This second installment (March 2023) is submitted by Miguel Etchegoncelay, President Elect of WASBE and Professor for Orchestral Conducting Studies at Strasbourg Conservatory of Music (France).
Little Mexican Suite Nubia Jaime Donjuan (Mexico, 1984)
I met Nubia just a few months ago, during the MidWest Conference in Chicago, thanks to the fantastic Mexican Repertoire Initiative at Darmouth College, who were our guests in Prague during the WASBE International Congress in July 2022. Brian Messier and Sixto Montesinos made a very interesting presentation of the project, which, among many other things, is responsible for having commissioned the work to Nubia Jaime Donjuan.
The great maestro Arturo Marquez is among the composers who have been commissioned to the Inaugural Edition.
Little Mexican Suite was commissioned by the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Darmouth, for the Darmouth College Wind Ensemble and its conductor, Brian Messier.
It was finished in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, in 2022, and premiered in the spring of the same year.
Little Mexican Suite is structured in 6 movements. Each one of them is named after a characteristic tree of the region represented musically.
The writing is original, both formally, harmonically, and especially in the scoring. The music, always very varied in styles (you can listen to fandango, waltz, danzon, merengue, cha-cha or mambo) is a nice possibility to introduce technical concepts, especially in the aspect of articulation and rhythm.
Movements 2 and 5 are optional and only require a chamber ensemble, where the oboe and tenor saxophone are soloists, respectively.
“Ever since I was a child, I have been very interested in traditional Mexican Music. It has always captured my attention. I used to really get excited to hear a danzón or a son jarocho, and, fortunately, that interest has become a fundamental part of my artistic work. Most of my works contain a national, and often regional root. As is well known, Mexican music has many branches, ranging from danzón to mariachi.
Little Mexican Suite for Winds is based on traditional Mexican musical genres that are very popular in my country and is inspired by species of Mexican trees that have each touched my life in some way and are embedded in my memory.”
(Program Notes by Nubia Jaime Donjuan)
Japanese Folk Song Suite Bin Kaneda (Japan, 1935-2002)
This is another special work from 1974, and in some sense, it connects with the preceding piece because it is built from the heritage music of the country, in this case Japan.
The three relatively short movements are based on children’s songs. The first, called “Where are you from?” uses only the brass section and percussion. It is a simple, lively tune that often accompanies the children’s game of bouncing a handball.
The second, Lullaby, proposes a beautiful and quiet atmosphere, with a flute solo and only the woodwind section. It is based on perhaps the best-known lullaby in Japan, Komori-Uta.
The third and last movement, “An ancient priest is a mountain temple” uses the full band, and it is also, as the first movement, a song that children sing while bouncing a ball.
Bin Kaneda was a Japanese composer and professor. He graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a degree in composition from 1959. He was professor emeritus at the Aichi Prefecture University of Fine Arts and Music.
Greek Folk Song Suite Franco Cesarini (Switzerland, 1961)
These selections can be part of a potential concert program in which you can present the band not only in diverse folkloric styles, but also in varied orchestrations, which will allow you to do pedagogical work on listening, imitation of articulation, balance and above all color.
The three-part suite that Franco wrote many years ago, precisely in 2001, is a work that has established itself in the European scene of the educational repertoire for band. It presents an important challenge right from the beginning, with a dance in 7 beats, O Charalambis, this song is typical of a popular dance called kalamatianos.
The second movement, Stu Psiloriti, refers to an ancient song from the Island of Crete. The Psiloritis is the highest peak of the Ida Mountains. The third movement of the suite is based on the song “Vasilikos tha gino”, a very ancient song of the Ipeiros region. Some characteristics of this movement are a reminder of the sirtaki, the most popular Greek dance abroad.
The orchestration, as well as all the music produced by this composer, is wisely done. It will provide you with an opportunity to achieve a homogeneous and rich sound.
Tight Squeeze Alex Shapiro (1962, USA)
Perhaps this short work by Alex is better known in the United States, although every time I have done it, it has received a warm welcome from musicians and audiences alike.
In a program where you want to use fix electronics, this piece will give you the opportunity to work in a different way. You will need to equip yourself with some electronic gear, as you will need to lead with an audio click to coordinate with the recorded track or pre-recorded soundscape as Alex likes to call it. This work follows in the footsteps of Paper Cut, which also proposes the use of a recorded audio track, plus the use of printer paper. Hear what Alex says about Tight Squeeze:
“I really care about education and about giving students opportunities to be challenged. My observation of much (not all) band music is that it’s often very straight and plodding in rhythm and lacking in chromaticism. Tight Squeeze is another of my humble attempts to broaden the scope of the repertoire.
The twelve-tone row theme appears in several keys throughout the piece: it first starts on C, later it begins on D, and somewhere in there it also begins on Bb. Dizzying. Packets of Dramamine should be included with each score set. So, students will learn chromaticism by playing almost every note on their instrument! They will learn syncopation! They will learn to pay ridiculously close attention to articulations and phrasing! And maybe even to the band director! And despite all this work, they’ll be happy because they get to play really loudly! But wait, there’s more!
They’ll get a feel for bebop and Latin jazz traditions — especially important for the players who are not in a jazz band (oh, pity the oboists), but who deserve to play this quintessential American music. Lots of 21st-century concert music is infused with various grooves, and classically trained musicians need to be comfortable with all genres. Just like this gull, they should learn to digest everything.”
(Program notes by Alex Shapiro)
Kevin Puts (1972, USA)
I particularly like this short piece by Kevin Puts because it uses very few elements, it is basically a rhythmic ostinato in 7, but manages to create a continuous sense of flow and momentum, using all the sections in an effective way. Nobody gets tired of playing the ostinato during the 3 minutes that the piece lasts, because it alternates passages of playing with others with hand clapping, creating a joyous and fresh atmosphere. Listening and counting abilities are extremely useful here.
“I decided to call it Charm because, for me, the music conjures up magic, good-luck charms and such, and I was also thinking of the other meaning of the word, that intangible quality possessed by certain people and places that truly can cast a spell.” (Program Note by Kevin Puts)