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Angels and Bouquets – Concert Program
May 12, 2013 at 2:30 P.M.
ANGELS AND BOUQUETS – Program Notes
Mother Earth: A Fanfare (2003)
Mother Earth: A Fanfare was commissioned by and is dedicated to Brian Silvey and the South Dearborn High School Band of Aurora, Indiana. The composer writes, “The inspiration for the fanfare comes from a quote from St. Francis of Assisi.”
Praised by You, my Lord, for our sister, MOTHER EARTH,
Danish Bouquet (2006)
Lora John Schissel wrote in 2007, “Frederick Fennell and I enjoyed ‘what if ’ concerts. Dream pieces. Our usual: What if Richard Strauss had written a major tone poem for band…the Ravel band piece promised to Edwin Franko Goldman but never delivered, stolen from us by the composer’s illness…and our recurring discussion of our dream Percy Grainger work: ‘the one that got away.’
I have always been interested in Grainger’s collection (on paper and cylinder) of Danish folk songs. Grainger had never been able to do as much with them as he had with the British folk music. We have Lincolnshire Posy but no Danish suite for wind band that is comparable. I asked Frederick one evening in Chicago who he thought could create such a suite now. His reply was succinct: ‘Ira.’
Frederick didn’t live to see and hear his dream ‘Grainger’ piece, but I collated the Grainger collection of folk songs in the Library of Congress and sent them to Ira with the promise that a full-fledged commission would follow. Within weeks, Ira sent his take on Grainger’s Danish “wildflowers.” The music is here before you, ready to come alive…with a tip of the hat to two of the greatest friends of wind band music – Percy Aldridge Grainger and Frederick Putnam Fennell – through the masterful artistry of Ira Hearshen.”
Country Gardens (1953)
In a letter to Frederick Fennell, responding to Fennell’s request for information for the liner notes of his Mercury recording of Country Gardens, Grainger wrote as follows:
“The Morris Dance tunes ‘Country Gardens’ and ‘Shepherd’s Hey’ are instrumental versions of songs long popular in the English country-side under the titles ‘The Vicar of Bray’ and ‘Keel Row.’ When Cecil Sharp discovered the Morris Dance versions around 1908, he sent them to me with the remark: ‘I’ll think you will find them effective to arrange.’ But I did not arrange ‘Country Gardens’ until I was a bandsmen in the U.S. Army. Our band would take part in Liberty Loan drives and I would be asked to improvise at the piano without much response from the audience. But I thought of ‘Country Gardens’ as a likeable and lively little tune that might please. So I tried it and sure enough, it was popular at once. So I wrote it down in the barracks.”
Grainger’s piano arrangement of the tune was published in 1919 by Schirmer. This delectable little melody, emerging like a happy breath of fresh air into the tense and heavy atmosphere of World War I, became a wild success with the public. It sold more copies than anything Schirmer or their European counterpart, Schott, had ever published and helped support Grainger throughout the rest of his years. In 1953, Grainger rescored the arrangement for band.
Variations on a Theme of Glinka (1878)
Variations on a Theme of Glinka is a unique piece to both the wind ensemble and oboe repertoire. Being both lyrical and virtuosic, the concerto begins with an elegant and graceful Gypsy-like solo line that becomes the theme for a set of variations and cadenzas. The work is organized into an introduction, theme, twelve variations and a finale. There are two substantial cadenzas laced within the piece that allows the soloist to show off virtuosic playing.
Angels in the Architecture (2008)
Angels in the Architecture was commissioned by Kingway International and premiered at the Sydney Opera House on July 6, 2008, featuring a large ensemble of students from Australia and the United States. According to Ticheli, the piece conveys the dramatic conflict between the two extremes of divine and evil. He was inspired by at least three specific sources for the piece. The Sydney Opera House itself was a source with its halo-shaped acoustical ornaments hanging directly above the performance stage. The title of the piece can be found in the lyrics of Ticheli’s favorite songwriter, Paul Simon. In the song “You Can Call Me Al”, the lyrics state: “He sees angels in the architecture/Spinning in infinity/He says Amen! and Hallelujah!” The third source is the following quote by Thomas Merton, a twentieth-century Catholic mystic and writer: “The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was built by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it.” Angels in the Architecture begins with a single voice singing a nineteenth-century Shaker song, “Angel of Light.” Ticheli says of the work:
“This ‘angel’ (represented by the singer) frames the work, surrounding it with a protective wall of light and establishing the divine. Other representations of light - played by instruments rather than sung – include an ancient Hebrew song of peace (‘Hevenu Shalom Aleichem’), and the well-known 16th-century Genevan Psalter, ‘Old Hundredth.’ These three borrowed songs, despite their differing religious origins, are meant to transcend any one religion, representing the more universal human ideals of peace, hope, and love. An original chorale, appearing twice in the work, represents my own personal expression of these aspirations. In opposition, turbulent, fast-paced music appears as a symbol of darkness, death, and spiritual doubt. Twice during the musical drama, these shadows sneak in almost unnoticeably, slowly obscuring, and eventually obliterating the light altogether. The darkness prevails for long stretches of time, but the light eventually returns, inextinguishable, more powerful than before. The alternation of these opposing forces creates, in effect, a kind of five-part rondo form (light-darkness-light-darkness-light). Just as Charles Ives did more than a century ago, Angels in the Architecture poses the unanswered question of existence. It ends as it began: the angel reappears with the same comforting works. But deep below, a final shadow reappears — distantly, ominously.”
Chorale and Shaker Dance (1971)
Chorale and Shaker Dance combines a simple chorale theme, introduced by the woodwinds, with variations of the well-known Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts.” There is a progression of instrumental timbres and chord textures as the themes alternate and commingle. Brief solos for flute, clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet occur at tempo changes. The brass and woodwinds exchange the themes as time signatures cause an increase in both tempo and intensity. Sustained brass sections play the chorale with woodwinds performing a fiery obligato based on the Shaker hymn as the development peaks. A demanding timpani part punctuates the dramatic ending.