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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!

Sunday, March 24, 2024
3:00 PM

Ritual and Dance

Roberto Sierra, Montuno
Luis Alarcon, Spanish Dances (Book 1)
Leonel Rodríguez, Estafanía (WORLD PREMIERE)
Roshenne Etezady, Anahita
Giovanni Santos, Danzas

300 Hammond Pond Parkway Auditorium
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467


Sunday, June 2, 2024
3:00 PM

Take Me To Church

Kathryn Salfelder, Cathedrals
Omar Thomas, Come Sunday
Michael Colgrass, Old Churches
Kevin Krumenaur, The Water is Wide
David Maslanka, Hosannas

300 Hammond Pond Parkway Auditorium
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467


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