UConn Concert Band presents “The City Symphony” and other vibrant works

The UConn Concert Band performed in the Von der Mehden Recital hall on Tuesday, April 18. Conducted by Marvin McNeill and Dr. David Mills, the band plays Shine, Sleep and a few others. (Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

The UConn Concert band primarily perform contemporary music by living composers, making it a unique experience varying from the dominance of “classical” music performed in the other UConn large ensembles.

“This is the most exciting and most fun [ensemble] because we have students majoring in all other majors other than music and music majors pursuing a different role [in the ensemble],” said Mills. “They’re here to make music for no other reason than just to make music.”

The program began with “Shine” by Michael Markowski. The piece is a depiction of light represented by its vibrant colors both in harmonic texture and instrumentation.  The piece moved at high energy and intensity built upon a common musical motive passed across the ensemble.

After that, the concert band performed an arrangement of Eric Whitacre’s “Sleep.” Originally written for a cappella choir, the band arrangement accentuated Whitacre’s chorale-like harmonies through the wide diversity of instrumentation not found in a choir.

Professor of Music and Director of Bands, Dr. David Mills, then entered the stage to conduct the piece “Culloden” by Julie Giroux. The piece was aimed to paint the picture of Scotland from around the 1745 period.

It was broken into two movements, performed in reverse order, movement two followed by movement one. Movement two was a slower piece that began with the chimes performing in solo and gradually introducing more winds as the piece progressed. The movement ended the way it started, as the piece eliminated instruments from the ensemble slowly until it was a few instruments sharing the same melodic theme in a canon-like manner.

The second movement broke into three contrasting styles. The first being a chorale-like section with the winds supplementing a clarinet solo, aimed to resemble a bagpipe. The piece then progresses to a more lyrical style, depicting the valleys and open nature scenes of Scotland. The movement closes with a section resembling a traditional Scottish march with the steady pulse of the bass drum and open sonorities from the winds.

Following intermission, the band performed “Lights Out” by Alex Shapiro. The band took the audience by surprise when the lights of von der Mehden slowly started going out, until all that there was were sparse sources of neon lights scattered from throughout the ensemble.

“Lights Out” was a highly interactive piece starting from the flute section emerging from within the audience to the light choreography from the instrumentalists. The vibrant colors provided from the group were echoed in the highly energetic music the piece provided.

The final piece of the night was “The City Symphony” by David Holsinger.  The symphony is a three-movement work narrating the night of the city life.  Movement one sets the scene at sunset, when the night-life begins to come to life.  The business in the music across the ensemble and the dance-like feel mirror the business and activity of the city. The second movement takes place past sunset during the “deeper night,” according to Holsinger.  The bluesy undertones contrasted with the aggressive and percussive moments depicting both the mystery and dangers of the night. The symphony closes with a continuation of this dangerous and somewhat ominous texture, but eventually becomes more glorious, somewhat dreamlike, depicting the return of morning.

The concert band is composed of approximately 85 students hailing from various types of majors in and out of the School of Fine Arts.  


“[The students] bring a unique spirit and excitement because they’re not [music] majors,” said Assistant Director of Athletic Bands and head conductor of the concert band, Marvin McNeill.  “They don’t take making music for granted. They take it as a privilege.”


Lucille Littlefield is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lucille.littlefield@uconn.edu.