such a work of Stravinsky.

Stuart Andrew is our piano soloist. For Stuart’s musical biography, click here.

Persuasion by Sammy Nestico 

Known as arranger and composer for several Big Bands such as the Count Basie Orchestra, Sammy Nestico is considered to be a master of this genre.
“Persuasion” is a jazz ballad for concert band and solo alto saxophone.

Allanah Coldwell is our alto saxophone soloist. For Allanah’s musical biography, please click here.

The Bride’s Tragedy by Percy Grainger set by Chalon Ragsdale

The Bride’s Tragedy is densely orchestrated, metrically complex (21 metre changes in the first 26 bars) and free in its tonality. The text of this Scots border ballad by A.C. Swinburne is about a three character story – the un-named bride, her true lover, Willie, and Willie’s mother. The “false faint lord” Earl Robert, who would steal the bride from Willie. Willie and his mother discuss his decision to steal his bride back from Earl Robert. Mother urges Willie not to leave her to rescue his true love. After quite a discussion, Willie decides he must ride to his love. He meets the company taking his true love to her bridal encounter. He seems reticent about the nature of their relationship, seeming not to know whether she returns his feelings, but she lets him know she cares for him, and they ride away. But when they approach the River Tyne at Chollerford, the desperate nature of their situation becomes apparent. Willie tries to give her a way out but she indicates she would rather die with him than live without him, and so the pair plunges into the hopelessly raging torrent.

More details are available from the publishers website click here.

Raga! by Arnold Rosner

The composer wrote:

To define raga as the Indian equivalent of a mode or scale barely scratches the surface. Traditionally, each raga takes with it not only a set of pitches, but allowable connections among them—virtually personalized roles for each pitch—as well as appropriate moods, and times of day. While the notes of a Western mode may move from one to another according to the composer’s whim, the notes of a raga constitute an “ur”-melody, from which any number of fantastic improvised lines may be woven, albeit within great constraint. In most performances, the first portion is in a free, elastic rhythm, while the second portion is rhythmically tighter and more vigorous. The drummer participates in the second half only.

I decided to use Rag Jog (pronounced to rhyme with “vogue”). Note, as occurs in many ragas, that the descending and ascending forms differ somewhat. In the descent, there is a a “zig-zag” or wrinkle of A-Bb-Ab, which gives additional character to the major-minor aspect of the scale.

I have followed the usual two-part slow-fast design, using very little percussion in the first half. In the second half, I have assigned some of the rhythmic parts to the brass, but have taken advantage of the drumming capabilities in the band, placing two pairs of timpani at the sides and a set of timbales in the rear center of the stage. I have used a few pitches not found in Rag Jog. These occur in quick turns, slides, and so forth, and indeed can be found in genuine performances, too. The greatest deviation from tradition is the usage of countermelody. This is rare because when two melodic parts improvise there is little control of the harmony. I have availed myself of this composed opportunity to add some complexity and linear interest for audience and players alike, and have tried to keep the textures to a density of two melody voices while restricting any sense of Western harmonic progress to other portions of the work. The sections with countermelody can be found in both the andante and the allegro.

There is more information about this work on the composer’s website click here.

Rey’s Theme from Star Wars: The Force Awakens by John Williams arr. Paul Lavender

“Rey, her theme has a musical grammar that is not heroic in the sense of a hero’s theme. It’s kind of an adventure theme that maybe promises more than resolving itself in the most major triumphant resolutions.”
―John Williams
“Rey’s Theme” is a musical leitmotif written by John Williams for the 2015 film Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens and its respective score to represent Rey, a focal character in the film.

Conception and development
“Rey’s Theme” is the musical leitmotif that represents Rey, the central character of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. It was composed and conducted for the film by John Williams. When Williams saw the film and began composing the music, he felt empathy towards Rey, as she is first introduced alone and without her family. He wanted the theme to illustrate that empathy that he felt towards her. Williams composed the theme with a musical grammar that was intended more as an adventure theme rather than a hero’s theme, one that promises more adventure and resolution to come. For more details this is a fun website click here.