Marine Barracks Washington DC --
This week the Marine Band released its annual educational recording. Recently, Assistant Communication Strategy Chief Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali sat down with Col. Jason K. Fettig to learn more about this year's CD: “To Make Us Proud: A Leonard Bernstein Tribute.”
Ghadiali: How was this project conceived?
Fettig: There has never been anyone like Leonard Bernstein in the modern history of American music. He was an icon even during his lifetime—a virtuoso pianist who was also a charismatic conductor, creative composer and a truly gifted teacher. His charisma, passion and respect for all kinds of music is legendary, and in celebration of the 100th year of his birth, we wanted to assemble a collection of music that might capture each of these elements of his musical personality and his tremendous influence on American music.
Ghadiali: How did you determine which pieces to record for this educational recording?
Fettig: Bernstein was equally committed to his work as a conductor and as a composer. His legacy is intertwined with both of these identities equally, and we thought the best way to honor him was to represent both of those sides of his influence in this collection. Since the band has recorded many of Bernstein’s most famous works over the years, the pieces on this recording are perhaps a bit off the path from those iconic masterpieces, but certainly no less important in capturing the composer’s unique voice. In addition to the music composed by Bernstein himself, we’ve included a tribute to the maestro from fellow composer and personal friend, John Williams, and two major symphonic works by other composers, Miklós Rósza and Benjamin Britten, that bookend Bernstein’s remarkable span of more than 50 years on the podium of virtually all of the greatest orchestras in the world.
Ghadiali: Tell us about the collection of music on the recording.
Fettig: The works on this CD span nearly the entirety of Bernstein’s professional career, and also tell a story of his relationship with two great American orchestras. Included is a nod to his debut concert with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in 1943, where he conducted Rosza’s Theme, Variations and Finale and a special tribute to his final concert half a century later with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, where the ailing Bernstein conducted Britten’s incredible Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes. As a composer, Bernstein's early work is represented with the quirky and wildly inventive Prelude, Fugue and Riffs for solo clarinet and jazz ensemble, through to his Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961, and music from his relatively obscure Broadway musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from 1976, in which the Marine Band itself garners a special mention! The Divertimento, written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in his last decade of his life showcases a little bit of every side of Bernstein’s musical sensibilities and reveals a composer in complete mastery of his craft. Including dissonant fanfares and 12-tone blues, to a waltz, a samba and a rousing march, the Divertimento captures Bernstein’s signature melding of genres and styles and his unrestrained joy in composing a musical autobiography of sorts for his close friends in an orchestra with which he spent virtually his entire life.
Ghadiali: Were you/the band able to work on anything specifically with living composers or arrangers?
Fettig: One of the special aspects of this recording was the opportunity to showcase Bernstein’s music through the lens of transcriptions for band done specifically for “The President’s Own” by our own Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Patterson and Capt. Ryan Nowlin. Both of these gentlemen always endeavor to be as faithful as possible to the composer’s original intent, as they have done here for this project, and they also know just how to utilize the exceptional resources of these particular musicians. This recording features five transcriptions crafted for the Marine Band by Master Gunnery Sgt. Patterson and Capt. Nowlin, as well as Paul Lavender, who made the setting of John Williams’ charming homage to Bernstein, “To Lenny! To Lenny!.” (*available online at a later date TBD)
Ghadiali: What do you hope listeners will take away from the Bernstein CD?
Fettig: There has never been an American artist like Leonard Bernstein, and there likely never will be again. In this, his centennial year, I hope this collection of music will both illuminate his legacy and appropriately celebrate his monumental influence on so many other musicians and on our American artistic identity. Bernstein passionately wished for music to be a unifying force in our country and around the globe, and he came as close to achieving that ideal as any artist in our history. As we celebrate his singular contribution to our musical life, the words he set to the powerful music at the end of this recording may now be meant for him: Leonard Bernstein’s gift to the nation and to the world was always destined “to make us proud.”
Link to YouTube Playlist