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WASBE 2003 Conference

The World Series - Top Repertoire 2003

As in baseball, the World Series in Wind Music is dominated by the United States, so this is another of my retrospective looks at WASBE & CBDNA conferences of the past twenty years to see if there is any international repertoire of which I need to be reminded. Regrettably I do not have an ensemble any more; if I did, I would be happy to programme any of the following for conservatoire or professional ensemble, while waiting in anticipation for the next WASBE repertoire in Singapore.

Austria Aurora Thomas Doss
Croatia Zagorske Slike Davor Bobi'c
Czech Karel Husa Les Couleurs Fauves
Denmark Hommage to Stravinsky Ole Schmidt
Belgium Danse Funambulesque Jules Strens
Canada Winds of Nagual Michael Colgrass
France Le Quatorze Juilliet (brass quintet soloists) François Rauber
Germany Konzert für Blasorchester Thorstein Willmann
Hungary Suite from King Pomade Gyorgy Ranki
Israel Masada Boris Pigovat
Japan Les Trois Notes de Japan Toshio Mashima
Netherlands Cyrano Piet Swerts
New Zealand L'homme armé Christopher Marshall
Norway Cantilena for Trombone and Band Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen
Norway Motlys Per Norgard
Russia Tales of the Priest and his Blockhead Servan Dmitri Shostakovich
Sweden Concerto for Wind and Percussion Christian Lindberg
Sweden Recollection Csaba Deak
UK Towards Nirvana Adam Gorb
UK Reflections on a 16th Century Tune Richard Rodney Bennett
USA Les Couleurs Fauves Karel Husa
USA In War Time David del Tredici

Recommended Repertoire For High School Bands

A Child's Embrace Charles Rochester Young Southern
A+; A Precise Prelude Tom Duffy ACF/Hal Leonard
Candle Light Procession Adam Gorb Maecenas
Dance Sequence Marco Pütz Maecenas
Hambone Libby Larsen ACF/Hal Leonard
Simple Gifts Frank Ticheli Manhattan
The Old Railway Station John Brakstad Warner-Chappell
The Voyageurs Pierre La Plainte Daehn
Their Blossom Down Samuel Hazo Boosey

All Good Things

"All good things come in threes" used to be the received wisdom about so many trios, including Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. Nowadays I am not so sure; during the last few months, once again we had a George Bush in the White House, once again we all invaded Iraq and once again I was Chair of Artistic Planning for a WASBE Conference. Most of the hard work had already been done before Bush and Saddam started their war, and luckily this time no groups cancelled because of it. One fascinating by-product of Conference informal discussions was to garner the different views of the war from delegates from the Gulf States, from Australasia, from Europe, from Canada and from USA. I am sure we would have sorted out a lot of international problems, had George and Tony given us a brief to do so, despite the early closing time of Swedish hotel bars.

Timetable

In Jönköping the bare facts were that we had thirteen concerts, five repertoire sessions, six headliner sessions, four masterclasses, a five session stream of school band activity, daily conductor mentoring sessions, meetings of specialist groups such as the composers forum, and upwards of forty clinics and papers. Yes, of course there was too much on at 4 pm; the alternative is to have five sessions in five days, turn away thirty-five would-be presenters and lose their expertise, camaraderie and input into the Conference. One possible partial solution would be to have sessions repeated, so that if you miss on one day, you might pick up the topic on another, but I am an unrepentant believer in inviting a large number of composers, conductors and academics to be involved - something for everyone.

Composers

As Craig Kirchhoff observed, leading the Wednesday discussion, there is that old saying, we are what we eat, and in a sense we are what we play. My artistic planning committee felt that the composer is of paramount importance to WASBE; we had no "gala" concerts, all programmes were given equal status, and all the groups encouraged to build a full-length concert with an intermission. The result was, in my view, that we were given a whole series of major works, often with the composers present. Under the skilful organization of Rolf Rudin, a dozen pieces were programmed by WASBE composers and ten composers were in Sweden to hear their works.

WASBE Composers

I have always felt that WASBE composers should receive a strong platform, and we heard twelve, possibly more, "WASBE Composer" works. Kamillo Lendvay and Frigyes Hidas had their 75th birthdays celebrated by the unpronounceable Kiskunfélegyhÿza band from Hungary, Johan de Meij conducted his charming and winsome The Wind in the Willows, and the Danish Concert Band also played Rapsodia Borealis for Trombone by Søren Hyldgaard and council member Yasuhide Ito's Gloriosa, Csaba Deak had a world premiere of Recollection, a tribute to his mentor Hilding Rosenberg, we heard Karel Husa's Les Couleurs Fauves, Adam Gorb's Towards Nirvana, Vincente Moncho's de Tango, Michael Short's Estonia and Dana Wilson's Vortex, Stephen Bryant of Gorilla Salad fame had his Alchemy in Silent Space workshopped by Dennis Johnson while Marco Pütz's Dance Sequence was this year's commission by the WASBE Schools network.

A number of composers made the journey to hear their performances and introduce their music. Johan de Meij was there as composer, conductor, publisher, arranger and trombonist, and in one session was set up to be recognised for each of these activities - Christian Lindberg could have claimed the same! Eric Ewazen from Juilliard gave an interesting talk on his very substantial Concerto for Bassoon and Wind Orchestra played persuasively by Jeffrey Keesecker and the Florida State University Wind Orchestra, David Kechley introduced his Restless Birds before a Dark Moon for Alto Saxophone and band, with Wayne Tice as the ebullient soloist with the Orchestre d'Harmonie d'Électricité de Strassbourg, Chris Marshall came all the way from New Zealand to talk about the premiere of his L'homme armé, Csaba Deak talked about his pieceRecollection in the context of contemporary Swedish music, and Hiroshi Hoshina conducted a loving account of his Fu-Mon with the Kanagawa University Band. Artist-in-Residence, Christian Lindberg, unfortunately could only join us at the beginning and end of the week, and there seemed no time in his busy schedule to discuss his commission, Concerto for Wind Orchestra, premiered in the opening concert, though Britta Byrstrom was able to talk about her new work for the International Youth Wind Orchestra, WEEDS, and of course Marco Pütz and Adam Gorb were there to talk about the problems of writing for younger bands and to hear their works.

Ensembles

Florida State University was invited as Ensemble in Residence, and gave a concert, two repertoire sessions, and also contributed players to the International Youth Wind Orchestra and the Guildhall for their rep session. Three major military bands and Sweden's leading professional wind orchestra were also invited, but for the rest, the ensembles were chosen by blind audition, compact discs or tapes were made of every group that applied, circulated to twelve members of the Artistic Planning Committee who then voted. Three bands, community bands from Spain, Slovenia and Norway, were forced to withdraw for financial or personnel reasons; this meant a loss of Spanish repertoire, made up partially by three clinic sessions, and a cancellation of new works from Slovenia, but Odd Terje Lysebo's Nanset Wind Ensemble came in as a late replacement with an extraordinarily varied programmes. Kiskunfélegyhÿza, Guildhall, Florida (2) and Nanset gave invaluable repertoire sessions.

Geographical Spread

I felt that the level of playing was extremely high, so that even the most avant-garde or anodyne work was listened to with respect - discussion raged about music, not about performances. The programmes will be on our website, together with information about the groups; while the expertise of all of the groups was advanced, they came from a variety of backgrounds and a good spread of countries: four community bands, three military, two university, two youth ensembles, one professional and one conservatoire, of which two each came from Norway, Sweden and the UK, with one each from Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, UK, USA and the International Youth Wind Orchestra. It might be useful to list the groups with their contact email current as of 2003, two university groups, one conservatoire, one youth ensemble, one professional, three military, and four community:

Stockholm Wind Symphony
lena@blasarsymfoniker.nu

Staff Band Of The Norwegian Armed Forces
fsmk@c2i.net

Symphonic Band Of Kiskunfélegyhÿza
symba@axelero.hu

Danish Concert Band
www.concertband.dk

Florida State University Wind Orchestra
Croft_j@cmr.fsu.edu

Orchestre D'harmonie D'électricité De Strassbourg
kunihiroochi@freenet.de

Guildhall Symphonic Wind Ensemble
pgane@gsmd.ac.uk

Band Of The Swedish Navy
mmk-info@fomusc.mil.se

Military Band Of The German Federal Armed Forces
walter.ratzek@nexgo.de

Nanset Wind Orchestra
Odd-Terje.Lysebo@Larvik.Kommune.No

National Youth Wind Ensemble
David.Johnston@musicale.co.uk

Kanagawa University Band
yukah@mac.com

International Youth Wind Orchestra
Repertoire For High School Bands

This is always the tough area, with a huge problem of finding music at Grade 3 and 4 level of artistic integrity. Odd Terje Lysebo in a repertoire mainly of difficult level work gave us extracts from The Old Railway Station (Warner-Chappell) by John Brakstad, a three-movement requiem for a narrow-gauge railway, with Delian harmonies and pleasant sonorities. I feel that if you like the music of, say, Guy Woolfenden, you will probably like John Brakstad's. I heard it again recently in a blind listening, and still enjoyed it.

Florida State University played an interesting programme of easier music for schools on Friday. Nothing new in Ticheli's version of Loch Lomond and also Simple Gifts (Manhattan Beach) but as always his arrangement is skillfully done. From G&M Brand came Adam Gorb's very BritishScenes from an English Landscape, and I would also recommend his Candlelight Procession, a gentle 5/8 Grade 2/3 answer to Bolero. I have very much enjoyed Charles Rochester Young's A Child's Embrace (Southern) in concerts before, really quite moving, as is the very beautiful Their Blossoms Down (Boosey & Hawkes) by Samuel Hazo, though the wide wind chord spacing near the beginning might cause problems.

There were two series which all school band directors should investigate, the WinDependence series from Boosey and Hawkes, a terrific note of serious intent to reconstitute their contemporary wind band catalogue, and the series of Bandquest commissions from the American Composers Forum, distributed by Hal Leonard, which in this programme included Chen Yi's evocative Spring Festival, Libby Larsen's amusing Hambone and Tom Duffy's hilarious A+; A Precise Prelude

I have found Pierre La Plainte's music to be quite refreshingly unhackneyed, and The Voyageurs (Daehn) did not disappoint. Jacob de Haan's Ammerland I found a little derivative, Steven Bryant's Interruption Overture is another funny work, and the programme ended with the premiere of Marco Pütz's Dance Sequence, a three movement work of integrity which will repay study and work from any group at about Grade 4.
Repertoire For Community Bands

WASBE is often criticized for not giving due attention to the needs of community bands but many bands follow the commercial fashions dictated by publishers or by the organizers of contests and festivals, who propose easily accessible repertoire which can be mass-produced and sold in large quantities. There were a number of unhackneyed works at this conference which any community bands would enjoy playing and their audiences would enjoy hearing.

When WASBE and BASBWE began to revolutionise my professional life twenty-two years ago, I immediately contacted Ernest Tomlinson to ask him to score for wind band his delicious Suite of English Dances (Novello/Studio). Two decades later, he has done so, and the result is six super tunes from the same era as Hesketh's Danseries (Faber) and Buxton Orr's John Gay Suite (Novello/Studio), three works of the same genre well worth tackling. I thought Michael Short's Estonia (Bandleader) was beautifully crafted, I found Boris Pigovat's Masada (this needs to be published) very moving, a nice foil to Ralph Hultgren's work of the same name. There were other useful works in the Repertoire sessions, some programmed but not played. I have always loved Bernard Gilmore's Five Folk Songs and am delighted that they are now to be published by Maecenas.

I was glad to lure Marco Pütz out of Luxembourg to discuss his music. I think that his major works, Meltdown, Prae Monitio (Bronsheim) and the concertos for flute, horn, bass trombone, and other works, are naturals for the competent large-scale symphonic band in our towns and universities.

There is a great tradition of Hungarian music in this genre, and the Festspiel Overture of Lendvay (EMB) and the Coriolanus (EMB) of Hidas certainly come into this category. The Danish Concert Band played three works which could be useful to community bands, Hyldgaard'sRapsodia Borealis (Amstel) for Trombone and Band, Ito's Gloriosa (Ongaku), and if your players and audiences love Johan de Meij's Lord of the Rings, they will also love The Wind in the Willows (Amstel).

Florida Farewell

Jim Croft's farewell concert was so expertly played and conducted that it transcended grades of difficulty. I suspect that all six works are hard but would urge everyone to get the CD and scores and think of programming one or more of six outstanding works.

  • Come MemoryDonald Grantham
  • Concerto for BassoonEric Ewazen
  • Symphony no 2Frank Ticheli
  • Selection from The DanseryeSusato arranged Dunnigan
  • In WartimeDavid Del Tredici
  • Black DogScott McAllister

From France, we had the premiere of Cyrano by Piet Swerts, and from Belgium Jules Strens 'Danse Funambulesque, both large-scale exciting works in the genre of Pütz's Meltdown, or Comitas's A Night on Culbin Sands, a work unfortunately cancelled when our Slovenian orchestra pulled out. Odd Terje Lysebo played a programme of quite complex music, but one jewel for a good community/university ensemble might be his discovery of The Tales of the Priest and his Blockhead Servant (Sikorski) by Shostakovich. On Friday the National Youth Wind Ensemble reminded us what a fine piece is Corigliano's Gazebo Dances (Schirmer - and if you persist, they may well sell you a score), on Saturday the International Youth Wind Orchestra gave a lovingly prepared performance of Kenneth Hesketh Danceries (Faber).

From Japan

In the afternoon, there was a fascinating programme from Kanagawa University, of which four works would be worth exploring by any group:

  • Yukio Kikuchi/ Suite for Wind Orchestra (Manuscript, Grade 5, 14.15 minutes)
  • Masamicz Amano/Yugayo Chugan-azuma kagami ibun (Brain Music, Grade 4 7.25)
  • Bin Kaneda/Symphonic Movement for Band (Ongaku, Grade 4,10.30)
  • Hiroshi Hoshina Fu-Mon (Sand Dunes) (Bravo Music Grade 4, 7.10)

Fu-mon was included as a tribute to Hoshina who conducted the piece with great expertise; I found it attractive but not as strong as two other of his works:

Deux Paysages Sonores 11.23
An Ancient Festival 13.33
For more information about purchasing music or recordings, contact
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WASBE & The Boston Red Sox

WASBE is sometimes criticized as being too elitist. It is strange that nobody levels this criticism at our television stations and press who insist on giving maximum publicity to, say Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, Manchester United or Real Madrid. These are the role models; I make no apologies in believing that the Conference should provide, as far as possible, the best performances by the best bands of the best music, and much of that music will perforce be at professional level. Just as a high school soccer coach might be inspired with new ideas after traveling to a World Cup match, I believe that conductors, composers, publishers and players should return from a WASBE Conference equally inspired.

Above is evidence that the Artistic Planning Committee made a huge effort to cover a wide range of music for a variety of skills (particular thanks to Craig Kirchhoff for his leadership in selecting repertoire), but much of the music was and should be challenging. To do otherwise is a negation of our charter: as with the Tour de France, Wimbledon, the British Open, the World Series or whatever, we need to promote the best, music and standards of performance to which we can all aspire and be inspired by.

Repertoire For Professional Ensembles

In my assessment of repertoire at professional level, I must declare an interest, since the programmes are the result of much discussion with members of the Artistic Planning, the WASBE Council and with the conductors and administrators, and to a certain extent show my own interests and preferences.

Concertos From 2003

Part of my aims in programming and commissioning has been to involve the top professional players in our work, and I was delighted that we had three concertos commissioned by James Croft, and a whole series of truly virtuoso performances of new and older concertos:

Flute Concertino pastorale Phillip Wilby
Clarinet Giant Abstract Samba Michael Finnissy
Clarinet Black Dog Scott McAllister
Bassoon Concerto Eric Ewazen
Saxophone Restless Birds David Kechley
Trumpet Awake, You Sleepers! Larry Bitensky
Trombone Rapsodia Borealis Søren Hyldgaard
Trombone Cantilena Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen
Trombone Eine Kleine Posaunemusik Gunther Schuller
Euphonium Euphonium Concerto Stig Nordhagen
Tuba Concertino Rolf Wilhelm
Brass Quintet 14 Juilliet Francois Rauber
Percussion Rapture Michael Torke
Wind Orchestra Concerto Christian Lindberg

W.C.C.R

I felt that this was an especially strong feature of the conference; many of the soloists gave masterclasses to students from the IYWO and other groups, some introduced their concertos, all played magnificently. Perhaps we need to commission an oboe concerto and a horn concerto to complete the WCCR, my newly coined mnemonic for WASBE CONCERTO CORE REPERTOIRE! It is invidious to pick any soloist or concerto out, but I especially enjoyed the virtuosity and pianissimo playing of Frank Kowalsky and Wayne Tice in Black Dog and Restless Birdsrespectively. I enjoyed the wit and humour, often sadly lacking in our repertoire of the Francois Rauber and Rolf Wilhelm, the energy of Christian Lindberg's Concerto for the Stockholm Wind Symphony, and I would be very happy to propose all of these concertos to professional players and our top students for study and performance.

The Art Of Programming

Craig Kirchhoff, in a masterly exposé of his credo of programme architecture said:
The other belief that keeps motivating me to think very carefully about programming is that I believe very strongly that live music needs three things, the composers, the performer, and most important for me, it requires some kind of emotional response from the audience, and so for me that has great implications for the music I select, great implications for how I rehearse, for how I programme.

I felt that each conductor and group had thought very carefully about their programmes. Most had variety of mood, variety of size of ensemble, variety of emotion, variety of styles, and for me, all were within the bounds of what was totally acceptable as a "serious" concert.

Not all of the music was "serious" and in a repertoire that has few funny pieces, here we were introduced to arrangements of several. Anders Högsted's transcription of the Suite from the Mountain King by Hugo Alvén was very expertly done, and has one brilliant movement featuring the clarinets which should immediately be put on sale. I love the bustling good humour of Gyorgy Ranki's ballet suite, King Pomade and the completely unauthentic brilliant arrangements of Susato by Patrick Dunnigan in The Danserye.

It is hard to write funny music, but there were also several witty original works, Francois Rauber's concerto for brass quintet, depicting the celebration and the hangover of a typical 14 Juilliet with charm and perhaps experience, Rolf Wilhelm' droll Tuba Concertino, Ole Schmidt's brilliant Hommage to Stravinskji and of course Shostakovich, as ironic as ever, in his cartoon music The Tales of the Priest and his Blockhead Servant. There were two works in the International Youth Wind Orchestra concert, under Glenn Price and Gary Hill which for me are by turns really funny and really beautiful, often with the pathos of the great clown, Schuller's Eine Kleine Posaunemusik and Winds of Nagual by Michael Colgrass.

The Gentle Face Of Wind Music

Adam Gorb, in his talk in Lucerne, spoke of the importance of contrasts, happy and sad, dramatic and lyrical, violent and gentle:
it is all too easy for the wind band to be violent and I like to be violent as much as the next person, in my particular case through music. I think it is very important if one wants to release some sort of aggression through a very painful gesture, but then on the other hand it is possible to be very, very gentle, very, very intimate.

It seemed to me that there were in this conference more moments of gentleness, of to my mind sheer beauty, than I can recall in many a concert of orchestral or chamber music. Again Winds of Nagual - what a work of contrast that is and what a fine performance it received. For me, especially memorable are the repeated mantras of Adam's own Towards Nirvana, the coda section of David Del Tredici's In Wartime with its dramatic denouement, the pool's of almost silence in McAllister's Black Dog or Kechley's Restless Birds before a Dark Moon, the cool Ravel colours in the second movement of Kikuchi's Suite for Wind Orchestra (needs to be published), or the subtle reflections on French ballet music in Hesketh's Diaghilev Dances(Faber).

Missing Works

I have one or two regrets about ideas thrown around which did not develop, a performance of Csaba Deak's wonderfully moving Memento Mare for choir and wind (originally to be a joint Estonian and Swedish choral group), the plan to have Lady Walton narrating her husband'sFaçade (she accepted the gig and then retired from all future performances!), the proposed performance of Sousa's Ballet People in Glasshouses should not throw Stones, the loss of the Bennett Trombone Concerto (he wants to write a Concerto for Saxophone Quartet instead to be premiered in November 2005- anyone interested in joining the consortium please write to me), I would have loved to hear the Spanish band playing Joaquin Rodrigo's Per la Flor del Lliri Blau, now available in a wonderful new edition from Piles, I regret the lack of performances of anything by WASBE member Richard Heller, or by Bernard van Beurden or another dozen composers whose works we looked at, the loss from the IYWO programme of Robin Holloway's (sixty this year) magnificent Viking work, Entrance; Carousing; Embarcation which Jerry Junkin workshopped in 1991, or from the same planned programme Grainger's indictment of war,The Power of Rome and the Christian Heart.

Grainger And Internationalism

In 1918, Percy Grainger wrote:
No doubt there are many phases of musical emotion that the wind band is not so fitted to portray as is the symphony orchestra, but on the other hand it is quite evident that in certain realms of musical expressiveness the wind band has no rival...

Later he said:
I firmly believe that music will someday become a 'universal language'. But it will not become so as long as our musical vision is limited to the output of four European countries between 1700 and 1900. The first step in the right direction is to view the music of all peoples and periods without prejudice of any kind, and strive to put the world's known and available best music into circulation. Only then shall we be justified in calling music a 'universal language.

In Jönköping we were privileged to hear thirteen fine ensembles with 72 works from a wide range of countries including Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, New Zealand, and Russia. In addition we had five repertoire sessions, introducing many more works at different levels, and over forty clinics and panels, packed with international expertise covering an enormous range of topics. I would urge anyone with a serious interest in wind music to buy the set of records from Mark Custom or from Shattinger.

Perhaps when there is next a Bush in the White House, when next the USA invades Iraq and when next I take on the exciting challenge of an international conference, I can programme some of these missing works and composers. Meanwhile, it's a nice day "downunder" in Midwinter Adelaide, so I'll just stroll along to see if I can find Percy's grave and maybe dance the Morris beside it. I'd like to think he would have loved some of the Conference programmes, have approved of our internationalism, but dismayed not to have any of his pieces played!

G'day!

Adelaide, July 2003, revised Singapore November 2004

For more details reviews of each concert, follow links to WASBE site 2003 reviews.
Compact Discs of every repertoire session and concert apart from the Stockholm Wind Symphony and the Swedish Navy Band are available from Mark Custom, www.markcustom.comat 17 dollars or euros each.

They are also available, together with advice on obtaining any of the music, from Jim Cochran, Shattinger Music, info@shattingermusic.com

WASBE 2003 Conference
Reviews & Recordings
Recordings Available From Mark Custom

If you are unable to make it to the Singapore WASBE Conference this summer, why not spend a tiny fraction of the money saved on a full set of compact discs from the 2003 Conference in Sweden. As Chair of the Artistic Planning Committee, I must confess to being totally biased about this Conference, but I felt that the thirteen bands who gave concerts and repertoire sessions all developed interesting and well-balanced programmes which they then played extremely well. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, or listening, and I am completely confident that if you buy a set, or a selection, on every disc you will find extremely good playing of interesting repertoire, often with virtuoso soloists. Below you will find links to the WASBEwebsites where all of these reviews originally appeared.

Recordings

1995 Conference Recordings of selected works available from Kosei
Distributed by - Southern - Molenaar - Corelia
1997 Conference Recordings of selected works available from Amos Catalog 5820
1999 Conference recordings all concerts available from Mark Custom
2001 Conference recordings of selected works available from Amos Catalog 5950