On March 25, the Puget Sound Youth Wind Ensemble will present a concert called “The Disturbed and the Absurd,” which presents light music with humor, contrasting with works that are spooky. The young musicians of PSYWE will be under the direction of John Falskow and Scott Fry.
For this concert, the directors of PSYWE put together what sounds like an evocative and entertaining evening of music. First up is Steven Bryant’s “The Machine Awakes,” described as the sound of something not human (but of humans’ hands) – something not entirely organic, but most definitely alive – waking up for the first time. From the opening swirling textures, we sense the first hesitant sparks of thought, attempting to find form and coherence. This new machine – sentient, aware – comes fully awake, possessed of emphatic self-determination and unfathomable purpose.
Next up is Richard Strauss’ “Allerseelen.” “Allerseelen” (“All Souls’ Day”) is an art song for voice and piano composed by Strauss in 1885, setting a poem by the Austrian poet Hermann von Gilm from his collection Letzte Blätter (Last Pages). It is the last in a collection of eight songs which were all settings of Gilm poems from the same volume entitled “Acht Lieder aus Letzte Blätter” (Eight Songs from Last Pages), the first collection of songs Strauss ever published as Op. 10 in 1885, including also “Zueignung” (Dedication) and “Die Nacht” (The Night). The song was orchestrated in 1932 by German conductor Robert Heger.
Fry will take up the baton to conduct Derek Bourgeois’ “Serenade, op. 22,” a work that Bourgeois wrote for his own wedding, to be played by the organist as the guests left the ceremony. Not wishing to allow them the luxury of proceeding in an orderly 2/4, the composer wrote the work in 11/8, and in case anyone felt too comfortable, he changed it to 13/8 in the middle! The work has now been released in a number of different orchestrations of the original version for organ.
Falskow takes the baton again to conduct Adam Gorb’s “Bridgewater Breeze.” This popular suite for winds in a masterly version for full band by the composer. It consists of five short, varied movements, performable separately. They are good tunes with teasing turns of phrasing, orchestration and meter and witty melodic quirks: I. Foxtrot; II. Samba; III. Merry-Go-Round; IV. Russian Lament and V. Hoe Down.
Speaking of his piece “The Cave You Fear,” composer Michael Markowski asks, “When we hear our own call to adventure, will we jump up, prepared, or will we ignore it, sit idly and take the easy way out because we would rather life be quiet and comfortable? Each of our adventures are already out there, waiting for us. That’s not the problem. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty ‘yes’ to your adventure.” “The Cave You Fear” encourages you to take a chance, venture into the dark unknown and fight whatever monsters you find in there. And although we might not always prevail, at least we’ll have a story to tell by the end.
Fry will conduct David Del Tredici’s “Acrostic Song,” a moving piece of music, which is the lullaby-like concluding aria from “Final Alice,” the fifth of six large works for soprano and orchestra based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” books. This arrangement for band is designed to be playable by a wide variety of groups and is appropriate for large or small ensembles. The gentle melody, heartrending harmonies and artful instrumental voicing give this piece a truly timeless feel.
The concert concludes with John Barnes Chance’s “Incantation and Dance.” It was the first published work of Chance. This superb composition is widely recognized and acclaimed for its wealth of rhythmic and melodic inventiveness. It opens with a slow, intriguingly strange introduction which leads to a fast, exciting syncopated section which is a delight for the percussion section.
Founded in 2004, the Puget Sound Youth Wind Ensemble offers a unique music education opportunity for talented wind and percussion students by providing a high caliber performance venue in partnership with professional conductors and coaches. PSYWE will benefit the Puget Sound community with a musical venue featuring young musicians. PSYWE is dedicated to advancing the talents of young musicians through the performance of outstanding repertoire.
Falskow is director of instrumental music at Tacoma Community College, where he has also served as chair of the Music Department. Falskow conducts the TCC Orchestra, TCC Symphonic Band, and teaches a variety of classes in the music curriculum. In addition to duties at TCC, Falskow is the music director and conductor of PSYWE.
“The Disturbed and the Absurd” takes place Sunday, March 25, 7 p.m. at Building 2, Tacoma Community College.
For information, visit www.psywe.org or www.facebook.com/Puget-Sound-Youth-Wind-Ensemble-30687222186.