NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The Wind Symphony and the Symphonic Band at Stephen F. Austin State University will celebrate Christmas traditions from both at home and abroad when the bands perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in W.M. Turner Auditorium on the SFA campus.
Under the direction of Chris Kaatz, assistant director of bands, the Symphonic Band opens the concert with John Philip Sousa’s “Hands Across the Sea.” The piece was likely inspired by a quote Sousa read during the time of the Spanish-American War, which said, “A sudden thought strikes me – let us sear an eternal friendship.”
“The work was written as a token of friendship to America’s early 20th century allies, and it was so well received at its premiere that the audience called for two encores,” Kaatz said.
Graduate student Gary Jones will conduct the second work, “The Sussex Mummers’ Christmas Carol,” which was written by Australian-American composer Percy Grainger. An avid collector of British folk music, Grainger originally set this traditional British carol for piano in 1905 and began sketches of an arrangement for band that remained unfinished upon his death, Kaatz explained. Famed 20th century bandleader Richard Franko Goldman completed Grainger’s band arrangement for a performance by the renowned Goldman Band in 1965.
The Symphonic Band will close its portion of the concert with Ron Nelson’s “Courtly Airs and Dances.” This composition is a setting of five Renaissance dances from five different European countries, according to Kaatz.
“Nelson melds charming Renaissance counterpoint with the rich trends in orchestration of the mid-20th century,” Kaatz said. “This work is a celebratory festival that merges musical trends across both time and continents, providing a pleasant close to the concert’s first half.”
Directed by Dr. Tamey Anglley, associate director of bands at SFA, the Wind Symphony will open the second half of the concert with “Festive Overture” by Dmitri Shostakovich and transcribed for band by Donald Hunsberger. Shostakovich wrote “Festive Overture” in 1954 on a commission for the Bolshoi Theatre’s celebration of the 37th anniversary of the October Revolution (in 1917). Shostakovich completed the piece in less than a week, Anglley said.
“It opens with an exuberant, rising fanfare, which transitions to a spritely, lyrical main theme at a breakneck tempo,” she said. “The overture speeds past, with a brief return to the fanfare figure before an energetic coda.”
The Wind Symphony will also perform “Russian Christmas Music” by Alfred Reed. Originally written in November 1944, the piece was first performed in December of that year at a special concert in Denver, Colorado, by a select group of musicians from five of the leading service bands stationed in that area, according to Anglley.
“An ancient Russian Christmas carol – “Carol of the Little Russian Children” – together with a good deal of original material and some motivic elements derived from the liturgical music of the Eastern Orthodox Church, forms the basis for this musical impression of Old Russia during the jubilant Christmas season,” Anglley said.
Wind Symphony will conclude the concert with Leroy Anderson’s famous Christmas tune, “Sleigh Ride.” In 2010, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers 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, Anglley explained.
Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu.