Feb. 21, 2017 --
For many years, the Marine Band has been deeply committed to welcoming prominent guest conductors to the podium of “The President’s Own.” That commitment, along with Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig’s dedication to the ongoing development of music for band, has resulted in a partnership with American conductor Gerard Schwarz, conductor laureate of the Seattle Symphony. Schwarz and the members of “The President’s Own” will collaborate in concert this week and also offer a documentary-style episode of wind ensemble masterpieces for release on public television and online.
Maestro Schwarz will conduct the band in a concert titled “Cornerstones,” at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 26 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va. Schwarz, a renowned interpreter of 19th century German, Austrian, and Russian repertoire and a staunch advocate for American music, led the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1985-2001. During his tenure, the orchestra amassed a critically acclaimed discography of more than 140 recordings, created numerous television programs and concert broadcasts resulting in two Emmy awards, and presented more than 22 world premières.
Since 2013, Schwarz has served as director of the All-Star Orchestra, an ensemble of elite musicians from the nation’s leading orchestras, featured in an Emmy Award-winning television series which airs on public television throughout the United States. The series, titled “The All-Star Orchestra,” features popular symphonic scores along with brilliant new works by contemporary American composers. In addition to experiencing the music in the series episodes, viewers can learn what goes into composing, conducting, and performing each piece through interviews with the conductor, musicians, and composers. The series has also been released on DVD by classical music distributor Naxos of America.
Schwarz has assembled an all-star team of top musicians in an effort to encourage a greater understanding and enjoyment of classical music through educational tools accessible on allstarorchestra.org. Now he will expand the project by working with another all-star team of musicians—“The President’s Own.” The celebrated conductor will lead the Marine Band in rehearsals and recording sessions to produce “All-Star Orchestra Presents: America’s All-Star Band, The United States Marine Band,” an episode of significant contributions to the ever-expanding repertoire of the wind ensemble.
“We are creating a library of great works with a major educational component that will help grow a love for classical music through exposure and knowledge,” Schwarz explained. “The repertoire of the concert band, though extremely popular in high schools and colleges, is not as well known by the general music-loving audience, and I am hoping that with the exposure of television, DVDs and online, that will change.”
Fettig has been a fan of Maestro Schwarz since he was a young clarinetist. While he was fervently learning clarinet repertoire, some of the first classical recordings he purchased were of the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz. “At that point, I only knew his name as a world-renowned conductor, and remember my interest being immediately piqued when I saw his unique records in the store,” Fettig said. “Those first recordings included the music of composers like Howard Hanson, David Diamond, and Walter Piston and introduced me to a whole new world of great music, especially by American composers. As my career developed in the Marine Band, those early experiences with Jerry’s work absolutely had a hand in shaping my programming style and advocacy of American music. It is one of the great fortunes of my professional life to have had opportunity to be a part of his special collaborations with the musicians of ‘The President’s Own,’ let alone to be able to now call him a good friend.”
Fettig especially enjoyed working with him in 2012 when he first conducted the Marine Band in a gala concert at The Music Center at Strathmore. “After that collaboration, he brought up the concept of creating programs about the most significant concert band repertoire and featuring the talents of the Marine Band as the oldest continuously active professional band in this country,” Fettig said. “So I was thrilled when he invited us to be part of this project.”
In the week leading up to the concert, Schwarz and the Marine Band will rehearse and record cornerstones of band repertoire for possible future release as part of the All-Star project. “We have participated in documentaries of all kinds on many occasions throughout our history, but not one quite like this that highlights the history and mission of ‘The President’s Own’ in conjunction with the band’s complete performance of some of the most significant cornerstones in the repertoire,” Fettig said. “This combination of history and institutional biography through the lens of an essential educational resource of performance of this great music will be truly unique.”
In programming for the all-star project and “Cornerstones,” Schwarz and Fettig tried to combine the popular works for band as well as several newer pieces appreciated and revered in the band world. The concert will begin with Bright Sheng’s contemporary work titled Shanghai Overture, neo-Classical in style and inspired by traditional Chinese compositions, followed by Gustav Holst’s Suite No. 1 in E-flat, Opus 28, No. 1, a staple of the concert band repertoire.
The concert will continue with the conductor’s own composition titled Above and Beyond, premièred by “The President’s Own” under the composer’s baton in 2012. Other works on the program include Paul Hindemith’s Symphony in B-flat for Band; Jennifer Higdon’s Fanfare Ritmico; Vincent Persichetti’s Masquerade, Opus 102; and William Schuman’s New England Triptych.
“We endeavored to find the very best of the core band repertoire often played by the Marine Band and augment that with several contemporary works of our time that have recently entered the regular repertoire or are destined to become standard in the years ahead,” Fettig explained. “So we are delighted to have Maestro Schwarz once again take the podium of ‘The President’s Own’ as he leads this terrific showcase of original masterpieces for band.”
When asked about the goal of the collaboration with Schwarz, Fettig said: “The goal of the All-Star program is to introduce people from all backgrounds and experiences to the greatest music written for orchestra, performed by the best musicians in the country. We hope that the Marine Band episode will represent those same ideals, highlighting the best original works for band from the past century.”
And Schwarz is confident that “The President’s Own” will accomplish the goal. “The Marine Band’s repertoire and performance, both live and recorded, is phenomenal,” he said. “The band has the highest level of professional wind ensemble playing in the world.”
The Marine Band’s concert with guest conductor Gerard Schwarz will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at the Northern Virginia Community College campus at 4915 E. Campus Drive in Alexandria. The concert is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. Parking is free in the garage adjacent to the Center.
While “All-Star Orchestra” episodes have aired on public television stations, the “All-Star Orchestra Presents: America’s All-Star Band, The United States Marine Band” episode has not been scheduled as of publish time. Please stay tuned for more information on possible future broadcasts.
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