Jay Ungar was born November 14, 1946 in New York City to Jewish parents of Eastern European descent. At the age of seven, he started taking violin lessons. He was soon able to pick out tunes by ear and he began writing his own melodies. His classmates at the High School for the Music and Art introduced him to bluegrass and traditional folk music. He traveled through North Carolina and Tennessee in the early 1960’s in search of folk music. He returned to Greenwich Village in New York City and was a founding member of Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys band. He later joined the David Bromberg Band and, in the early 1980s, played with Fiddle Fever. After the failure of his first marriage, he worked in a duo with acoustic bassist Molly Mason, who had been a member of Fiddle Fever. In 1980, Ungar founded his Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps and, several years later, Mason became a full partner designing and running the camp’s programs. They would be wed in 1991.
Ashokan FarewellComposer Jay Ungar has provided us with the story behind this waltz, mainly performed by solo violin, with guitar and bass accompaniment:
“Ashokan Farewell was named for Ashokan, a camp in the Catskill Mountains not far from Woodstock, New York. It’s the place where Molly Mason and I have run the Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps for adults and families since 1980. Ashokan is the name of a town, most of which is now under a very beautiful and magical body of water called the Ashokan Reservoir.....
“I composed Ashokan Farewell in 1982 shortly after our Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps had come to an end for the season. I was feeling a great sense of loss and longing for the music, the dancing and the community of people that had developed at Ashokan that summer. I was having trouble making the transition from a secluded woodland camp with a small group of people who needed little excuse to celebrate the joy of living, back to life as usual, with traffic, newscasts, telephones and impersonal relationships. By the time the tune took form, I was in tears. I kept it to myself for months, unable to fully understand the emotions that welled up whenever I played it. I had no idea that this simple tune could affect others in the same way.
“Ashokan Farewell was written in the style of a Scottish lament. I sometimes introduce it as, ‘a Scottish lament written by a Jewish guy from the Bronx.’ I lived in the Bronx until the age of sixteen.”
Jan van der Roost was born in Duffel, Belgium, in 1956. His father was the conductor of amateur ensembles and his mother sang in the local choir. His first efforts of music expression were arrangements for small ensembles. At the Lemmens Institute, he received a triple laureate diploma for trombone, music history, and music education (1979). His advanced studies continued with diplomas received at the Royal Conservatories of Ghent (music theory, 1982) and Antwerp (composition, 1989). He currently teaches at his alma mater, the Lemmens Institute, and has directed the Midden Brabant brass band since 1984. In 1991, he became conductor of the Lemmens Conservatory Symphonic Band. A versatile composer and arranger, van der Roost is represented by works for wind band, brass quintet, orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble, piano, and guitar. His compositions have been performed on radio and television and recorded in over 35 countries.
Dynamica was commissioned by the Band of the NEC Tamagawa Plant in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan, to commemorate its 40th anniversary in 1997. Jan van der Roost chose the title to reflect the dynamic movement of NEC as a company and the energetic activity of the band. The introduction to this fiery and energetic overture is a proclamation of celebration for the occasion. Gradually, melodic and playful themes are developed, often supported by polyrhythmic figures. van der Roost tried to incorporate in the music the energy of the organization and its members along with the congenial fellowship that he witnessed.
This suite of four gypsy dances was written in 1987. While having the definite sound of authentic folk dances, the themes and melodies are all original. The dances alternate from bright and colorful to tranquil and melancholic, moods typical of gypsy music. Lying to the south and east of the Danube, the Puszta is the great Hungarian plain or prairie country that was home to nomadic shepherds and fierce horsemen. The region is noted as the home of the celebrated Lipizzaner stallion.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) spent two years between school and university in musical study at the Royal College of Music. After taking a degree at Cambridge, he returned to the Royal College in London for further study, then visited Germany, where he heard the Wagnerian music dramas and stayed to study with Max Bruch. He returned to England to receive a doctorate in music at Cambridge. With his friend, Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams cut the ties that had bound English music to Germany and Italy. Instead of looking for good models on the Continent, these two young Englishmen decided to seek them at home in England's own past.
Flourish For Wind Band
A flourish can be defined as “a bold or extravagant gesture or action, made especially to attract the attention of others.” Vaughan Williams’ Flourish For Wind Band was written to be an overture to the pageant “Music and the People” held at Royal Albert Hall on April 1, 1939. The aim of the pageant was to bolster the spirit of the English people in the tense times preceding the start of World War II. The strong opening fanfare from the brass, with antiphonal elements, conveys confidence and leads to a melodic section with simple tonal elements appealing to the public of the time. The opening theme returns to conclude this short composition.
Folk Song Suite
At the beginning of the twentieth century, European composers, including Vaughan Williams and Grainger, developed an interest in collecting folk music. Vaughan Williams employs nine folk songs in his Folk Song Suite. The first movement begins with Seventeen Come Sunday, a tale of a soldier enticing a pretty maid, followed by Pretty Caroline in which a sailor, gone seven years, returns to his true love. The third melody tells Vaughan Williams’ favorite biblical tale of the rich man and Lazarus. A reprise of the folk tunes concludes the movement. The second movement is more haunting with a solo oboe introducing My Bonny Boy, a tale of unrequited love. Green Bushes tells another tale of unanswered passion. The final movement contains four melodies from Somerset, a county at the southwestern tip of England. Blow Away The Morning Dew is a light and jaunty melody. The rousing war ballad High Germany asks, unsuccessfully, for a soldier’s maiden to follow him to war on the Continent. A daughter pleads with her father over an arranged marriage in The Tree So High. An allegory of the cultivation and harvesting of barley corn is told in John Barleycorn.
Written for British military band in 1924, Sea Songs is a single-movement composition based on three English sailing songs. The first of these, Princess Royal, briskly begins the work. The melody is delightful, with a lightly played eighth-note accompaniment propelling this section effortlessly onward. The second melody, Admiral Benbow, also referred to as The Brother Tar's Song, is bold in nature, continuing the allegro tempo of the opening. The melody of the final ballad, Portsmouth, is written in an expressive and flowing cantabile style. A quick repeat of the first two songs brings the work to its conclusion.
Vaughan Williams’ second work for band, Toccata Marziale, was premiered in 1942 as part of the British Empire exposition. Toccata is derived from Italian and means “to touch.” The martial strength and tempo of this work touches a quick succession of changing scenes. The opening fanfare introduces the motive theme that appears throughout the composition. The work is filled with great rhythmic energy and strong contrapuntal lines as the woodwinds dance around the solid background of the brass.
Variations for Wind Band
After nearly 65 years of productive work and just a year before his death, Vaughan Williams originally composed the Variations for Brass Band. This short, rarely heard piece is a set of 11 variations on an original theme and was written in 1957 for the British National Brass Band Championships. In 1988, it was scored for large wind ensemble by Donald Hunsberger, conductor and music director of the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Following the introduction and theme (andante maestoso), the variations on the theme flow without pause. The listener should be able to discern the stylistic and tempo changes, though, particularly at the canon, waltz, fugue, and chorale.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) was born in Roncole, Italy, into a family of small landowners and taverners. At 7, he was helping the local church organist. At 12, he was studying with the organist in nearby Busseto, where he became the assistant in 1832. A grocer in Busseto saw Verdi’s potential and offered to pay for his education at the Milan Conservatory. The Conservatory rejected him, so he studied privately in Milan for two years, before returning to Busseto to pursue his musical career and to marry the grocer’s daughter. An early opera enjoyed success at La Scala. Between 1838 and 1840, he lost his wife and two children. In despair, he vowed never to compose again. Friends persuaded him to begin writing and his Nabucco in 1842 marked his real beginning of a spectacular career. Hailed as a national hero, Verdi’s talent has made a significant mark in the operatic literature with his operas Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aida, and Othello.
In 1888, the Gazzetta Musicale in Milan published what it called an “enigmatic scale” of unusual intervals and invited composers to harmonize it in some fashion. Verdi took up the challenge by using the scale as a basis for a motet in 16th-century style on the traditional Ave Maria text. The scale first appears in the bass line and it is followed in progression by the alto, tenor, and soprano lines. This composition, the first of the Four Sacred Pieces for chorus, was first performed in April 1898.
Arranger Barbara Buehlman received her BME (1959) and MME (1960) degrees from Northwestern University. After graduation, she taught in the Round Lake, Illinois, schools until 1983, when she became an administrator of the Mid-West National Band and Orchestra Clinic. She was active with the Northshore Concert band, serving as its Business Manager from 1962 until her death in 1997. She was a co-author of the “Band Plus” Method Books with James Swearingen.
Overture to La Forza del Destino
The Force of Destiny was written in 1861 as a commission for the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia. The premiere had to be cancelled when the principal singer became ill and couldn’t be replaced. The opera was finally premiered in November of the following year. Hampered by a plot that placed a curse on the principal characters and left nearly everyone dead, the opera was nonetheless a success. In 1869, Verdi revised the opera to be less depressing in story line and ending. He also included this overture in place of the prelude of the original version. Destiny, personified by the three ominous brass chords at the opening, is pushed forward by a rushing motive heard in the woodwinds. The lyrical melody of a prayer sung by the doomed soprano is incorporated also. Destiny’s force is heard as a strong undercurrent throughout the overture.
Son of a violinist at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741) received his early training from his father and the cathedral's director of music. He was ordained in 1703, but after two years gave up saying Mass because of difficulties with asthma. From 1704 to 1740, he taught violin at one of the four famous orphanages which occupied an important place in Venetian musical life. He traveled to many European cities to perform or to produce his operas when his health permitted. The best known and most recorded Baroque concertos, the Four Seasons, was published in 1925. A number of his works for clavier and organ were transcribed by J.S. Bach, who was among his appreciative contemporaries.
Concerto in C for Piccolo and Band
Most of Antonio Vivaldi's output of over 500 concertos were written for his primary instrument, the violin, and other string instruments. Although the violin was the dominant instrument in Italian Baroque music, composers did not neglect the wind instruments, especially as the numbers of proficient, often wealthy, amateur players increased. This Concerto was probably encouraged by Vivaldi's Amsterdam publisher.
New Orleans born composer, Terry Vosbein (b. 8 Feb 1957) studied composition at North Texas State University and at the University of Miami. Majoring in composition, he received the BA of Music from Christopher Newport University, Masters of Music from James Madison University, and Doctor of Musical Arts (1995) from The Cleveland Institute of Music. He has composed music for a wide variety of occasions, including arrangements commissioned by the Glenn Miller Orchestra and for the United States Air Force Tactical Air Command Band at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Dr. Vosbein currently is an assistant professor of music at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where he teaches music composition and jazz studies.
I Wonder as I Wander - Traditional/Setting by Terry Vosbein
This composition is based on a melody John Jacob Niles heard in a small North Carolina town. A young girl was singing the tune, and he asked her to repeat it while he took down the haunting melody. The piece is now performed most often during the Christmas holiday season. Dr. Vosbein has dedicated this arrangement to Major Lowell E. Graham, Commander and Conductor of that band.
The introduction of this setting begins with flowing chromatic and chordal outline passages. The melody is first stated by horns and trombones against passages played by woodwinds. Next, solo trumpet, flutes and full clarinet choir begin an exchange of the theme over innovative harmonies in the saxes, horns and low brass before a restatement of the opening theme. The style changes when low winds begin a marcato fugue-like section. The maestoso ending begins when horns and trombones present the theme; trumpets continue the melody with increasing volume to signal the dramatic conclusion.