By 8 p.m. Tuesday night, von der Mehden Recital Hall was almost full of parents and students alike coming out to support the symphonic band in one of their last shows of the semester. With the brightly-lit stage filled to the very edge with stands, chairs and a variety of key and percussion instruments, the small auditorium was bustling, with chatter between the audience members, background echoes of warm up scales and tuning notes as the band prepared back stage.
The Symphonic Band came to the stage stage to applause from the audience, the band ready to perform their tour of cultural sound from around the world. Dressed in formal black concert attire, the band got situated as head conductor Dr. David Mills briefed the audience on the source of inspiration for one of the composers of Tuesday evening’s pieces, as well as the title of the show.
He went on to describe that composer Julie Giroux, who, whilst visiting Japan, was given a set of six book marks, all depicting different famous paintings and prints from Japan’s history. Deeply distracted by the bookmarks, Giroux then found her inspiration that would occupy the better part of a year spent composing the closing pieces of the show titled: “Symphony No. IV: Bookmarks from Japan.”
The concert began with a very upright and joyous tune from the Belgium-titled “March of the Belgium Paratroopers.” This piece was very militaristic and reminiscent of victorious troops returning home with an “oom-pa” rhythm carried by the low brass, accented by snare and bass drums like a marching band parading confidently through a town square.
The next piece, conducted by assistant conductor Andrew Janes, was a beautiful piece from Australia full of low harmonic chords of sleepy woodwinds, growing in grandeur, swelling throughout the piece. This piece was particularly beautiful and melancholic at the same time, making for a distinctly moving piece that was originally intended for a choir.
Following this piece was an Irish tune titled “Molly on the Shore,” which highlighted the skill of woodwinds like Brandon Halberg, a third-semester music education major.
“This piece was incredibly fun to play and had a nice uplifting spirit to it,” Halberg said.
This dynamic score was reminiscent of the traditional Irish fife and drum, with accents of crashing symbols and bass drum creating a proud and lively tune. The main melody was passed from section to section to make a large range of visuals for the audience, all finished off with a big trilled chord from the full band, contrasting that of the previous piece with joy in place of somberness.
The last piece before the main movement was one that was performed earlier in the year depicting the life of the American people in the western frontier. It 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.
The final section was a diverse myriad of songs all designed to reflect the most famous art pieces from Japan, each one distinct and beautiful in its own right. From the Great Wave of Kanagawa to the Tokaido Highway, these pieces were masterfully crafted to almost seem like the soundtrack to what the the artist was doing when they created them.
“Thunder Gate was a personal favorite of mine, I love pieces with big character and presence,” Katherine Roque, a fifth-semester music education major, said.
All of these songs invoked strong imagery, like the moving piece “Evening Snow at Kambara.” Soloists on the piano and flute led a rousing performance that touched the entire audience, and was greeted with a rowdy applause upon its closing.
At the end of the show, the audience erupted into enormous applause that transformed into a standing ovation of hoots and whistles as the soloists were highlighted and the conductor took his final bow for the evening.
Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.