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United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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2018 Chamber Music Series Debuts with Mozart, Bernstein, and Debussy

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | January 18, 2018


The Marine Band’s Chamber Music Series returns at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21, with a percussion ensemble, string quartet, brass quintet, and instrumental trios performing music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Claude Debussy, Leonard Bernstein, Felix Mendelssohn, and Owen Clayton Condon. The concert is free and will take place at the John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in southeast Washington, D.C.; no tickets are required.


Live stream: www.marineband.marines.mil and www.youtube.com/usmarineband


When programming for this Sunday’s performance, co-principal flute Gunnery Sgt. Elisabeth Plunk aimed to provide a variety of instrumentation.


“When people attend a Marine Band chamber concert they get a closer look at our musicians and all the different instruments people in the band play,” Plunk said. “The chamber series is a great way to feature our strings, harp, vocalists, and percussionists in addition to our wind players.”


A vocal, clarinet, piano trio will kick off the concert with Mozart’s “Parto! Ma tu ben bio” from La clemenza di Tito, K. 621. “This is unique because it was written as a trouser role, a role where the character of a young boy is sung by a female voice with the actress appearing in male clothing,” Plunk explained. “And it is also a great way to feature opera on the program.”


Following the Mozart selection, a flute, viola, harp trio will perform Debussy’s Sonata. Plunk first played the Debussy in college and fell in love with its unique timbre created by the unusual combination of the flute, viola, and harp. She said, “This piece was one of the final pieces Debussy composed as he was dying of cancer. It has every emotion and mood flowing through the music and the melancholy sections are particularly poignant. He believed that his focus on his impending death enabled him to write the best music of his career. The piece was such a success that many composers followed his lead and wrote other trios for the flute, harp, and viola.”   


The first half of the concert will close with Jack Gale’s brass quintet arrangement of Bernstein’s Suite from West Side Story, which Plunk included in honor of the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth.


“Bernstein wrote almost no chamber music, focusing instead on music for the stage and his conducting career as Music Director for the New York Philharmonic,” noted Plunk. “But the selections from West Side Story are some of our most treasured and familiar American musical compositions. It’s nice to hear them in a different way which features our dynamic brass players.”


While the first half of the program features classical, impressionist, and 20th century composers, the second half will feature Romantic and modern compositions: Condon’s Fractalia for percussion ensemble and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in D, Opus 44, No. 1.


“I wanted to feature our percussionists on this program because it gives the audience a unique visual and musical experience,” said Plunk. “And the Mendelssohn is a cornerstone of the string quartet repertoire displaying his style and compositional techniques. I think it’s fun that the Quartet in D was the last of his Opus 44 quartets, but he made it No. 1 because it was his favorite. It requires really brilliant string playing which will be delivered!”


The Marine Barracks Annex is accessible by Metro via the Navy Yard or Eastern Market stations. Free parking is also available under the overpass on 7th Street, across from the Annex. Please allow extra time for ID checks at the gate.


Complete program and program notes


Directions and parking information


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