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Liquid Ebony

Program Notes

Personnel/Production Credits

Click on a title below to hear the recording in MP3 format (some titles not available).

Through the Air August Damm
Staff Sgt. Diana Powers, piccolo

Liquid Ebony for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble Dana Wilson
I. Call
II. Prayer
III. Dance of Not Pretending
Sgt. 1st Class John Parrette, clarinet

Requiem Paraphrases on a Theme by Mozart Peter Meechan
Staff Sgt. Jason Ham, euphonium

Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Band Evan Chambers
I. This is not the blues
II. Little song for two Bills
III. Heavy Traffic/Looking for Louie
Master Sgt. Wayne Tice, saxophone

Oboe Concerto in E-flat Vincenzo Bellini
trans. Kenneth Singleton
Staff Sgt. Carey Winans, oboe

Three Miniatures for Tuba and Wind Ensemble Anthony Plog

I. Allegro
II. Slowly
III. Allegro vivace
Staff Sgt. Scott Beaver, tuba

Andante e Rondo Ongarese, Op. 35 Carl Maria von Weber
trans. Leigh Steiger
Master Sgt. Christian Eberle, bassoon

Manhattan Philip Sparke
I. Saturday Serenade
II. Sunday Scherzo
Staff Sgt. Derek Lance, trumpet


PROGRAM NOTES

Through the Air was composed in 1899 by German native August Damm (1849-1942), a flutist with the Boston Symphony who came to the United States in the early 1870’s. According to Keith Brion, conductor of the New Sousa Band:

It was perhaps the most popular of the hundreds of turn-of-the-century piccolo solos called ‘birdie solos.’ The new Boehm system of piccolo fingerings allowed amazing acrobatics by the soloist. Such solos were a common feature of the band concerts of the day.
The notes from the score appear below:
Through the Air is typical of the works written in the late 1800s and early 1900s and was originally scored for piccolo and band. Outdoor bands were very popular during this time, and there were numerous light works featuring the piccolo as soloist. The polka was a favorite vehicle for these compositions.

 

Liquid Ebony for Clarinet and Wind Ensemble

Dana Wilson received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music, and is currently a professor of music at Ithaca College. His works have been commissioned and performed by such diverse ensembles as the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Buffalo Philharmonic, Memphis Symphony, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Syracuse Symphony, American military bands, and the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. Solo works have been written for such renowned artists as hornist Gail Williams, clarinetist Larry Combs, trumpeters James Thompson and Rex Richardson, and oboist David Weiss. The composer on Liquid Ebony:

Many instruments can express both exuberant joy and dark pathos, but the clarinet has the ability to express both almost at once, moving instantly with liquid grace from one to the other. It seems that is why it is such a perfect choice for Eastern European folk traditions, including well known Klezmer music: it implores, not to forget about or deny life's difficulty, but to sing and dance joyously and defiantly in its midst.

It is this sense of the clarinet that informed the composition of this piece. On the surface, each movement is rather different in nature, but the tenacious reinterpretation of the same material in each is intended to reinforce the overlaying of contrasting emotions. The first is exuberant yet uncertain, the second intro-spective yet purposeful, the third a Bulgarian romp amidst an ominous reality.

Liquid Ebony was commissioned by Larry Combs (principal clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony) and premiered by him in its version with piano at the 2003 Clarinet Fest in Salt Lake City, Utah. The wind ensemble version was commis-sioned by the Military Academy Band at West Point and premiered at the 2006 Clarinet Summit at West Point, with Larry Combs as soloist.

 

Requiem Paraphrases on a Theme by Mozart was composed by Peter Meechan for euphonium virtuoso Steven Mead. The work uses the opening bars of Mozart’s Requiem as its musical material for the entire piece. Completed in 2006, Requiem Paraphrases was transcribed and arranged for band by Mr. Meechan specifically for this recording.

A single-movement work, the piece opens with an aggressive statement by the soloist before sounding Mozart’s original theme with the low brass. The soloist begins to elaborate as the percussion and woodwinds enter. Following a statement of the opening theme, Meechan introduces a percussion-driven section. The euphonium then interacts with other soloists in the ensemble, sharing passages over an ostinato in the marimba. As this section continues towards a cadenza, the composer says, “the ensemble gradually takes on more of an acc-ompanying role, leaving the soloist to again break free, with flourishes and gestures leading to the cadenza.” Following a brief recapitulation, the euphonium brings the piece to its dramatic conclusion.

 

Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Band

Evan Chambers was born in 1963 in Alexandria, Louisiana. He is an Associate Professor in the composition department at the University of Michigan School of Music. He won first prize in the Cincinnati Symphony National Composers' Competition and in 1998 was awarded the Walter Beeler Memorial Composition Prize by Ithaca College. His works have been recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Vienna Modern Masters Orchestral Competition and the American Composers Forum. The Cincinnati, Kansas City, Memphis, New Hampshire and Albany symphonies have performed his works. He has been the recipient of commissions from the Albany Symphony, Eighth Blackbird, members of the Cleveland Orchestra, members of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Quorum, the Greene String Quartet, and the University of Michigan. Chambers graduated with highest honors from the University of Michigan, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music in Composition. His composition teachers include William Albright and Leslie Bassett. His works have been released on recordings by the Foundation Russolo-Pratella, Equilibrium, Clarinet Classics, Cambria, Centaur, and Albany Records. His compositions have been recorded by the Greene String Quartet, the Albany Symphony, and Quorum. His solo chamber music CD entitled Cold Water, Dry Stone is available on Albany records.

Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Band was commissioned by the West Point Band for saxophone soloist Master Sergeant Wayne Tice. The work bridges the gap between traditional concert music and the world of jazz and blues, while capitalizing on the excitement and virtuosity intrinsic to both styles. According to Chambers:

When I lived for a year in Austria after college, I found to my surprise that I was in demand as a blues singer at parties. I had never sung the blues before that time... I have never sung the blues in public since, and probably what I was doing then didn’t count as anything but a kind of culturally-dislocated caricature that we conjured up to feel more strongly how out of place we were.

So this piece is not the Blues. It carries some of the markers of my experience with that music, and breaks into frequent approximate style-quotes. This piece is more like the painting of a pipe by Magritte, which is labeled "C’est ne pas un pipe." This is just some music that tries to tap some of the energy generated from those goofy, angry, drunken moments of outpouring I experienced so many years ago. The second movement, "Little song for two Bills" is dedicated to Bill Albright and Bill Bolcom, who were great friends, and were both colleagues and mentors of mine. The final movement gets two titles: starting out with "Heavy Traffic" and ending with "Looking for Louie," an all-out tribute to the great trumpeter and bandleader, Louis Prima.

 

Oboe Concerto in E-flat

Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) distinguished himself as a child prodigy, singing an aria of Fioravanti at the tender age of eighteen months. Having composed his first work at the age of six, he spent much of his childhood and teenage years composing sacred works as well as some secular songs, many of which received local performances in his hometown of Catania, Sicily. Bellini received a scholarship and began studies at the Real Collegio di Musica in Naples in 1819. It was during his time in school that Bellini composed his Oboe Concerto in Eb. In 1827, Bellini moved to Milan, where he composed for the Teatro alla Scala. Bellini’s operas Il Pirata and La Straniera quickly established him as an incredibly talented operatic composer. Remembered as a composer of bel canto operas, Bellini is best known for his La Sonnambula, Norma and I Puritani, all composed in the last five years of his life.

Considered by some to be an overlooked gem of the oboe repertoire, Bellini’s Oboe Concerto in Eb enjoys a well-deserved notoriety within the circle of professional oboists. The most stunning aspect of the work is its seamless integration of vocal stylings with instrumental performance. The lyrical writing in the concerto is so indicative of Bellini’s style that one could easily believe it to belong to one of Bellini’s operas, and yet the work is still thoroughly idiomatic to the oboe. While the lyrical "Larghetto cantabile" section gives way to a technically demanding "Allegro," replete with trills and running scalar passages, the listener never loses the sense of a vocal quality to the writing and performance. The listener can almost imagine the piece being equally at home performed by a coloratura soprano as by an oboe soloist.

 

Written in 1992, Three Miniatures for Tuba and Wind Ensemble is a showcase of everything the tuba is not supposed to be able to do. The entire composition is less than seven minutes long; however, a great deal fits into that seven minutes. The first movement, "Allegro vivace," alternates between jagged, uneven lines and flowing strings of sixteenth notes. The second movement, "Freely," has a quasi-cadenza feel, then segues into the final movement, "Allegro vivace." Aggressive lines of sixteenth notes move to loud, punctuated eighths. In a final flourish, the accompaniment provides a backdrop of constant sixteenth notes, while the solo tuba part floats in and out.

In addition to his achievements as a composer, Anthony Plog is an accomplished trumpet player. He has held positions with the San Antonio and Utah Symphonies as well as the Malmo Symphony in Sweden. He has also enjoyed success as a studio musician having performed for such films as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Gremlins, Rocky 2, Rocky 3 and Altered States. Mr. Plog retired from the stage in 2001 to pursue composition full time.

 

Andante e Rondo Ongarese, Op. 35

German composer Carl Maria von Weber was born in Eutin, Holstein in 1786, and is considered one of the early architects of the Romantic style. During a time when Italian opera reigned supreme, Weber helped to expand and create a national style of German opera that ripened in the hands of the ultra-nationalist Richard Wagner. His meticulous orchestrations influenced composers like Hector Berlioz and Claude Debussy, two acknowledged orchestral geniuses. His piano music also had a profound effect on composers Igor Stravinksy and Franz Lizst. Interestingly, Weber’s cousin was Constanze Weber, wife of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Andante e Rondo Ongarese, Op. 35, was written to feature the bassoon. The dark, plodding orchestrations of the "Andante" provide an ideal backdrop for the bassoon’s rich, woody timbre. Weber’s melodies are pastoral and almost oboe-like at times, as he employs the bassoon’s taut upper register. True to concerto form, instrumental virtuosity is on display in the quicker "Rondo" section, aided by a shift from c-minor to the brighter C-major. The final minutes of the piece include a flourish of rapid passages that highlight the bassoon’s surprising agility.

 

Manhattan, composed by Philip Sparke, was commissioned by the United States Army Band's principal trumpet, Sergeant Major Woodrow English. A two-movement work for solo trumpet or cornet, Manhattan debuted at Carnegie Hall in November of 2003.

Sparke sought to compose a piece which explored both the lyrical and technical aspects of the trumpet. The theme of the work is a weekend in New York. The opening movement, "Saturday Serenade," is described by the composer as “the city on a Saturday night, perhaps in a smoke-filled bar.” In the second movement, "Sunday Scherzo," Sparke pictured an early morning jog in Central Park. Vivacious rhythms and an up-tempo coda lead Manhattan to an exciting close.

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PERFORMER BIOGRAPHIES

Staff Sergeant Diana Powers from Shelby, Ohio, joined the West Point Concert Band as piccoloist and the West Point Woodwind Quintet as flutist in 2006. She previously served as principal flute with The United States Army Field Band, appearing as flute and piccolo soloist with the Field Band on five national concert tours. She has been a featured soloist at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, the Ohio Music Educators Association Conference and the National Flute Association Convention. Staff Sgt. Powers currently performs with the Albany Symphony, Springfield Symphony, Waterbury Symphony, and Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and has been the piccolo soloist of Keith Brion’s New Sousa Band since 1997. She received music degrees from The Ohio State University and the Longy School of Music, studying with Katherine Borst Jones and Robert Willoughby.

Sergeant First Class John Parrette, principal and clarinet section leader, received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music where he studied with Peter Hadcock. Originally from Kansas City, he began his studies with his father, who also served with the West Point Band. Sgt. 1st Class Parrette has been with the Band since 1987 and was appointed to the position of principal clarinetist in 1996. He has made over 50 solo appearances with the band, including the 2001 North American premiere of Martin Ellerby's Clarinet Concerto. He has also performed many of his own arrangements with the band, including solo works by Mozart, Rossini, Ponchielli and Cahuzac. Sgt. 1st Class Parrette is a founding member of the Academy Wind Quintet.

Staff Sgt. Jason Ham is originally from Columbia, South Carolina, and has been in the West Point Band since 2002. He obtained degrees in Music Education and Euphonium Performance from the University of Georgia, completing his studies there in 2001. Outside of the West Point Band, Jason is an active euphonium soloist, having presented solo performances in nearly every US state including such notable venues as Carnegie Hall in New York City and the Chinese National Library in Beijing, China.

Master Sergeant Wayne Tice joined the West Point Band in 1995 and is the principal saxophonist and section leader. In October 2004, Master Sgt. Tice traveled to Beijing to become the first American saxophone soloist to perform with the People's Liberation Army Band, the only state-level professional military band in China. As the soprano saxophonist with the West Point Saxophone Quartet, Tice premiered Perry Goldstein's Abundant Air. This saxophone quartet concerto was commissioned by the West Point Band, dedicated to the West Point Saxophone Quartet and performed at the 2004 Biennial North American Saxophone Alliance conference. Master Sgt. Tice earned his bachelor’s degree in music from Old Dominion University and a Master of Music at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His saxophone teachers include Dennis Zeisler, Lynn Klock and Yusef Lateef.

Staff Sergeant Carey Winans is originally from Haxtun, Colorado. She received her Bachelor of Music in oboe from the University of Northern Colorado in 2003, and her Master of Music from the University of Southern California in 2005. Prior to joining the band, she served as English hornist for the Central City Opera Company from 2003 to 2005. Winans has performed with the Colorado Symphony, Ft. Collins Symphony, and American Youth Symphony, as well as appeared as soloist and chamber musician across the United States.

Staff Sergeant Scott Beaver joined the West Point Band in May of 2005. Prior to joining the band, he was a member of the New Mexico Brass Quintet. Staff Sgt. Beaver holds an undergraduate degree from Tennessee Tech University, where he studied with R. Winston Morris, and is currently finishing his Master's degree at the University of New Mexico where he studies with Karl Hinterbichler. He is a winner of the University of New Mexico Concerto Competition, the Arapahoe Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, and was the top wind player in the Kingsville Concerto Competition.

Master Sergeant Christian Eberle, principal bassoonist, is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. He joined the West Point Band in June of 1987 while finishing his Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. He has studied with Leonard Sharrow, Sherman Walt, Louis Skinner and Roland Small. Master Sgt. Eberle is a frequent soloist with the West Point Band and is a founding member of the Academy Wind Quintet. He has been a regular performer in numerous ensembles throughout the tri-state region, including the Pone Ensemble for New Music, Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Newburgh Chamber Symphony and Rockland County Choral Society. Highlights of his career include two performances at International Double Reed Society conferences (2001 & 2003) and a performance of the new Concerto for Bassoon by Eric Ewazen with Dr. Ewazen in attendance.

Staff Sergeant Derek Lance joined the West Point Band in the fall of 2005 and after a short time was appointed principal trumpet. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and also completed graduate studies at the Juilliard School in New York. He has studied with Philip Collins, Frank Kaderabek, David Bilger and Mark Gould. Staff Sgt. Lance is a member of the New York Staff Band of The Salvation Army and is frequently featured as a soloist. He has also performed with the New York Philharmonic and the New Jersey Symphony. In addition to his performance schedule as a trumpet player, he keeps a busy schedule conducting with the New Amsterdam Brass Band and at his local church, The Salvation Army in Spring Valley, New York. He lives at West Point with his wife, Lorena, and his daughter Isobel.

Production Credits

Recorded at the Lycian Center for the Performing Arts - Sugar Loaf, New York
February 23-26, 2009
Commander: Lt. Col. Timothy Holtan
Recording and Master Engineer: Bruce Leek
Engineers: Master Sgt. Blair Ferrier, Staff Sgt. Joe Skinner
Producers: 1st Lt. Dae Kim, Lt. Col. (R) John Clanton
Design: Sgt. 1st Class Sam Kaestner

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