Music Program Themes


Overtures

The "New Groves' Dictionary of American Music" defines an overture as: "A piece of music of moderate length, either introducing a dramatic work or intended for concert performance." The word overture derives from the French ouverture, which denoted the piece in two or more sections that formed a solemn introduction to a ballet, opera, or oratorio in the 17th century. In English 18th-century usage, it was extended to works of the symphony type, whether or not they were preludes to dramatic works; the terms were used interchangeably.  In modern usage, the word denotes, first, a substantial piece of orchestral music designed to precede a full-length dramatic work. It may contain some of the principal themes of the main work, or it may be entirely independent. It may be in one or more sections, and may or may not come to a full close before the drama begins. However, it is expected to conclude with a fast section of some brilliance. If it does not, it is more likely to be called a `prelude' or an `introduction'. An overture is intended to put the listener into the proper frame of mind for what is to follow.


Marches

The "New Groves' Dictionary of American Music" defines the march in plain enough terms: "A basic walking step and the generic term for a variety of music that could be used to accompany this step in parades and in dance."  But of course, precise though this definition may be, it scarcely conveys the special vibrancy of the genre, or for that matter, the function of the form, which is to rouse the spirit. Marches come in all sizes, shapes, and descriptions; some are slow; some create an atmosphere of great dignity, while others reach with equal effectiveness for the lighter side. Their structure, evolving out of music's past, grew to serve the functional needs of early 19th century European military units, which sought appropriate music to accommodate troops on parade or in formal regimental review.

The term march describes a function. Its roots are in the latin word marcare (to step like hammers), which indicates that march music had, and still has, two main functions: to determine the speed of a group of marching men and to keep them in step. In times of war, resounding marches were a very welcome means of intimidating the enemy and inspiring one's own troops. When marches were put on the stage of the opera, and even introduced into ballet, the otherwise uniformly loud volume and harsh rhythmic emphasis were dispensed with and they began to change their nature in the hands of the great masters, even if they did still retain the dotted rhythm as one of their main characteristic features. They were given a more measured beat for priestial processions, reinforced the funereal feelings at burial ceremonies, and celebrated the joy of the newly-weds as the background music to weddings. A large number of marches, with their powerful tunes, rhythms, and instrumental color have outlived the operas in which they once played but a minor role, and have become concert works, whose pomp, ceremony, joy, and bounce have even won them the favor of those who have no interest whatsoever in military matters.


No Strings Attached

"No Strings Attached" is our tongue-in-cheek way of saying that this music has been written originally for wind ensemble or concert band. Although a great many good transcriptions of orchestral works exist, compositions written expressly for winds are more sensitive to the ranges and timbres of the instruments. The composers knew the instruments for which they were writing and we hear the works in the balance and tone in which they were originally intended. The compositions to be presented date from 1910 to 1985.


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Last Updated:  10 August 2000
http://FSWinds.org/pgm_note/themes.htm
E-mail comments and suggestions to: foothill@windband.org
Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 & 2000  Roy Stehle, Palo Alto, CA, USA. All rights reserved.