ALEXANDRIA, Va. --
On Sunday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m., “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band will present the concert “Signs and Symbols” at Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall in Alexandria. Conducted by Col. Jason K. Fettig, the program takes its inspiration from the deeper meaning expressed in certain fascinating symbols and signs found in the everyday world. The concert is free and no tickets are required. Free parking is available in the adjacent garage.
“From the American patriotism embodied by the form of the eagle and the ancient religious meaning imbued in other animals, to the symbolism found in poetry and song, the collection of new and classic works on this concert explore the way in which music brings these signs and symbols to life,” said Col. Jason K. Fettig.
The entire second half, and cornerstone of the program, will feature a new transcription of Manuel de Falla’s beautifully crafted ballet The Three-Cornered Hat, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Transcribed by Music Production Chief and Staff Arranger Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald Patterson, the score captures de Falla’s Spanish musical heritage and is full of the popular traditional dances of his country, including the Flamenco, Fandango, Seguidilla, and the Jota, complete with the iconic sound of castanets. The ballet’s plot centers on the ever-popular themes of love, jealousy, and intrigue through the main characters of a miller, the miller’s wife, and the town Corregidor, the local magistrate that wears a three-cornered hat to signify his office and status.
During the concert many of the original sketches painted by Pablo Picasso will be projected above the band along with brief synopses of what is happening in the ballet. The work also employs the special element of a mezzo-soprano throughout singing songs in the style of the Canto Jondo, the traditional song of Andalusia where the story takes place. The performance will feature mezzo-soprano and concert moderator Gunnery Sgt. Sara Sheffield.
Other pieces on the concert include John Philip Sousa’s march, “The Invincible Eagle,” a march Sousa initially thought would eclipse the popularity of “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” and Aaron Copland’s original work for wind band, Emblems. The program will also include two selections with Marine Band soloists: Ryan George’s An Gé Fhiáin (The Wild Goose), featuring English horn soloist Gunnery Sgt. Joseph DeLuccio, and David Biedenbender’s Dreams in the Dusk, featuring alto saxophone soloist Gunnery Sgt. Steven Temme.
George’s evocative work An Gé Fhiáin, which translates to The Wild Goose, has been performed across the globe since its composition in 2013 for the Lone Star Wind Orchestra. The composer offers the following insight regarding the inspiration for his music:
The Celtic people who occupied the British Isles around 1,600 years ago were a people who shared a deep connection with nature and the world they found themselves in. Around this time Christianity found its way to this land and these ancients would often draw on their surroundings for symbolism. In the Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit is represented as a bird, but not as the delicate and peaceful dove found in other cultures, but as An Gé Fhiáin, The Wild Goose. … Juxtaposed against the chaos of the Goose chase these ancients also had a phrase for those places where the distance between earth and the spiritual realm collapses. Locales where we are able to catch hints and glimpses of the transcendent and where the divine seems to speak the clearest. They called these destinations “thin places.” In writing this piece I was intrigued by these two impressions: the wild and rambunctious Goose that calls us on an adventurous chase, and the tranquil, reverent thin places that the Goose leads us to.
Similarly inspired by something ethereal, Biedenbender’s Dreams in the Dusk was inspired by Carl Sandberg’s poem of the same name which, according to the composer, “captured the essence of that sacred time at the waning of the day in a way that was beautiful and profound.” At the time, Biedenbender took many walks in the stillness and quiet of dusk in rural Michigan to cope with the emotional struggles of losing his sister-in-law to a battle with cancer and, searching for a voice for the many emotions, he turned to Sandberg’s poem for comfort, solace, and understanding.
The concert is free and no tickets are required. A string trio will offer pre-concert music in the lobby beginning at 1:15 p.m. Col. Fettig and the soloists will also be available in the lobby following the concert to talk with patrons.
Complete program and notes
Directions and parking