By Will Quam
Under the baton of Professor of Music Dane Heuchemer, the Kenyon College Symphonic Wind Ensemble performed their annual Family Weekend concert to a sizable crowd of parents and students in Rosse Hall this past Saturday afternoon. This year’s concert featured the group’s take on works of great 20th-century British and American composers.
The program began with Toccata Marziale, composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Toccata allowed the woodwinds and trumpets to shimmer as they traded a quick and catchy melody. Vaughan Williams contrasts the melody in the upper voices with eighth-note moving lines in the bass voices, and some of the subtlety of the piece was lost in these bass lines.
This can be partially blamed on the orchestration of Vaughan Williams, as the ensemble proved themselves to be expert in another offering from the English Folk Song School later in the program: The Earle of Oxford’s March, by Gordon Jacob, which was intoned beautifully by the band. The brass found great movement and shape, while flutes and clarinets ornamented simply and tactfully, complimenting the melody.
The band followed Toccata with the first movement from Symphony No. 3, a 1961 composition by Vittoria Giannini, a follower of both neo-classicism and neo-romanticism. The piece begins with a statement of the movement’s main theme by the full band before moving into exposition traded throughout the sections.
The band played well in these trade offs, giving and receiving as themes went along.
The best parts of Symphony No. 3 came in exposed portions where one or two sections were allowed to play off one another. The flute and clarinet sections blended expertly in the slower development section, and a chorale-like statement from the brass was beautifully received. The ensemble also found great build in the more legato sections of the piece, and built to a truly spectacular recapitulation of the main theme and finale.
Before moving on to W. Francis McBeth’s Chant and Jubilo, Heuchemer commented to the audience that the ensemble was missing a handful of players for this concert, requiring them to make some last-minute adjustments to the performance. Chant began with a somber and beautifully played monophonic line from the clarinets and euphoniums, with flutes eventually bringing the piece into a fullness of sound.
The ensemble made the progression from the subdued Chant to the great fanfare of the Jubilo feel natural and welcome. Of especially nice effect was the snare drum, played by Drew Meeker ’17.
The concert ended with Paul Hart’s Cartoon, a great storytelling exercise full of welcome clich?s. Soloists, notably Associate Professor of Mathematics Bob Milnikel on bass clarinet, Mount Vernon resident Carol McCutcheon on trumpet and Adam Zaremsky ’15 on clarinet, provided individual voices and commentary on the hero’s journey through melody.
Notably, Milnikel performed his bass clarinet from the percussion section, quickly trading clarinet for slide whistle, slap stick and snare drum. The percussion section brought life and great humor to the piece and performed with gusto. The band conveyed the composition with a great controlled and frantic energy. Cartoon came to a close with a great snap of a hi-hat cymbal, bringing a concert full of life to a resounding end.
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