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Take Me To Church

Kathryn Salfelder, Cathedrals
Carlos Simon, AMEN!
Michael Colgrass, Old Churches
Kevin Krumenaur, The Water is Wide
David Maslanka, Hosannas
3:00 PM Sunday, June 2, 2024

300 Hammond Pond Parkway Auditorium
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Check this page for program notes –
coming soon!

Program notes by Richard M. Kesner


Roberto Sierra, Montuno

Roberto Sierra was born in 1953 in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. He studied composition both in Puerto Rico and Europe, where one of his teachers was György Ligeti at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg, Germany. Sierra’s body of work is quite large, including works for chamber and full orchestras, concerti for all sorts of instruments, choral works, chamber music, pieces for solo piano, and compositions for wind band.


A work in one movement, Montuno was written originally for orchestra in 2013, commissioned and premiered by the Society of Musical Arts, a community orchestra from Maplewood, N.J. It was subsequently adapted by James Spinazzola for wind ensemble in 2015 and dedicated to Steve Culbertson.  Much like Zoltán Kodály, Béla Bartók, and Igor Stravinsky who work with folk music from their own respective cultures, Sierra integrates Latin American themes, rhythms, and dances into this work. The resulting music is a blend of native Latin American elements and rhythms as seen through a lens of 21st Century sensibilities. As the composer himself observes: “The main musical elements of this Montuno are the rhythms of the Latin clave and its corollary two-measure chord sequence. The work is framed in the fashion of a chaconne, a series of variations built on a repeating harmonic sequence. Montuno quickly builds by increasing the number of players that join the Latin dance. A sudden change of meter towards the central point provides another variant of the established rhythmic/harmonic pattern that brings Montuno to an exhilarating close.”

Leonel Rodríguez, Estefanía: Troncos y melodias de muchas mujeras  [World Premier]

Leonel Rodríguez is a young, highly energetic, and largely self-taught musician who is now professor of trombone and conductor of ensembles at the University of Costa Rica at the Pacific campus.  The composition on this afternoon’s program is a new venture for Rodriguez. This is Estefanía’s world premier!

According to the composer, “the purpose of this work is to analyze and make a musical recreation of Isabel Carvajal's story Estefanía to represent scenes, moments and experiences from the text, and above all to show and publicize the discrimination of women - both in the past and the present. This text was chosen because it is a silenced work, little known in Costa Rican literature, despite being a pioneer in denouncing the lifestyle of women in the banana plantations of the Costa Rican Atlantic coast.” As a programmatic musical composition, instrumented for symphonic band, Estefanía’s tonal language describes the tense and distressing environments experienced by the main character. It also communicates her capacity for strength and courage. The composition bases its thematic material on rhythms and instruments of African origin, such as batá drums, congas, and bongos.

Luis Alarcon, Spanish Dances (Book 1)

Born in Valencia in 1972, Luis Serrano Alarcón is a prolific Spanish composer and conductor of considerable renown, whose music has appeared regularly on CRWE programs. In 2012, the Southeastern Conference Band Directors Association, formed by a consortium of 14 US universities, commissioned the composition of his first Symphony for Wind Orchestra. This same consortium commissioned his first book of Spanish dances. Alarcon is currently principal conductor of the UMSC Symphonic Band of Villar del Arzobispo (Valencia) and professor at the Conservatorio Superior de Música of Valencia. 

Composed in 2021 for wind band, Spanish Dances (Book 1) is the beginning of a project that aims to explore some of the sources of the rich and varied Spanish music tradition. The chosen format is taken from the Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz’s masterpiece Iberia. In his Spanish Dances, Alarcon does not write authentic Spanish dances but rather employs the basic essence of each dance form (i.e. its rhythm, tempo, melodic character, structure, etc.), to explore its possibilities through his own language and musical aesthetics. The work is composed in three movements:

I. Petenera. This movement maintains its flamenco rhythmic essence, as well as the characteristic use of the Phrygian flamenco mode in the melodic lines, but it also presents important modifications with respect to the more conventional version of the dance. Fast but highly varied tempi and rhythmic structures give this movement its energy.

II. Zortziko. The second movement characterizes a traditional dance in Euskadi and Navarra. The typical instrument used to perform the zortziko is the chistu (similar to a baroque flute) accompanied by the tamboril (a small drum). In this Zortziko, the piccolo is the instrument that represents the singing of the chistu, both in the first theme and in the final coda in which, from off stage, a flautist performs the Zortziko de Lantz, a popular dance from Navarra. With this ending, the composer tries to represent how, while the band languidly closes the movement over the tonic G, the echoes of a popular dance are heard in the distance, outside.

III. Jota. The jota is one of the most widespread traditional dances and songs in Spain, closely related to the fandango. Of all the variants, the Aragonese jota is the most popular, and the one that has served Alarcon as a model for his composition. The introduction develops the characteristic llamada of four quarter notes and briefly anticipates the melody of the copla, typically a song in the middle section of the jota. The singing of the copla is performed by the flugelhorn, not only because of its sweet timbre, but because this is the instrument that, generally, performs such solos in the transcriptions of the jotas in Spanish bands. The recapitulation leads to a last and brilliant appearance of the copla, after which the closing section starts, in which a series of variaciones lead through a progressive crescendo and a final accelerando to a brilliant coda.

Roshanne Etezady, Anahita

As a young musician, Roshanne Etezady studied piano and flute, and developed an interest in many different styles of music, from the musicals of Steven Sondheim to the 1980’s power ballads and Europop of her teenage years. One fateful evening in 1986, she saw Philip Glass and his ensemble perform as the musical guests on Saturday Night Live. This event marked the beginning of her interest in contemporary classical music, as well as her interest in being a composer herself. Since then, Etezady’s works have been commissioned by a wide range of musical organizations both in the United States and Europe. An active teacher, Etezady has taught at the Interlochen Arts Camp, Yale University, Saint Mary’s College, and the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Etezady holds academic degrees from Northwestern University and Yale University. She completed her doctorate at the University of Michigan in March, 2005.

Composed in 2005, Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as Aredvi Sura Anahita, the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of ‘the Waters’ (Aban) and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom. Etezady’s Anahita draws its inspiration from the murals of William Morris Hunt as well as from the Persian poem (Anahita) that inspired Hunt’s own work. The first movement, The Flight of Night, is characterized by dramatic, aggressive gestures that are meant to evoke the terrifying beauty of the goddess herself. Movement two, Night Mares, is a scherzo-like movement that refers to the three monstrous horses that pull the chariot across the sky. In the final movement, Sleep and Repose/The Coming of Light, we hear the gentler side of the night, with a tender lullaby that ends with trumpets heralding the dawn. Anahita takes the listener on the journey through aggression into lament and finally into calm tenderness. It takes the listener to a place of rest, peace, and hope.

Giovanni Santos, Danzas

Dr. Giovanni Santos is the son of a Cuban father and a Dominican mother. He was raised in Puerto Rico before moving to San Diego, Calif. He is a graduate of La Sierra University (B. Mus) and earned his MM in music education from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. He completed his Ph.D. in music education with an emphasis in instrumental conducting from Florida State University in 2022. Dr. Santos serves as assistant professor of music and director of wind and percussion studies at La Sierra University, Riverside, Calif., where he directs the university wind ensemble, chamber winds, and concert band, and where he teaches courses in instrumental music education, popular music, and conducting.

As a composer, Santos has premiered his works across the United States, Asia and Europe. His work Danzas was composed in 2022. In Danzas, the composer takes a journey through the colorful and unique musical traditions of Cuban folklore. Heavily influenced by its Afro-Cuban heritage and its subsequent diaspora, this work sets to celebrate and honor its rich music history. This collage of styles starts its tribute with a musical tradition that began in West Africa and migrated to Cuba - the bembé. The bembé dance is traditionally in 6/8 and was introduced to the world by the Yorubá people of what is now Nigeria. Santos’ composition quickly travels through other important folkloric fusions, such as the songo (incorporating rhythmic elements from folkloric rumba), a section inspired by colonial Cuba, and a dream-like son, or song. The work is dedicated to the composer’s Cuban grandparents, Ireneo and Onelia Santos.

Ever since a pianist sat down to improvise music for a silent movie, the worlds of film and music have contributed to and reinforced each other. Compositional techniques like minimalism, dissonance, and 12-tone (serial) writing have found their way into films to highlight danger, suspense, adventure, beauty, wonder, and a whole range of human emotion and experience. In return, film-scoring techniques have inspired new artistic expression in “pure” music. In this concert, the Charles River Wind Ensemble explores entertaining products of this union of movies and music.


Our opening selection, the Cinephonics Overture (2018), isn’t actually connected with film. Instead, Cinephonics is the name of a workshop for wind orchestra in Germany, running each summer since 1965. (It also happens to be name of a British props rental company and an 8 mm camera made by Fairchild.) The Spanish composer Ferrer Ferran (1966 - ) isn't well known in the U.S. but his repertoire, numbering hundreds of works for all media, is very widely played in Spain. He’s been called “the Spanish Strauss” for his symphonic style and noble arching hymn-like melodies (especially loved by horn sections!). In May 2018 CRWE performed his Symphony No. 3, The Great Spirit, celebrating the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and his masterwork, the Sagrada Familia cathedral.


The composer describes Cinephonics as “spectacle, fun, movement, the arts in parallel united in a common goal, to entertain and excite the viewer.” He considers it ideal as a program opener (after all, that's what overture means) but equally as the piece to end a concert in high spirits.


Scott McAllister’s Popcopy typifies his approach to music: combining classical and contemporary with American folk traditions including rock, hard rock, country, disco, grunge and more. Its three movements are based on tag-lines from television and movies. The first, “More Cowbell,” is what a fictional cowbell player says in a Saturday Night Live skit after realizing that there are no songs that feature his instrument! Sure enough, there's plenty of cowbell in this section. The second movement, “One Time at Band Camp,” based on scenes in the movie “American Pie,” tells of love found and lost during a summer band camp. The frenetic closing piece, “Serenity Now,” comes from a Seinfeld episode in which a character is supposed to chant “serenity now” whenever his blood pressure is in danger of spiking. But it only makes things worse, as the music grows in schizophrenic panic!


Scott McCallister’s Black Dog concerto for clarinet and wind ensemble was featured on our “Electrified Winds” program of March 2018. CRWE's Artistic Director Matthew Marsit was the clarinet soloist, and Assistant Director Sebastian Boniauto led the ensemble.


Both Star Wars and John Williams need little introduction, but what is significant about this suite is the skillful tranformation of a large-orchestral score into a wind band edition by Donald Hunsberger (1932 – 2023), who led the Eastman Wind Ensemble for 37 years and was one of the foremost advocates of the modern wind ensemble. The five selections in this 1997 arrangement are:

1 – The Imperial March (Darth Vader's theme)

2 – Princess Leia's theme

3 – The Battle in the Forest

4 – Yoda's Theme

5 – Star Wars Main Theme



Much has been written about Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis and its depiction of a dystopian world of class struggle and men versus machines. But Thomas Miller's novel (and still evolving) accompanying score is an original addition to the world of Metropolis. He began setting scenes to music in 1998 as an educational project at DePaul University. He used sound synthesizers such as the Synclavier and the Theremin, gradually adding wind and percussion instruments, eventually culminating in a 95-minute score for the entire film. In this concert CRWE will play four excerpts while the movie segments are shown on screens at the sides of the concert hall.


Coordinating the music with the film requires highly unusual and rapidly changing fractional tempo markings: a few measures at quarter note = 78.57 are followed by eight bars at 113.30, then two at 101, and so on. To accomplish this, the conductor listens to a click-track and the ensemble has to follow carefully.


So now, when you go to a theater or open up your favorite streaming channel, be sure to listen as well as watch – and see how music adds to the visual experience!


Adam Gorb, “Out of the Darkness” (2023)

The composer writes:

“Out of the Darkness is a seven-minute piece that very much follows the implications of its title: a progress from somber introspection to something much more hopeful. The years from 2020 to 2022 were troubling worldwide, but hopefully a brighter future can be attained in the face of present-day challenges. The work is dedicated to the musical visionary Timothy Reynish, who has had such an important influence on my compositional journey. In particular, the final C major chord encapsulates Tim’s philosophy: ‘Forte is a light dynamic.’”

The world premier of this work was played by the Cleveland Winds on March 5, 2023, under the baton of CRWE Artistic Director Matthew Marsit. Matthew repeated the work with the Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble on September 30, 2023. Today’s performance is certainly one of the first!

Actually, the composer is being far too modest. In just seven minutes, he exhibits the wide range of wind sonorities and effects of the modern wind ensemble. The opening light scoring of a simple melody (that could be a centuries-old chant or plainsong) treats the ensemble as a collection of chamber music groups with soloistic ornamentations. Later, shifting to major-key mood, the simple theme is presented in the full glory of brilliant brass and sparkling woodwinds.

Eric Whitacre, “Ghost Train” (1994)

1. Ghost Train: The Ride
2. At the Station
3. The Motive Revolution

The composer writes: “Ghost Train was a total fluke. In the fall of 1993, while an undergrad at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I happened to hear the wind symphony rehearsing through closed doors. I snuck into the band room and sat entranced for 50 minutes, transported by what was, hands down, the single loudest music I had ever heard. 6 percussionists! 8 trumpets! I was in love.


“After the rehearsal I approached Thomas Leslie, the conductor, and asked if I could write a piece for their group. He said (without hesitation), ‘sure, and if it turns out well we’ll play it at the CBDNA convention in the Spring.’ Now, up to this point I had never written for instruments before, only singers, so I got all of my friends who were instrumentalists and took them through their paces: What pieces do you love to play? Which register is most comfortable? Which instrument sounds best when doubled with your instrument? etc. I struggled with the work all through Christmas break (I wrote it in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Waco, Texas) and presented Tom with the first movement when school resumed. He played it beautifully at the convention, and BOOM… the thing took off like a shot. Band directors began calling me at home, trying to buy it from me, and my formal career as ‘composer’ had begun.

“I wrote the second and third movement a year later, and Tom premiered the whole thing in the Spring of 1995. I graduated two months later and headed for Juilliard. Ghost Train is dedicated to the man who brought it to life, Mr. Thomas G. Leslie.

“The legend of the Ghost Train, a supernatural machine that roars out of the night through forgotten towns and empty canyons, is deeply rooted in American folklore, and it was this spirit I worked to capture.

“The compositional challenge came in creating a larger three-movement work from the first movement which was originally conceived and performed as a single event. I felt that the use of trains as a source of sounds and inspirations was virtually inexhaustible, but I wanted to save the integrity of the original while using it as the architectural foundation. At the Station is just that: the train comes to a roaring halt and the passengers depart. In this movement I see countless images: friends and family reunited, the soaring architecture of the station itself, and the genuine sincerity and innocence of the era. After a reflective pastiche the locomotive builds up steam and slowly departs, grand and graceful. The Motive Revolution is twofold in its implication. The name refers to the period between 1850 and 1870 when steam engines revolutionized transportation, and also describes the cyclical treatment of musical motive throughout the movement. The train blazes across the country side, moonlight glistening off it's dark steel, and ends with a final, heroic tribute to these machines and the people who worked them.”

Óscar Navarro,

Symphony No. 1, “Hell and Heaven” (2019)


Óscar Navarro (b. 1981, Novelda, Spain) began studying the clarinet at an early age. He received the bachelors degree from the Conservatorio Superior Oscar Espla in Alicante, Spain. He is the recipient of many national and international music awards for composition, and his music is performed and commissioned by many orchestral and wind ensembles throughout the globe.

The composer writes “Hell and Heaven is the first symphony I’ve written for wind band. It is a symphony inspired by a trip by the soul of a recently deceased to Hell and Heaven that leaves the body in the first measures of the work after the heart beats its last, traveling to the great beyond to be a participant in the great battle between good and evil. Does the great beyond exist? What happens to the soul when it leaves a person’s body? Do heaven and hell exist? These and hundreds of questions have intrigued human beings for thousands of years, questions without answers even today that continue to intrigue us to the end of our days.”

This 30-minute wind symphony takes us on a fantastic journey through 11 scenes, played without pause. An anonymous mortal’s Last breath is followed by the ensemble chanting the Requiem aeternam in random cadence. Insistent trumpet fanfares plunge us into The depths of hell as scurrying woodwinds depict the desperate wails of the unfortunates (this section has what must be a unique tempo marking, Allegro diabolico). A menacing climax leads to a quiet, dirge-like interlude, The divine breath. The mysterious mood continues into The valley of souls in pain. Anxiety in the woodwinds swells to a frantic presto introducing The battle between good and evil. The tension escalates to an almost unbearable degree before we hear what must be equal to any of the greatest moments in music, The victory of the Kingdom of Heaven, an abrupt transition to a triumphant major-key marching song in brilliant brass with woodwind ornamentation. After an extended victorious statement, the music relaxes and resolves to a beautiful uplifting hymn first stated by the horn: we are In paradisum where we meet The angels of Paradise and enjoy a playful dance. The rising hymn theme leads to the brilliant entry into The Kingdom of Heaven. The symphony closes with an extended Gloria in Excelsis.

This is simply extraordinarily exciting and engaging music! Fortissimo is not enough to express it all: some parts have dynamics markings up to fffff. [This is most certainly NOT “a light dynamic!”] So sit back, take a deep breath, and prepare for a fantastic cinematic journey from the depths of Hell to the Kingdom of Heaven!

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