Dec 9th, 2023
Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), German composer and archivist, was fanatical about recording the details of the many countries he visited, with a focus on the kind of music and musical instruments he encountered. The culmination of this fascination was his three-volume treatise Syntagma Musicum, a compendium of information on German music, musical instruments, and performance practice. But much more well-known today is Praetorius’s 1612 collection of 312 dances from the royal courts of France, known as Terpsichore, named for the Greek muse of dance. These dances were not composed by Praetorius; instead, he recorded and harmonized the melodies into three, four, five, and sometimes even six parts in order to avoid their imminent extinction. In my setting for concert band, three dances from the collection are featured: Springtanz, Leaping Dance; Der Lautenspieler, the Lute Player; and Der Schutzenkönig, the Archer King.
To favor Praetorius’s infatuation with different musical instruments, this setting employs a variety of colors, and features the soloist and sections alike. Performers are invited to play in an animated nature to reinforce the strong sense of pulse required in all dance music. And though we are sure the lagerphone was unknown to Praetorius, we are equally sure he would have delighted in its joyous jangle!
This piece is dedicated to all of the students enrolled in the St. Patrick’s College Band Program, Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia, from 1999 to 2002. Their infectious enthusiasm, unwavering support, and raw talent will always be an inspiration to me.
– Jodie Blackshaw
It is generally agreed that the melody we know as Greensleeves is probably the second oldest piece of secular music in our Western culture, its origins having been traced back to about 1360. While we are not certain this was the original title, it is known that in the latter 14th century, English ladies wore gowns with great billowing sleeves, and the lyrics that have come down to us speak of a lover’s lament over his lady’s cruel treatment of him by a lady clad in a dress of green sleeves.
By the time of William Shakespeare, this song had already become a classic and he made use of it in two of his plays, most notably in the Merry Wives of Windsor. Over 300 years later, the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams used this melody as an intermezzo between two acts of his opera Sir John in Love, which was based on the same play. Since then the tune has been adapted as the basis for at least one Christmas carol (What Child Is This?), several popular songs, and even by the Swingle Singers on one of their albums. In addition, it has been performed instrumentally by groups of all sizes and styles from full symphony orchestra to small jazz and rock groups.
Winter often means an absence of light – perhaps this is why some religions incorporate candlelight into their holiday celebrations during this season. Christians light candles on an advent wreath to count the weeks until Christmas, and Jews celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of lights, by lighting candles on a menorah.
Countless songs have been written celebrating the religious aspects of the winter season. In this piece, however, I wanted to represent many different kinds of light, each suggesting their own winter scene: the fresh light of a crisp winter morning; the gleam of sun on freshly fallen snow; the warm glow of roaring fire; and the child-like wonder of seeing the neighborhood lit up with holiday lights for the first time.
American Riversongs is based on traditional and composed music of an earlier time, when the rivers and waterways were the lifelines of a growing nation. The work begins with a rousing setting of “Down the River,” followed by an expansive and dramatic treatment of “Shenandoah,” or “Across the Wide Missouri,” as it is sometimes called. After a brief transition, a brass band is heard playing a quadrille-like version of Stephen Foster’s “The Glendy Burk.” As the “Glendy Burk” travels along, a second theme is introduced by piccolo, flutes, and tambourine. The second theme is based on a Creole bamboula tune that probably originated in the Louisiana delta region. Other composers have used this melody, including Louis Moreau Gottschalk in his La Bamboula, Op. 2 for piano. The bamboula theme is marked by an incessant syncopated ragtime rhythm and is used to good effect in the coda to bring the piece to a rowdy, foot-stomping close.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The basis of this “scherzo” (a term used deprecatingly by composer Paul Dukas to describe this work) was a ballad by Goethe, based in turn on a tale by the Greek poet Lucian (A.D. 120-180). The ballad concerns a magician’s apprentice who experiments with his master’s magic formula and transforms a broomstick into a “robot” which begins drawing water from the well and filling all the pitchers in the house. Unfortunately, the broom overdoes it; the room is flooded and the apprentice forgets the stopping formula. In desperation he splits the broom in two, but now both parts begin carrying water and the flooding increases. The apprentice screams for help, the sorcerer returns, speaks the magic word, and the calamity is averted.
Although Dukas was anything but enthusiastic about this work, he played the manuscript for some of his musical friends on a piano in Brussels, and they were so impressed by the pictorial quality and animation of the music that they persuaded the composer to orchestrate it for performance. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was premiered by the Société Nationale in Paris in 1897. Its popularity has continued to increase ever since on concert programs, records and even films; Disney’s classic Fantasia and his cartoon with Mickey Mouse in the title role have made his “scherzo” one of the most widely known of all symphonic classics.
Salvation is Created
Pavel Tschesnokov belonged to a late-Romantic group of Russian “spiritualist” composers that included Bortniansky and Gretchaninoff. Tschesnokoff wrote a treatise on choral conducting and produced more than 500 choral works. The original choral setting of Salvation is Created is scored for either six or eight voices and is based on a synodal Kievan chant melody. The simple musical form of this arrangement for wind ensemble comprises two stanzas—horn and clarinets, then the trombone section, carry the melodic “question,” and the full ensemble supports the “answer” each time.
John Williams Movie Adventures
Born just one month shy of the death of John Philip Sousa, as the son of a jazz drummer, John Williams studied piano and composition at the University of California at Los Angeles and The Juilliard School in New York City. By the time he was in his late twenties, Williams was an active jazz and studio pianist and began composing music for television and films. In 1974 he met an ambitious young director named Steven Spielberg, and the two forged a friendship that would prove to be one of the most successful partnerships in the history of filmmaking. That year, the pair worked together on a film called Sugarland Express starring Goldie Hawn and a year later teamed up again for Jaws. It wasn’t long before Williams’ music garnered international attention unlike any American composer since Sousa.
In a career that spans six decades, Williams has composed many of the most famous film scores in Hollywood history, including Star Wars, Superman, Home Alone, the first three Harry Potter movies, and all but two of Steven Spielberg’s feature films, including the Indiana Jones series, Schindler’s List, E.T., Jurassic Park, and Jaws. Williams has composed theme music for four Olympic Games, the NBC Nightly News, the inauguration of Barack Obama, and numerous television series and concert pieces. He served as the principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 to 1993, and is now the orchestra’s laureate conductor.
This outstanding medley of John Williams’ music features some of his biggest movie hits, featuring the “Star Wars Main Theme,” the “Duel of the Fates” from The Phantom Menace, the “Theme from Jurassic Park”, and the “Theme from E.T”.
Shostakovich wrote his Native Leningrad suite in 1942 as a tribute to the courage of the citizens of Leningrad. This suite was culled from the incidental music for a “concert play spectacle” entitled Native Country or Motherland. It was scored for tenor and bass soloists, choir and orchestra, and was premiered on November 7, 1942 at the Dzerzhinsky Central Club.
The suite has four movements: Overture – October 1917; Song of the Victorious October (Song of the River Neva); Youth Dance (Song of the Sailors); and Song of Leningrad. The third movement, Youth Dance, is the movement transcribed as Folk Dances. It was first arranged for Russian bands by Mark Vakhutinskii in 1970, then was first rescored for American wind bands by H. Robert Reynolds.