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United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Interesting Instrumentation: Chamber Music Series, Oct. 13

By Staff Sgt. Chase Baran | United States Marine Band | October 10, 2019

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This week, the Marine Band’s Chamber Music Series continues with an eclectic mix of music featuring a variety of unique ensembles. Join us in person at the Marine Barracks Annex or stream the concert live at 2 p.m. EST. Read on to get a closer look at what’s in store!

Coordinated by clarinetist Staff Sgt. Kristin Bowers, the program for this concert utilizes instrumentation that isn’t particularly common – a piano quartet; soprano and oboe duet; violin and marimba duo; clarinet and double bass duo; and a brass ensemble with flute and piano.

“There are three pieces on the program that are duos,” Bowers said. “I chose to highlight the dramatically different sonorities that each duo produces. The Gould might be the most traditional in that it often employs a walking bass line and a melody above it. The Vaughan Williams Ten Blake Songs relies on just two melodic instruments – the oboe and voice – to paint the words of William Blake. Paul Lansky’s Hop combines violin and marimba, using the marimba both percussively and melodically.”

Piano Quartet: Breakdown Tango by John Mackey

This wild nine-minute work is composed in three continuous sections and features a piano, clarinet, violin, and cello. The first section uses constantly driving sixteenth notes to gradually build momentum and intensity. The middle of the work is a quirky tango, filled with dramatic changes in character. As the tango begins to escalate, driving sixteenth notes return, and the final portion of the piece is an even more energetic version of the opening themes.

Soprano and Oboe Duet: Selections from Ten Blake Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ten Blake Songs was composed in the last year of Vaughan Williams’ life. It was written for the 1957 documentary film entitled The Vision of William Blake, which focused on the life and work of the English poet and artist. Throughout the work, the listener can hear Vaughan Williams’ melodies bring Blake’s words to life, as they illustrate and reflect the varied episodes of the song set.

Violin and Marimba Duo: Hop by Paul Lansky

Hop begins with a mellow folk-inspired tune. The violin plays elongated melodies over articulated marimba passages. Occasionally, the two instruments meet in unison, creating a unique blended sound. The piece is rhythmically playful and leads the audience to imagine a dance that ebbs and flows but always leaves the listener wanting to hear more.

Clarinet and Double Bass Duo: Benny’s Gig by Morton Gould

Gould wrote seven of the eight vignettes that make up Benny’s Gig as a celebration of jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman’s Russian tour in 1962. The final movement was added in 1979, after Gould composed it as a seventieth birthday gift for Goodman. The composer added a printed note on the score for Goodman, in which he expressed his admiration. The note concluded with the following: “It ain’t Sweet Georgia Brown—but it does signify my affection and friendship and admiration for you. I hope it pleases you—and even if it doesn’t you are stuck with it, and it’s not returnable. After all—how many Benny Goodmans are there, at any age—or in any age. Be well, be happy, keep playing. Congratulations—Morton.”

Brass Ensemble with Flute and Piano: Capriccio by Leoš Janáček

“I'd particularly like to highlight the Janáček Capriccio” Bowers said. “The instrumentation of the piece is incredibly unique - Janáček uses solo piano, flute, and brass. Despite the rather unusual combination of instruments, Janáček is able to create beautifully blended harmonies. Though the pianist is the soloist in this work, each musician has an incredibly challenging role, and the entire ensemble shines in the work. The work is rarely programmed, so I am truly looking forward to the performance!"

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