Charles Ives was born in 1874 into a tradition of band music. His father, George, had been a respected bandmaster in the Union Army during the Civil War and was Danbury, Connecticut’s leader of numerous amateur musical groups. Charles was taught to play the drum, cornet, piano, and violin by his father and played in his father’s band at the age of 12. At 13, he was composing simple marches and fiddle tunes. He became the youngest salaried church organist in Connecticut at the age of 14. He studied composition with Horatio Parker at Yale, where he made barely passing grades in his subjects other than music. In 1898, he went to New York to work for the Mutual Life Insurance Company. He formed an insurance business with Julian Myrik in 1902 and saw the business prosper with his innovations (e.g., estate planning). A successful business man by day, Ives would do his composing in the evenings. He wrote only to please his sense of music and didn’t have to depend on it for a living. In 1918, he suffered a heart attack and was forced to give up composing. Composer Henry Cowell became one of Ives’ champions in the 1920’s. Ives’ Third Symphony was completed in 1911, but it was not performed until 1946. He earned the 1947 Pulitzer prize for this work. He died in 1954, leaving a legacy that anticipated most of the innovations of the 20th century, including atonality, polytonality, microtones, multiple cross-rhythms, and tone cluster.
Variations on 'America'
Charles Ives composed his Variations on ‘America’ when he was 17 and working as church organist in his home town. Originally composed for organ, the work was later popularized in a 1949 arrangement for orchestra by William Schuman; William E. Rhoads provided the wind band transcription in 1964. This composition of five variations represents the earliest known example of musical polytonality. They are humorous in character and full of surprises. He used his musical unorthodoxy to assert his independence from the genteel musical life of 19th century New England, while demonstrating his ability to be a “cut up” to his male peers. He was also asserting his devout patriotism.
Gordon Jacob was born in London on July 5, 1895 and died in Saffron Walden, England, on June 8, 1984. He received his education from both Dulwich College and the Royal College of Music, earning a Doctor of Music degree in 1935. From 1926, he was a member of the faculty at the latter institution and taught counterpoint, orchestration, and composition. A long line of his composition students, including Malcolm Arnold, Antony Hopkins, and Bernard Stevens, went on to successful careers. His orchestral and choral works include a ballet, concert overture, two symphonies, numerous concertos for wind and string instruments, many pedagogic works for piano and for chorus and a variety of chamber works, songs, and film music.
An Original Suite for Military Band
An Original Suite was Jacob's first work for the band medium and was completed in 1928. It is assumed that the word "original" in the title was to distinguish it from transcriptions that made up the bulk of the band repertoire at the time or to alert listeners that the "folk song" themes were original. The suite begins with a March and includes four themes introduced by a snare drum solo. There is a recapitulation of the opening theme played over a distinctively British dotted eighth-sixteenth accompaniment, and the movement ends as it began with an unaccompanied snare drum. The Intermezzo opens with a seventeen bar solo for alto saxophone and ends with a somber A-minor triad. A rubato tempo is prevalent and subtle shading of tone pervades the movement. The Finale is reminiscent of the first movement. It begins with a polymeter - the clarinets and saxophones play scale passages in 6/8 while the rest of the band is in 2/4. The finale Coda repeats the second theme of the movement and finishes with a flourish of woodwind arpeggios to the final accented chords.
Giles Farnaby Suite
The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book is a treasure trove of late Renaissance and very early Baroque keyboard music. A virginal is a small type of harpsichord with the plucked strings running parallel to the keyboard. However, the term was widely applied to denote any quilled keyboard instrument. The virginal was a favorite of English monarchs that included Henry VIII, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I. Following royal fashion, the playing of the virginal became popular with English society. The compilation takes its name from Viscount Fitzwilliam, who bequeathed the manuscript collection to Cambridge University in 1816. Its more than 300 pieces date from approximately 1562 to 1612 from many composers including John Bull, William Byrd, Peter Philips, and Giles Farnaby. Farnaby (ca. 1560 - 1640) is represented with 51 of his 52 known works. It is said that his music was endowed with a grace and verve that is more accommodating to the modern listener than the music of his contemporaries.
Gordon Jacob, one of the most respected British composers of the 20th Century, has skillfully taken 11 short compositions by Farnaby and interpreted them for the modern wind band. The tunes reflect several classes of song and dance varying in rhythm, tempo, and style. As such, each concludes with a long chord that might denote when lords and ladies would bow or curtsey to their partner. Not much is known about the meaning of the titles of each movement of the Suite. The Old Spagnoletta is a late 16th century Italian dance in triple meter in the older style of the two by Farnaby in the Book. His Rest is in the form of a Galliard. Shakespeare’s use of “humour” indicated a wayward fantasy that didn’t match any standard dance style. Originally a rapid passage for two hands, Rosasolis refers to a cordial flavored with juice from the sundew plant, commonly found in bogs, mixed with other herbs and spices. Not an article of recreation, A Toye is of a small class of dance pieces that are unpretentious. Tower Hill honors the regal balls that took place within the battlements on an elevated spot adjacent to the River Thames.
When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again
Patrick S. Gilmore is credited with composing the original version of When Johnny Comes Marching Home in 1863, when he served as bandmaster for the Union Army. There is a similarity to the Irish song Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye, which is a tale of a maimed soldier returning from the war. The brass figure prominently in this Gordon Jacob arrangement. Jacob retards the tempo and passes the melody between the flute and oboe before returning to the initial tempo with a shift in key that builds tension and reminds us of the tragedy of war. The ending is a fanfare that celebrates the returning war heros. Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore was born in Ballygar, County Galway, Ireland, in 1829. September 24, 1992 marked the centennial of his death. The U. S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp on that date to honor the man acknowledged as the Father of the American Concert Band.
William Byrd Suite
William Byrd (1542 - 1623), a pupil of Thomas Tallis, was known for his polyphonic choral and keyboard music, both sacred and secular. His works were preserved in the “Fitzwilliam Virginal Book,” which is a significant reference work on Elizabethan keyboard music. The 300th anniversary of Byrd’s death was celebrated in 1923 with appropriate performances of his music. Gordon Jacob selected six of Byrd’s pieces for inclusion in his commerative Suite. The opening movement, The Earle of Oxford’s Marche, was Byrd’s initial movement to The Battell, a 16th Century program work of 15 movements depicting the participants and events of a battle. The music flows to a steady, stately beat adding dignity to the event. Characteristic of this and all of the movements is the harmonic chord conclusion. The Pavana has the slow duple rhythm of the stately court dance. Jhon Come Kisse Me Now has a flirtatious vitality often found in the English madrigals. It possesses seven variations of an eight-bar tune. Beginning simply in the brass, The Mayden’s Song develops in content with conterpoint and embellished figures while retaining the style of the original. Instrumental texture provides variation to the simple melody of Wolsey’s Wilde. A simple rising two-note figure provides the background for the final movement, The Bells. Variations of a simple rhythmic figure of the bells, all keyed in B-flat, unfold as the music develops interest and momentum.
Wind in the Reeds
Wind in the Reeds is a suite in four movements written for clarinet choir. Completed in 1983, a little more than a year before the end of Jacob’s life, it was dedicated to British Federation of Music Festivals, who commissioned the work with financial assistance from the Yorkshire Arts Association. The first movement, March, keeps a steady pace with interesting changes in theme. A light and fanciful mood fills the Humoreske. A Childhood Memory is relaxing and easy flowing as a summertime river or billowy clouds in a blue sky. Jacob heard a lot of Russian music at Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe during its two seasons in London during his student days. The concluding movement includes changing moods and tempos that characterized that ballet company.
Robert Jager was born in Binghamton, New York in 1939 and received his education at The University of Michigan. For four years, he served as the Staff Arranger at the Armed Forces School of Music while a member of the United States Navy. Currently, he is Professor of Music and Director of Theory and Composition at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. Jager has over 65 published compositions for band, orchestra and various chamber groupings, with more than thirty-five commissions including the United States Marine Band and the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. He has won a number of awards for his music, being the only three-time winner of the American Bandmasters Association's “Ostwald Award.” In addition, he has won the “Roth Award” twice (National School Orchestra Association); received Kappa Kappa Psi's “Distinguished Service to Music Medal” in the area of composition in 1973 and won the 1975 “Friends of Harvey Gaul” bicentennial competition. He is a member of Phi Mu Alpha, Kappa Kappa Psi, the American Bandmasters Association, and ASCAP. He is an active composer, conductor, and lecturer throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Europe, and Japan.
Written on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Illinois Concert Band, Diamond Variations was dedicated to that ensemble and its director, Mark H. Hindsley. The composer provides the following notes:
Diamond Variations is a set of five variations on the trio melody of the march Illinois Loyalty. The variations are not thematic as such, but rather based upon fragments of the melody ... After a brief introduction the first variation presents a fragment of the theme in the woodwinds in a light, bouncy manner. The second variation is rather sinister with the horns and trombones in counterpoint on another fragment of the theme. Tubas and euphoniums begin the galloping third variation, which is full of flashing instrumental colors. In contrast, the fourth variation is rather a romantic approach to the thematic fragments. The fifth and final variation begins deceptively light and simple, and gradually builds to a brilliant climax by use of instrumental figures and harmonic tensions, which find their resolution in the final four chords of the work.
Esprit de Corps
Based on The Marines' Hymn, this work is a kind of fantasy-march, as well as a tribute to the United States Marine Band. Full of energy and drama, the composition has its solemn moments and its lighter moments (for example, the quasi-waltz in the middle of the piece). The composer intends that this work should display the fervor and virtuosity of the Marine Band and the musical spirit and integrity of its conductor, Colonel John R. Bourgeois, for whom the initial tempo marking, "Tempo di Bourgeois," is named. Colonel John Bourgeois is a dramatic, spirited conductor, who reflects the excitement of the music being played. When a tempo is supposed to be "bright" he makes sure it is exactly that. Because the tempo of Esprit de Corps is to be very bright, the marking just had to be "Tempo di Bourgeois!"
All of the material for this composition is derived from the dramatic horn call of the opening. After a short introduction, the main section of the work begins. The music is driving and forceful, allowing every instrument of the band a chance to add to the excitement. After a somewhat mysterious transition, a sort of love-ballad is heard, which rises to a moving climax before subsiding to brief comments by various solo instruments. The music then becomes less dramatic and more dignified as it moves towards the conclusion, where solemn, yet majestic chords confirm the triumph of the hero of our saga.
The composer has provided the following program note:
This overture is a work in the neo-romantic style and is in three sections. After a short introduction, a dramatic and syncopated fast section begins. After several false climaxes, as well as a brief fugue, the slow, more emotional middle section begins. In the final section of the work, a fast, syncopated style abruptly returns and the overture ends with several deceptive, then complete chords.
Before deciding on music as a career, Philadelphian Joseph Willcox Jenkins (b. 1928) received a pre-law degree at St. Joseph's College. Jenkins studied composition under Vincent Persichetti at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music. He earned his Bachelor and Masters of Music degrees at the Eastman School of Music and his Doctorate at the Catholic University of America. Jenkins began his musical career as a composer and arranger for the United States Army Field Bands and the Armed Forces Network. In 1961, he became Professor of Theory and Composition at Duquesne University, where he continues to teach, even in retirement, as Professor Emeritus. He has received numerous prestigious commissions and has nearly 200 original compositions, works for band, orchestra, chorus, solo instruments and theatrical pieces, plus hundreds more vocal and instrumental arrangements to his credit. Cumberland Gap Overture earned the Ostwald Award in 1961. The ASCAP Serious Music Award was awarded annually to Jenkins for nearly two consecutive decades.
American Overture for Band
The opening measures of the American Overture for Band are some of the most recognizable in the wind ensemble literature. The virtuosic playing required, particularly by the French horn section, was quite intentional by Jenkins, who was staff arranger for the United States Army Field Band at Fort Meade, Maryland. In 1953, Colonel Chester E. Whiting, conductor of the band, and the French horn section requested a work that was more difficult and interesting than the usual military fare of off-beats. Following the introduction, two themes alternate throughout the work, often in unison across instrumental sections, providing rich tonal color. The Overture never loses its rhythmic energy and tests an ensemble’s ability to play with rapid and clean articulation. Jenkins related that some of his inspiration came from the impression Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra had had on him as a teenager.
Census records place Scott Joplin’s birth in the northeastern corner of Texas between July 1867 and January 1868. He was the second of six children. His father, Jiles, a former slave who worked as a laborer, played the violin and his mother, Florence, would sing and play the banjo. Anecdotes relate that she cleaned the homes of white people in Texarkana to give Scott access to a piano. Paying homage to his mother, the heroine of Joplin’s unsuccessful opera Treemonisha, published in 1911, earned her education through the efforts of her parents in a white-owned home. Joplin’s musical talent was aided by the efforts of German-born music teacher, Julius Weiss. As a teenager, Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri, to attend Lincoln High School. At the age of 23, he was leading a band and playing the cornet in Chicago at the time of the World’s Fair. When not traveling with his vocal group, Texas Medley Quartette, he worked in Sedalia as a pianist in the Maple Leaf and Black 400 clubs. He had succeeded in publishing several songs, rags, and a waltz by 1899. Some disappointments in that process moved him to contact the a young Sedalia lawyer to draft an unusual, for that time, contract with the local publisher for his next composition. Rather than being paid an outright sum ($10-20), Joplin earned a one-cent royalty for each sale. The popularity of his Maple Leaf Rag earned him a small, but steady income for the rest of his life. By 1909, about one-half million copies had been sold. His 1903 opera, A Guest of Honor, portrayed Booker T. Washington’s dinner at the White House two years before. Joplin’s rag, A Strenuous Life, paid tribute to President Roosevelt for this momentous occasion. In 1907, Joplin moved to New York City, where he would remain for the rest of his life. There, he composed more ragtime jewels and completed his second opera, Treemonisha, for which he was posthumously awarded the 1976 Pulitzer Prize. The rise of jazz as a new medium superseded ragtime. Suffering from the debilitating mental and physical effects of syphilis, contracted several decades earlier, Joplin died in a mental institution on April 1, 1917, the same day that the United States entered World War I.
The end of the 19th century saw the rise of ragtime, a heavily syncopated music form that had its roots in African-American music. It was a time when new music was distributed through printed scores. In 1899, shortly after Joplin had sold what would become his most famous piece, Maple Leaf Rag, he completed The Ragtime Dance. It was a performance piece for four or eight couples with singing narrator and pianist. This folk ballet illustrated the types of dancing that were done in the Maple Leaf and Black 400 clubs. The initial publication did not fair well because it called for a voice range of over an octave and a large number of dancers. Joplin revised the work in 1906 into a shortened version without dancers or vocal part; this is the version performed today. Jonathan Elkus' transcription retains the varying nature of the original dance steps by trading the melody through different sections of the ensemble.