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Capitol Hill Concerts

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust

Chamber Music Series: Afternoon of Haunting Melodies

24 Oct 2023 | Guest: Tucker Broadbooks United States Marine Band

“The President’s Own” Chamber Music Series returns at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 29, with a special program titled “Haunted Sounds,” coordinated by Gunnery Sgt. Tessa Gross. Taking place at the historic Christ Church in Washington, D.C., “Haunted Sounds” promises to provide listeners with a carefully curated program featuring renowned composers and unique arrangements. The concert is free; no tickets are required.

Each piece of the program was selected for its mystical feeling and sense of eeriness. The afternoon opens with J.S. Bach’s iconic Toccata and Fugue in D minor, a staple of Hollywood horror films and the Halloween season. The concert is not limited to classic pieces; Juri Seo’s 2017 composition “Shui” is among the contemporary works to be performed. “Shui” promises to captivate the audience with a one-of-a-kind composition utilizing just six individual crotales and a bowl of water to create an expansive sound world.

Each piece included on the program was chosen for its ability to inspire a sense of mystery, awe and suspense. “I put together this program to take the audience on a musical journey that isn’t defined by a single musical era or instrumentation,” Gross said. “The best part of putting this program together was embracing the Halloween season. It is a time of year I love most with sense of magic and mystery, something I believe this program truly embodies in a musical sense.”

Also included in the afternoon’s performance are “Antiphonies for Clarinet Quartets” by Marine Band member Gunnery Sgt. Parker Gaims; Camille Saint-Saëns’ 1875 composition “Danse macabre;” and “Colored Stones” by Jenni Brandon, winner of the 2014 Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition. This concert’s arrangement of “Danse macabre” is written for four violins, enhancing the harshly dissonant diminished fourth intervals throughout the piece, known infamously as a tritone, or, “The Devil’s Interval.”

A highlight of the program is “Voices in Da Fan” by Andrew Sorg, the final performance of the afternoon. This four-movement piece inspired by the woes of insomnia promises the audience a unique listening experience, taking them into the world of the composer as he struggles to sleep. Gunnery Sgt. Landres Bryant, reflecting on “Voices in Da Fan,” remarked, “I encountered this piece by happenstance searching for what I’d describe as ‘serious contemporary writing for brass quintet that doesn’t need an explanation or reason for young audiences to latch onto.’ Both intriguing and palatable, I only ever imagined excerpting parts of this piece’s vivid, jarring, enchanting, and humorous sections for use in our young people’s concerts. I’m honestly more frightened than happy to perform it in its entirety, though!”

This concert may send a shiver down the spine of the audience, but the program promises an afternoon filled with thrilling compositions and themes of mystery, magic, and the supernatural. Music enthusiasts of all ages have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of classical and contemporary music. Admission is free, and all are welcome to attend.

Program and Notes