by John Phillips
The Friday afternoon concert (day five), featuring the University of Southern Illinois, Edwardsville Wind Symphony, marked the second contribution from an American ensemble at the 2011 WASBE conference. Featuring a program of all American music, the students of SIUE demonstrated their musical depth and breadth. Conductor, Dr. John Bell, selected repertoire that challenged the performers across all sections and was handled with great skill and expression.
The group captured the audience’s attention, opening with Michael Markowski’s Instinctive Travels, a musical collage reflecting the youthful enthusiasm of the twenty-five year old composer. Katherine Salfelder’s Crossing Parallels demonstrated the expressive range of the group under the baton of WASBE Immediate Past-President Dennis Johnson. Soloists in this work and throughout the program performed with confidence and competence. In her comments on the composition’s title, Salfelder suggests a juxtaposition of styles, early music fused with contemporary techniques. SIUE created a strong tonal and rhythmic depiction of the composer’s intent.
Dr. James Hinson, an SIUE faculty member, joined the ensemble for Concerto Sion, a tribute by composer Kevin Walczyk to his two children. Hinson’s performance demonstrated his technical facility and musical fluency in a work requiring a number of special effects, including multiphonics in two of the three movements. Hinson’s sound resonated throughout the hall while the ensemble artfully retained a balanced accompaniment. The work featured several far niente moments on the part of both soloist and full ensemble which were handled seamlessly. The final movement highlighted the playful character of the children as described by the composer in the program notes and the students consistently addressed the technical and musical demands.
Following intermission, the SIUE wind symphony introduced the music of two major American composers from the past, Vincent Persichetti and Leonard Bernstein respectively. Masquerade for Band, Op. 102 written in 1965 sounds at home almost fifty years later amidst the works of emerging twenty-first century composers featured in the first half of the concert. Kudos go to the percussion section for playing so confidently while still attending to balance with the delicate character of the woodwind section often featured in this work.
Brass Meridian, comprised of faculty, alumni and current students, pooled resources for Bernstein’s Mass (2008), arranged by Michael Sweeney. Both the chamber group and full ensemble reflected the colorful spectrum and celebratory character of this music. Energy, passion, and soulful charm were prominent throughout. SIUE faculty member, John Korak, demonstrated versatility and artistry on trumpet, flugel horn and piccolo trumpet. There was a great buzz in the audience following this performance and one could sense that Bell’s balanced programming and effective pacing was greatly appreciated by those in attendance.
Rounding out the program was March, an excerpt from Kimberly Archer’s Symphony No. 2. Archer is another SIUE faculty member and the vibrant energy and colorful orchestration of her work ended a concert of music that was both appealing and intriguing. The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Wind Symphony has a mission to “study and perform the finest core repertoire for wind band as well as the best of contemporary literature.” This afternoon’s performance supported their mission and based on the audience response and comments in the lobby following the concert, the students lived up to their expectations.