Music for a Festival: 5•21•17

Schneider Theater

4:00 PM on May 21, 2017


Flourish for Glorious John, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (arr. John Boyd)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) spent the early part of his career conducting, lecturing, and editing others’ music and did not write original music until age 30. He was one of the first composers of his generation to travel the English countryside and collect samples of folk songs—a passion he shared with lifelong friend Gustav Holst. The two were determined to be “English composers” and offered both detailed criticism and generous support for one another’s work. Vaughan Williams wrote “Flourish for Glorious John” at age 85 to honor another long-time friend, conductor Sir John Barbirolli, and the 100th anniversary season of the Hallé Orchestra, which Barbirolli conducted.

The Pageant of London Suite, by Frank Bridge (ed. Paul Hindmarsh)
II. First Discoveries: Introduction | Pavane | La Romanesca (a Galliard)
Frank Bridge (1879–1941) was a British composer, conductor, teacher, and viola player. He learned to play the violin from his father, who conducted music hall orchestras, but changed to the viola while a student at the Royal College of Music. Bridge became a virtuoso violist and performed with several string quartets, most notably the English String Quartet (1903–1920s). He also conducted several orchestras, both symphonic and operatic, and was widely respected as a teacher. Benjamin Britten was one of his long-time students. As a composer, Bridge is best known for his works for small ensembles, particularly piano and strings, but he wrote in many genres. He wrote The Pageant of London Suite for military band and male chorus and designed the piece to be performed at a London street pageant held in 1911 for the coronation of King George V. The second movement, “First Discoveries,” features traditional dances from the Tudor period (1485–1603) but with “an Edwardian sensibility,” according to Paul Hindmarsh, who edited this setting of the work.

Concerto for Trombone, by Launy Grøndahl
I. Moderato assai ma molto maestoso
Lauren Swee, Trombone Soloist
Winner of the 2017 Earl C. Benson Concerto Competition

Launy Grøndahl (1886–1960) was a Danish violinist, composer, and conductor. He began studying violin at age 8, and at age 13, he joined the orchestra of the Casino Theatre in Copenhagen. Also a prolific composer, Grøndahl wrote orchestral works, art songs, chamber music, and piano pieces, as well as concertos for bassoon and violin. However, he is recognized primarily for Concerto for Trombone, and he is little known outside Scandinavia. Grøndahl’s trombone concerto is one of many Scandinavian works written for trombone in the early 1900s. He composed the piece in 1924 while vacationing in Italy. He said the piece was inspired by the high level of playing of the trombone section of the Casino Theatre orchestra, and he dedicated it to section leader Vilhelm Aarkrogh. The concerto was premiered in Copenhagen by the Casino Theatre orchestra with Aarkrogh as soloist. Grøndahl was also the resident conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Denmark’s most prestigious orchestra, for more than 30 years (1925–1956).

Music for a Festival, by Philip Sparke

Philip Sparke (b. 1951), a native of London, studied composition, trumpet, and piano at the Royal College of Music. He played in the college wind orchestra and also formed a student brass band, writing several works for both ensembles. Sparke’s presence spans the globe, and he has received commissions from such prestigious entities as the U.S. Air Force Band and the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. He has also written for brass band championships in New Zealand, Switzerland, Holland, Australia, and the United Kingdom (including three times for the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall), and his test pieces for brass bands are constantly in use. Sparke wrote “Music for a Festival” in 1985 for the Youth Section Finals of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain and later scored the work for full band. The piece begins with an extended opening fanfare, turns to a jazzy main theme that is passed around the band, and then turns to a slower, more intimate central section featuring a woodwind quartet. The final section re-introduces the opening fanfare to bring the work to an exciting ending.


La Procession du Rocio, by Joaquín Turina (arr. Alfred Reed)
I. Triana en Fête II. La Procession
Joaquín Turina (1882–1949), a Spanish composer and pianist, was born into a comfortable middle-class family in Seville. He grew up in an artistically stimulating environment and demonstrated his natural musical talent at the young age of 4 by performing on an accordion he had been given. At age 12, the youth began studying composition and writing short pieces, and at age 15, he made his debut as a concert pianist. Like many composers of his day, Turina moved to Paris to continue his musical education, and he graduated in 1913 from the Schola Cantorum, a counterpart to the Paris Conservatory. He returned to Spain later that year for the premier of his opera La Procesíon del Rocio (The Procession of the Dew), which was his first compositional success and remains one of his best-known works. Turina described the work as being inspired by an annual religious festival in his hometown of Seville. It portrays fireworks and dancing, a grand procession, a religious ceremony, and the jubilant ringing of church bells. Alfred Reed (1921–2005) transcribed the original orchestra work for symphonic band in 1962 and successfully captured the energy and passion of the original.

Festal Scenes, by Yasuhide Ito
Yasuhide Ito (b. 1960) studied piano as child, and his first work for band was published while he was still in high school. The Japanese composer made his American debut in 1987 with the U.S. premiere of “Festal Scenes,” composed the previous year. Ito conducted the orchestra performing the work at a joint convention between the American Band Association and the Japanese Band Association. The piece is based on four Japanese folk songs from the Aomori Prefecture, the northern region that is home to the famous Nebuta Festival. Ito has said that he “was inspired to write ‘Festal Scenes’ after receiving a letter from a wandering philosophical friend in Shanghai, who said, ‘Everything seems like Paradise blooming all together. Life is a festival, indeed.’” Ito is a celebrated composer and pianist and has toured with the famed Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra.

Festival Variations, by Claude T. Smith
Claude T. Smith (1932–1987) was born in Monroe City, Missouri, and attended college at Central Methodist College and the University of Kansas. He went on to teach instrumental music at public schools in Nebraska and Missouri, and he also taught composition and conducted the orchestra at Southwest Missouri State University. Smith composed more than 110 works for band, including several prestigious commissioned works for U.S. military bands. “Festival Variations” was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Band and its leader, Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel, and it was premiered by the USAF Band in 1982 at the 75th anniversary of the Music Educators National Conference and the Texas Music Educators Association combined convention. Colonel Gabriel later described the audience response to the piece as “vociferous” and also wrote: “Seldom has a composition met with such immediate and overwhelming acceptance. ‘Festival Variations,’ with its brilliant technical passages coupled with its glorious romanticism, will certainly rank as one of the monumental compositions of the twentieth century.”

Procession of the Nobles, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (arr. E. Leidzen; ed. V. B. Ragsdale)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908) was a nationalist Russian composer and is best known for his symphonic works, such as Scheherazade and Capriccio Espagnol. He displayed musical talent at an early age, starting piano lessons at age 6 and beginning to compose by age 10. Throughout his life, he collaborated with fellow Russian composers, including contemporary Modest Mussorgsky (who composed Night on Bald Mountain and Pictures at an Exhibition), to promote a Russian approach to composition. Later in his career, Rimsky-Korsakov became the Inspector of Bands for the Russian Navy and a professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, which now bears his name. He wrote “Procession of the Nobles” (“Cortége”) in 1889 as part of the opera–ballet Mlada. Set a thousand years ago in the imaginary kingdom of Retra on the shores of the Baltic, Mlada fuses Wagnerian opera with ancient Russian legend. In the legend, Princess Mlada has been murdered by her rival Voyslava, who sets out to secure the love of Yaromir, Mlada’s lover. The story involves magic, evil spirits, and trips into the underworld, and at the climax, an entire village is submerged by an overflowing lake and Yaromir and Mlada are seen ascending on a rainbow. Rimsky-Korsakov created an orchestral suite from the opera, of which “Procession of the Nobles” is the final movement.