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Music Program Notes for
Band and Wind Ensemble Music


Lee Actor

Composer and conductor Lee Actor was born in 1952 in Denver, Colorado, and now resides in Monte Sereno, California. He has the unique honor of having advanced degrees in both engineering (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1974 & 1975) and music (San Jose State University 1981). He studied composition with Donald Sur and Brent Heisinger and conducting with Angelo Frascarelli and David Epstein. Actor was a violinist with the Albany Symphony Orchestra from 1972 to 1975. He was named Composer-in-Residence of the Palo Alto Philharmonic in 2002, following Assistant Conductor assignments in that and other San Francisco Bay Area orchestras. Actor’s extensive list of orchestral music is characterized by its dramatic impact and emotional expressivity, featuring a striking use of harmony, counterpoint, motivic development, and lyricism with a fresh, modern flavor. In 2004, Actor was one of five composers selected as Honored Artists of The American Prize celebrating American excellence in the arts. He began writing for band in 2007; Kaleidoscopic Overture, written in 2014, is his latest work in that genre.

Kaleidoscopic Overture

This work was commissioned for the Green Valley (AZ) Concert Band and written in late 2014. The composer provided the following insight to the piece:

“Unlike most of my works, the title for Kaleidoscopic Overture was not determined until the piece was completely finished. My initial concept was a bright, energetic, upbeat piece of several contrasting sections, interspersed by references to the opening fanfare heard in the horns. Reflecting on the finished work, with its material undergoing at times nearly continuous motivic and harmonic transformation, suggested the shifting colors of a kaleidoscope. Given its general character as a relatively brief, attention-getting opener, the title Kaleidoscopic Overture seemed natural – and at the very least more descriptive than the working title of Band Piece.”

G. Agostini

The Three Trumpeters

This delightful divertissement provides a showcase for three virtuoso trumpeters. Comprised of a series of airs and dances, this piece entertains with tempo and mood colorations and with technically difficult cadenzas.

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander was born in Nevada City, MO, in 1877. A euphonium virtuoso, he began his career in circus bands and vaudeville stages at the age of 18 when he joined the band of the Belford’s Carnival. His big opportunity came when he became the euphonium soloist and composer-arranger for the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus Band from 1897 to 1902, for a concert tour of Europe. Following the tour, Alexander formed a novelty musical vaudeville act with his brothers. Mostly known for his 33 marches, Alexander also produced 6 galops, several overtures and other novelty works. His most notable marches include The Crimson Flush, From Tropic To Tropic, and Olympia Hippodrome. Alexander died in Liberty, NY, at the age of 38 due to complications of tuberculosis.

Colossus of Columbia

Russell Alexander joined the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus Band in 1897, just as the group began its famous five year tour of Europe. He wrote Colossus of Columbia in 1901, near the culmination of the tour. The march carried the dedication “Respectfully inscribed to the Continental Congress at Washington,” a title thought to reflect the growing power of the United States at the turn of the century. This spirited and rhythmic march represents the excitement of the circus experience.

Kenneth J. Alford

Kenneth J. Alford was a pseudonym for Frederick Joseph Ricketts (1881 - 1945); Alford was his mother's family name. Born the son of a coal merchant in London, he studied both piano and organ as a child and by the age of fourteen was playing cornet in the Royal Irish Regiment Band. He completed the bandmaster's course at the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall in 1908. Most of his marches were composed during the next two decades while he was bandmaster of the Second Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Alford is best remembered for his restrained and dignified “poetic” marches. He was as famous in England for his marches as Sousa was in the United States.

The Mad Major

The Mad Major was Alford’s first post-war march, written and published in 1921. It pays homage to Major Graham Seton-Hutchinson, given that nickname for his dauntless exploits in World War I. A Machine Gun Officer, known for his tactical innovations and a strong opposition to retreat, Seton-Hutchinson was honored with the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order.

The Vanished Army

Parenthetically titled “They Never Die”, this march was written in 1918 and dedicated to the first 100,000 men who gave their lives fighting against tyranny during World War I. One of the most expressive marches, it is both somber and stirring, serving as a reminder of the terrible price of the war. Alford often used fragments of familiar tunes in his marches; a portion of It’s a Long Way to Tipperary may be heard at the end of the second strain.

Virginia A. Allen

Virginia Allen currently resides in New York City, where she is a member of the conducting faculty at the Juilliard School and a Conductor of the Juilliard Trombone Choir. She studied French Horn and conducting and earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree and Master of Music degree in Performance from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and a Diploma in Wind Conducting from the University of Calgary. Allen was a pioneer for women in military bands. She was the first woman to command and conduct an active duty military band that included women, when she was appointed Principal Conductor of the Army’s band in Atlanta. As the Associate Conductor of The United States Military Academy Band at West Point, she was the first woman conductor of that historic organization. She also conducted the Army’s premier touring ensembles on stages from the Hollywood Bowl to Europe. Her military career included an assignment as the Department of the Army Staff Bands Officer in Washington, D.C., where she managed over 100 Army bands and band activities worldwide. Allen frequently guest conducts, adjudicates, and teaches masterclasses in the U.S. and internationally. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Conductors Guild.

Virginia Allen's Home Page:

Women of the Podium, March

Women of the Podium is the official march of the Women Band Directors National Association (WBDNA). It was premiered by The United States Army Band on July 8, 1986 during the WBDNA’s Summer Meeting in Washington, D.C. The march is in the classic form and contains rich harmonies and a catchy melody.

Leroy Anderson

Famous for his “concert music with a pop quality” (his own words), Leroy Anderson (1908 - 1975) possessed not merely a skill in technique and a rich melodic gift, but also an engaging sense of humor. He was particularly successful in creating descriptive pieces that effectively borrowed sounds and rhythms of the extramusical world, such as the ticking of a clock, the clicking of a typewriter, and the ringing of sleigh bells. Anderson first studied music with his mother, who was a church organist. He earned a B.A. degree in music at Harvard University in 1929 and an M.A. degree in foreign language there the following year. As a student, he conducted the Harvard Band from 1928 to 1930. He became a music instructor at Radcliffe College from 1930 to 1932 and returned to Harvard as band conductor from 1932 to 1935. Later, he served as a church choir director, an organist, a conductor, and a composer-arranger, whose works in the “encore” category have few equals.

A Christmas Festival

A Christmas Festival combines tunes from the secular and religious celebration of the holiday. Anderson has encompassed the joy, celebration, and solemnity of Christmas in his arrangements of: Joy To The World • Deck the Halls • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen • Good King Wenceslas • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing • The First Noel • Silent Night • Jingle Bells • O Come, All Ye Faithful

A Leroy Anderson Portrait

This arrangement by Warren Barker gives a sampling of some of the many tunes that have brought enjoyment to Leroy Anderson's fans.  The bright mood of the Beguine tempo of Serenata begins the portrait.  A light swing transition introduces The Synchopated Clock.  The Blue Tango brings back a Latin tempo before the brisk finale of Bugler's Holiday, which has been credited for motivating the most rumpeters to learn (or improve) the art of double-tounging.

A Trumpeter's Lullaby

Leroy Anderson had a strong relationship with the Boston Pops Orchestra. After one concert, Roger Voisin, principal trumpet, asked Anderson to write a trumpet solo different from the usual loud, martial, or triumphant works in existence. Anderson wrote about the request: “After thinking it over, it occurred to me that I had never heard a lullaby for trumpet, so I set out to write one with a quiet melody based on bugle notes played by the trumpet and with the rest of the orchestra playing a lullaby background.” This delightful composition for solo trumpet and ensemble lives up to the definition of a lullaby: a song to quiet children or lull them to sleep. The opening andante tranquillo section “rocks” the child to sleep. A short piu animato section recalls the child’s dreams of active play before the original tempo returns and the child is fast asleep. 

Roger Voisin (1918 - 2008) was arguably one of the most influential trumpet performers and teachers of the 20th century. He was also the youngest musician to ever play in the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). His family emigrated to the United States from France in 1929 and his father accepted a position as trumpeter with the BSO. Under his father’s tutelage, Roger’s talents quickly developed. His playing caught the ear of Arthur Fiedler, who hired Roger to play fanfares to recall the audience after intermissions of the Boston Esplanade Orchestra. Fiedler encouraged Sergei Koussevitzky to hire Roger into the BSO, beginning a long and significant career that lasted until his retirement in 1973. Roger Voisin served as principal trumpet from 1950 to 1965. His teaching career began with the Tanglewood Music Center in 1940. He taught trumpet at the New England Conservatory from 1950 to 1969, when he moved to Boston University where he taught until his retirement in 1999. Roger Voisin was a warm and generous individual who dedicated himself to his students, colleagues, and family.

Belle of the Ball

Dancing so lightly and smiling so brightly,
tonight you're the Belle of the Ball.
Is it a wonder the fellows are under
the spell of the Belle of the Ball?

Leroy Anderson often began his concerts with a waltz. The Belle of the Ball is a 1951 playful revival of the Viennese waltz. Anderson’s own arrangement for band is light and rhythmic. Visions of a beautiful woman being guided around a grand ballroom readily come to mind. The theme transitions through variations that show the composer’s talent with timbres and musical sonorities.

Bugler's Holiday

This arrangement of Bugler’s Holiday features a trumpet trio with band accompaniment. This brisk piece allows the performers to show off their articulation, intonation, and ensemble playing. Since its composition in 1954, it has motivated many trumpeters to improve their technique of double tonguing and the quality of their bell tones. It is both fun to play and a joy to hear.


Serenata is the Italian musical term for a serenade. It is usually applied to musical entertainments given in the open air at night, usually by gentlemen, in the spirit of gallantry, under the windows of ladies. Anderson's rendition opens with the theme in a minor key, to the accompaniment of a Latin American rhythm. The listener's interest is held by the beautiful melody and repetitive rhythms, which shift to a brighter mood in the major key. The soaring suitor's proclamations calm to a romantic ending and a punctuated “Good Night, Love.”

Sleigh Ride

In 2010, ASCAP named Sleigh Ride the most popular piece of Christmas music in the USA based on performance data from 2,500 radio stations nationwide. Composed in 1948 and with lyrics by Mitchell Parish added in 1950, there is no mention of any specific holiday. Leroy Anderson had intended it to be a musical vignette of an old fashioned winter’s day. In a 1951 radio interview, he explained the background of the finale of the work:

“The story about the horse whinny goes back to my student days in Boston. I knew a trumpet player there who was very skillful in producing unothodox, as well as orthodox, sounds on his instrument. The most striking of these was a horse whinny, which he made by pressing the three trumpet valves halfway down and then giving a sudden blast through he mouthpiece while shaking the trumpet rapidly. I was especially impressed by this because I was studying orchestration at the time, and this sort of thing wasn’t in the textbooks. I then forgot all about it until years later, when I was scoring the final measures of Sleigh Ride.”

The Girl I Left Behind Me

Both the Irish and the British have laid claim to The Girl I Left Behind Me, an air in march time associated with a soldier leaving for war or a vessel going to sea. The early copies of lyrics date to the end of the 18th century in England. As the tune emigrated, the lyrics were adapted to the culture and circumstances. During the American Civil War, soldiers in both the Union and Confederate armies sang the song. Even today, it is a part of a medley played for the cadets final formation for graduation at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Leroy Anderson made the tune the sixth and final movement of his The Irish Suite.

The Irish Washerwoman

In 1947, the Eire Society of Boston commissioned Leroy Anderson to compose a work for a pops concert of the Boston Symphony conducted by Arthur Fiedler resulting in The Irish Suite, consisting of six movements drawn from familiar Irish tunes. The Irish Washerwoman is the first movement of that suite where nimble-fingered woodwinds introduce the quintessential Irish jig with roots back to the 16th century. It is similar to the soldier’s song Corporal Casey. The first time the tune was published was as The Wash Woman, a favourite New Country Dance in Dublin, Ireland, in 1785. It is recognized world-wide. You can visualize the soap suds flying as the refrain repeats itself in varying keys, as the tempo gradually increases to a final quick pace and sudden stop.

Giancarlo Aquilanti

Giancarlo Aquilanti was born in 1959 in Jesi, a small town in central Italy. He studied at the Conservatory of Music in Pesaro, Italy, where he received diplomas in Trumpet Performance, Choral Music, and Composition. In 1985, he moved to the United States, earning a Master’s Degree in Composition cum laude in 1988 from California State University at Hayward. Aquilanti continued his studies at Stanford University where he was awarded a Doctoral degree in Composition in 1996. At Stanford, he began his teaching career in music theory, composition, and conducting. In 2004, he was honored with the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching for teaching musical concepts in ways that demystified their complexities and for a broad repertoire of teaching methods. He has written works for orchestras, chamber and choral groups, and wind ensembles. Aquilanti has been Music Director of the Stanford Wind Ensemble since 1997 and served as the Musical Director of the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB) from 2002 to 2016.

Divertimento per Banda

Divertimento per Banda was written in 2000 for the Stanford (University) Wind Ensemble. The composition has an Italian flavor, but it also exhibits an American influence. Italian folk tunes from the composer’s native town of Jesi are mixed with elements of the American Blues. At times, those tunes are elaborated with contrapuntal techniques; sometimes, the tunes are distorted in a bizarre, fantastic and grotesque way. The composer has attempted to convey his memories that go back to when his grandfather played accordion at home and everyone was sitting around him singing. The exactness of those tunes may have been lost over time in the composer’s memory or they could have changed as a result of his new American imagination. The attentive listener will hear the peculiar beginning of a fantastic Fellini movie, jazz elements mixed with the folk tunes, and the accordion playing a waltz while Italian peasants are dancing around the player.

The Sound of Favignana

This composition is inspired by the Canti dei Tonnaroti (chants of the tuna fisherman) from Favignana, a beautiful, tiny island off the western coast of Sicily. The songs were a part of the annual ritual of harvesting these great fish in large nets with rooms of decreasing size. The music starts softly to the pulsating of the ocean waves. Phrases from the song Aja Mola are introduced as the fishermen, in their black boats, chant responsively to coordinate their hauling in of the nets. Moving slowly at the start, the tempo quickens as the bounty reaches the surface. A clarinet solo plays in a jazzy swing tempo to signify a link between the people of the island and the visiting Americans premiering the composition. On the island on June 16, 2011, the Stanford Wind Ensemble performed this piece dedicated to Ignazio Galuppo, President of the Municipal Council of Favignana.

Kimberly K. Archer

Kimberly K. Archer studied trumpet at Florida State University and received her Bachelor of Music Education in 1996. She composed Symphony No. 1 “For those taken too soon...,” which was premiered at her alma mater in 2001. Ms. Archer was commissioned by the Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma Northeastern Division to compose a work for their convention. She now lives in Syracuse, New York.


The composer wrote: “Odyssey is a theme and variations modeled after Elgar's Enigma Variations. Composed in the winter of 1998, it is a tribute to composer/arranger Robert S. Thurston - one of my teachers. Odyssey started out as a mere exercise. I tried a march first. That was so much fun, and so well received, that I decided to do a series of variations and connect them. Following a brief introduction, Odyssey is composed of four variations in contrasting styles: Ballad, March, Chorale, and Mixed Meter. Although the theme is never stated verbatim, the ballad appears at both the beginning and end because it is most similar to the theme in style and form.”

Harold Arlen

Harold Arlen was born as Hyman Arluk in 1905, the son of a Buffalo, New York cantor. As a child, he loved to sing, but he was quite shy. In the hopes that he would become a music teacher, his mother got a piano for the family. At the age of 9, Arlen began taking lessons and quickly outgrew the capabilities of the neighborhood piano teacher. He found classical music beautiful, but he was drawn by the rhythms of modern music. At the age of 12, he played his first composition, Inidanola. He had some local success as a pianist and singer and moved to New York City in his early 20’s to work as an accompanist in vaudeville, changing his name to Harold Arlen. In Harlem, he listened to jazz legends Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Fats Waller. Tinkering at the piano one day, he wrote a blues-infused song that eventually evolved to match the words by Ted Koehler to become Get Happy. The song was an enormous hit and the pair ended up on the staff of the Cotton Club, writing for the popular reviews. Arlen called Stormy Weather (1939) “the story of my misery and confusion, of the misunderstanding in my life I couldn’t straighten out.” The Blues were a common theme of his songs, including One for My Baby and It’s Only a Paper Moon. Hollywood beckoned and in 1935, he was signed by Samuel Goldwyn to write songs for the movies. This led to the signing of the Arlen-Harburg team to compose the music for The Wizard of Oz. The 40’s brought a teaming with Johnny Mercer and they produced hits like Blues in the Night, That Old Black Magic, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, and One for My Baby (and One More for the Road). He wrote less in the 50’s, because he was caring for his ailing wife, but work with Ira Gershwin in 1954 on the musical “A Star is Born,” staring Judy Garland produced The Man That Got Away. He gradually drew away from music and succumbed to cancer in 1986 at his apartment in New York City. ASCAP executives calculated that more than 35 of the over 500 songs whose music he wrote had become what musicians call “standards” — that is, pieces of music that musicians retain in their repertoires year after year.

The Wizard of Oz

The 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) production of The Wizard of Oz brought L. Frank Baum’s 1899 classic story to a wide and appreciative audience. From the movie, we have very memorable tunes from the collaboration of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. It’s the story of a young Kansas farmgirl who wants to protect her dog from a nasty neighbor and dreams of a better place. During a fierce tornado, she is struck on the head and transported to a land “beyond the rainbow” where she meets magical characters from her Kansas life transformed into the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Wicked Witch of the North, and even the Wizard. On her travels with her companions down the Yellow Brick Road, they overcome many obstacles to finally reach the Emerald City, where they learn that they already had the things they sought; everyone has the power to overcome their obstacles. In the end, we also recognize that “there’s no place like home.” It’s not well known that early prints of the movie did not include Over the Rainbow, because it slowed down the picture and if a young Kansas girl was to burst into song, it wouldn’t be one as wistful and philosophical as that. After some serious studio infighting, the song was retained and it became an instant classic. Let’s get comfortable and let the music transport us back to the Land of Oz.

Malcolm Arnold

Malcolm Arnold (1921 - 2006) has created for himself a significant and some­what unique position in contemporary British music. At a time when much new music is foreboding or despairing, his optimistic outlook and high spir­its are the more welcome. He was born in Northampton, a town with con­siderable musical tradition. He studied at the Royal College of Music, where he would later return as an instructor. His list of works includes nine symphonies, twenty concertos, much chamber music, five ballets, and music for several films; he received an Oscar for his music for the 1958 film, Bridge on the River Kwai. His suites of English, Scottish, and Cornish dances are hallmarks of his repertoire. He served many years as principal trumpet player in the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

A Grand Grand Overture for Three Vacuum Cleaners, One Floor Polisher,
  and Concert Band

Artist, teacher, cartoonist, broadcaster, and tuba player Gerard Hoffnung commissioned notable composers to write some of their wittiest and most humorous compositions at the Hoffnung Music Festivals in Royal Festival Hall in London. This Overture was presented at the first Festival on November 13, 1956. The concert band introduces a gay, rollicking tune that climaxes in superb pomp and circumstance when the four soloists, performing on three vacuum cleaners and floor polisher, join in concertante fashion. The glissandi and staccato passages make severe demands on the musicians, requiring clean attacks. The full ensemble brings an electric texture to the musical sound. As each of these unique instruments in turn becomes silent, we can appreciate the composer's talents that have been uniquely displayed and his comment: "I write exactly what I would like to hear if I were to go to a particular entertainment for which the music has been commissioned.'' The score is dedicated to President Hoover.

English Dances

Malcolm Arnold’s publisher, Bernard de Nevers, suggested that a suite of dances be composed to provide an English counterpart to Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances or Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances. Arnold developed eight original melodies that seemed firmly rooted in traditional English dance and song. The melodies were divided into two sets of four. Written in 1950, English Dances was dedicated to de Nevers. The first movement, Andantino, opens quietly to 4-part chords played by the French horns and a melody introduced by the oboe. The melody is reminiscent of the gentle movement of a country breeze or the slowly flowing streams, sometimes becoming agitated when encountering obstacles. Both the obvious and haunting bell tones heard in this movement and the others have been suggested as the source for the English nature of the dances. The church bells in the towns and cities of England are often tuned to the notes of the diatonic scale (i.e., the notes of the white keys of a piano). This scale is used extensively by Arnold, who believed in its “eternal value.” The second movement, Vivace, begins with bell tones that seem to signal the start of festivities in a village town. Mesto, the third movement, translates as sad or melancholy. The final movement, Allegro risoluto, is characterized by a driving and determined rhythm in the brass with ornamentation from the woodwinds.

Four Scottish Dances

Malcolm Arnold has composed a number of “national dances”. The Four Scottish Dances, composed in 1957, are original works that employ traits and timbres derived from Scottish folkmusic. The opening movement (Pesante) is in the style of a strathspey, a slow Scottish dance from the strath valley of Spey, with a hint of bagpipes and their drones. A lively reel starts off the second movement (Vivace). The bassoon’s melody brings visions of the town drunk, who is whisked away with the return of the reel. In the third movement (Allegretto), Arnold provides “an impression of the sea and mountain scenery on a calm summer’s day in the Hebrides.” The last movement (Con brio) is a lively fling filled with a sense of abandonment.

Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo

Originally composed for the standard British all-brass band and entitled Little Suite for Brass, Op. 80, this 1979 arrangement by the late John P. Paynter brings its beautiful character and melodies to wind ensembles. All three movements are written in short, clear five-part song forms, reflecting Malcolm Arnold's interest in folk songs and dances. The Prelude begins in a fanfare style and evolves through changing keys and themes; it slowly resolves into a quiet cantabile ending. The Siciliano is true to the character of its lilting and graceful namesake Sicilian dance; solo instruments carry the melody as brass and woodwinds provide contrasting textures. True in style, the rollicking Rondo explodes with the prominent theme that reap­pears again and again in alternation with contrasting themes.

Sarabande and Polka

These two short movements are taken from Malcolm Arnold’s charming ballet called “Solitaire”. Originally scored for a small chamber ensemble of orchestral instruments, the pieces are also available in piano solo form. This arrangement for band captures their light and entertaining nature. The Sarabande reflects a slow Spanish dance in triple time. It is full of the warmth and sunshine of the region. The Polka, on the other hand, reflects Arnold’s freedom of spirit in a frivolous parody of this dance style.

The Padstow Lifeboat

The Padstow Lifeboat Station was established in 1827 at the southwestern tip of Cornwall, England. Over the years, the lifeboats have provided rescue services for many an English seaman. In 1965, Arnold and his wife took up residence in nearby St. Merryn and became active in the community. For the occasion of the launching of a new lifeboat in October 1967 by The Duke of Kent, Arnold composed The Padstow Lifeboat march. During a radio interview during the ceremony, Arnold said “The lifeboat here is very much a part of every body’s life. They do some tremendously heroic rescues. I know the crew. I know the Coxswain - Coxswain Elliot. Most of them are friends of mine and I was struck by their heroism and it being very much part of the Town I thought I would like to write a march; that’s all.” Arnold was given the honor of conducting the St. Dennis Silver Band. Afterwards, he took the whole band to the nearest pub and treated them to several rounds of drinks. The dissonance of the lifeboat’s klaxon is heard prominently several times during the march.