Friday, March 28, 2008

Rehearsal Notes and Reminders

Even though my posts are about different community music groups in general, I volunteer time to the Knightwind Ensemble. And one or twice a concert season, I like to post a report on what is happening in the rehearsals as the group prepares for a concert. This is one such post.

The Knightwind Ensemble has been rehearsing for the Heroes concert since mid-January. I've been watching the progress on the music since then and it is amazing to see it come together. Here's some thoughts on the different pieces as they were rehearsed.

Olympic Fanfare - This John Williams piece from the 1984 Olympics is one of my favorites. It is a tough piece to play, but a really tough piece to play well. Every section needs to focus on blending into the whole to make the piece work. But there were a number of spots in the rehearsal that the goose bumps appeared....definitely starting to work. This will be a great way to begin the concert.

Sinfonia Hungarica - The feature piece is very difficult, but the group is getting over the hurdle of the notes and is working on the music. The Arpad movement begins in a dream mood, and in the rehearsal the woodwinds and percussion created a very eerie sound....really neat. There is also a more war-like section, driving and pulsating, but the sounds are unexpected and surprising...a very cool effect. The Istvan movement ends with the strains of the National Hymn of Hungary, a truly majestic finish. You have to hear this piece. I only wish that the first movement from this symphony, dedicated to Attila the Hun, was available to complete the concert. I guess the Ensemble will have to perform all three at a later concert once we are able to purchase Attila.

The Man Who Invented Music - This is a delightful piece, telling the story through the narrator of how Grandfather was able to get little Wendy to sleep: by telling her the story of how he invented music. The other rehearsals worked through the music as best as could be done without the narrator. However, our special guest Norman Moses was able to attend the rehearsal. After spending some time going over sections and details, the group performed the piece beginning to end. Wow! This will be a wonderfully fun piece at the concert. Mr. Moses did a great job narrating the story. What a difference when someone with Theater background is added to the ensemble!

William Tell Overture - The group ran through this one with no stops, but since it had been rehearsed heavily earlier, the sound was very nice. A lot of work was done earlier in the storm section, when different sections come together all playing sixteenth notes. Everyone has to concentrate on blending or the music sounds muddy. But the sounds came through clearly. Obviously this will be an audience favorite, but the attention to detail is already there.

I'm hoping to be able to report on the other pieces next week.


The Milwaukee Festival Brass is having their Open Rehearsal on Tuesday April 1st. If you'd like to bring your horn and sit in with a British style Brass Band, here's your opportunity. See their web site for all the details:

And don't forget the Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band is performing Sunday March 30 at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hot News!


The Knightwind Ensemble will welcome a special guest at its concert, Heroes, on Sunday April 6th at the Schwan Concert Hall at Wisconsin Lutheran College at 3 PM. The Ensemble will perform Don Gillis' composition The Man Who Invented Music. The Ensemble is proud to announce that Norman Moses, one of Milwaukee's favorite actors, will narrate the story. This delightful piece is a musical depiction of Grandfather telling Wendy a bedtime story, the story of how he invented music. Mr. Moses will surely bring his unique flair to the part.

Mr. Moses has been an actor/singer/director in the Milwaukee area for the past 30 years and has performed with such companies as the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Goodman Theatre, Skylight Opera Theatre, Chamber Theatre, Next Act Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, the Dayton Philharmonic and the Buffalo Philharmonic. In addition, he has been in hundreds of commercials and industrial films, as an on-screen and voice-over talent. In his spare time, of which there is little, he prepares tax returns for fellow performing artists in and around the Milwaukee area. He makes his home in Milwaukee with his wife, Carrie, and daughter, Kelsey.


I received word from the Waukesha Area Symphonic Band about their upcoming concert, set for Friday evening April 25 at 7:30 in the Shattuck Auditorium on the campus of Carroll College. This special concert, entitled Music From The Silver Screen, will benefit the Adaptive Community Approach Program, a Waukesha non-profit serving people with disabilities. Featured will be the winner of the Concerto Competition, trumpeter Brandon Viliunas. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. For more information, you can call 262-370-6129. I hope to have information on some of the music on the program for a future post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some smaller items


The Milwaukee Festival Brass concert celebrating Irish Fest this Sunday the 16th at the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College (roughly 88th and Wisconsin) at 3 PM. See the web site for all the details: Come and enjoy the Luck Of The Irish. And don't forget a donation of food for the Hunger Task Force.

An Open Rehearsal

Speaking of the Milwaukee Festival Brass, they will be hosting an "open rehearsal", so that people, who are interested in playing with the group but not really sure it is for them, can "test drive" the group to see if they will enjoy playing with the MFB. Here's what director Pat Backhaus has to say about the "open rehearsal":

April 1st (no foolin') is Milwaukee Festival Brass' annual open rehearsal. Any and all brass and percussion players are invited to sit in with the band to test drive what the brass band experience is all about. Some music will be available in the American brass format for players not yet skilled in the all-treble clef British brass band tradition. There is no cost, but MFB requests that anyone interested RSVP to their manager at

United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay – Fellowship Hall (lower level)
819 E Silver Spring Dr; Whitefish Bay WI 53209
Rehearsal 7:30 to 9:30.

So, if you'd like to try a British Style Brass Band with no commitment, here's your opportunity!

A Knightwind Rehearsal Blog

One of the members of the Knightwind Ensemble is blogging about her experiences during rehearsals for the upcoming concert. Actually, our Knightwind Girl has been blogging since the beginning of rehearsals for the concert last November. You can get some insight into what the rehearsals are like, what areas of the music need work, and most importantly, what cracks up members the most! If you've ever played in a music group, maybe the high school band during summer competition or a drum corps or even a summer community orchestra, you know that rehearsals can have moments of laughter and moments of quiet misery. While the Knightwind Girl's blog is not a soap opera, it does touch on what rehearsals are like; the good as well as the bad.

So spend a moment reading the Musical Musings of one Knightwind Girl at If you played in a group years ago, it will bring back a flood of memories. And if you've never played in a group, it will bring some insight into what it takes to put a performance together. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Knightwind Ensemble Upcoming Concert - Part 2

In the last post I mentioned a few of the pieces on the Knightwind Ensemble's upcoming concert Heroes, on Sunday April 6th at 3 PM. In this post, I'll write about the feature piece by Jan van der Roost: Sinfonia Hungarica.

The History of Hungary

Sinfonia Hungarica is a three movement symphony written in celebration of Hungary's millennium, celebrated in 2001. It's premiere took place on March 31, 2001 in Budapest, performed by the Symphonic Band Kinskunfelegyhaza (the commissioning band) and was conducted by the composer. The three movements were inspired by key historical figures, wars, and other important events. It is, literally, a history of Hungary set to music.

Unfortunately, because only the last two of the three movements of the symphony were available, the Ensemble will not be able to perform the first movement, based on Attila, the King of the Huns. For the record, the movement is characterized by fear, threat, aggression, and cruelty. The exciting ending illustrates the speed of Attila's army, as they pursued their victims and killed them. One might also argue that music based on Attila the Hun should not appear on a concert dedicated to Heroes. However, I'm sure this exciting music will turn up on a future concert.

The Ensemble will perform the second movement, which focuses on Arpad, the founder of the Hungarian State. It begins in a dreamlike state, evoking his grandmother Emese, who dreamed of his future destination. One of Arpad's opponents, the Bulgarian Prince Zalan, was chased away after a fight. After this, Arpad officially named the territory Magyarorszag.

The final movement is named after Istvan, the King of Hungary who introduced Christianity into Hungary, and who was crowned by Pope Silvestro II on January 1, 1001. A solemn start leads to a war-like passage ending in loud crashes. This symbolizes the fact that the body of the pagan Koppany was cut into four pieces and sent to the four castles of the country as an example. After a quiet intermezzo, the National Hymn of Hungary is introduced. This broad gradioso ending also has a symbolic meaning: after 10 centuries, Hungary has many reasons to look back on its past with pride, and to look to the future with optimism and confidence.

It should be noted that the national hymn actually appears throughout the entire symphony. It is used as a thread, often hidden or partially hidden, hardly recognizable at the beginning and becoming more and more obvious near the end. It concludes the symphony as a final apotheoisis, making the band sound like a majestic living organ.

Even though this piece is very difficult, it is very listenable. The Ensemble is rehearsing the piece very hard, and the results are amazing. You will enjoy this piece. Again, Heroes will be presented on Sunday April 6th at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. For more information, see the Knightwind Ensemble web site:

And Don't Forget

The Milwaukee Festival Brass performs on Sunday March 16th at 3 PM, also in the Schwan Concert Hall, featuring Irish music. It is guaranteed to be great fun! And don't forget to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Hunger Task Force!