A Symphony at SUNY

On Tuesday, April 21, the SUNY New Paltz Symphonic Band performed their annual spring concert at Studley Theater as part of the Department of Music’s concert series. The selection of pieces the band played was tasteful, varied and all around wonderful to listen to. SUNY New Paltz Professor Joel Evans conducted the Symphonic Band with the exception of one piece, which was conducted by guest conductor Vic Izzo, a professor at SUNY Ulster.

The concert consisted of six pieces, each by a different composer. “El Relicario (Paso Doble)” by Jose Padilla Sanchez was the first piece of the evening. This piece was a march with a Spanish flair and after the piece Evans explained that this piece was partly chosen due to the concerts timing (the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, is in just a few weeks). The piece is also based on a song that is played when matadors enter into an arena to fight bulls. It was lively and spirited and was a fantastic way to open the concert and get everyone ready for the next hour of music.

The next piece was “Elegy for a Young American” by Ronald LoPresti. Before the beginning of this piece, Evans explained how this piece was originally written for President John F. Kennedy and that it is now mainly played at ceremonial events in America. Unlike the previous piece, which had a strong march feel to it, “Elegy” had a much more lyrical style to it and the change in pace was nice since it gave the concert variety.

Following “Elegy,” Evans spoke to the crowd about the next piece: “Sleep” by Eric Whitacre. Whitacre is one of the premier symphonic band and wind band composers of our generation and his pieces are highly praised and performed by many ensembles around the world. As a musician myself, I have played pieces by Whitacre before and they never disappoint. “Sleep,” based on a poem, was no exception, with great lyrical content and instrumentation driving it along it was easily one of my favorite pieces of the night. In certain parts of the song the band even has words to sing. It was a very cool piece.

Following “Sleep,” the band played a piece by Percy Grainger entitled, “Shepherd’s Hey.” Evans described the Australian-born Grainger as the “Beethoven of band music.” “Shepherd’s Hey” was a typical Grainger piece with beautiful melodies and instrumentation throughout. Selection from Symphonic Suite by Clifton Williams was next and was conducted by Professor Vic Izzo from SUNY Ulster. This piece was the most orchestral piece of the evening, featuring three movements entitled “Intrada,” “Coral” and “March.”

There was then one final piece left to be played: “Gathering of the Ranks at Hebron” by David Holsinger. Holsinger, like Whiteacre, is one of my favorite composers and every one of his pieces that I’ve played or had the pleasure of hearing has been absolutely awesome. His pieces are challenging to play and feature very intricate instrumentation but once it’s rehearsed the end product is amazing. I hadn’t heard this particular Holsinger piece but it didn’t disappoint. Holsinger brilliantly captures a battle scene within the piece and the band played fantastically.