The Foothill College Symphonic Wind Ensemble

David Bruce Adams, Conductor


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Robert C. Smithwick Theater
Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road
Los Altos Hills, CA 94022-4599
2:30 PM, Sunday, June 13, 1999

Title Composer
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor J. S. Bach

Variations for Wind Band

Ralph Vaughan Williams
The Cowboys John Williams
Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo Malcolm Arnold
Suite for Band, I. Prelude Eric Brinkmann
Star Wars Trilogy John Williams
The Purple Pageant March Karl L. King

Program Notes

Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach

The first three notes of this piece are probably the most famous notes of all organ literature. Its titanic diminished chords, thunderous pedal lines, and theatrical dynamic contrasts have brought this work notoriety beyond the church and concert hall and into films ranging from “Fantasia” to “Rollerball.” The toccata (derived from the word, toccare, to touch) was a technical work in which difficulties of execution were always present Rather than considering that this work presents a fugue preceded by a toccata, the title of this work is best interpreted as the brilliant composition of a fugue phrase itself, weaving through the blazing, triumphant chords. After the announcement of the theme, the rhythm of sixteenths continues almost without interruption to the final measures.

With a background which boasted approximately 200 musical ancestors, it is not surprising that Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750) developed a keen interest in music at an early age. He mastered the violin and clavier and devoted himself to the study and mastery of the organ. As court organist in the town of Arnstadt at the age of eighteen, Bach became interested in composition, devoting every leisure moment to improving his skills. A devout Lutheran, Bach, like his fellow baroque composers, felt that everything a man does and believes is religious. They believed that their music and art helped protect people against the advance of doubt bred by Renaissance ideas of scientific, rational inquiry. During his lifetime, Bach was more famous as an organist and court musician than as a composer. The people of his time considered his baroque compositions too elaborate. His works were largely unknown until rediscovered some eighty years after his death. We are fortunate to enjoy them now as his legacy.

Variations for Wind Band by Ralph Vaughan Williams

After nearly 65 years of productive work and just a year before his death, Vaughan Williams originally composed the Variations for Brass Band. This short, rarely heard piece is a set of 11 variations on an original theme and was written in 1957 for the British National Brass Band Championships. In 1988, it was scored for large wind ensemble by Donald Hunsberger, conductor and music director of the Eastman Wind Ensemble. Following the introduction and theme (andante maestoso), the variations on the theme flow without pause. The listener should be able to discern the stylistic and tempo changes, though, particularly at the canon, waltz, fugue, and chorale.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) spent two years between school and university in musical study at the Royal College of Music. After taking a degree at Cambridge, he returned to the Royal College in London for further study, then visited Germany, where he heard the Wagnerian music dramas and stayed to study with Max Bruch. He returned to England to receive a doctorate in music at Cambridge. With his friend, Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams cut the ties that had bound English music to Germany and Italy. Instead of looking for good models on the Continent, these two young Englishmen decided to seek them at home in England's own past.

The Cowboys by John Williams

This suite, arranged by Jim Curnow, is a typical example of John Williams' capacity to enrich a film story with an almost narrative musical score. Through music, we are transported to the Old West and experience the joys and hardships of cowboy life. Taken from the 1972 motion picture “The Cowboy And The Girl,” starring John Wayne and Colleen Dewhurst, the music portrays the high spirit of wild horses and their taming. The jollity around the ranch is contrasted against the loneliness of the open range. The plains have a beauty, though, which is reflected in the song of a lark. The hard work of the cattle drive, including the fording of the wide, muddy river, is rewarded in the end.

John Williams (b. 1932) studied composition at UCLA with Mario Castelnueovo-Tedesco and later attended the Juilliard School. In 1956, he started working as a session pianist in film orchestras. He has composed the music and served as music director for over 70 films, including Jaws, E.T., Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Schindler’s List. Williams has been awarded two Emmys, five Oscars, and 17 Grammy Awards, as well as several gold and platinum records. From 1980 to 1993, Williams served as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He has written many concert pieces and is also known for his themes and fanfares written for the 1984, 1988, and 1996 Olympics.

Prelude, Siciliano and Rondo by Malcolm Arnold

Originally composed for the standard British all-brass band and entitled Little Suite for Brass, Op. 80, this 1979 arrangement by the late John P. Paynter brings its beautiful character and melodies to wind ensembles. All three movements are written in short, clear five-part song forms, reflecting Malcolm Arnold's interest in folk songs and dances. The Prelude begins in a fanfare style and evolves through changing keys and themes; it slowly resolves into a quiet cantabile ending. The Siciliano is true to the character of its lilting and graceful namesake Sicilian dance; solo instruments carry the melody as brass and woodwinds provide contrasting textures. True in style, the rollicking Rondo explodes with the prominent theme that reappears again and again in alternation with contrasting themes.

Malcolm Arnold (b. 1921) has created for himself a significant and somewhat unique position in contemporary British music. At a time when much new music is foreboding or despairing, his optimistic outlook and high spirits are the more welcome. He was born in Northampton, a town with considerable musical tradition. He studied at the Royal College of Music, where he would later return as an instructor. His list of works includes nine symphonies, twenty concertos, much chamber music, five ballets, and music for several films; he received an Oscar for his music for the 1958 film, Bridge on the River Kwai. His suites of English, Scottish, and Cornish dances are hallmarks of his repertoire. He served many years as principal trumpet player in the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Suite for Band, I. Prelude by Eric Brinkmann

The composer provides the following insight into his composition, which was composed in 1998 as a senior project in high school and is the first movement to be completed in his Suite for Band:

The Prelude is a simple, compact form based on two motives: the first tuba melody composed of fourths, and the choral-like theme heard in the horns. The first melancholy section leads into a brighter allegretto with the choral theme in dissonant clusters. It undergoes various permutations, until a climax is reached with a march-like rendering of the theme. The music quickly subsides, and the tempo slows while the clarinets reminisce quietly about the first melody in the tuba. The piece ends calmly on a note of uncertainty.

Eric Brinkmann, a senior at Palo Alto High School (CA), has been involved in music for nearly all of his life. His musical education includes piano, bassoon, and saxophone lessons. He played bassoon in the El Camino Youth Symphony from 1994-7, and in a chamber ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of music since 1997. He has played in the Foothill Symphonic Wind Ensemble since 1996. He has played the Baritone Saxophone chair in the California All-State Jazz Band for the last two years. Last summer, he also played baritone saxophone in the Monterey Jazz Festival. He will be attending Princeton University in the Fall and expects to continue performing and composing.

Star Wars Trilogy by John Williams

It is more than twenty years since George Lucas' highly imaginative entertainment experience first transported an audience to an unknown galaxy thousands of light years from earth. The “Star Wars” experience was a blending of contemporary science fiction with the romantic fantasies of sword and sorcery. The story follows a young man, Luke Skywalker, on a journey through exotic worlds in a perpetual struggle of good against evil and the eventual success of love conquering all. “Star Wars” and its two companion films, “Return of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” form the center of a planned nine-part historical series. The five movements of the Trilogy were selected by arranger Donald Hunsberger to display the excitement, beauty, and contrast in these first three films.

The Imperial March, subtitled Darth Vader's Theme, represents the evil might of the Galactic Empire and the supreme villainy of its leader. Princess Leia's Theme is much gentler and pays tribute to the romantic music of the early film heroines. Musical themes are scattered and rapidly shifting in the Battle in the Forest, reflecting the cuts in the movie as the ground battle begins. The almost comedic theme of the teddy bear-like Ewoks contrasts against the huge, but mechanical, armament of the Empire's forces. The old Jedi Master of Dagobah is honored in Yoda's Theme. The gentleness and understanding of the Master is conveyed in the ethereal setting of the swamp where Yoda harnesses the power of the Force to raise Luke's crashed X-Wing fighter. The transition into the heroic Star Wars (Main Theme) seems natural as the power of good, embodied in the Force, is triumphant.

The Purple Pageant by Karl L. King

This concert march was dedicated by King to Glenn C. Bainum, Director of Bands at Northwestern University. In his 27 years of service as conductor of Northwestern’s bands, choirs, and orchestras, Bainum provided leadership at a level set by William D. Revelli at the University of Michigan and A. A. Harding at the University of Illinois. He developed many new and spectacular field formations with the electrically illuminated 200-member marching band. One can assume that the title of the march is a tribute to the pageantry of the purple-uniformed bandsmen presenting one of these shows.

Karl Lawrence King (1891 - 1971) began his long career in music at the age of eleven, when he bought a cornet with money earned by selling newspapers. He soon exchanged that instrument for a euphonium. His only formal music instruction consisted of four piano lessons and one harmony lesson; his academic education ended with the eighth grade. By the time he was seventeen, King had his first composition published. At the age of eighteen, he left home and began playing in various community and circus bands. In 1917, he began a two-year tour as bandmaster with Barnum and Bailey's “Greatest Show on Earth,” taking along his wife, Ruth, who played calliope with the circus. King composed nearly 300 works, including serenades, overtures, rags, intermezzos, waltzes, and galops, as well as his 188 famous marches. In 1966, King said:

“I've sung my song. It was a rather simple one; it wasn't too involved; I'm happy about it. In the last couple years . . . I've run out of tunes. When I ran out of tunes, I believed it was time to quit, and I'd like to recommend that as a matter of policy to all other composers.”


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Last Updated:  21 October 1999
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Copyright © 1999   Roy Stehle, Palo Alto, CA, USA. All rights reserved.