by Bailey Blaker
Instead of spending Sunday afternoon outside sunbathing, an audience of around 30 ventured inside of Rosse Hall and basked in the Kenyon College Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s lively music. Audience member Meera White ’18 felt that the ensemble’s musical choices perfectly mirrored the warmth that took over campus this past weekend. “It was really spring-themed,” White said. “I felt that it was bringing us into a new era of sunshine and happiness and positivity.” During their 3 p.m. performance, the group played selections from various composers including David R. Holsinger and Arnold Schoenberg.
Holsinger’s “Liturgical Dancers” opened the show. The piece featured a well-rounded low brass sound in its melodic chords. The balance of sound between the low end of the ensemble and the high wind instruments gave the tune a feeling of majesty.
The next piece, Julie Giroux’s “One Life Beautiful,” was a lovely compliment to the opener. “One Life Beautiful” took the full sound of the ensemble and communicated a sense of serenity to the audience. The bright harmonies of the high woodwinds contrasted beautifully with the lower chords in the brass section.
Vincent Persichetti’s “Psalm for Band, Opus 53” created a sense of movement throughout the entire ensemble. Call-and-responses between different sections of the group allowed the music to flow in a more dramatic fashion. The high and clear tones of the brass players brought the piece to another level. Each section of instruments worked together to create a seamless transition between moods within the work.
After a brief intermission, the ensemble treated the audience to William Grant Still’s “Folk Suite for Band,” which featured three separate movements. A light, playful tune defined each movement. A strong clarinet sound during the second movement, “Deep River,” created a soothing atmosphere, while the third movement, “Medley,” had a lively and jaunty style. The piece overall evoked the feeling of old-style Americana and the hazy warmth of a summer spent in the South.
Before performing Schoenberg’s “Theme and Variations for Band, Opus 43a,” Professor of Music Dane Heuchemer gave the audience a brief music lesson. “I haven’t had the chance to teach 200-level this year, so you’re going to pay for it,” Heuchemer said to his audience. Schoenberg’s “Themes and Variations” has been in the music department’s library for the same amount of time the average first year has been alive — 18 years. Any reluctance to pull out the piece of music could be a result of the sheer difficulty of performing it. Percussionist Ben Douglas ’18 felt that although the ensemble had spent a lot of time preparing each tune for the concert, the Schoenberg piece required even more attention to detail. “Each concert comes with its own challenges; for this particular concert it was definitely ‘Themes and Variations,’” Douglas said. According to Heuchemer, the difficulty of performing the piece originates in Schoenberg’s attempt to write music with humor. “There’s no way it can sound right,” Heuchemer said. “Humor is very hard to communicate musically. … Wit is something that takes a lot of practice hearing.” The last few measures of “Themes and Variations” resemble George Gershwin’s “A Rhapsody in Blue.” Heuchemer had the ensemble play the last five measures of the piece first to demonstrate Schoenberg’s attempted jab at fellow composer Gershwin.
The show closed with Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse,” a piece of music that Warner Brothers used as background music for the Looney Tunes. The tune was comical, lively and in some ways a perfect send-off for the ensemble’s graduating seniors. “I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to our seniors than with cartoon music,” Heuchemer said.