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CBDNA 1997 Conference

Worth looking at:

Gillingham, David Waking Angels C Alan Publications
Work, Julian Autumn Walk Shawnee
Hailstork, Augustus An American Guerenica MMB
Husa, Karel Les Coulerus Fauves European-American Music
Binney, Malcolm Visions of Light Maecenas
Mays, Walter Dreamcatcher c/o Wichita
Colgrass, Michael Urban Requiem Carl Fischer
McTee, Cindy Soundings  

Leadership Role Of Cbdna

Leadership in development of a professional repertoire for wind orchestras and bands certainly now resides with the American CBDNA, which under the then President Frank Battisti, organised in 1981 the first International Conference which gave birth to BASBWE and WASBE. 1 was able to attend the 29th National Conference in the superb facilities of the University of Georgia at Athens, three and a half days, mornings spent at the Conference Centre at the music and CD exhibition and shop, in discussions and breakout groups, the rest of the day at the Arts Centre hearing nine concerts which framed a further six lecture sessions. The daily receptions strengthened the friendship and camaraderie of the Conference.

A Need For Wasbe

The standard of the ensembles was extremely high, the level of the new works exacting, the discussions far-reaching and the organisation superb. Why bother with WASBE if you can join CBDNA and their Conferences? Some of the answers might be found below. The world of this music is limited; commissions in general are for virtuoso works from university based composers, played by university ensembles to university conductors, players and composers.

I believe that one of the most important roles of WASBE is to bring the wind band and wind ensemble into the market-place, to make links with the music profession, commission professional composers of the highest calibre to write, get professional players to perform and to let the world know of the best repertoire. Meanwhile, the ideals of the CBDNA lead the repertoire growth in the USA.

Elegant Chamber Music

The programmes were mainly for large Ensembles and were predominantly American, though the opening concert, by Michigan State Chamber Winds under John Whitwell, gave us a reminder of the European chamber music tradition, with elegant performances of Divertissement by Emile Bernard (1843-1942), Music for Eighteen Winds (1986 Schirmer) by John Harbison (b 1938) and our own Malcolm Binney's Visions of Light, (Maecenas, 1996) commissioned by Wells Cathedral School.

Dreamcatcher

Tragedy struck the Conference and the Budapest Symphonic Band, when they found at Budapest airport that their travel agent had the wrong visas, and they were not allowed to leave for the USA. Their Wednesday evening concert was given by Wichita State University, a nicely balanced programme called Premiers and Perennials, setting three new works alongside Holst's Jupiter, Grainger's Handel in the Strand (a pity not to have one of the more taxing original works) and Copland's Emblems in an authoritative performance by Robert Reynolds. There was a rare bit of passion in Dreamcatcher by Walter Mays, a thirteen minute work with fascinating sounds from Alto Flute and muted brass, contrabassoon and percussion. Details of this from the conductor Victor Markovich, at Wichita.

On Thursday, the University of Southern Mississippi conducted by Thomas Fraschillo brought two very successful novelties, Fanfare on Motifs of Die Gurrelieder (1945) by Schoenberg, written for a Hollywood Bowl concert for Stokowski, and a 4 minute excerpt from Puccini's opera Le Villi called La Tregenda. There was an interesting Timpani Concerto by James Oliverio, but in this hall, the noise level was excessive, and in particular the balance between an over-heavy brass section and struggling woodwind was not addressed.

The first half of the programme by the University of Kentucky Wind Ensemble and Richard Clary was largely unremarkable, though it was nice to hear Music for Winds & Percussion by Blas Atehortua, commissioned for the Uster Festival and premiered there by Clark Rundell and the RNCM in 1993. However, the Urban Requiem by Michael Colgrass for Four Saxophones and Wind Orchestra is a major addition to the repertoire, a fitting successor to the composer's Winds of Nagual and Artic Dreams.

The highspot for many people was the performance by the virtuosic University of North Texas Wind Symphony, under Eugene Corporon, who at Texas and Cincinnati has launched a formidable series of compact discs recording important contemporary works. His concert was framed by two British works, Paul Hart's Royal Marines commission, Circus Ring (1995, R Smith) and Philip Sparke's Dance Movements (1996 R Smith), commissioned by the United States Airforce Band, both very successful in this context. I found the new commission for wind and dance by John Harbison Olympic Dances (1996) beautifully crafted, but enjoyed more Cindy McTee's Soundings (1985).

Texas A&M University under Bobbv Francis brought the exciting Motown Metal (1994) by Michael Daugherty, 8 minutes of big city energy scored for a brass section of 4431 and 3 percussion, and ended with movements from Eric Ewazen's Shadowcatcher (1996) for brass quintet and band, and a very interesting Symphony no 3 " Slavyanskaya" (1930, Wingert-Jones) by Boris Kozhenikov, edited by John Bourgeois; the Scherzo is absolutely first rate and should immediately replace transcriptions of Borodin Symphonies.

A second fascinating European-based chamber programme came from Meadows Wind Ensemble of the Southern Methodist University under Jack Delaney. They perhaps did not quite have the edge and command for Edgard Varèse's Integrales which still shocks after 70 years, but gave convincing performances of Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques, while 1 greatly enjoyed Stephen Montague's At the White Edge of Phrygia (1983), beautifully danced by the College's Dance Ensemble..Stephen is at present based in London and should be commissioned as soon as he has time to write a wind piece.

Our hosts, University of Georgia Wind Symphony under Dwight Satterwhite, not only organised and ushered, but also gave an interesting concert with four premières, two of them outstanding. Blue Shades (1996), one of the only works at about Grade 4, is a fascinating slightly jazzy minimalist piece commissioned from Frank Ticheli by a consortium of thirty university, highschool and community concert bands. and is a thoroughly successful tribute to the Big Band era. Waking Angels (1997) by David Gillingham, scored for chamber forces, is a sensitive work inspired by a poem about AIDS, nostalgic and a little sentimental but effective.

Welcome Lyricism

A highlight for me was the Saturday lecture on Band Music of the African-American Composers presented by Myron D Moss of the Southern Connecticut State University, played by the most extraordinarily disciplined Symphonic Band of Florida A&M University at Tallahassee under William Foster. All of the music was new to me, and much of it presented a welcome lyricism in the face of the almost turbulent virtuosity of other programmes. The most contemporary works were by Adolphus ame="Hailstork" id="Hailstork">Hailstork (b. 1941) whose American Guernica (1983, MMB) is particularly moving, but 1 also enjoyed his Celebration (1974 Trigram). Many here will know The Little Red Schoolhouse (1967, Grade 3 Presser) by William Grant Still (1895-1978), and I highly recommend his Summerland (1936, Still), together with the restrained Delian Autumn Walk by Julian Work. Three works on rental would be worth programming, Essay for Band (1958, Peer-Southern), a rather post-Hindemith but very effective piece by Roger Dickerson (b 1934), Hailstork's Out of the Depths (1974, Belwin) and Necrology (1985, composer) by Gary Nash (b 1964).

Efficient and brilliant though most of the playing was throughout the Conference, 1 preferred the sound-quality, in this hall at least, of the Indiana University Wind Symphony under Ray Cramer, one of the few ensembles which could vary the attack and produce a dolce singing line. This was needed for the very beautiful new work by Karel Husa (b 1921), Les Couleurs Fauves(1996 European-American Music). This seventeen-minute work was commissioned for John Paynter by alumni and friends of Northwestern University, and was premiered in November 1996; it is in two contrasting movements.

Husa's new work was one of the most significant works to emerge from a Conference which was mainly about new repertoire, with twelve world premières, often of very aggressive music. I found this incredibly stimulating though exhausting, and while my reviews of the works which I enjoyed are very subjective, 1 wonder about the pieces which 1 cannot remember. The level of performance was high and extremely efficient, but the music generally provoked loud and assertive performances. We live in a world of great tension; does art mirror life, or can we create a wider spectrum of emotion in our commissions?

Of the premieres, those by Husa, Mays, Gillingham and Ticheli spoke to me emotionally or amused me, while the recent works by Colgrass, McTee, and Montague 1 would also like to programme and promote. Other pieces might make a stronger impression in a different programme.