Symphonic Band and Cal State LA Wind Ensemble joined the stage together, with the Clarinet Quintet for The University Bands Concert that took place on Tuesday evening at the State Playhouse.
The playhouse was filled with relatives and friends of the performers, constantly cheering, and sharing this experience altogether. Many were still in high school, aspiring to become professional musicians and band directors themselves one day. As the model available to the local band students, Cal State LA Wind Ensemble has gone on quite a few tours in the past years and became reputable for many prospective students, especially for music education majors.
Symphonic Band was the first performing group. They brought to the audience four repertoires: British Eighth by Zo Elliott and edited by Q.C. Hilliard, An Australian Sea Ballad arranged by Robert Sheldon, Echoes from a Russian Cathedral by Peter Tchaikovsky and transposed by Kenneth Singleton, and Simple Gifts: Four Shaker Songs by Frank Ticheli. Dr. Emily Moss, the director of both ensembles, conducted the first three pieces. The last one was conducted by Wilhermino Schimmeyer, a music graduate student.
Cal State LA Wind Ensemble performed last, and this Fall, they blended the old classics and contemporary music. The first two pieces were very well-known from wind bands- the first was a British marched, Second Suite in F, Op. 28 No. 2 by Gustav Holst, and the second one required the entire ensemble to follow Dr. Moss’s every breath and move, A Solemn Music by Virgil Thomson. One interesting fact was the stamp on the top of the page, “Property of Los Angeles State College,” the founding name of this campus, which meant that the very pages of the piece had been lying in the music department’s library for at least 60 years. “This concert is a little bit different from my norm. [It’s like] there’s the past, and now here’s the band’s future,” explained Dr. Moss regarding the repertoire selection.
For the contemporary pieces, they performed a jazz influenced piece called Melodius Thunk and composed by David Biedenbender. The last piece was especially unique because they brought alive a world premiere repertoire called Seeds of Glass, which was a creation of Benjamin Dean Taylor. It was influenced by the modern musical phenomenon “Dubstep,” with the percussion section creating the urgent and grooving beats along with the marimba constantly decorating the melodies. The horn sections kept their majestic tones and chords, while the woodwinds moving the melodies forward with runs and trills. Saxophones were put to good use, ornamental yet full of spice. Moreover, the repertoire was accompanied by a video projected above the stage, the music and imagery were created to complement each other, alternating between dreamy and powerful.
“The composer and I have been in contact for two years about this project, we spoke back in the Winter of 2014, and we began [discussing] the possibility of having video with wind band. I was very interested in having the two integrated, such that they would not exist without each other,” said Dr. Moss. “I think [Taylor] did it really brilliantly. I didn’t even know what ‘Dubstep’ was, when he told me I had to look it up, and thought this could be fun.”
When talking about repertoire selection as a director, Dr. Moss described the process as planning a dinner party. “You give them an appetizer, and then there’s a main course, and then maybe a dessert. You sort of think about taking the audience on a journey- let them go through a series of emotions and experience different things. I try to get a nice variety, then I think about the experiences I want my students to have, and the sorts of musical and technical challenges that I want to put before them, these all come together when I select pieces [for the band].”
The students did a terrific job to bring the repertoires alive. Jorge Amezcua is a senior music education major and he played first Alto Saxophone in Wind Ensemble. He was very excited about the outcome of this concert, “I have to admit I was skeptical about ‘Seeds of Glass’ but once we played it with the video, saw our school’s name at the top of the piece, and noticed the audience’s reaction to the music that we created, I knew that it is going to be a great piece of art.”
“I felt like it went well and was a great experience to be a part of since it was the first time I did something with a video,” said Luis Caceres Flores, also a music education major. Joshua Escutia, music education major as well, played Tenor Saxophone in the ensemble, also contributed to the comments, “Collaborative experiences like Seeds of Glass have been on the rise in modern compositions. To perform one of these pieces, let alone be a part of the world premiere, is an extremely surreal feeling. I couldn’t have been happier [with the performance].”
Unfortunately, the attempt to get in contact with the composer Benjamin Dean Taylor ceased to succeed. However, the recording of this world premiere will be available on his website, which could be easily found on Google by searching his name.
The ensembles are consisted of mainly music major students, and students from other majors who simply desired to keep playing their instruments. Wind Ensemble is more selective and will require audition to join. Auditions are usually held days before Fall semester begins, more information would be available on the department’s website.