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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Chamber Music Series: War and Peace

By Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali | United States Marine Band | April 25, 2019


This Sunday, April 28, the 2019 Marine Band Chamber Music Series will continue at 2 p.m. in John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in southeast Washington, D.C., and stream live on the Marine Band's YouTube channel.

The concert—titled “War and Peace”—will feature a brass quintet and mixed woodwind and string ensembles performing “Extalbo Te” by Giovanni Palestrina; “Celestial Hymns” by Jennifer Higdon; Halil by Leonard Bernstein, and Suite, La Triomphante by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Concert coordinator Gunnery Sgt. Heather Zenobia offered the following on the program:

To open the program, I chose a beautiful renaissance work transcribed for brass. The wide-open consonances set the tone for the concert as joyful and exultant. I wanted the audience to have a full representation of what the band has to offer, from brass, to winds, to strings, to percussion. So the next piece, “Celestial Hymns,” by Jennifer Higdon, was an excellent choice, featuring clarinet, piano, and strings. The composer refers to the stained-glass windows in ‘a glass cathedral in the sky,’ with the figures in those windows singing heavenly music. It is beautiful and lively at times, but overall evokes a feeling of warmth and peace.

The chamber program hinges on Bernstein’s Halil, which is the third piece on this concert. I first performed this in 2000, and have been hoping for a chance to perform it again ever since. The subject matter, however, is pretty grim. It was dedicated to a young Israeli flutist who was killed in the 1973 Arab–Israeli War. The music is jarring and atonal, 12-tone at times, serene and beautifully diatonic at others, and paints a vivid picture of battle juxtaposed with calm. I knew that the joy and tranquility of the first two pieces would be necessary to balance out the darkness and heartbreak of the devastation that war brings. Originally for flute and chamber orchestra, Bernstein arranged it for flute, a large percussion ensemble, and piano. The pianist has quite a feat covering all the string and tuned percussion parts, but our pianist is up to the task; watch her acrobatics as she covers all those notes!

After intermission, Rameau’s Suite, La Triomphante combines elements of the French baroque, which I love for its unique sounds and rhythms, with ardent French nationalism, then adds the quirkiness of a reed quintet playing harpsichord music. The title is, of course, a nod to the triumph that has wound its way through this program, and ends the concert on a positive and cheerful note. It’s very effective, and I hope listeners find it as fun and enjoyable as I do. 

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.

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