The U.S. Marine Band will make its season debut at the Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va., on Sunday, Jan. 22 at 2 pm, with a program that will explore some of nature’s phenomena, with works by George Frideric Handel, John Philip Sousa, and Michael Colgrass. The concert also includes the première of Alpenglow by Chicago-based composer Stacy Garrop, whose works are centered around storytelling. The concert is free and no tickets are required.
Program and Notes
The concert begins with the overture to Handel’s Music for Royal Fireworks, written at the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1749. King George II of Great Britain wished to frame the conflict as a triumph for England over France and commenced plans for a victory celebration with a grand firework display and music to match. Handel was the most popular composer in London at the time and natural choice for the commission, but there was one caveat. King George preferred martial instruments and no strings could be used. The overture is the longest of the five-movement piece.
Garrop’s Alpenglow, a double concerto for alto saxophone, tuba, and wind ensemble, was commissioned by a consortium of 18 ensembles, including the U.S. Marine Band.
Garrop provides the following background about the inspiration for the piece: “The first time I saw an alpenglow, I had no idea what it was. It was the late 1980s, and I was at music camp at the base of the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. A few of us got up in the middle of the night so we could hike to a vantage point at the foot of Longs Peak, to watch the sun rise without any trees obstructing our view. Even though we had a few more minutes to go before the sun breached the horizon, when I looked up at the face of Longs Peak, it was glowing intensely with a most beautiful peach-pink color. This enchanting vision lasted only about ten minutes, after which the color faded as the sun rose. Throughout the next thirty years, whenever I returned to the Rocky Mountain National Park, I would occasionally catch this pre-dawn light show in all its glory.”
An alpenglow occurs when particular wavelengths of light enter the atmosphere and generate a reddish glow on the summit of mountains that can be seen near sunset or sunrise. The piece begins in the pre-dawn hours, grows until the sky lightens, follows the arc of the sun upward to the sky and then back down to the earth past the horizon, until the stars are revealed.
"While the pairing of saxophone and tuba is uncommon, I think the composite color the composer creates with them is lively and fun,” notes soloist and principal tuba Master Sgt. Franklin Crawford.
Soloist and principal saxophone Master Gunnery Sgt. Nomar Longoria added that, “having the opportunity to learn and perform new music can be exciting. The piece might be completely unfamiliar and probably will challenge you in ways you might not expect. If you open yourself to the process, you ultimately can experience musical growth, and as a musician that is something very important to me.”
The program continues with a tone poem for symphonic band, Poème du Feu (Fire Poem) by French composer’s Ida-Rose Esther Gotovsky, Sousa’s “March of the Aviators,” and Handel’s “Hear Me, Ye Winds and Waves” from the opera Scipione, featuring baritone vocalist Master Gunnery Sgt Kevin Bennear.
The program culminates with a pillar in wind band repertoire, Colgrass’ Winds of Nagual. This was his first piece for wind ensemble and was a 1985 commission from the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble that was dedicated to the ensemble’s then-director, Frank Battisti. The work is based on the writings of Carlos Castaneda and his apprenticeship Don Juan Matis, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer from Mexico. Through the use of hallucinogenic episodes, Castaneda worked with Matis to alter his view of the world and induce experiences of which he referred to as “states of non-ordinary reality.” Castaneda’s books, which were published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, sold more than 8 million copies before his death.
According to Colgrass, “My objective is to capture the mood and atmosphere created by the books and to convey a feeling of the relationship that develops as a teacher of ancient wisdom tries to cultivate heart in an analytical young man of the technological age.
Program and Notes