CWS Concert Review Music of Mysteries, Legends and Ritual

The CWS performed music of mystery, legend and ritual on Sunday, March 3, 2013. Photo by R-M Arca. The Calgary Wind Symphony performed a selection of mysterious and sweeping music on a snowy Sunday, March 3, 2013 at the University of Calgary’s Rozsa Centre. Dubbed "Music of Mysteries, Legends and Ritual", the concert featured Terri Shouldice on flute and Dr. Jeremy Brown on alto saxophone. It also included two premières: the Canadian première of Kenneth Fuch's Rush - Concerto in E flat for Alto Saxophone and the Alberta première of Paul Hart's Cartoon.

Recently, when Dr. Jeremy Brown was conducting the University of Calgary Jazz Ensemble in the United States, he had the opportunity to meet with Daniel Bukvich, who composed the first piece, entitled Voodoo. Bukvich was delighted to hear that the Calgary Wind Symphony was working on Voodoo and promised to send another one of his works.

Calgary Wind Symphony Conjures Vivid Imagery at Calgary Concert

At the downbeat , the Rozsa Centre was draped in darkness, with only the twinkling lights from the music stands and Dr. Jeremy Brown's blue glow-in -the-dark baton. Voodoo painted a vivid picture for listeners.It was as if the audience was transported into the middle of a David Attenborough nature documentary, complete with bird calls and trombone slides to depict swinging monkeys. The rain sticks and flash lights gave the effect of a rainstorm, while the clapping and chanting evoked images of aborginal peoples celebrating a successful hunt.

Charles Griffes' Poem for Flute and Orchestra featured CWS flautist Terri Shouldice. This Impressionistic inspired work offered listeners aural post cards of contrasting scenes. It opened with the low brass instruments. The winds echoed back the theme before the flute's entrance. The languid first theme showcased. The solo flute passages varied from sweeping motives to a mysterious Spanish-infused theme.The applause lasted for several minutes after the performance.

Old Churches by Pullitzer prize winner Michael Colgrass evoked images crumbling, abandoned churches. The melancholy soundscape was peppered with momentary shots of dissonance, created by the aleatoric segments. At times, it sounded like debris blowing in the wind and hitting against broken glass, while the stainless steel mixing bowls sounded like an iron gate clanging against a broken latch.

The final work for the first half, Cartoon by Paul Hart was an absolute treat to hear. Dr. Brown introduced it as a "sophisticated musical stew."

It opened with a lively march, a la Bugs Bunny. The scurrying dialogue between the winds and percussion mimicked a chase à la Tom & Jerry, while the muted trombones sounded an awful lot like the teacher from Peanuts.

The slower middle theme contained Gershin-esque harmonies and sweeping melodies which conjured images of Pepe le Pew on a night on the town. "Music Mysteries, Legends & Ritual" marked what Dr. Brown believed was the Alberta première performance of this entertaining work.

Haunting Flute Music Performed by the Parthenia Flute Choir

The Parthenia Flute Choir under the direction of Wendy Freeman performed at the University of Calgary. Photo by R-M Arca.

Concert patrons enjoyed some otherworldly music in the lobby during intermission, performed by the Parthenia Flute Choir. The flute ensemble, under the direction of Wendy Freeman, performed Eric Ewazen's Harmony in Blue and Gold

Comprised of four movements, Harmony was inspired by James McNeill Whistler’s "Peacock Room" located at the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery. Eric Ewazen composed this work for Femme Flutale.

A Canadian Premiere and a Rarely Performed Work at the CWS Concert

The Calgary Wind Symphony delivered the Canadian première performance of Rush - Concerto for E flat Alto Saxophone, American composer Kenneth Fuchs. This demanding work featured Dr. Jeremy Brown on saxophone and Wendy Freeman as the conductor.

The first movement, "Evening" opened with a saxophone solo that featured long soulful tones. The ensemble soon joined in with a grand sweeping theme. As the saxophone continued to play a pensive melody, the flutes and percussion played carefully placed notes, depicting stars lighting up the sky, one by one. The saxophone part traversed the alto saxophone's entire range and showcased Dr. Brown's beautiful tone.

The second movement, "Morning", revealed several contrasting moods. It began with a lyrical sax solo. This soon gave way to a rhythmic passage, featuring the winds in the upper range against a sweeping motif played by the saxophones. As the movement progressed, the music featured more syncopated rhythms, pushing towards a dramatic climax.

The music of Kenneth Fuchs is gaining recognition worldwide and has led to successful collaborations. He has worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson and the London Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of JoFalletta recorded three albums featuring Fuch's music. The first album was nominated for two Grammys.

Flute Cocktail by Harry Simeone was a light hearted piece. It opened with the flutes playing a Baroque-styled theme, which soon gave way to the  brass and percussion instruments, while the flutes played a bubbly motif underneath. Snippets of London Bridge weaved throughout the work.

The Calgary Wind Symphony closed with La Fiesta Mexicana by H. Owen Reed. Dr. Brown explained that due to the work's length of 18 minutes, it is rarely performed. "Maybe once every 10 years," he said.

One interesting feature for this work is the fact that various musicians went off-stage to perform, mimicking a mariachi band heard in the distance. The work is comprised of three movements: a rhythmic and energetic "Prelude and Aztec Dance", a reverent "Mass" and a toe-tapping "Carnival".

About the Calgary Wind Symphony

The Calgary Wind Symphony is a 60-member ensemble, directed by Dr. Jeremy Brown of the University of Calgary. Formerly known as the Calgary Concert Band, the ensemble has been active in Calgary’s musical community since 1947.

Music aficionados can check out the Calgary Wind Symphony on Sunday, June 2 at 2:30 p.m. The CWS will present “Apollo Sings! Music that Soars”. For more information and to buy concert tickets, please visit the CWS’s website.

For those who braved the terrible winter roads on March 3, 2013, the Calgary Wind Symphony’s “Music of Mysteries, Legends and Ritual” concert proved to be a diverse and highly entertaining programme of eerie and grand music.