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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
Unit News
Orchestra Concert: “Towers of London”

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | April 19, 2017


The folk music traditions found in Great Britain have been woven into the works of many of that country’s most prominent composers. This Sunday the Marine Chamber Orchestra will perform a free concert titled “Towers of London,” which will display the sounds of Britain cast through the prism of several composers’ musical languages. The performance will take place at 4 p.m., Sunday, April 23 at the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center at Howard Community College in Columbia, Md. Free tickets are required and can be obtained from the Box Office by calling (443) 518-1500.


The concert will begin with the delightful Overture to Iolanthe by the king of operetta, Sir Arthur Sullivan. This overture was a collaboration with the clever and witty librettist W. S. Gilbert and served as a satire and critique of British government and society.


Next on the program, Benjamin Britten’s Suite on English Folk Tunes, Opus 90, A Time There Was… was built upon several popular English folk songs and includes a nod to Percy Grainger. According to Marine Chamber Orchestra Director Lt. Col. Jason K. Fettig: “In Grainger’s masterpiece ‘Lincolnshire Posy,’ he uses a folk song he collected called Lord Melbourne as the fourth movement of the work. Grainger’s setting is a vigorous one, painting a sonic picture of the strong and boastful Lord. In the last movement of his suite for orchestra, Britten uses the very same folk song that Grainger discovered, but he recasts the songs as an elegy of sorts, slow and mournful. It’s fascinating to hear this song and the very same notes set by two different composers in completely different ways.”


Following the Britten suite, the program will continue with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Concerto in F minor for Bass Tuba and Orchestra, featuring assistant principal tuba, Gunnery Sgt. Frank Crawford. “Vaughan Williams’ Tuba Concerto is a staple in the instrument’s solo repertoire and reveals the composer’s deep connection with the traditional music of England,” Fettig said. “It was essentially the first major concerto written for that instrument, and to this day it remains the most popular and famous concerto for tuba.”


“I think that there is a great deal for the audience to enjoy in this concerto,” Crawford said. “As with other pieces by Vaughan Williams, the music is very tonal, with approachable harmonies and tuneful melodies. I enjoy music that has a tonal melody to latch onto—repertoire that allows me to play something pretty. This piece provides that opportunity.”


“But as might be expected, a fair amount of athleticism is required of the soloist on this piece, as well as the need to play lyrical melodies; roles the average person doesn’t see the tuba take on a regular basis,” Crawford explained. “The piece pushes into the extremes of the range of the tuba, particularly demanding in the high range. This makes it physically taxing to play, and demands control and flexibility.”


Crawford noted that, “Tuba players are not the most commonly featured soloists on the concert stage. I think that the novelty of hearing a tuba concerto may provide interest, in and of itself.”


Finally, the concert will conclude with Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 in D, London. Although Haydn was Austrian, he made several extended stays in England in the 1790s, and he composed his last 12 symphonies in London, causing this celebrated chapter of works to be appropriately known as the “London symphonies.”


“I have been looking for a program for both the Britten Folk Song Suite and Haydn’s 104th Symphony, which is one of his best and most popular, but not one we’ve performed very often with the Marine Chamber Orchestra,” Fettig said. “Knowing that Britten was British and the Haydn Symphony was written in London, I thought it might be a nice opportunity to put them together with some other works related to Great Britain, and more specifically in some way, the city of London.”


“I hope the audience will enjoy the variety on the program, from a delightful overture from the king of Operetta, Sir Arthur Sullivan, to one of the most famous tuba concertos of all time by the great Ralph Vaughan Williams, coupled with the final symphony of the ‘father of classical music’ and one of the last works written by a luminary of the 20th century, Benjamin Britten.”

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