Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Fairmont State Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Valarie Huffman, assisted by Jonathan Burbank, and special guest, Dr. Jeffrey Poland, will perform a mid-winter concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, in Colebank Hall on the Fairmont State main campus.

The program will consist of works by Gustav Holst, Percy Aldridge Grainger, Aaron Copland, and Eric Whitacre. The works will give the listener the idea of being in a pastoral setting in early 20th-century Great Britain and America.

Starting with Eric Whitacre's "Cloudburst," the concert will begin with a cacophonic thunderstorm of chordal clusters and "wind gusts." The piece settles down at the end, with the proverbial "sun will shine," leading to Aaron Copland's "Down a Country Lane." Composed during Copland's Americana phase, during which he strove to write distinctively American sounding music, the message that Copland wanted to portray was that "strangeness between people breaks down when they live and work and meet together as neighbors."

Following the Copland will be Gustav Holst's "Second Suite in F for Military Band." Like his "First Suite," the "Second Suite" had to wait more than 10 years to receive its first performance. The "Second Suite" is based entirely on material from folk songs and Morris dances. During the early 20th century, the folk song was a popular source for pastoral music in Great Britain.

Continuing with the folk song and pastoral setting will lead into the music of Australian/British composer Percy Aldridge Grainger and his "Irish Tune from County Derry." The tune, most commonly known as "O Danny Boy," is a beautiful setting of the ancient Irish air, and was written in 1909 and dedicated to the memory of the great Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. This composition has been a favorite in the wind band repertoire.

Following the "Irish Tune," the ensemble will pay tribute to the great president Abraham Lincoln with Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait." Inspired by a biography written about Lincoln by the English Lord Charnwood, Copland selected excerpts of Lincoln's speeches that echoed America's concerns during the throes of conflict. During the composing of the work, the U.S. had just entered World War II. Using two American folk songs, "Camptown Races" and "Springfield Mountain," Copland weaves them into the work, giving it a distinctly American soundscape. Joining the wind ensemble in this performance will be special guest, Dr. Jeffrey Poland, as the narrator and the voice of Abraham Lincoln.

To conclude the evening's concert, the wind ensemble will perform Percy Grainger's "Children's March." Subtitled "Over the Hills and Far Away," this work is cast in a sunny, care-free mood; many of the tunes sound like folksongs, but they are original compositions. Grainger, an ardent collector of folk songs, was a "picturesque nationalist" who attempted to retain something of the original flavor of British folk songs. This march is indicative of his great attention to detail and was the first wind band work to give a prominent feature to the piano.

The evening's concert is open and free to the public. For more information call (304) 367-4206 or e-mail vhuffman@fairmontstate.edu.