Samuel Barber (1910–1981)
Christine Higley, conductor
Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)
Brad Jopek, conductor
Divertimento, Op. 42
Vincent Persichetti (1915–1987)
Maryland Community Band
Overture for Winds, Op. 24
Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
arr. John Boyd
Kevin McKee (b. 1980)
Percy Grainger (1882–1961)
First Suite in E-flat, Op. 28 No. 1
Gustav Holst (1874–1934)
Born March 9, 1910, West Chester, PA ǀ Died January 23, 1981, New York City
The works of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris are widely considered examples of American compositional style, known as populism. This style emphasized simple melodies, made to sound grandiose due to instrumentation and harmony, thereby increasing the audience's understanding of how the music progressed. Another composer who is arguably part of this conversation is Samuel Barber. Barber is best known for his Adagio for Strings, an orchestral version of the second movement from his String Quartet in B minor, Op.11. Barber’s works championed populism. Barber admitted to using populism in 1935 by stating: “My aim is to write good music that will be comprehensible to as many people as possible, instead of music heard only by small, snobbish musical societies in the large cities.”
However, Barber did not create works that implemented jazz and American folk songs, which seems to have upset his comrades. In fact, Copland commented that “Barber wrote in a somewhat out-moded fashion.” This old-fashioned writing is tied to Barber being a neo-Romantic composer. This style employed elements of 1800s music techniques to express emotion but combined with the prevailing style, which in this instance was populism. The main 1800s elements Barber used were tonality and lyricism. Barber’s training at the Curtis Institute of Music and exposure to his opera singer aunt, Louise Homer, and 19th-century style composer uncle, Sidney Homer, were integral to developing his populist style. This combined style enabled Barber to succeed in American concert halls beginning in 1924 and maintain it until the late 1950s, when experimental music overtook the repertoire for orchestras and bands.
Commando March, which premiered in 1943 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is not only one of Barber’s more patriotic works but also his only wind-band piece. Barber composed this march in 1942 while serving in the United States Air Force. According to a 1943 letter Barber sent to his family, “this march is for a new kind of soldier, one who did not march in straight lines but struck in stealth with speed, disappearing as quickly as he came.” This piece's patriotism is rooted in the celebration of the soldiers of WWII and their changed approach to warfare. There are many musical elements in the march that emulate this commando style of soldier.
Commando March has three parts, each distinguished by its melody. The introductory section presents the piece’s primary musical idea comprised of the woodwinds’ angular triplet melody that appears alongside a loud quarter note to triplet rhythm within the percussion. This rhythm is called drag-triplet, and throughout the piece, it is either performed as it appears in the introduction or alluded to with similar eighth-note phrases. The drag-triplet’s continued presence enables the work to maintain its traditional march atmosphere amidst the melodies' more unexpected and stealth-like interplay.
The piece’s first part contains two melodies, with the first being found in the clarinets and bass clarinets. This melody consists of a lyrical descending phrase that is suddenly cut off by an eighth note jump, reminiscent of the drag-triplet idea before it begins again. This sudden syncopated rhythm within a melodic phrase is our first instance of the commando soldier’s appearance. The second melody is a French horn solo that appears to echo the woodwind’s angular melody from the introduction, but the jaggedness from before is more smoothed out. This smoothness continues into part two, where both the woodwinds and high brass instruments, such as trumpets, perform a softer relaxed version of the drag-triplet theme. However, as with part one, this smoothness is constantly interrupted by a downward glissando or eighth note run from the trumpets. This commando-style attack is further accented by how the glissando or run is louder than the drag-triplet. These assaults cease in part three as Barber revisits both previous parts’ melodies performed now by the entire ensemble, proudly bringing the mission of Commando March to a close.
–Program Note by Joshua DeBell
Born January 2, 1970, Reno, NV
For the past decade, the United States’ choral tradition has been nurtured by Eric Whitacre, whose latest virtual choir performance, Virtual Choir 6: “Sing Gently,” occurred in September of 2020. These choirs are Whitacre’s claim to fame, successfully transferring the rich sound and camaraderie of choral music into cyberspace by blending recordings of vocalists. Much of Whitacre’s repertoire is dominated by choral and soloist vocal pieces. Whitacre has stated that he composes for choirs since being in one as an undergraduate at the University of Nevada made him realize the beauty of vocal music. Whitacre described this realization: “In my entire life I had seen in black and white, and suddenly everything was in shocking Technicolor.”
Whitacre’s vocal works represent most of his compositions, but he also has an extensive catalog of masterfully crafted instrumental work. These pieces, for orchestra and band, are split into two types. The first are works that began as instrumental pieces that later received vocal arrangement or accompaniment added to them, such as Equus. The second are pieces that started as choral works, but Whitacre later arranged for orchestra or band, such as The Seal Lullaby. Both are characterized by tonally catchy melodies that are easy to follow yet sound monumental due to harmonization. Whitacre still creates vocal and instrumental works, with his most recent orchestral piece known as Prelude in C, premiering in 2022.
Lux Aurumque is a work that Whitacre originally wrote for choir in 2000 but was subsequently commissioned in 2005 by the Texas Music Educators Association to arrange the piece for symphonic winds. However, it would not be until 2011, with a performance of the vocal rendition for Whitacre’s first virtual choir, that his career and the piece would find mainstream success. Both versions are based on a poem by Edward Esch, a pseudonym created by Whitacre since the poem had no author. The poem, whose title translates to Light and Gold, depicts baby Jesus being sung to by angels and shone upon by light. Whitacre has acknowledged this religious aspect of the poem but chose to make the vocal and band versions focus on conveying the light described in the poem.
warm and heavy as pure gold
and angels sing softly
to the new-born babe.
Compared to the vocal rendition, Lux Aurumque’s band arrangement is shorter in length. The band version's climax reworks the “Bliss” theme from his opera Paradise Lost. That theme is characterized by the ensemble playing a gradual descending phrase whose chords seem to clash. Nevertheless, Whitacre maintains the tranquil nature that the vocal version gives off by having the primary melody for the band arrangement consist of slurred whole, half and quarter notes. Hence, the musical phrases transition smoothly, which is especially important when the brass is playing. Besides fostering a peaceful feeling, the band arrangement also emulates the fading and shimmering of light. These are present in the woodwinds as they imitate the soft emergence and disappearance of light with held-out notes that gradually grow in volume and then diminish in intensity. This melody that mimics fading light appears in the piece’s introduction and conclusion. Between those two sections, one can almost hear the lights shimmer in the woodwinds’ long-drawn-out tremolos, whose pitch fluctuates up and down.
–Program Note by Joshua DeBell
Divertimento, Op. 42
Born June 6, 1915, Philadelphia ǀ Died August 14, 1987, Philadelphia
Vincent Persichetti is an American composer whose career during the early to mid-1900s saw him write compositions for band and piano. Throughout these works, Persichetti incorporated many styles prevalent throughout the twentieth century, resulting in his music being challenging to narrow down to one style or track its development. This issue is especially present in pieces whose structures adhere but simultaneously break/expand the acceptable sounds of that genre. For example, Symphony No. 6 is Persichetti’s largest work for band and strictly follows the format of a symphony. However, its melodies break this format by pushing the instrument to the limits of their sound, which became a trait of late-1900s compositions. Persichetti would continue to compose and teach until he died in 1987.
Divertimento for Band is the first piece that Persichetti wrote for bands. Persichetti composed this work in the summer of 1949 in El Dorado, Kansas, in a log cabin provided by family and friends to encourage his work. Initially, Persichetti had planned to compose the work for orchestra, but throughout the summer, he realized that he never found a place in the work for incorporating strings, so a composition for band was the outcome. Persichetti admitted to this in 1981, stating: “I was writing a piece in which the brasses were tossing the woodwinds about while the timpani was commenting. I began to realize that the strings were not going to enter.” The piece premiered in 1950 at Central Park, New York City, with Persichetti conducting it with the Goldman Band.
As the title suggests, this piece is part of the divertimento genre of music. Divertimentos, which in Italian translates to “fun,” had been a prominent genre in Europe from 1730 to 1820. Typically a small instrumental ensemble performed it as cheerful background music for outdoor parties and dinners. Musically, this genre is characterized as five-movement works, with each movement distinct from one another by having different short cyclic melodies. Persichetti’s Divertimento follows this tradition by having six movements with a distinctive melody that reflects the movement’s title.
The opening movement, “Prologue,” does not have a thematic idea based on its title but instead depicts a playful argument between the brass and woodwinds. The juxtaposed slurred and syncopated phrasing instills a sense of jolliness. Movement two, or “Song,” immediately switches to a gentler and relaxed atmosphere as the melodies become more lyrical. This lyricism is found in the brass and woodwinds, especially the interlacing between the trumpet and flute solos, whose ascending and descending phrase reflects a singer's timbre. The piece’s tone changes in “Dance,” or movement three, as it becomes slightly faster with a tempo typical of ballroom dancing. The ballroom aesthetic is evident in the flute’s and clarinet’s repeated bouncy ascending phrases that almost accent movement changes.
Movement four, or “Burlesque,” lives up to its name primarily due to the tubas driving the movement. This instrument choice is unusual, but by giving the tubas the melody, this movement feels jovial due to the instrument’s boisterous timbre. Similar to the previous movement, movement five, or “Soliloquy,” conveys the theme of its title based on a single instrument. That instrument is the cornet, whose slow and descending solo melody imbues this movement with somber solemnity. The divertimento closes with a lighter and fast movement known as “March.” Beginning with a woodblock setting the tempo, which it maintains throughout the movement, “March” takes the listener on an energetic romp between the woodwinds and brass.
–Program Note by Joshua DeBell
Overture for Winds, Op. 24
Born February 3, 1809, Hamburg ǀ Died November 4, 1847, Leipzig
arr. JOHN BOYD
The Op. 24 by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was composed in July of 1824 for the court orchestra of Bad Doberan near Rostock, where the young musician was accompanying his father. Writing for the Boston Symphony, George Marke remarks, "Some artists develop their craft slowly, others seem to begin at the top. There is little difference between Mendelssohn's early and his mature works."
The original score was lost but recopied by Mendelssohn in July of 1826. These two scores were entitled Nocturno and were written for the instrumentation of one flute, two clarinets, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, one trumpet, and one English bass horn (a conical bore upright serpent in the shape of a bassoon).
In his correspondence to the publisher Simrock, Mendelssohn mentions his desire to have this eleven instrument version published, but apparently could not locate the score as he never mentions it again to Simrock after March 4, 1839. Mendelssohn did send Simrock an Ouverture fur Harmoniemusik (Overture for Wind Band) scored for twenty-three winds and percussion along with a four-hand piano score on November 30, 1838. The 1838 composition is a re-scoring of the Nocturno for German Band of that era and was not published until 1852 following the death of Mendelssohn.
It has been suggested by musicologists that the 1838 re-scoring was an effort to imitate the orchestral color of Weber's “Preciosa” Overture. In Weber's overture, a gypsy melody is introduced by a small wind band with percussion accompaniment. At this time, however, Mendelssohn was also negotiating for the publication of the overture by Mori in London. It is quite possible that the re-scoring was an attempt to acquire greater performance opportunities for his work by making it available in settings for British and German band along with a proposed edition for orchestra.
Several editions for modern instrumentation have appeared, all using the 1838 score as their source. However, the rediscovery of the 1826 autograph makes possible this edition based on the most authentic source known to date.
–Program Note by John P. Boyd
Born 1980, Yreka, CA
When Catherine Sheridan first wrote to me about composing a piece for trumpet and piano, my first thoughts were of my late grandmother, Gertrude, who was always suggesting that I write a piece with Colorado as the subject. She loved that state. And while she lived most of her life in California, she always longed to go back to Colorado amongst the quaking aspens, the mountains, the rivers, and the vibrant colors. I have at last taken her up on her suggestion referencing the “Centennial State,” a nickname given to Colorado for being inducted into the Union one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. With two contrasting movements ("Aspen Grove" and "Roaring Gunnison"), connected by an interlude ("Aspenglow"), I have attempted to capture some of the beauty and adventure of what truly is an amazing place. The first movement in particular is an homage to her.
"Centennial Horizon" was later arranged for wind ensemble and solo trumpet at the behest of a consortium of university and community wind ensembles, including the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra and the Maryland Community Band.
–Program note by the composer
Born July 8, 1882, Melbourne ǀ Died February 20, 1961, White Plains, NY
No traditional tunes of any kind are made use of in this piece, in which I have wished to express feelings aroused by thoughts of the scenery and people of my native land, (Australia), and also to voice a certain kind of emotion that seems to me not untypical of native-born Colonials in general.
Perhaps it is not unnatural that people living more or less lonelily in vast virgin countries and struggling against natural and climatic hardships (rather than against the more actively and dramatically exciting counter wills of their fellow men, as in more thickly populated lands) should run largely to that patiently yearning, inactive sentimental wistfulness that we find so touchingly expressed in much American art; for instance in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and in Stephen C. Foster's adorable songs My Old Kentucky Home, Old Folks at Home, etc.
I have also noticed curious, almost Italian-like, musical tendencies in brass band performances and ways of singing in Australia (such as a preference for richness and intensity of tone and soulful breadth of phrasing over more subtly and sensitively varied delicacies of expression), which are also reflected here.
–Program note by the composer
First Suite in E-flat
Born September 21, 1874, Cheltenham, UK ǀ Died May 25, 1934, London
From the first moment when he began teaching, Holst had to lead a double life as a composer, striving towards the expression of his own individual mind and, at the same time, writing simple music for his pupils to play and sing. This double life went on until the end. It had its occasional disadvantages, but in the early years it was the greatest blessing that could possibly have happened to him. Each new work he wrote for amateurs was a practical lesson in combining a wealth of imagination with the barest economy of notes.
The lessons he had learnt in writing for children and amateurs proved helpful in his works for military band. Here his players were highly skilled experts as far as their instruments were concerned, but the music they played had to be simple and economical. The First Suite in E-flat was an experiment in form, each movement being founded on a fragment of the opening Chaconne. He was in his second apprenticeship: having learned that symphonic development and leitmotif were equally hopeless for his sort of tune, he was trying to find a form that would satisfy his own needs, and the Chaconne proves how far he had traveled since the first years of the folk-song influence. The whole suite is superbly written for military band, especially the scherzando variation in the Intermezzo which exactly suits the brittle texture of the woodwind. It must have been a startling change from the usual operatic selections, and there are bandsmen who still remember the excitement of the first rehearsal in 1909. In spite of its original approach, the Suite never breaks away from the essential traditions of the band, and the March is the sort of music that is beloved of bombardons and euphoniums. It was not for nothing that Holst had played trombone on the pier in his student days: when he opens out into an inevitable meno mosso, it is with the assurance of an experienced bandsman who knows exactly what the other players are going to enjoy.
–Program Note by Imogen Holst
CRAIG G. POTTER
Craig G. Potter serves as the assistant director of bands for the University of Maryland School of Music, where he conducts the University Band, the Maryland Pep Band and the Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble. He has also served as an assistant conductor for the University of Maryland Wind Ensemble as well as a guest conductor for the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra. In addition, Potter is the assistant director of the 250-member Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band. His marching band arrangements have been performed across the United States by bands of the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big East, WAC, NCAC and Sun Conference.
Prior to his appointment, he taught middle and high school band in the Catholic Diocese of Lexington (Kentucky). During his time at Lexington Catholic High School, the band earned distinguished ratings at the Kentucky Music Educators Association Concert Band Festival.
Craig remains an active performer on the tuba, with special attention to music with alternative accompaniments and electronics. He has soloed twice with the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra, most recently on David Lang’s Are You Experienced? for solo electric tuba. Craig has appeared as a soloist and clinician across the United States and has performed in music conventions and festivals around the world including the United States Army Tuba-Euphonium Workshop and the Jungfrau Music Festival.
Potter holds a doctor of musical arts degree in tuba performance from the University of Maryland, a master of music in wind conducting from the University of Louisville, and a bachelor of music in music education from the University of Kentucky. He is an alumnus of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and Kappa Kappa Psi, an honorary member of Tau Beta Sigma, and a Sigma Alpha Iota Friend of the Arts. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Craig lives in Annapolis with his wife, Mallory, and his children, Felicity and Hugh.
ALEXANDER SCOTTAlexander Scott is pursuing a master of music in wind conducting at the University of Maryland, College Park where he currently serves as an instrumental conducting graduate assistant. He is a conducting student of Michael Votta, with additional mentoring from Andrea Brown and Craig Potter. In addition, he serves as interim music director for the Maryland Community Band and assistant conductor for the Bel Air Community Band.
Before coming to the University of Maryland, Scott taught for nine years at the elementary, middle and high school levels in Maryland public schools. For seven years, he was the music department chair and director of instrumental music at Meade Senior High School in Fort Meade, Maryland, where he was responsible for conducting the concert band, string orchestra, philharmonic orchestra, marching band, jazz band, steelband and pit orchestra, as well as instructing International Baccalaureate (IB) Music, Advanced Placement (AP) Music Theory and guitar courses. Additionally, he served as the school’s advisor for the Tri-M Music Honors Society.
While teaching at Meade Senior High School, Scott’s bands and orchestras consistently earned excellent and superior ratings at county and state adjudication festivals and his marching band earned second place at the 2018 USBands Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. His concert band was a member of a commission consortium for Anthony O’Toole’s Latin Dance Movements. Scott was a semifinalist for Music and Arts’ national “Music Educator of the Year” award (2016) and the Maryland winner for School Band and Orchestra Magazine’s “50 Directors Who Make a Difference Award” (2018). His departmental leadership was twice recognized by the NAMM foundation with a “Best Communities in Music Education” designation (2018, 2019).
Scott earned his master of music in music education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and his bachelor of arts in Music Education from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). While at UMBC, Scott served as the inaugural undergraduate conducting fellow with the wind ensemble. Scott is a member of the National Association for Music Education, Maryland Music Educators Association and the Flute Society of Washington.
As a woodwind specialist, Scott enjoys performing flute, clarinet and saxophone in various community and amateur ensembles in the DMV area. He also plays the double seconds steel pan in the Baltimore-based steelband sextet Charm City Steel.
Christine Higley is a first year doctoral student in wind conducting at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she serves as a wind conducting graduate assistant and studies under Michael Votta.
Before coming to Maryland, Higley attended California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), where she earned her Master of Music degree in instrumental conducting in Fall 2020, studying under Emily Moss and Christopher Gravis. In addition to her wind conducting responsibilities, Higley taught courses including “Intro to Music Education” and “Intro to Classical Music in Western Culture” at CSULA. She also served as the president of the CSULA chapter of the National Association for Music Education.
Before pursuing her graduate degrees, Higley was the band and orchestra director at Sunset Ridge Middle School in Salt Lake City, Utah, from 2014–2018. She also taught elementary school beginning band and served on staff for the Copper Hills High School Marching Band.
In addition to teaching and conducting, Higley enjoys life as a horn player. She was the horn section leader for the CSULA Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, and has played with the Salt Lake Symphonic Winds, the Brigham Young University Idaho Symphony Orchestra and various chamber groups. She has studied with Nathan Campbell, Jon Klein and Bruce Woodward. Higley earned her bachelor of music in music education from BYU-Idaho.
BRAD JOPEKBrad Jopek is currently a first-year doctor of musical arts wind conducting student at the University of Maryland School of Music studying under Michael Votta, Jr. Jopek previously served as the music and artistic director of River Cities Concert Band in Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked to increase the band’s outreach in the Kentuckiana area, collaborating with local community bands and establishing chamber ensembles to reach underserved communities.
Jopek was an active assistant conductor for several ensembles at the University of Louisville. He led the University Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Fanfare for Louisville by Witold Lutosławski at the 62nd Annual College Music Society conference in Louisville, Kentucky, and he worked as a rehearsal conductor for the University Sinfonietta’s performances with the 2019 and 2020 Kentucky Music Educators Association (KMEA) Intercollegiate Choir and the University of Louisville Concerto Competition. He also served as assistant conductor and operations manager for the 2019 University of Louisville Sinfonietta Costa Rica tour and collaboration celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Instituto Costarricense Pro Música Coral.
Jopek served as assistant conductor of the University of Louisville Saxophone Ensemble, which performed at the 2017 KMEA Conference featuring student arrangements of standard wind and orchestral repertoire. Jopek also worked with the saxophone ensemble as an arranger, mentored student composers and conductors, and conducted a world premiere performance of When I Arrive by Jeffrey Fox. In addition, he also volunteered with the University of Louisville Community Band as assistant conductor and percussionist.
Outside of conducting, Jopek served as an administrative assistant at the University of Louisville for numerous departments including the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, the Committee on Academic Performance and NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative through the university president’s office, Academic & Professional Studies, Performance Studies and the Dean’s Office for the School of Music and University Libraries.
Jopek holds a bachelor of music education from Grove City College and two master of music degrees from the University of Louisville in wind and orchestral conducting. He has studied conducting with Edwin Arnold, Joseph Pisano, Jeffery Tedford, Frederick Speck, Kimcherie Lloyd and Amy Acklin.
Craig G. Potter
Maryland Community Band
Mary Kate Gentile
Hayden James Kramer