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Music Program Notes for
Band and Wind Ensemble Music

O-P


Sean O'Loughlin

Sean O’Loughlin (b. 1972) grew up in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York. His interest in music started after second grade. The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (SSO) provided much of the material for his musical appetite. He attended as many concerts as he could, seated “high in the rafters” where the sound gathers and even caught both the Friday and Saturday night performances. After listening to a sound track of Star Wars, he was inspired to become a composer. O’Loughlin received his undergraduate degree in music composition from Syracuse University (1995) and a Masters of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music (1997). His compositions and arrangements for orchestra and wind band are vibrant with energy and passionate melodies. He is sought after as a guest conductor at schools and has conducted the famed orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Seattle, the Boston Pops and the Hollywood Bowl. He has come full circle with his appointment as Principal Pops Conductor of Symphonia, serving Syracuse and Central New York. He has collaborated with many artists including Sarah McLachlin, Hall and Oats, and Cheap Trick.

Winds Along the Whippany

The Whippany River is a tributary of the Rockaway and Passaic Rivers that meanders through scenic northeastern New Jersey on a 16 mile journey toward New York City. Its name is derived from the Whippanong Native Americans. In 2010, the Hanover Wind Symphony, whose performance venues are within the river’s watershed, commissioned Sean O’Loughlin to celebrate their 25th anniversary. The following is the composer’s thoughts behind his bold and energetic Winds Along the Whippany:

“In my research of the Hanover Township in New Jersey, I discovered a rich history to the area. From its important days during the American Revolution to its current position adjacent to the budding hub of New York City, this tradition is embodied in music throughout this piece. The opening fanfare transforms into the main melody of the piece with a distinct folk song feel. Along the way, we hear splashes of color from the different sections of the ensemble. The woodwinds play a rapid sixteenth-note figure throughout that represents the winds along the Whippany river which cuts through the Hanover Township. A fife and drum section appears to harken back to the revolutionary days. It passes off to the brass and then expands to the full ensemble with the entire woodwind section functioning like a single fife player. From there, the fanfare returns in majestic fashion which leads to flourishing woodwinds as the piece accelerates to the celebratory ending.”


Carl Orff

Born in Munich, Germany, into an old Bavarian military family, Carl Orff (1895 - 1982) began piano studies at the age of five, under the tutelage of his mother. His interests in language and poetry were fostered in school. He received his formal musical training at the Munich Academy. In 1925, he helped to found the Gunter Schule, which aimed to educate the lay public in creative musicianship. Orff's techniques have been adopted by elementary school educators throughout the world. He began his career as a composer in 1925 with realizations of Monteverdi's early 17th century works. His first stage work, Carmina Burana, was composed in 1935-6 and premiered at the Frankfurt Opera in 1937; it became an outstanding success. After the War, Orff was asked by the Bavarian Broadcasting Company to develop a series of broadcasts for and with children; the pedagogical concepts of that work were captured in the five volume Music for Children.

Carmina Burana

Orff drew the inspiration for his grand vocal and orchestral work from 24 poems of the 200 found in the 13th century monastery of Benediktbeuern, near Munich in Bavaria and published in 1847 under the title of Carmina Burana. Carmina is the plural of the Latin word carmen and in early time, carried the implication of student songs. Burana was the Latin name for the area we know today as Bavaria. Both sacred and secular, the texts are frank avowals of earthly pleasure: eating, dancing, drinking, gambling, and lovemaking. They proclaim the beauty of life and the glory of springtime. The music is simple in harmony and range, consistent with 13th century music, with a driving rhythm to which the listener instinctively responds. John Krance has incorporated the vocal melodies into an arrangement entirely instrumental in structure.


Glenn Osser

Abraham “Glenn” Osser (August 28, 1914 - April 29, 2014), the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was born in the small town of Munising, Michigan. He learned to play the piano, violin, saxophone, and clarinet while in high school. He enrolled in the University of Michigan in music education, expecting to become a teacher. Midway in his studies, he switched to music theory and graduated in 1935. He played in a dance band for a while until the leader advised Osser that his talents would be better utilized in New York City. With the benefit of some key introductions, Osser began arranging for Bob Crosby, Vincent Lopez, and Al Donohue. This was a time when music was everywhere to lift everyone’s spirits during the Great Depression. NBC Radio provided him with steady employment as a staff arranger, arranging opening numbers, arrangements for singers, bridges between segments, and closings. Opportunities to play saxophone and clarinet on the side ultimately led him to positions with Les Brown and Benny Goodman. As a sub for Goodman’s regular arranger, Osser’s arrangement for And the Angels Sing became one of Goodman’s greatest hits.

During World War II, Osser served in the maritime service working with a band led by Emery Deutsch. Following his discharge in 1944, he began to arrange for Paul Whiteman on ABC’s Philco Radio Hall of Fame show. It has been said that Whiteman is responsible to changing Osser’s professional name to Glenn. Osser remained with ABC until 1969, when staff orchestras were discontinued. He went on to become arranger/conductor for Mercury Records and, later, Columbia Records. Vocalists he supported included Patti Page, Vic Damone, Doris Day, Jerry Vale, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, and Robert Goulet. For television, he served as musical director, orchestrator, or conductor for a number of series and special productions. In 1955, Osser began his 35 year run as conductor and arranger for the Miss America Pageant.

Beguine For Band

The beguine is a dance and music form with a quick rhythm derived from the rumba and bolero. With Creole influences, it developed in the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Cole Porter’s song Begin the Beguine, written for “Jubilee”, a 1935 musical comedy with a book by Moss Hart, was a hit during the 1930’s with performances by Artie Shaw and Ella Fitzgerald. Glenn Osser revived the rhythm with his 1954 composition Beguine For Band that has become a standard in our musical repertoire.


Jose Padilla (Spain, 1842 - 1960)

José Padilla (1889 - 1960) received his musical training at the Madrid Conservatory and in Italy. He became immersed in Madrid theater life and produced the first of his many zarzuelas, La Mala hembra, in 1906. He produced a number of one-act reviews and an opera (La Faraona). Spending time in Paris, he wrote two operettas and many of his songs were incorporated into reviews at the Moulin Rouge, including El Relicario, La Violetera, and Valencia. His My Spanish Rose was incorporated into Jerome Kern’s score for “The Night Boat” produced on Broadway. Returning to Spain, he continued to compose for reviews.

El Relicario

This composition is a paso doble, a Spanish dance popular in the 1920s that translates to “two-step.” A paso doble was typically played at bullfights at the entrance of the matadors. El Relicario was written in 1918 and made popular by Rudolph Valentino. The title denotes a reliquiry or shrine. In this case, it is a locket worn by an acclaimed matador in Madrid. Inside that locket is a small piece of his cape that he placed on the ground to protect the path of a beautiful, dark-haired maiden. The lyrics relate the fateful day that she attends a bullfight where the Matador if mortally gored. As she rushes to his side, he takes the locket from his chest and repeats his devotion as his final words.


Vincent Persichetti

Philadelphia-born Vincent Persichetti (1915 - 1987) established himself as a leading figure in contemporary music. He was a virtuoso keyboard per­former, scholar, author, and energetic teacher. To his credit are more than eighty compositions, including major works in almost every genre. Dr. Persichetti was graduated from Combs College, Philadelphia Conservatory, and Curtis Institute. He was head of the composition department of the Philadelphia Conservatory (1942-62) and joined the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music in 1947. The influence of his musical mind is widely felt, thanks to his expert teaching and his book on harmonic practices of this century.

Bagatelles For Band

The four movements of this work vary in tempo, but they fit one definition of a bagatelle as a short literary or musical piece in a light style. The composer would not have agreed with another definition that called it an unimportant or insignificant thing; a trifle. In a 1963 interview, when asked why many of his band pieces were so short, Persichetti replied:

Length has nothing to do with quality. I feel that each movement of the Bagatelles, for example, is as carefully a worked out musical idea as is a movement from one of my symphonies, and it stands as high in my esteem. I certainly will not add padding to a movement in order to prove its performance.

Bagatelles for Band (Op. 87) was commissioned by Dartmouth College and premiered in May 1961. Persichetti had commented that he did not accept commissions unless he had ideas at the time for that ensemble. He said, “If I hear an idea, I don’t just hear a tune or a harmony; I hear it in a medium.”

Chorale Prelude: Turn Not Thy Face

This work was commissioned and first performed in 1967 by the Ithaca High School Band, under the leadership of Frank Battisti, in memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The chorale prelude was an organ form popular in Bach's day. Persichetti, a church organist like Bach, served in the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for nearly 20 years after his appointment at the age of 16. Based on a tune of his own, which appears in his Hymns and Responses for the Church Year, this chorale prelude begins in a calm and reflective manner. It builds with tension and it becomes plaintive about the life and circumstances to which it is dedicated. Finally, the melody resolves into a repose, reminiscent of the feeling of hearing Taps played from a distant knoll.

Divertimento for Band

Each of the six movements of the Divertimento covers completely different moods and styles. The work has a beautiful balance from the agitated woodwind figures and aggressive brass polychords in the first and last movements to the delicate and lyrical inner movements. This compendium of styles is rare for a single work. It has been said that Persichetti's use of instruments makes the reeds the movers, the brass the pointers, and the percussion the connectors and high-lighters. The Prologue is driving and electric, while the Song demonstrates Persichetti's lyricism as he weaves two simple and attractive melodies together. The music does Dance in the third movement as it is tossed about by the woodwinds around a trumpet solo passage. The "pesante" opening of the Burlesque suddenly changes to "brightly" with no change in the tempo, but a complete change in the texture. The beauty of the Soliloquy belongs to the solo cornet. The percussion entrance of the March returns the pace to that of the original opening as the brass and woodwind choirs work over the punctuation and timbre of the percussion section.

Pageant

Vincent Persichetti composed Pageant in 1953, as something of a sequel to his Psalm written the previous year. Edwin Franko Goldman was responsible for its commissioning from the American Bandmasters Association. A solo French horn begins with a three note motive that becomes the basis for the entire work. A clarinet choir develops the theme as other instruments are introduced to exploit their tonal colors. The tempo becomes faster for the second section, as the brass and woodwinds take turns with the theme. Pageant is an accessible, warmly exuberant work whose simple directness conceals a formal sophistication that lends the music strength and durability.

Psalm for Band

Psalm for Band was commissioned by the Pi Kappa Omicron music fraternity at the University of Louisville and premiered on May 2, 1952. It was Persichetti’s second composition for band, following his Divertimento written in 1950. The composer provided the following program note:

Psalm for Band is a piece constructed from a single germinating harmonic idea. There are three distinct sections — a sustained chordal mood, a forward moving chorale, followed by a Paean culmination of the materials. Extensive use is made of separate choirs of instruments supported by thematic rhythms in the tenor and bass drums.

Serenade for Band

This is a work in five movements that reflects the moods of a summer evening, possibly at the bandshell in the park. Beginning with the Pastoral, the easy mood of the country atmosphere is introduced. The Humoreske injects a bit of levity into the scene. The beauty of the night is expressed in the graceful and expressive Nocturne. The Intermezzo plays its role as the transition piece into the Capriccio. This spirited movement reflects the joy of the moment. The main theme is often diverted in its path as youthful exuberance demands its voice. The Serenade for Band (Op. 85) was the first of two commissions  to Vincent Persichetti from the Ithaca (NY) High School Band under the directorship of Frank Battisti. The first performance was on April 19th, 1961, by that band under the direction of the composer. It was the eleventh in a series of “night music” suites for miscellaneous instrumental groupings: No. 1 for Ten Wind Instruments, No. 2 for Piano, No. 3 for Violin, Cello and Piano, No. 4 for Violin and Piano, No. 5 for Orchestra, No. 6 for Trombone, Viola and Cello, No. 7 for Piano, No. 8 for Piano, Four hands, No. 9 for Soprano and Alto Recorders, No. 10 for Flute and Harp, No. 11 for Band, No. 12 for Solo Tuba and No. 13 for Two Clarinets.


Cole Porter

Cole Albert Porter (1891 - 1964) was born into a wealthy family in Peru, Indiana. Encouraged by his mother, he studied music from an early age and began composing as a teenager. In 1909, he entered Yale University majoring in English and minoring in music. His composition of more than 300 songs while there contributed to his being voted “most entertaining man.” After Yale, Porter enrolled in the Harvard Law School in 1913, but he soon transferred into the Music School. His trips to New York City were the impetus for his first musical “See America First”, which closed after 15 performances. Travel to Europe and some Paris productions gave a boost to his musical skills and productions using his songs were brought to the U.S. His skills as a witty lyricist and ingenious melodist created many popular Broadway musicals including “Anything Goes,” “Silk Stockings,” “Kiss Me Kate,” and “Can Can.”

Cole Porter On Broadway

(see Warren Barker, arranger)


Sergei Prokofiev

Born in 1891 in Sontzovka, Russia, Sergei Prokofiev exhibited exceptional musical talent as a child. Tutored at the piano by his mother, he wrote a number of piano pieces, including six marches, when he was five. At nine, he wrote the piano score to the opera Giant. He entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory, at the age of 13, where he was taught by Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov, and Tcherepnin. His travels, after graduation, took him to the United States, but he found the political and cultural climate of Paris in 1920 to be more sympathetic to his compositions. He retained his Russian citizenship and returned there in 1936, where he lived until his death in Moscow on March 5, 1953; his death was overshadowed by that of Joseph Stalin, who died the same day. The catalog of Prokofiev's works includes symphonies, band works, concertos, piano sonatas, and chamber music compositions. His better known works include the opera The Love of Three Oranges, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, the symphonic Lieutenant Kije Suite and Peter and the Wolf, and the film music to Alexander Nevsky.

March - Opus 99

Unlike his other band marches, Prokofiev wrote this one for concert presentation.  This concert march was written in 1943, when he was a dominant force in Soviet music, having rehabilitated himself from being branded "an enemy of the people" as a result of Stalin's characterization of Prokofiev's music as being "degenerate". Opening with a strong allegro pulse that carries the composition, the main theme is introduced by the solo trumpet. Woodwind runs add to the excitement, before a mellow French horn and euphonium phrase is introduced. The clarinets and brass reenter and their themes intertwine to the rousing finale.

Peter and The Wolf

With the Russian title of "How little Peter fooled the Wolf'', this piece came out of a collaboration with Natalia Satz, director of the Moscow Children's Musical Theater. Prokofiev had been inspired by the childrens' reaction to the first concert performed there -- Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and part of the Second Symphony. A story was devised involving animals, each personified by a different instrument of the orchestra. A text was prepared by a poet-friend of Satz, but it was summarily rejected by Prokofiev as being having too many rhymes. He wrote the new text and a piano score in four days and had the full score finished a week later. Within three months, the first performance was given at the Children's Theater on May 6, 1936. The story is told by a narrator of a little boy, Peter, his Grandfather, and the animals of the forest, including the fierce Russian wolf. Despite Peter's disobedience, all's well that ends well. If there is a moral to the story, it is that you shouldn't be afraid to challenge established beliefs (Grandfather's caution) or to take risks. Subtly, it is encouraging children to rely on their wits and to not be held back by the inertia of their elders. If Peter had not ventured outside the safety of the cottage's walls, the wolf would never have been caught.