The SUNY New Paltz Spring Concert Series continued with the Symphonic Band taking the stage at the Julien J. Studley Theatre this past Tuesday, April 18. The concert, directed by Associate Professor Joël Evans, was titled “‘O’ My!: Inspirational Works for Winds” due to the fact that three of the pieces ended with the Italianate suffix “O.”
“This was a trendy affectation during the big ‘60s band boom in America,” Evans explained. “All the works on this program were inspired by either historical events or well known historic melodies.”
The concert commenced with Festivo by Czech-American composer Vaclav Nelhybel, who once described the piece as “an overture-type composition in which the woodwinds and the brasses are constantly confronting each other like two antagonists in a dramatic scene.” The clashing of the instruments certainly demanded the attention of the audience due to its intense nature. After the performance, Evans reflected on the piece, explaining that it embodies the city of Prague “with its golden dome churches and colorful architecture.”
Following the first act was Amazing Grace by Frank Ticheli, which featured soft, sweet sounds from the flutes, but the event was quickly livened by the folk-inspired four movements of Second Suite in F by Gustav Holst. Each movement features one or more folk songs as its melodic material and the ending movement, Fantasia on the “Dargason,” is eminently related to the well known traditional Irish jig, “The Irish Washerwomen.”
“I’m sure if any of you have Irish heritage, you might know or ask your grandparents, I’m sure they know,” Evans said.
Chant and Jubilo and Drammatico by W. Francis McBeth concluded the night with clashing sounds and dramatic exuberance.
Performers in the symphonic band consisted of people of various ages and majors, along with members of the community, artists and educators. There is no audition required, Evans said.
“We often have seating placements for large sections like clarinet, flute, sax and trumpet,” he said. “Most of our members have played regularly throughout their middle school and high school years and are typically very experienced performers.”
While directing a large group of students of different musical backgrounds and talents might seem daunting, Evans finds a certain joy in it.
“Students bring in a wealth of creativity, wisdom and academic strength,” he said. “Many good friendships are formed within the band, and it helps contribute to the already cohesive, positive environment that SUNY New Paltz is known for.”
The Oracle’s very own fourth-year journalism major Erica Ascher has been playing in the symphonic band since she was a first semester freshman and has held the title of principal chair flutist throughout her four years at New Paltz. Now, as a senior about to graduate, Ascher expressed immense gratitude for her time as part of the ensemble and for being a student under Evans’ instruction.
“He’s an incredible musician, conductor and mentor,” Ascher said. “It’s surreal that four years/eight semesters of college has flown by and that was one of the last times I’ll watch Dr. Evans conduct before me.”
For more information on the Spring Concert Series, visit newpaltz.edu/music/concertseries.html.