On Tuesday evening, the University of Connecticut Symphonic Band, dressed in black concert attire, took the stage at von der Mehden Recital Hall at 8 p.m. The band of 56 students filled the stage with a well-balanced arrangement well balanced of woodwind and brass backed by simple percussion. They performed a brief and exciting tribute to Morton Gould and his life of music.
The theme of the show resembled an anthology, cataloging different pieces composed by Gould throughout his life as a musician and composer during a prosperous time in the birthplace of many American musical movements – New York City.
“I apologize first for the bad pun in the title,” said Dr. David Mills, professor of music and one of the evening’s conductors as he introduced himself and the story behind the tribute of Tuesday’s concert event.
“Mr. Gould has a special relationship with us here at UConn,” Dr. Mills continued, “The last piece he composed before he passed was commissioned to be played at the grand opening of the Dodd center.”
Born in Richmond Hill, New York, Morton Gould was recognized early on as a child prodigy with the ability to improvise and compose. During the Depression and as a young teenager, Gould found work in New York’s vaudeville and movie theaters.
When New York City’s Radio City Music Hall opened, the young Gould was its staff pianist, and by the age of 21, he was conducting and arranging a series of orchestral programs for WOR Mutual Radio.
He attained national prominence through his work in radio, as he appealed to a wide-ranging audience with his combination of classical and popular programming. During the 40s, Gould’s music reached millions of listeners. Gould lived a colorful life, which is reflected in his composed pieces.
The first piece of this tribute, titled “Fanfare for Freedom,” is a short and uplifting piece featuring a marching band style cadence of horns and drums flaring a moderate tempo to grab the attention of the audience and showcase the composer’s versatility.
Following the fanfare was a more gentle piece, “Ballad for Band,” composed in an ABA format meaning that the A parts were soft and melodic and the B part was loud and raspy. This piece was written to illustrate what Gould calls “The spiritual: an emotional, rhythmic expression. The spiritual has a universal feeling; it comes from the soul.”
The final piece in the first half was a narrative piece composed to reflect the life and cultures of New Mexico. The piece, titled “Santa Fe Saga,” consisted of three parts, all invoking certain scenes and sounds that were made familiar to us via old western movies. The percussion even simulated the sound of a cracking whip and horse-drawn carriage with jingling reigns, as well as Mexican style fiesta music.
“Santa Fe Saga was the most challenging for us,” Annie Robbins, a third-semester French horn player of the band said. “I learned a lot about music from rehearsing that one piece.”
After a brief intermission, the audience was greeted by a totally different style, one inspired by a round trip of Japan by composer Julie Giroux. This piece was gentle and graceful as it played with western arrangements and Japanese scales through a moderately slow tempo titled: “Symphony No. IV: Bookmarks from Japan.”
The show ended with composer Norman Dello Joio’s “Satiric Dances,” an old American military piece commissioned to commemorate the start of the American Revolution. This classical piece tied the whole show back to the fanfare of the beginning, a military style piece that started slow and soft and grew into a great symphonic uproar for a grand finale to the evening at the concert hall.
“I was most impressed by the last piece,” Rex Sturdevant, a seventh-semester Music Education major said. “The soaring woodwind lines and bursts of percussion were beautiful.”
The soloists, and later the whole band, were highlighted by the conductor during thunderous applause and a standing ovation of parents and friends, before the band and Dr. Mills took their last bow.
Dan Wood is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.