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2018 – 2019 Season: Concert 1, November 18, 2018

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For the first concert of our 20th season, we are ringing the bells of celebration with four stunning compositions for the modern wind ensemble!

The complete program notes can be found here — a PDF set up for double-sided printing to create the program booklet.

La Fiesta Mexicana (1950) by H. Owen Reed

Cathedral bells and fireworks open the concert, as peasants and penitents make their way to a town somewhere in Mexico on the eve of a great Fiesta! We hear a mariachi band and watch brilliantly decorated Aztec dancers. There follows a solemn Mass, concluded by the priest's Benediction. And then, hoy es fiesta!

68 years after its publication, La Fiesta Mexicana remains one of the most beloved and most performed works for wind band. (More about the composer and this composition here!)

Sinfonietta No. 2 "Bells for Prayer" (2010) by Hirokazu Fukushima

Temple bells punctuate quiet oboe and English horn solos in the opening measures (the composer is also an oboist!). Rising woodwind melodies lead to sections varying in tempo and style. According to the composer, the piece was not intended to have programmatic content but to reflect the meaning of the prayer bells.

The Passing Bell (1974) by Warren Benson

This music was composed on a commission from the Luther College Concert Band as a memorial to their clarinetist and concertmaster, who died after a brief illness. The work begins with a solo clarinet boldly sounding a C and blossoms into constantly shifting soundscapes. Benson's unique musical language involves slow tempos and extremes of dynamics and pitch ranges. Pieces of a 1653 German evangelical church song weave in and out of the surrounding fabric, yielding to a second Welsh hymn composed in 1870.

Bells for Stokowski (2002) by Michael Daugherty

Leopold Stokowski thrilled audiences with experiments in sound. He used unusual orchestral seating patterns, and introduced orchestral transcriptions of organ works of Bach. There's an amazing moment in this piece where the sonic texture recedes to reveal a direct quote of Prelude No. 1 from The Well-Tempered Klavier! We then hear it in augmented harmony, as if fractured or seen through a kaleidoscope. In the coda, Daugherty evokes the "Stokowski sound" as the full ensemble resonates like a great organ – an effect particularly well suited to the modern wind ensemble.

2018 – 2019 Season: Concert 2, March 10, 2019


How does music respond to tragedy and loss? How do composers seek recovery, redemption, and affirmation? Through three varied and powerful 21st-century works, the Charles River Wind Ensemble interprets the musical answers to these questions.

The complete program notes can be found here — a PDF set up for double-sided printing to create the program booklet.

... yet the sun rises (2011) by Yasuhide Ito

From the composer: "In March of that year [2011] The Great East Japan Earthquake shocked the entire world. I knew I needed to channel my emotions through music but I did not know how to deal with such a devastating event."

Shadowlight (2018) by Kevin Krumenauer

From the composer: "The title refers to the seeming duality of existence. There is light, there is darkness, but there is also light beyond the veil. Shadowlight refers to this idea, that though the person may be gone from our everyday, immediate access, they are not gone completely ..."

Symphony No. 8 (2008) by David Maslanka (*)

David Maslanka (1943–2017) was, quite simply, the foremost composer of wind symphonies. About this work, he wrote: "I began the composition process for this symphony with meditation, and was shown scenes of widespread devastation. But this music is not about the surface of our world problems. It is a response to a much deeper vital creative flow which is forcefully at work, and which will carry us through our age of crisis. This music is a celebration of life. It is about new life, continuity from the past to the future, great hope, great faith, joy, ecstatic vision, and fierce determination."
(*) In addition to this web site, David's son Matthew is building the Maslanka Archive, whose  mission is to assemble and curate a complete record of David Maslanka’s life and work.

2018 – 2019 Season: Concert 3, June 2, 2019

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Musical Revolution

= the final concert of our 20th season =

We open with Shostakovich's Festive Overture, written in 1947 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution that marked the final days of Czar Nicholas and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. And to close, we perform the massive Grand Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale of Hector Berlioz, composed in 1840 for the 10th anniversary outdoor commemoration of the “Second French Revolution,” which overthrew the Bourbon monarch Charles X and installed the Duke of Orleans.

In between, we have three very “Russian” works, but with only one truly Russian composer:

• Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919 - 1996) came to Russia from Poland to escape growing Nazi oppression ... but things didn’t always go well in Russia!

• Alfred Reed (1921 - 2005) was an American composer with a great ability to evoke the musical character of other nationalities.

• Boris Kozhevnikov (1906-1985) is the only Russian-born composer of the three.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 - 1975) composed the Festive Overture, Op. 96 (about 7 minutes’ duration) in 1947 to mark the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution. The transcription for modern wind band was made by Donald Hunsberger in 1965. The work, composed in just three days, opens with a bright fanfare introducing a rapid melody and a more lyrical second theme. The two are juxtaposed in brilliant style reminiscent of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture, with a return to the fanfare motif and a rousing coda. It’s a perfect curtain-raiser!


Next on the program is Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s Trumpet Concerto, Op. 94 (~20 min), composed in 1967 and transcribed for wind ensemble by our soloist Jason Huffman. Shostakovich, impressed by Weinberg’s first symphony, became a friend and inspiration, and also his savior when Weinberg was arrested in Stalin’s 1953 anti-semitic purge; Shostakovich wrote to Beria, the feared head of the KGB, to secure Weinberg’s release. The music resembles Shostakovich’s, with mordant wit, jagged thematic ideas, fast tempo; and in the 2nd movement, a darker, more introverted quality, with unspoken anxieties. The final movement quotes sardonically from widely-known trumpet lines, as the music seems to dwindle away.

When the Soviet Union came to its end in 1991, there were some 3,000 military bands of varying stature, and a vast quantity of music never published and essentially unknown outside the USSR. Working under the heavy-handed constraints of the Soviet musical authorities, Kozhevnikov nevertheless composed his Symphony No. 3 "Slavyanskaya" (~17 minutes) with considerable creativity, inside a conventional symphony format. A version for Western concert bands was prepared by Marine Band director Col. John. R. Bourgeois in 1995. The symphony opens with a brisk, happy march with slower, more lyrical interludes. The second movement is a sentimental, almost cloying waltz. A brisk jig in rondo form speeds by, and the symphony closes with another bright march. It’s worth noting that Kozhevnikov composed his first wind band symphony in 1943, long before Paul Hindemith’s 1951 Symphony for Band in B-flat gave Western composers a stamp of approval of the wind band as a valid medium for their consideration.


The Central Military Band of Russia playing a 90th anniversary concert

After intermission, we continue with Alfred Reed’s Russian Christmas Music (~15 minutes), directed by Assistant Conductor Seb Bonaiuto. It’s a brilliant evocation of liturgical music of the Eastern Orthodox Church, in which instruments are not allowed, so the work has an overall lyrical and singing quality. It is reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Eastern Overture, with the cantor’s chant voiced by trombones. What’s “Christmas Music” doing on a June concert program? Well, Reed’s talents create music that sounds so “Russian” that it just has to be on the program! And as we rehearse the piece around the Easter season, it’s all the more appropriate given the important role of the Easter holiday in the Orthodox Church.


Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) wrote the Grand Symphonie Funèbre et Triomphale (~32 minutes) in 1840 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the “Second French Revolution” in 1830. This event was also called the July Revolution, or the “Three Glorious Days,” in which the Bourbon monarch Charles X was overthrown and replaced by his cousin, Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans (who in turn would be deposed in 1848). The work, intended for outdoor performance by a huge band of some 200 wind and percussion players, accompanied in the final movement of a chorus of 200, was arranged for modern bands by Matthew Inkster 2015. Berlioz was certainly a revolutionary figure; it is surprising to recall that he composed his Symphonie Fantastique (sometimes called the first musical excursion into psychedelia, with its scenes of obsession, March to the Gallows, and Witches’ Sabbath) in 1830 — only 3 years after Beethoven’s death. But the Grand Symphonie expounds along more traditional lines, with a solemn funeral march forming the long first movement, followed by a funeral oration chanted by a solo trombone, and a final movement titled Apotheosis, and marked Allegro non troppo e pomposo — a rousing recessional in best Berlioz style.

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