Program Notes

Alabama Symphonic Band

2020 CBDNA/NBA Southern Regional Convention

February 20, 2020 at 8:30 PM

Northwestern State University
Natchitoches, Louisiana

John Mackey (b. 1973) is one of the most popular wind band composers of the last two decades. His music has been recognized and performed at every level from the Beeler Composition Prize, the ABA/Ostwald Award, and the Revelli Composition Contest to a collaboration with the United States Olympic Team. John holds a Master of Music Degree from the Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and has been the Composer-In-Residence with many symphonies and colleges.

Mackey’s new work Sacred Spaces was commissioned by the United States Army Field Band for their 2019 tour titled, “Sacred Spaces – A Grand Canyon Celebration.” This tour was conceived as a celebration of the Centenary of the Grand Canyon National Park. The intent of the program is to “celebrate the park by telling the stories of the many people who visit and live in this amazing place,” says Producer of the program Sergeant First Class Pam Daniels. Mackey’s work is a musical homage to this beautiful landscape.

Program note by Joey Glaeser

David Maslanka (1943-2017) was a leading freelance American composer with over 150 wind ensemble works, concertos, chamber works, orchestral works, and choral works to his name.  Born in Massachusetts, Maslanka earned his Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory and his Master of Music and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Michigan State University, studying with Joseph Wood and H. Owen Reed.  He was appointed a faculty position at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and the State University of New York at Geneseo.  Maslanka received many residency fellowships, grants, and awards throughout his career, most notably from the MacDowell Colony, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, and the American Music Center.  Maslanka’s most popular works include A Child’s Garden of Dreams, Give Us This Day, Laudamus Te, and Liberation.

California was commissioned by the California Band Directors Association for the 2016 Wind Symphony.  Of the composition, composer David Maslanka writes “Music is wonderful.  It lets us tell ourselves things we can’t speak out in words.  It opens the dream space and lets us dream together.  It lets us imagine the world as it really is, a place of vitality, power, and possibility.  We live in fear of destruction, from climate change, nuclear bombs, increasing population, vanishing resources, continuous war.  When the troubles are listed like think it is hard to know what we think we are doing with our seemingly simple and innocent music making.  California has always been a place of big dreams. The music of California celebrates the California dream space.  There is tremendous beauty there – the forests, deserts, mountains and valleys, the ocean – and also the strength within the people and in the earth to meet the times that are upon us.  Music lets us dream, and in that dream is the possibility of a new world, one in which humans live in harmony, within themselves, with all other people, with all other species, with the planet.  Is this dream possible? Are circumstances too complex? Will human nature ever change? My answer to these questions is no.  The dream starts somewhere.  Let our music making be one such place.”

Program notes by the composer

Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was an Australian-born American composer, pianist, and conductor.   Grainger first appeared publicly as a pianist at age 10. He was educated at home in Melbourne by his mother. He studied piano with Louis Pabst in that city and later went to Frankfurt, where he attended the conservatory. He achieved a reputation as a brilliant concert pianist beginning in London in 1901. In 1906 Grainger became a friend of Edvard Grieg, under whose influence he began collecting and recording English folk songs by means of wax-cylinder phonographs. He settled in the United States in 1914 and became a US citizen in 1918. Grainger performed as a saxophonist for a few years with a U.S. Army band.  Grainger was deeply affected by the suicide of his mother in 1922 and returned to Australia alone in 1924 to tour there as a pianist.  Following his mother’s untimely death, Grainger became increasingly involved in educational work.  He also experimented with music machines.  In 1932–33 he was head of the music department New York University and as he grew older, he continued to give concerts and revise his own compositions, while writing very little new music.  He gave his final concert in 1960, less than a year before his death.

Included as the first movement of Grainger’s In a Nutshell Suite, Arrival Platform Humlet was composed in 1916.  Grainger tells us that the piece was written to convey “the sense of awaiting the arrival of a belated train bringing one’s sweetheart from foreign parts; great fun! The sort of thing one hums to oneself as an accompaniment to one’s tramping feet as one happily, excitedly, paces up and down the arrival platform.”  The piece contains almost no chords, being composed exclusively in a single line.  There are likewise no themes, in the sense of often repeated outstanding motives, as the movement from start to finish is just an unbroken stretch of constantly varied melody, with very few repetitions of any of its phrases.

Handel in the Strand, composed in 1911, is one of Grainger’s early light orchestral pieces, written before he enlisted in the US Army.  Grainger had no trouble allowing other musicians to arrange his music to fit their needs, so Handel in the Strand had existed in several variations.  After its original massed piano and string orchestra setting, came versions for full orchestra, piano, organ, trombone choir and several different settings for band.  Grainger gives an amusing anecdote on its origin, “My title was originally “Clog Dance”, but by dear friend William Gair Rathbone, to whom the piece is dedicated, suggested the title “Handel in the Strand”. He felt the music seemed to reflect both Handel and the English musical comedy (the Strand is a street in London where many of the theatres are located), as if jovial old Handel were careering down the Strand to the strains of modern English popular music”

Program note by Rebecca Cichy

Julie Giroux’s first piano lessons were at the age of three and shortly thereafter, at age eight, she began her career as a composer with her first published work for concert band appearing at age 13. She is a Massachusetts native and a 1984 graduate of Louisiana State University who, upon graduation, left the band world to compose for television and film working with legends such as Bill Conti, Martin Scorsese, Madonna, Ce- line Dion, and more. Giroux has been prolific in the field of commercial music, earning such accolades as several Emmy awards, as well as Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe award nominations. Julie was the first woman and youngest person ever to win the Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Direction.” Julie made a return to the concert band world and her works for this medium are highly received and often programmed by elite ensembles the world over and she is sought after for clinics and commissions. Her professional associations include ASCAP, The Film Musicians Fund, Kappa Kappa Psi, Tau Beta Sigma and a member of the American Bandmasters Association.

On June 12, 2016, 49 people were ruthlessly murdered at Pulse Orlando nightclub. This was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in the history of the United States. Julie Giroux was commissioned to write My Soul to Keep by a consortium consisting of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association, the Central Sounds of Freedom Band, the Tampa Bay Pride Band, and the South Florida Pride Wind Ensemble to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Julie has strong feelings about this and says the following, “Gun Violence has become a plague in America. Music can help us remember those we have lost. Music is a bridge across all ethnic, social, racial, and religious divides. Music can heal. Music can help bring about the changes we so desperately need. The time for change is now.” She composed this work for a variety of ensembles including a cappella choir, choir and band, and band with solo voice. The lyrics are an original poem by Giroux:

Hear the voices, hear the crying. Gone too soon, innocent. Voices lost, futures pass, heads all bowed in solemn mass. Gone, Gone, Gone, my being will fade.

Gone is the day, Free of the night. Gone from your touch to stay. Here is my soul to cherish to hold, protect it from pain and harm. My soul to keep, my child to weep. I won’t let you stray too far.

Sometimes the dark steals love away too soon they are mourned, are lost So we remember their lives, remember their smiles, remember our time in the sun.

I give you my soul to cherish, to hold, and yours is safe here with me. Hold ev’ry hand regardless of hue, give aid to the sick and weak.

Take ev’ry step to lessen the pain, guardians and shepherds are all. Darkness will com. No one is safe, have mercy on all that are lost. We must remember the life, remember their smile, remember their time in the sun.

Some people will pray, some people will watch, but all bear the scars, share the blame.

Cherish my life, with fondness and grace. Hold my soul next to thee. Give me your soul, to honor and hold. I’ll keep it safe here with me.

Program note by Joey Glaeser

Luis Serrano Alarcón is a Spanish composer and conductor. His works have been performed in more than 30 countries, he has been invited to conduct his own music in Spain, Italy, Singapore, the United States of America, Colombia, and Hong Kong.  He has received commissions from several international organizations including the Valencian Institute of Music, the International Band Competition of Vila d’Altea, and the Hong Kong Band Directors Association. In 2012, the Southeastern Conference Band Directors Association, formed by a consortium of the 14 universities which comprise the Southeastern Conference, commissioned the composition of his first Symphony for Wind Orchestra, premiered in October 2013.

Commissioned by the Asociación Musico-Cultural La Lira De Pozuelo, a music school in Pozuelo de Alarcón, Spain, La Lira de Pozuelo is a symphonic pasodoble composed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the school.  Although the piece has a very common pasodoble structure, in La Lira de Pozuelo, the composer uses a unique harmonic and tonal structure that is not found in other pasodobles, without distorting the genuine flavor of the genre that permeates the entire composition. The premiere of the piece took place on June 9, 2010 by the Symphonic Band of the Asociación Musico-Cultural La Lira De Pozuelo.

Program note by the composer

Dr. James M. David is an internationally recognized composer who currently serves as associate professor of composition and music theory at Colorado State University and is particularly known for his works involving winds and percussion.  His symphonic works for winds have been performed by some of the nation’s most prominent professional and university ensembles including the U.S. Army and Air Force Bands, the Dallas Wind Symphony, the Des Moines Symphony, the Ohio State University Bands, Northwestern University Bands, and the University of North Texas Wind Symphony among many others.  His compositions have been presented at more than fifty national and international conferences throughout North and South America, Asia, Europe, and Australia.  These events include the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, the American Bandmasters Association Convention, the College Band Directors National Association Conferences, the National Band Association Conferences, the College Music Society National Conference, the Society of Composers, Inc. National Conference, seven International Clarinet Fests, the International Horn Symposium, the World Saxophone Congress, the International Trombone Festival, and the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. Among the distinctions David has earned as a composer are an ASCAP Morton Gould Award, the National Band Association Merrill Jones Award, national first-place winner in the MTNA Young Artists Composition Competition, two Global Music Awards, and national first-place winner in the National Association of Composers (USA) Young Composers Competition. Commissions include projects for Joseph Alessi (New York Philharmonic), John Bruce Yeh (Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Zachary Shemon (Prism Quartet), the Oasis Quartet, BlueShift Percussion Quartet, Gerry Pagano (St. Louis Symphony), The International Saxophone Symposium and Competition, The Playground Ensemble, and the Atlantic Coast Conference Band Directors Association.

As a native of southern Georgia, Dr. David began his musical training under his father Joe A. David, III, a renowned high school band director and professor of music education in the region.  This lineage can be heard in his music through the strong influence of jazz and other Southern traditional music mixed with contemporary idioms.  He graduated with honors from the University of Georgia and completed his doctorate in composition at Florida State University under Guggenheim and Pulitzer recipients Ladislav Kubik and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.  His music is available through Murphy Music Press, C. Alan Publications, Wingert Jones Publications, and Potenza Music and has been recorded for the Naxos, Mark, GIA WindWorks, Albany, Summit, Luminescence, and MSR Classics labels.

Symphony No. 1 – Codex Gigas is Dr. David’s first full symphony for wind band.  The Alabama Symphonic Band is one of the commission consortium members supporting the creation of this incredible work.  We are pleased to present the world premiere of the third movement for you today.  Of his symphony, Dr. David writes the following:

The second decade of the 21st century has brought forth some of humanity’s greatest achievements in technology and science but has paradoxically seen a disturbing rise in misinformation and paranoia.  My first symphony attempts to deal with my own frustrations and fears about our current times through the lens of a variety of masterworks from the past.

The symphony draws inspiration from the 13th century medieval text also titled Codex Gigas which was completed in a Bohemian monastery in the modern-day Czech Republic.  Most significantly, this monastery was destroyed during the Hussite Revolution of the 15th century which led to a long history of the work being moved and reacquired many times since its initial creation.  Of particular note to my work are the large illustrations included in the text, which will serve as the basis of two of the movements. Most famously are full-page illustrations of the devil and the City of Heaven (shown above). Compositional techniques from the time period, including isorhythm and organum harmonizations, will be utilized throughout.

The Codex Gigas also has a fascinating tangential connection to contemporary wind band music through Czech-American composer Karel Husa.  Music for Prague 1968, as is well-known, was based in part on medieval chant from Bohemia during the Hussite Revolution which ties it directly to the history of the Codex Gigas. The final movement will quote the chant “Ye Who Are Warriors of Our God” as part of its depiction of the City of Heaven.   Husa’s own frustrations and fears were expressed in his 1970 work Apotheosis of this Earth and my symphony will hopefully recall some of this energy and intensity as well. Ultimately, the symphony should be seen as a celebration of knowledge, reason, and intellect as we struggle to overcome our baser instincts and prejudices. 

IV.          Light After Darkness– “post tenebras lux…” The first movement is built on the idea of the church as the defender of “the light of knowledge” during the long darkness of the medieval era. Bells sounding out from the gloom will become an important motive in the rest of the symphony. The form of the movement will be built on the geometric and mathematical proportions associated with medieval sacred architecture. II. Herman, the Recluse –“Hermann Inclusus” The second movement deals with the fascinating figure surrounding the Codex Gigas, Herman the Recluse, who is referenced as the most likely primary author.  Although the exact origins of the book may never be known, most scholars point to a single scribe who labored without ceasing for nearly thirty years to create the gigantic work.  This adagio movement will depict the character of the scribe through medieval contrapuntal techniques as well as postmodern reinterpretations of such techniques by Ligeti and Pärt. III. The Great Red Dragon –“Draco Magnus Rufus” The Codex Gigas has often been called “The Devil’s Bible” for the huge illustration of the “devil” found on plate 290r in the work.  In the symphony, the devil will be shown as a brutal and intense “infernal dance” with references to the many earlier 20th-century works inspired by folk traditions throughout Europe (including Janáček, Stravinsky, Bartók, Lutoslawski, and others). The title references a passage from the book of Revelation. This movement depicts the violence and anger that is caused by fear and ignorance, a problem that is sadly still common in the present. IV. The Holy City –“Sanctam Civitatem” The final movement depicts the “City of Heaven,” which is another full-page illustration that faces the more well-known “devil.”  Here, the Hussite Hymn will be stated in a massive finale that also incorporates harmonies and timbres from Messiaen’s Colors of the Celestial City.  Melodic motives from the prior movements will be combined into a complex contrapuntal tapestry.

Program notes by the composer