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United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Marine Chamber Music Series Features All American Composers

By Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust | United States Marine Band | October 17, 2019


The Marine Band’s Fall Chamber Music Series continues this week at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20, with music by familiar and popular composers Henry Fillmore, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin, as well as more contemporary works, all by American composers. Join us in person at the Marine Barracks Annex or stream the concert live at 2 p.m. EST. Continue reading for a closer look at each of the pieces.

Coordinated by saxophonist Gunnery Sgt. Jacob Chmara, the program featuring all American composers includes a mix of contemporary works by composers Caroline Shaw, William Bolcom, and Jennifer Higdon, fused with the timeless music of the early twentieth century composers Fillmore, Ellington, and Gershwin.

“I started with the idea of an all American program, showcasing both well-established and lesser known composers, all of whom have been influenced by American popular culture to varying degrees,” Chmara said. “Beyond that, my goal was simply to present a program with variety. We have every instrument group within the Marine Band represented. We have compositions both old and new and both male and female composers.”

Limestone and Felt by Caroline Shaw

From the composer: “Premièred in January 2012, Limestone & Felt presents two kinds of surfaces—essentially hard and soft. These are materials that can suggest place (a cathedral apse, or the inside of a wool hat), stature, function, and—for me—sound (reverberant or muted). In Limestone & Felt, the hocketing pizzicato and pealing motivic canons are part of a whimsical, mystical, generous world of sounds echoing and colliding in the imagined eaves of a gothic chapel. These are contrasted with the delicate, meticulous, and almost reverent placing of chords that, to our ears today, sound ancient and precious, like an antique jewel box. Ultimately, felt and limestone may represent two opposing ways we experience history and design our own present.”

Selections from Cabaret Songs by William Bolcom

This selection of five Cabaret Songs is part of a larger collection, totaling twenty-four songs in four volumes composed between 1977 and 1996, for which the premières were performed by Bolcom himself on piano accompanying his wife Joan Morris as the mezzo-soprano soloist. The collection sets to music the original texts of poet, playwright, and librettist Arnold Weinstein, who was a longtime collaborator of Bolcom’s.

Short Stories by Jennifer Higdon

From the composer: “Short Stories is a collection of six movements for saxophone quartet, which are flexible in both the order and number in which they can be performed. The piece was written with the idea that a group could tailor their performance according to their venue and the duration they might like to fill on a concert. While being composer-in-residence with the Prism Saxophone Quartet, I had the chance to see how the demands for repertoire change greatly from concert to concert: through school programs with young students, to college-age classical musicians, to formal recitals. So, when I sat down to write a work for the Ancia, Black Swamp, Resounding Winds, and Sax 4th Avenue quartets, I wanted a work with as much diversity in the characters of the movements as possible, and I wanted the groups to have freedom in their choices of movements.”

Three Classic Duke Ellington Quintets arranged by Luther Henderson

Three Classic Duke Ellington Quintets was arranged for the Canadian Brass Quintet by Luther Henderson and was recorded on their 1999 album titled Take the ‘A’ Train. The suite follows the popular fast-slow-fast structure and includes a rhythm changes tune (based on George Gershwin’s song “I Got Rhythm”) titled “The Cottontail Caper” (1940), the instrumental ballad “Sophisticated Lady” (1932), and the uptempo swing tune “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1931).

March, “The Circus Bee” and March, “Rolling Thunder” by Henry Fillmore and arranged by GySgt Jonathan Bisesi

Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Bisesi states, “My arrangement for three percussionists, performing on one five-octave marimba, features two of Fillmore’s most famous ‘screamers,’ in a novelty style for which Fillmore was best known. In each of these arrangements, I add originally-composed ‘noodling,’ which enhances the excitement of the music and showcases the unique flare of the mallet percussionists.”

Three Preludes by George Gershwin and arranged by Ryan Reynolds

Gershwin first performed his Three Preludes at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City at age twenty-seven, two years after composing his famous Rhapsody in Blue. Structurally, it resembles a classical sonata, following the fast-slow-fast format in which the outer movements are fast and rhythmic while the middle movement is slow and flexible in tempo. While this work was originally composed for solo piano, it has also been arranged for many different solo instruments and small ensembles, including this arrangement that was done by Ryan Reynolds of the Akropolis Reed Quintet.

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