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ClassicsOnline Home » Wind Band Music - SMITH, C.T. / REED, A. / HOLST, G. / SPARKE, P. / BROUGHTON, B. (In the World of Spirits) (Emory Symphonic Winds, S.A. Stewart)
The Emory Symphonic Winds, comprised of members of the Emory Wind Ensemble and the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony, are American leaders in the commissioning of new music. Bruce Broughton’s In the World of Spirits was dedicated to the ensemble and is a work of action, dynamism and electric physicality. Christmas carols and hymns are explored by Gustav Holst while Jennifer Higdon charts the intangible beauty of music itself. Alfred Reed’s Russian Christmas Music is a classic of symphonic band writing: rich, colorful and sonorous.
In the World of Spirits
Christmas Classics for Wind Band
Claude T. Smith: Symphonic Prelude on ‘Adeste Fideles’
This setting of the traditional Christmas favorite Adeste Fideles opens majestically with a statement of the melody by the trumpets and then develops into a full brass harmonization, complete with horn fanfare. The mood and key switch with the entrance of the woodwinds, and a dominant prolongation returns this short fanfare to a glorious conclusion.
Claude T. Smith
Alfred Reed: Greensleeves
It is generally agreed that the melody known as Greensleeves is probably the second oldest piece of secular music in our Western culture, its origins having been traced back to about 1360. While we are not certain that this was the original title, it is known that in the late fourteenth century, English ladies wore gowns with great billowing sleeves, and the lyrics that have come down to us speak of a lover’s lament over his lady’s cruel treatment of him by a lady clad in a dress with green sleeves. By the time of William Shakespeare, this song had already become a classic and he made use of it in two of his plays, most notably in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Over 300 years later, the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams used this melody as an intermezzo between two acts of his opera Sir John in Love, which was based on the same play. Since then the tune has been adapted as the basis for the Christmas carol What Child is This? This arrangement is a symphonic development of this 600-year-old classic melody adapted for the full resources of the modern wind orchestra or concert band.
Gustav Holst: Christmas Day: Fantasy on Old Carols (arranged by Larry Daehn)
Gustav Holst composed Christmas Day in 1910 for his students at Morley College. Its première by the college’s chorus and orchestra was so successful that it had to be performed again a few weeks later. Christmas Day is a set of variations on In dulci jubilo (better known in the English-speaking world as Good Christian Men, Rejoice) with interwoven portions of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen and The First Nowell.
It seems that, around this time, one of Holst’s favored contrapuntal devices was to present two familiar tunes simultaneously. A few years earlier he had combined Sheap Shearing Song and High Germany in his Somerset Rhapsody. A year later he would juxtapose the Dargason and Greensleeves in his Second Suite in F for Military Band. In Christmas Day, he superimposes Come Ye, Lofty, Come Ye Lowly, (based on an old Breton melody) with The First Noel to great musical effect.
Philip Sparke: A Winter’s Tale
A Winter’s Tale was commissioned by the Western Plains Wind Consortium, Daniel Baldwin, Founder and Director. The first performance took place on December 1, 2009 at the OPSU Centennial Theater in Goodwell, Oklahoma, by the Oklahoma Panhandle State University Concert Band, under the Direction of Dr Matthew C. Saunders. The commission requested a “winter” piece without connotations of Christmas or other seasonal religious festivals and the composer has sought to describe a winter scene deep in the countryside. The work opens with sustained woodwind chords colored by bells, under which a solo alto saxophone sings a solitary dawn song. A brief climax for full band introduces the work’s main theme, with muted colors describing fields and forest deep in snow. Once again the full band takes up the theme until distant sleigh bells herald the arrival of a horse-drawn “troika.” This soon passes and a quiet moment reintroduces the main theme, which leads to a repeat of the introduction to close the work.
Bruce Broughton: In the World of Spirits
In the World of Spirits was inspired by a paragraph found in Empire of the Summer Moon, a book by SC Gwynne about the rise and fall of the Comanches. In it, the author describes the life of the Plains Indian as “a world…of pure magic, of beaver ceremonies and eagle dances, of spirits that inhabited springs, trees, rock, turtles, and crows; a place where people danced all night and sang bear medicine songs, where wolf medicine made a person invulnerable to bullets, dream visions dictated tribal policy, and ghosts were alive in the wind…in the mystical cycles of the seasons, living in that random, terrifying, bloody, and intensely alive place where nature and divinity became one.”
In the World of Spirits is not a depiction of a specific spirit world, but instead a representation to some degree of the energy in the world of the spirit. It is the world of motion, of action, of feeling, of terror, of excitement. In short, it is the engine that drives the physical world and in which all things move and live.
Musically, the piece relies upon two main themes. The first one, which features a short burst of repeated notes followed by many leaping phrases, is initially hinted at in the flutes after a short introduction, and then presented in its entirety soon afterwards with the flutes and oboes. The second theme is much more declamatory and pompous, stated often with brass, chimes, and trilling woodwinds. These two themes interact to create the basic fast–slow–fast rhapsodic structure of the piece.
Although there is no story or program to the piece, In the World of Spirits is an attempt at a sort of “visual music,” music that stimulates by its musical associations various visual and dramatic images for the listener, ie, ballet without the dancers or a movie without the screen.
In the World of Spirits was commissioned by and is dedicated to Scott A. Stewart and the Emory Wind Ensemble.
One of the most versatile composers working today, Bruce Broughton writes in every medium, from theatrical releases and TV feature films to the concert stage and computer games. His first major film score, for the Lawrence Kasdan Western Silverado, brought him an Oscar nomination. His very next project, a classically styled score for Barry Levinson’s Young Sherlock Holmes, earned a GRAMMY® nomination for the soundtrack album. With more than twenty Emmy nominations, Broughton has received a record ten. Among his wind band/ensemble compositions are American Hero, Concerto for Piccolo and Wind Ensemble, Concerto for Tuba and Winds, New Era, Oliver’s Birthday, A Frontier Overture, California Legend, Excursions for Trumpet and Band, and Harlequin (commissioned by Emory). Broughton is a board member of ASCAP, a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a former governor of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and past president of the Society of Composers and Lyricists. He has taught film composition in the Advanced Film Music Studies program at the University of Southern California and is a frequent lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles. His website is located at www.brucebroughton.com.
Gustav Holst: In the Bleak Midwinter (arranged by Robert W. Smith)
The traditional hymn In the Bleak Midwinter was composed by Gustav Holst in 1908. It is both the second movement of my Holst Mid-Winter Suite and the work that inspired this three movement tribute to Holst. Alta Sue Hawkins, a retired Virginia band director, suggested the title to Robert W. Smith as a possible symphonic band setting. Unfortunately, Ms Hawkins passed away before the work was complete.
In remembrance of Ms Hawkins, Robert Smith has rescored the work for publication. Following an opening fanfare statement, the melody is first stated by a solo clarinet. The clarinet solo represents Ms Hawkins, a clarinet player and teacher for more than three decades. The clarinet is joined by a French horn, euphonium, and a second French horn representing Ms Hakwins and each of her three children on their chosen instruments. A woodwind choir followed by the full ensemble states the hauntingly beautiful melody for the final time. The composer uses the traditional American folk melody Shenandoah as the contrapuntal line representing Ms Hawkins’s birth and rest in the beautiful valley of Virginia.
In December of 1992, Robert Smith married into the Hawkins family. His setting of In the Bleak Midwinter is dedicated to Ben, Chuck, and his wife Susan, in loving memory of their mother, Alta Sue.
Robert W. Smith
Jennifer Higdon: Mysterium
Mysterium is a tribute to the wonderful mystery of how music moves us. Perhaps it is the unexplainable that creates such magic, for both the performer and the listener, but there is no denying the incredible power of a shared musical experience.
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962), a Pulitzer and GRAMMY® winner, is one of the most performed living American composers working today. Commissions have come from a wide range of performers: from the Philadelphia Orchestra to “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band; from the Tokyo String Quartet to Santa Fe Opera, as well as individual artists such as violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Yuja Wang. Her works are recorded on over four dozen discs. In her early years, she was a resident of Atlanta, and attended kindergarten at Emory University. She holds the Rock Chair in Composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. For more information see www.jenniferhigdon.com
Alfred Reed: Russian Christmas Music
Originally written in November 1944, Russian Christmas Music was first performed in December of that year at a special concert in Denver, Colorado, by a select group of musicians from five of the leading service bands stationed in that area. Two years later the music was revised and somewhat enlarged, and in that form was on of the three prize-winning works in the 1947 Columbia University contest for new serious music for symphonic band. First performances of this version subsequently took place in 1948: the first by the Juilliard Band under Donald I. Moore, and the second by the Syracuse University Symphonic Band under Harwood Simmons, to whom the work is dedicated.
An ancient Russian Christmas carol (“Carol of the Little Russian Children”), together with a good deal of original material and some motivic elements derived from the liturgical music of the Eastern Orthodox Church, forms the basis for this musical impression of Old Russia during the jubilant Christmas season. All of the resources of the modern, integrated symphonic band are drawn upon in an almost overwhelming sound picture of tone color, power, and sonority.
Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride
The Christmas classic Sleigh Ride was composed during a July heat wave while Anderson lived in Woodbury, Connecticut. Words were added by Mitchell Parish in 1950. While the words do not specifically reference Christmas, it has become an integral holiday song, one that, according to ASCAP, is the “only holiday song originally written as an instrumental piece…”
Stephen Hamilton and leroyanderson.com
The music of Leroy Anderson is firmly entrenched in American popular culture and is enjoyed by millions throughout the world. He was Director of the Harvard University Band and was later hired as organist and staff composer/arranger for the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler.
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