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Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble Honors Deep-Rooted “Traditions” During Final Concert of The 2016-17 Season—Before Heading Off on Tour to Austria!
Orange County, Calif. — April 27, 2017
Before Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble (PSYWE) leaves on its first international tour in July, the talented young musicians conclude their milestone 10th anniversary season by paying homage to the band tradition, as well as the ensemble’s history in the Pacific Symphony family. The concert, “Traditions,” kicks off with Paul Basler’s thrilling work, “Carnival,” followed by Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Fervent is My Longing” (Chorale Prelude) and “Little” Fugue in G Minor. At the center are two cornerstone works for wind ensemble—Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “English Folk Song Suite” and Gustav Holst’s First Suite in E-flat—to celebrate the wind band culture’s deep-rooted tradition. “Radetzky March” by Johann Strauss Sr. concludes the concert on a victorious note.
Led by Music Director Gregory X. Whitmore and featuring guest conductor and former PSYWE music director, Joshua Roach, the Wind Ensemble performs its season finale on Sunday, May 21, at 1 p.m., in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, this season’s concerts are free to attend, but tickets are required. To reserve a general admission seat, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“Our concert, ‘Traditions’ is exactly that—an opportunity to celebrate the tradition of the wind ensemble—and our band’s place within the Pacific Symphony family,” says Maestro Whitmore. “We open with Paul Basler’s ‘Carnival,’ a work transcribed for winds that was originally composed for orchestra. While not overly programmatic, Basler’s work illustrates the experience of the amusement park, with all of its excitement, chaos and spectacle—something we in Orange County can attest to with Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm in our backyard!”
The theme of PSYWE’s 10th anniversary season, “Collaborations & Celebration,” is seen throughout the final performance, beginning with a fast, joyous piece by Basler that is often featured as a celebratory concert opener for upper-level bands. Basler is a modern day composer and accomplished horn player whose wind and percussion tour de force conjures images and sounds of American small-town carnivals.
Following “Carnival” are two important wind works that stretch back a few centuries. Composed by Bach (1685-1750)—unquestionably one of the top composers and probably the best Baroque era composer to have ever lived—“Fervent is My Longing,” (Chorale Prelude) and “Little” Fugue in G Minor. The elements used throughout these two pieces demonstrate Bach’s deeper understanding of the complexity of music. They also hold a special place in the heart of wind bands.
“The wind setting of Bach’s ‘Fervent’ and ‘Little’ Fugue represent two staples in the wind band repertory,” explains Whitmore. “As the theme of the concert is ‘Traditions,’ I felt it important to represent all facets of significant works for the concert band. The Frank Goldman Band was the first to champion this particular arrangement for winds, and the work has stuck ever since. Additionally, as the wind band is a living organ, it is always terrific to perform Bach’s organ works in concert.”
The concert continues with two important works for winds: Vaughan Williams’ “English Folk Song Suite” and Holst’s First Suite in E-flat. “In keeping with the themes of this concert and concert season, I have invited Joshua Roach back to lead the PSYWE in the piece by Vaughan Williams,” says Whitmore. “Drawing a lineage to the PSYWE’s past is important to me, so inviting my predecessor to return to lead the ensemble is an important aspect to this season, as a part of celebrating the rich tradition of the PSYWE.”
Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an influential British composer and folk song collector whose powerful and expressive orchestral music is notable for its very “English” sound. His early adventures collecting folk songs in the English countryside profoundly influenced his later compositions. Along with Holst, his works for wind band form a foundation for the serious literature in that medium.
The “English Folk Song Suite,” written in 1923, uses as its source material several English folks songs and is cast in three movements: a “March” subtitled “Seventeen Come Sunday”; an “Intermezzo” on “My Bonny Boy”; and another “March” subtitled “Folk Songs from Somerset,” which incorporates several different tunes. It is considered a keystone of the wind band repertoire. (The original composition included a fourth movement, “Sea Songs,” which Vaughan Williams later decided to publish separately.)
Holst (1874-1934) was a British composer/teacher, who began as a trombonist in an opera orchestra. It was not until the early 1900s that his career as a composer took off. His music was influenced by his interest in English folk songs and Hindu mysticism, late-Romantic era composers like Strauss and Delius, and avant-garde composers of his time like Stravinsky and Schoenberg. And while he is best known for composing “The Planets,” a massive orchestral suite, his works for wind band (two suites and a tone poem) are foundational to the modern wind literature.
The First Suite is particularly important to the later development of artistic music for wind band. Holst wrote it for an ensemble that came to define the instrumentation that bands would use for at least the next century and beyond. The First Suite has left an indelible mark on band musicians and audiences around the world. Its appeal is in its simplicity and artistry. While there are difficult passages and solos for many instruments, it places few extreme demands on the players, and it uses a straightforward theme throughout its three movements. Yet it’s an emotional roller coaster of doubts, reveries, ecstatic joy and triumph.
Drawing the concert to a triumphant close is the Radetzky March, composed by Johann Strauss Sr., who was commissioned to write the piece to commemorate Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz’s victory at the Battle of Custoza. First performed in Vienna at the end of August 1848, it soon became quite popular among regimented marching soldiers. The tone is more celebratory than martial, and an apt conclusion for “Traditions.”
Regarded as one of the few premier youth wind symphonies in the nation, PSYWE, an 81-piece symphony band made up of woodwind, brass and percussion students in grades 8-12, culminates its season on tour in Austria, where it will take part in the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Festival, a unique platform for the world’s best youth choirs, bands and orchestras. PSYWE’s programming for the tour will include highlights from each of the concerts performed during the anniversary season.
“As I think about this tour,” says Whitmore, “I am most proud of the fact that the students will have a life-changing opportunity that has come through their dedication, commitment and love for music.”
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