We are very, very excited to get down to work on the music for the Knightwind Ensemble’s upcoming season! Entering my second year as music director, I feel that I really know the ensemble now, as I gained an understanding of who they are and what they do over the course of my first year. Last year finished with a "BANG!" as well, with our performance of James Barnes’ Third Symphony on our spring concert. It was a fantastic performance of a truly epic work, and one that I will always remember.
This season promises to be an improvement over last year, good as it was, with the group welcoming in several extraordinarily talented new members. Our fall concert (Nov. 20, 2011) theme is “Masterworks for Winds” and will showcase some of the most important music from the band repertoire from throughout its history. We begin with Walter Piston’s Tunbridge Fair, one of the first commissions from the American Bandmasters Association in 1950 when they began to commission prominent orchestral composers to write for the wind band. It is Piston’s only band work, and was a tremendously important composition in the early years of the serious band movement in the US in terms of convincing other composers of the worthiness of writing for band. Next we will perform Maurice Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso, transcribed for band by Lawrence Odom. This is a real tour-de-force piece for winds, showcasing their technical brilliance and dynamic mastery. Our final piece on the first half is Karel Husa’s amazing Music for Prague 1968, which Husa wrote shortly after crushing of the “Prague Spring” movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968. This work captures all of the emotion and intensity of that time for the Czech people, and is regarded by most experts as one of the 10 most important wind band works of all time. The third movement of the work is for percussion only, and will highlight the skills of that excellent section of the Knightwind Ensemble.
The second half of our fall concert begins with Vincent Persichetti’s most important band work, Divertimento for Band. It was his first band work and dates from 1950, the same year that Tunbridge Fair was composed. The six movement of the Divertimento are like six miniatures – each is a short musical glimpse of a mood, thought or idea. Next is Philip Sparke’s Dance Movements. Commissioned by the US Air Force Band, it was premiered in 1996 and won the Sudler Prize that year as the best new band work of the year. A technical showcase for band, Dance Movements has two outer movements that frame a second movement written only for woodwinds and a third movement written only for brass. It was one of the most important works of the 1990’s and helped to introduce the British Band composers to American audiences. We close our fall concert with Shostakovich’s Folk Dances, a real crowd-pleaser and one of the most often-performed transcribed works in the repertoire. It will be a stunning showcase of a concert for sure!!!
The theme of the Knightwind Ensemble’s spring concert (April 1, 2012) is “Songs and Dances.” The concert opens with Julie Giroux’s wonderful overture To Walk With Wings, which is then followed by a masterful transcription of JS Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, originally for organ. The first half closes with a performance of Martin Ellerby’s Venetian Spells. Written in 1997, each of the four movements of this work pays homage to a great composer associated with the city of Venice, including Vivaldi, Stravinsky, Monteverdi, and Gabrieli.
The second half of the spring concert opens with the major work of this program, Piece of Mind for Wind Ensemble by the composer and pianist Dana Wilson. The work, also in four movements like the Ellerby, showcases the composer’s thoughts about various states of mind through music, with movement titles including Thinking, Feeling, Remembering, and Being. A truly incredible work, infused with jazz elements, eastern scales, and a shocking rhythmic intensity. Following that is Percy Grainger’s classic Colonial Song, and we close the concert with David Holsinger’s Scootin’ on Hardrock, which is subtitled “Three Short Scat-Jazzy Dances.” This is one of the most enjoyable works I know from the standpoint of sheer fun, and really will make you want to get up and dance!
So that is a look at our upcoming season! We hope that you will join us for both concerts. Tickets can be purchased online in advance through the website of the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.
And you can learn more about the Knightwind Ensemble from their website.