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Program Notes

Progarm Notes by Millie Fryman

PAS REDOUBLÉ     (composed in 1887)

Throughout the 19th century, the idea of “touring” gained popularity in Western Europe as economic prosperity spread to wider segments of people. Better and more numerous roads appeared, the construction of railroads advanced, and the availability of speedy steamships such as those of the famous Cunard Line increased. Organized group holidays offering an all-inclusive price that reduced the travelers' costs were an innovation dating from 1840s in Europe. Governments began to establish departments aimed at capitalizing on this new movement by advertising the home-grown attractions available to visitors. Tourism was well on its way to becoming an industry in Europe by the 1880s.

In keeping with the times, an official tourist office in the South of France decided to hold an international music competition in Marseilles in 1887 as a way to entice travelers to visit their area. They invited the well-established French composer Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921) to create a work to be played by the contestants. He composed a double time quick march entitled Pas Redoublé (steps redoubled). There are three basic styles of French marches; the “pas redoublé” style is presented only on concert programs. Given the fast tempos at which such marches usually are played, actually marching along to the music would be challenging at best. Notations on the initial manuscript sketch of this piece (e.g. cornets and bugles) indicate that the composer intended the work to be played by a brass band, a genre of musical organizations which was well established in Europe by the late 1880’s. But there are other indications suggesting that he first wrote it for piano and four hands. Regardless, between 1887 and 1891, both a band and a piano arrangement were published; the band arrangement you will hear tonight dates from the 1970s.

Factoid: Camille Saint-Saëns was a keen traveler. From the 1870s until the end of his life, he made 179 trips to 27 countries.

VESUVIUS      (composed in 1999)

Composer Frank Ticheli (b.1958) provided his own program notes for Vesuvius, a work commissioned by the Revelli Foundation, later renamed The Music for All Foundation. “Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed Pompeii in A.D. 79, is an icon of power and energy in this work. Originally I had in mind a wild and passionate dance such as might have been performed at an ancient Roman Bacchanalia. During the compositional process, I began to envision something more explosive and fiery. With its driving rhythms … and quotations from the “Dies Irae” [day of wrath and doom impending] melody from the medieval Requiem Mass, it became evident that the Bacchanalia I was writing could represent a dance from the final days of the doomed city of Pompeii.”

The pulsating, syncopated rhythms which capture attention from the outset of this piece create a fidgety, anxious feeling for the listener; we know what is coming even if the residents of Pompeii are still unaware of impending doom. As the Bacchanalian dance Dr. Ticheli mentions reaches a climax, a calmer interlude tries to establish itself, but ominous mutterings and rumblings continue to occur. The wild and passionate dance begins again, accompanied by more uneasiness followed by more abortive attempts to overcome the worried mood. The closing moments of the piece reveal the horrible truth: the eruption the power and fury of Mount Vesuvius is at hand.

Frank Ticheli is an American composer of orchestral, choral, chamber, and concert band works. After completing a doctoral degree at the University of Michigan, Dr. Ticheli soon established himself as one of the premiere composers of wind band works. From 1991 to 1998, he served as Professor of Composition at the Thornton School of Music at the University of California and currently holds the position of professor of composition at the University of Southern California.

JUPITER    The Bringer of Jollity      (composed 1914-1916)

Gustav Holst, composer of choral works, song cycles, operas, pieces for small orchestras and chamber groups, gained his great fame for one of his few compositions for large orchestras: The Planets. Seven movements named for a selection of planets make up this long work. Jupiter the Bringer of Jollity appears in the middle of the array. The concept of the work is astrological rather than astronomical (which is why Earth is not included). Each movement is intended to convey ideas and emotions associated with the influence of the planets on the psyche rather than on the Roman deities for whom the planets are named. Holst’s interest in astrology surfaced through the influence of a friend only the year before he decided to express his ideas about the planets through music. He initially scored the work for four hands, two pianos, except for Neptune, which he gave to a single organ. After completing that task, he created his enormously popular orchestral version. Tonight’s version of Jupiter for wind band is an orchestral transcription prepared in 1990.

One person describes Jupiter in terms that cannot be improved upon, so why try? “Coruscating textures disgorge luxuriant themes of cholesterol-packed bonhomie.” Coruscating, it turns out, means “sparkling, shining, bright, brilliant, gleaming, glittering, twinkling, scintillating, flashing, shimmering”. In the midst of all that coruscation, Holst provided a majestic interlude suggesting the influence on all things good and noble in life which astrologists assign to Jupiter the Planet.

In 1921, Gustave Holst agreed to adapt that interlude melody to fit a patriotic poem "I Vow to Thee, My Country" written in the year after the end of World War I. He later harmonized the tune so it could be sung by a choir as a hymn, a version first included in a hymnal in 1926. Also known as “Thaxted” (the name of the village where Holst lived for much of his life), this song continues to be sung in England on Armistice Day and at other solemn public events such as weddings and funerals. Americans may remember hearing it during U.S. Senator John McCain's televised funeral service at the Washington National Cathedral on Sep 1, 2018.

HANDS ACROSS THE SEA      (composed in 1899)

John Philip Sousa - the March King - produced several works which expressed his nationalistic and patriotic ties to the United States from an idealistic point of view. The legendary bandmaster took a broader view when he composed his march Hands across the Sea in 1899: he intended to offer support for America's role in maintaining world peace in the wake of the recent Spanish-American War. Sousa wrote at the time that he "addressed [the march] to no particular nation, but to all of America's friends aboard." Some twenty years later, he explained that “after the Spanish war there was some feeling in Europe … regarding this war. Some of the nations … thought we were not justified while others gave us credit for the honesty of our purpose. One night I was reading an old play and I came across this line, ‘A sudden thought strikes me – let us swear an eternal friendship.’ That almost immediately suggested the title ‘Hands across the Sea’ for that composition and within a few weeks that now famous march became a living fact.” The inspirational quote from the play even appears on the title page of the first published version of this march. To help make his point, Sousa included Hands across the Sea on the program during the European tours of his band in 1900, 1901, 1903 and 1905 and its 1910 world tour.

One reviewer describes the march this way: "Hands across the Sea opens with a jaunty, carefree theme .... An equally attractive march appears midway through, its manner initially mellow and nonchalant. It gradually turns more animated and colorful, the piccolo dancing merrily above suave wind sonorities. The work closes with this spirited theme playing proudly, the brass flamboyant, the cymbals crashing, and the whole brimming with festivity and vivid color.” At its premier the same year, the audience loved the piece so much that the band had to repeat it three times.

CONCORD      (composed in 1987)

Most Americans will recognize the “Battles of Lexington and Concord” as the initial military events of the Revolutionary War or at least will remember Paul Revere’s ride to warn colonists that “the British are coming”. The first shots were fired at Lexington, Massachusetts. The outnumbered colonial militia, fell back; the British soldiers then proceeded on to Concord. At the North Bridge in Concord, approximately 500 militiamen fought and defeated three companies of the King's troops. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his poem "Concord Hymn", described the first shot fired by the Patriots at the North Bridge as the "shot heard round the world”.

Commissioned by the United State Marine Band for its appearance at the 1987 World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles Conference, Concord features inventive settings of three tunes familiar to colonial New Englanders. First, one hears “The White Cockade”, a mid-1600s tune which became a popular anti-British song in Scotland and also was played by fifes and drums as a military marching song. Then comes a hymn tune called “America” published in1770 by William Billings (1746-1800), who is regarded as the first American choral composer. This is not “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” but another tune no longer familiar to the ear. The third song, “Yankee Doodle “, was sung by British military officers to mock the colonists with whom they served in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Though the song held them up to ridicule, the colonials adopted it as their own. In fact, when the British surrendered their forces at Yorktown to end the Revolutionary War, their band played "The World Turned Upside Down." The Americans played "Yankee Doodle."

Clare Grundman (1913-1996) was an important composer for symphonic bands and wind ensembles through much of the 20th century He received a bachelor’s degree in Music Education (1934) and a master’s degree (1940) from Ohio State University. His works include scores for radio, films, and television and orchestrations for Broadway musicals. However, he is best known for his more than 70 works for symphonic band; many of his band pieces are rhapsodies or fantasies on folk tunes.

CACCIA AND CHORALE      (composed in 1976)

When Clifton Williams (1923-1976) began composing Caccia and Chorale in 1973, he had recently received a cancer diagnosis and knew that he was gravely ill. He wanted to create music which would reflect his concern about the preoccupation with a constant pursuit of materialism shared by many people of his time. “Caccia” in Italian means hunt or chase. Williams introduces us to the frenzy accompanying the chase after worldly goods in the opening measures. It isn’t long before one hears sounds of hunting calls. Frenzy remains the major attribute of the Caccia as Williams uses musical devices such as the use of multiple changes in meter to heighten the emotions. When Mr. Williams adds an urgently repeated rhythmic pattern in the higher voices, he bases that rhythm on three letters of Morse Code. He selected the initials of the director of the group which would premier this piece – Donald E. Green – to produce the pattern “Dah Dit Dit” or D, “Dit” or E, “Dah Dah Dit” or G.

When Mr. Williams began work on this piece, he intended to write only the Caccia because he feared he would not survive an impending operation. But the outcome of the surgery gave him renewed hope, so he added the Chorale, which has been characterized as a personal prayer of thanksgiving for having lived through the surgery along with a sincere plea for ethical regeneration by all mankind. Aware of his own mortality and the health struggles which lay ahead, Mr. Williams created in the Chorale a somewhat unresolved, restless feeling which continues until the very final chord gives us resolution. He died from the effects of cancer in 1976.

Clifton Williams, attended Louisiana State University for his Bachelor’s in Music degree and Eastman School of Music for Master’s degree. Williams decided to study composition for wind band ensembles after being counseled that his compositions thus would attract larger audiences and enable a wider range of ensembles to perform (and purchase) his works. Immediately after leaving Eastman, Williams accepted a post in the composition department at the University of Texas. In 1966, he became head of the composition department at the University of Miami, a position he held until his death.

MARCHE SLAVE      (composed in 1876)

During the 5 days (!!) in which Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) composed this piece, he referred to it as “my Serbo-Russian March”. Written in 1876, it was not published until it first appeared in 1879 as Slavonic March, a work for piano-four hands. The Russian publisher added a French translation of the title - Marche Slave - to the cover page. Later, it became popularly known by that French title or by its English title, March Slav.

In any language, this work celebrates Russian participation in the Serbian-Turkish Wars (1876-1878), Serbia’s successful attempt at gaining independence after four centuries of often ruthless oppression by the Ottoman Empire. The Tsarist Russian government did not officially send military assistance on the behalf of the Serbs, but it did lend support to the formation of a wholly volunteer army which soon marched off to Serbia to aid fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians in fighting the Muslim Turks. In 1876, The Russian Musical Society commissioned from Tchaikovsky to compose an orchestral piece to be played at a concert to be held to raise funds for the Russian Red Cross Society (established in 1863) to benefit of wounded Serbian and Russian soldiers. He chose to write a programmatic piece describing the plight of the Serbs, the hope for relief brought by the actions of the Russian volunteers who were joining the Serbs in fighting for a better life, and the victory which surely would occur. Tchaikovsky perused a recently published collection of Serbian folk music to select tunes for use in his work.

Marche Slave begins with a description of the oppression of the Serbs by the Turks using melodies from two Serbian folk songs. Very shortly after the piece begins, one hears the plaintive, mournful tune of “Bright sun, you do not shine equally upon the Serbs” which references the sad plight of Serbians under Turkish rule. It is augmented by short militant quotations taken from the song “Gladly does the Serb become a soldier” which describes the willingness of Serbian men to fight to the death for their cause. Tchaikovsky then captures the sense of constantly rising enthusiasm in support of the Serbs. Trumpet calls introduce a depiction of that growing energy as the Russians rally to help the Serbs. More brass fanfares and shrill fifes set the mood, martial passages interject themselves, and various sections of the band take turns raising the mood to a high level. This burst of enthusiasm yields to the Russian national anthem "God Save the Tsar" which Tchaikovsky used again in his 1812 Overture. Russian volunteers parade by as they march off to assist the Serbs. The piece ends with another rendition of "God Save the Tsar" and the sounds of the triumph sure to come. At the premiere on November 17, 1876, the audience went wild and the work had to be repeated.