Jack's Musings: Culture of Concert Band Music March 31 2011, 1 Comment

Musing By Jack Kopstein

The Culture of Concert Band music

Band music in the form of concert band repertoire and military band journals of band music were evident in the early eighteenth century. The first real breakthrough came in 1909 when Gustav Holst composed the British band classic First Suite in Eb which has become a staple in the band library. He added his Second Suite in F in 1911. Original music for band was available in vast quantities from publishers as early as 1851(Groves), but unfortunately most of the material was boring and dull. The only real contribution was in the field of marches where there was an enormous proliferation. Some European band composers were responsible for tuneful overtures and waltzes such as Czech composer Julius Fücik. But by and large the concert band programs were filled with transcriptions for band of piano and symphonic music particularly overtures from opera. In 1915 the well known composer Camille Saint-Saëns composed Hail Columbia for band, orchestra and organ for the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. However, the first pattern entry into the concert band publishing field began with the works of Australian-British composer Percy Grainger publishing his work in the United States in 1918. The next year, Richard Franko Goldman instituted the first American competition for serious concert band work. The judges were Percy Grainger and Victor Herbert. In 1922 British classics are embraced by North American bands including Gordon Jacob’s William Byrd Suite and Ralph Vaughn Williams English Folk Song Suite. In 1930 Igor Stravinsky composed a major work for band with his Symphony of The Psalms for chorus and winds. Another world class composer Ottorino Respighi was commissioned by Goldman to write a new piece for band in 1932 which was titled Huntingtower Ballad. In the same year Gustav Holst composed the band classic Hammersmith Prelude and Scherzo, and it was premiered by the United States Marine band at the American bandmasters Association convention. One of the major works for band was completed in 1939 when William Schuman composed Newsreel in Five Shots and it is premiered by the Penn State University band. Band favourite Suite Francais is composed in 1944 by French composer Darius Milhaud who has taken up residence in San Francisco. Although there were a few major composers who are writing serious works for band the number remained a trickle and bands in North America and abroad still continued to play transcriptions and marches. In 1946 Edwin Franko Goldman makes a huge leap into the development of the concert band music by commissioning major composers such as Thomson, Piston, Mennin, Persichetti, Hanson, Creston, and Gould to write for the band repertoire and premiered by the Goldman band. In 1949, composer Owen Reed composed La Fiesta Mexicana, a Mexican Folk Song Symphony, and his endeavour became the defining moment for concert band works. It heralded the new era of magnificent musical performance pieces for band. Subsequently a number of superior publications are released including in 1951 Darius Milhaud’s West Point Suite and Mennin’s Canzona for band. In Britain, composer Gordon Jacob wrote the amazing military band composition Music for a Festival and it is premiered by fanfare trumpets and bands of the Brigade of Guards In 1954, composer Howard Hanson continued to advance the band repertoire with his classic creation “Chorale and Alleluia” based on a Swedish Hymn. The following year, two major works of enormous popularity for all bands in North America are written - Frank Erikson’s Toccata for Band and Joseph Wilcox Jenkins rousing and glorious piece American Overture for Band. By 1962, the number and quality of the music especially written for concert band had reached epic proportions and included Norman Dello Joio’s Variants On A Medieval Tune and the magical Incantation and Dance by John Barnes Chance. Barnes repeated this successful piece in 1965 with Variations on a Korean Folk Song. To illustrate some of the dramatic changes that were undertaken in the field of concert band music below is a portion of a program from March 16, 1948 by the University of Illinois Concert band under Dr A.A. Harding: Overture to the Wasps of Aristophanes                 Ralph-Vaughan Williams (Orchestral Transcription for band) Excerpts from Symphonic poems “A Heroes Life”    Richard Strauss (Transcription for band) Symphony in Eb 3rd Movement opus 4                       Tikhon Khreniko (Unknown work) Danse (Tarantella styrienne) (Orchestral transcription for band)                           Debussy-Ravel Psyche and Eros from Symphonic Tone Poem         Cesar Frank (Orchestral transcription for band) Three dances from ballet suite Gayne                     Avram Khactaturian Orchestral transcription for band The program sample below is by the Belle Isle Concert band (later the Detroit Concert band) on Sunday June 12, 1960 under Leonard B Smith. The Overture Ill Guarany                                        A Carlos Gomez (Original band music) On the Trail from Grand Canyon Suite                   Ferde Grofe (Orchestral Transcription) Blue Tail Fly                       Clare Grundman (Original band composition) Original Cornet Solo Fantasie in Eb           Edward Barat (Band work) Edwin Franko Goldman continued to champion original band music and his son Richard Franko Goldman repeated earlier concerts which featured a complete program of band compositions in 1962 as depicted below is the same as the Silver Jubilee Concert of 1942: Christmas March                 E F Goldman Spring Overture Leo Sowerby Canto Yoruba                                                              Pedro Sanjuan Rhapsody Jericho                      Morton Gould A Legend Paul Creston Newsreel William Schuman Fist Suite in Eb Gustav Holst Festive Occasion Henry Cowell A Curtain raiser and Country Dance     RF Goldman Lost lady Found Percy Grainger English Folk Song Suite R Vaughn Williams By 1971, original band music publications had increased ten fold, and much of the music became classics of the band repertoire including Tull’s Sketches on a Tudor Psalm (1971) and John Barnes Chance Blue Lake Overture.  In 1972, it was stated that American and Canadian wind bands had become part of the largest commissioning program in the history of music. Concert band music through the 1970’s took on a renaissance of the celebration of America. In 1975 William Schuman composed the final movement of his Trypitch Be Glad America  called New England, and Karl Husa wrote An American Te Deum. During the 1980’s, composer Gunther Schuller contributed some wonderful compositions to the band repertoire with his symphony In Praise of Winds. In 1984 Warren Benson composed his elaborate piece “Wings.” In 1986, David Holsinger won the American Bandmasters award with his challenging piece for concert band In the Spring, at the Time When Kings Go Off to War. In 1987, Warren Benson contributes a valiant composition called Dawn’s early Light, and in 1989, Gunther Schuller is commissioned by the United States Air Force band to compose On Winged Flight A Divertimento for band. Through the 1990’s vast numbers of concert band music sprung from the pens of America’s composers. However, the impact of English composition on the literature of the wind band has been most significant and cannot be overlooked.  There has been an effort in recent years to encourage British composers of some note to write with the military or wind band in mind. Included in this newer group are Timothy Reynish, Thea Musgrave, Alun Hoddinott, Edward Gregson, David Bedford, Derek Bourgeois, Stephen Dodgson, Philip Sparke and Adam Gorb, to name several. The result was a new body of creative writing making its mark on the band movement worldwide for years to come.  In particular Philip Sparke and Thea Musgrave compositions have found their way into the repertoire of North American bands. The new millennium has been an age of discovery as good band music from the past has often been reprieved.  A few of the programs over the past few years will demonstrate that the field of concert band writing has reached epic proportions. We welcome readers to search out band concerts from community, High School, College, University and Service bands. You will never be disappointed. Recent Programs April 24, 2009
  • Toccata Marziale – Ralph Vaughan Williams; Zachary deVries, conductor
  • Lied ohne Worte – Rolf Rudin
  • Cajun Folk Songs II – Frank Ticheli
  • Bandancing – Jack Stamp
March 3, 2009
  • Toccata for Band – Frank Erickson
  • Three London Minatures – Mark Camphouse
  • Hymn for Band – Hugh Stuart; Zachary deVries, conductor
  • A Dakota Rhapsody – Mark Camphouse
November 19, 2008
  • A Festival Prelude – Alfred Reed
  • Moon by Night – Jonathan Newman; Zachary deVries, conductor
  • Crystals – Thomas C. Duffy
  • Colours – Roger Cichy
October 18, 2008
  • Sun Dance – Frank Ticheli
  • O Magnum Mysterium – Morten Lauridsen
  • Armenian Dances – Alfred Reed
April 25, 2008
  • Der Traum der Oenghus – Rolf Rudin
  • Loud Sunsets – George Lam (World Premiere)
  • We’ll Say Goodnight, But Not Goodbye – David William Faleris
  • Canzona – Peter Mennin; Jason Wang, conductor
  • Ride – Samuel Hazo
February 22, 2008
  • Kaddish – W. Francis McBeth
  • Ballad For Band – Morton Gould
  • “Gandalf” from Symphony No. 1: The Lord of the Rings – Johan de Meij
December 7, 2007
  • Festive Overture, Op. 96 – Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Chorale Prelude on a German Folk Tune – James Barnes
  • Sonatina, Op. 13, No. 1 – Dmitri Kabalevsky, trans. B. Holcombe; Jason Wang, conductor
  • GAME ON – Matthew Raskopf (World Premiere)
  • Bryn Calfaria – William Owen, trans. B. Holcombe
  • Three Sketches for Winds – Clare Grundman
October 28, 2007
  • Emperata Overture – Claude T. Smith
  • First Suite in E-Flat – Gustav Holst; Jason Wang, conductor
  • From Every Horizon (A Tone Poem to New York ) – Norman Dello Joio
October 16, 2007
  • Evening Hym from Hansel & Gretel – Eglebert Humperdink (BU Bands Horn Choir)
  • First Suite in E-flat op. 28 – Gustav Holst; Jason Wang, conductor
End Notes: The Wind bands-EF Goldman1961 Ayllin and Bacon-Boston, Program notes re the Goldman band Concerts, The American Wind band –Richard K Hansen, published GIA Publications 2005