The first Calgary Wind Symphony concert for the 2013/14 season swept the audience away from the first snowfall to the wonderful world of children’s fantasy. Held Sunday, October 27, 2013 at the Rozsa Centre (University of Calgary), “A Children’s Garden of Dreams” featured a mixture of symphonic wind orchestra music as well as concert band music.
Artistic Director Dr. Jeremy Brown led the CWS. Guest musicians included Gianetta Baril (harp), Julie Jacques (piano), Sheldon Zandboer (electric organ), Jessica Murdoch, Nia Devetzis (percussion), Jose Duque (clarinet) and Tessa Baker (saxophone).
Calgary Wind Symphony perform “Harry Potter” and Maslanka’s “A Child’s Garden of Dreams”
This wind symphony concert began with Robert W. Smith’s concert band arrangement of the “Harry Potter Symphonic Suite” by John Williams. From the opening bars of “Hedwig’s Theme”, played by the percussion section, the audience was transported to Hogwarts. The dynamic contrasts and sweeping crescendos created a sense of being swept away.
“On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss” by David Holsinger showcased the woodwinds. The build-up to the tutti section was beautifully done. Calm and reverent at first, before gradually swelling to the climax. Mr. Holsinger based “Hymnsong” on the American hymn, “It is Well with my Soul.”
In contrast, Timothy Broege’s “Blue Goose Rag” evoked images of summer fairs. This Sousa-inspired number was cheerful and playful. The slide whistle at the end was a nice touch.
The pinnacle of the first half was David Maslanka’s “A Child’s Garden of Dreams.” It was commissioned by John and Marietta Paynter for the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble. The CWS performed four out of five movements of this demanding work.
The basis of this work for symphonic wind orchestra is one of psychiatrist Carl Jung’s patients. His patient received a handwritten booklet from his 10-year old daughter. In “Man and His Symbols,” Jung wrote: “It contained a whole series of dreams she had had when she was eight. They made up the weirdest series of dreams I have ever seen…” A year later, the child caught an infectious disease and passed away. Jung viewed the dreams as preparation for death: “When I first read her dreams, I had the uncanny feeling that they suggested impending disaster. These dreams open up a new and rather terrifying aspect of life and death.”
Dr. Brown introduced each movement to give the audience a better understanding of the work. The first movement, “There is a desert on the moon where the dreamer sinks so deeply into the ground that she reaches hell” began hauntingly with sustained tone. An ominous percussion ostinato and skittering piano figure were interrupted by a brass fanfare. The recurring brass theme and increasing dissonance combined with the frantic lines in the winds lent to the imagery of descending into hell.
The second movement, “A Drunken woman falls into the water and comes out renewed and sober,” in contrast, was slow and eerie. This movement featured some wonderful lines for English horn, played by Robin Bunker.
The fourth movement is entitled “A drop of water is seen as it appears when looked at through a microscope. The girl sees that the drop is full of tree branches. This portrays the origin of the world.” It opened with the piano and keyboard holding a sustained chord, with the the flutes and clarinets playing a descending two-note motif. The sweeping melody was given to a English horn and saxophone. The changing textures and rhythms evoked images of different flora and fauna appearing on earth.
The final movement, entitled “An ascent into heaven, where pagan dances are being celebrated; and a descent into hell, where angels are doing good deeds” was lively. It featured percussion with tribal rhythms, intertwining lines played with varied timbre and tilted harmonies.
“The Headless Horseman”, “Pink Panther” and “Huckleberry Finn” at the Calgary Wind Symphony Concert
Richard Fossey, CWS Treasurer, spoke to the audience at the start of the second half. He had three announcements: single tickets could be upgraded to a season subscription, that tickets will go quickly for the upcoming CWS concert with trumpet heavyweight Allen Vizzutti and the launch of the Calgary Wind Symphony’s fund development campaign, InvestYYC. Proceeds will help fund the wind symphony’s commission, “Duo Concertante” by Albertan composer Christiaan Venter, which will receive its world premiere in December.
This half of the Calgary Wind Symphony concert provided a striking contrast to “A Child’s Garden of Dreams.” Percy Grainger’s “Children’s March: Over the Hills and Far Away,” contained several folk elements, including an Irish jig. It featured a delightful piano part, ably performed by Julie Jacques.
“The Headless Horseman” by Timothy Broege was a short number that painted a sense of impending doom. From the dissonant harmonies to the descending trombone slides and from the “tick-tock” sounds to midnight to the driving drum ostinato, this number was rich in imagery.
Henry Mancini’s “The Pink Panther” presented a dramatic contrast. The saxophone section had a chance to shine in this concert band arrangement by John Edmondson.
The concert ended with Franco Cesarini’s “Huckleberry Finn Suite” for concert band, which Dr. Brown described as “a childlike vignette set.” The four musical scenes were: “A Lazy Town”, “Jim”, “The King and the Duke” and “Huckleberry’s Rag.” The Calgary Wind Symphony switched effortlessly from the lazy hillbilly theme to the lively hoedown motif. Another highlight from this number was “Huckleberry’s Rag,” a Dixieland-inspired rag. The rapidly moving lines were articulated clearly, which provided a balanced contrast to the sliding lines.
From Harry Potter to “A Children’s Garden of Dreams” and from “The Headless Horseman” to the “Huckleberry Finn Suite”, the October 27, 2013 Calgary Wind Symphony concert provided an entertaining afternoon, dripping in imagery. For more information about the Calgary Wind Symphony or to buy concert tickets, visit the Calgary Wind Symphony’s website.
N.B. Thank you to the Calgary Wind Symphony for providing a concert reviewer ticket.