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There are any numbers of great composers who have been able to produce overtures that entertain, lift the spirits, and bring musical “sizzle” to a symphony concert, but almost none excel those overtures of Gioachino Rossini in sparkle, wit, and vivacity. Their droll wit, sly contrasts of mood, and careening drive to the end are simply inimitable. From their conception for Italian opera audiences primarily in the first decade of the nineteenth century, to their familiar use as springboards for movie and television hijinks today, they simply endure.
Rossini was the most important composer of nineteenth-century Italian opera pre-Giuseppe Verdi. And while he is historically significant for his innovations in serious Italian opera, clearly his opere buffa, or comic operas, are his lasting contributions for opera fans everywhere. These are works of his early maturity, roughly before 1820, before he began to focus upon a more serious style. American audiences are most familiar with The Italian Girl in Algiers (1813) and The Barber of Seville (1816), but there are other masterpieces, as well. After wide European success in the 1820s, Rossini wrangled a lifetime annuity from the French government about the time of the composition of his crowning achievement, William Tell (1829)-a French grand opera-and promptly retired at the age of thirty-seven. For the next forty-odd years he enjoyed the largess of the French government, and composed very little. It’s not that he was lazy, although a famous anecdote relates that while composing in bed (which he usually did) he dropped an unfinished aria on the floor, and rather than go to the trouble of getting up to retrieve it, he simply composed another one!
In his defense, we should recognize how much work that he had accomplished early: 34 operas by the time that he was 31. The Italian Girl in Algiers was given its first performance in Venice in May of 1813, and if there is an award for the most zany of Italian comic operas, then this one surely gets the plume. The plot is impossible to summarize briefly, but it consists of the usual mistaken identities, exotic settings, implausible relationships, and in this case, a Turkish Bey, or lord, who needs an Italian girl to alleviate his boredom with his harem. The overture begins quietly with soft pizzicatos in the strings, lulling the listener, only to be startled by a sudden fortissimo outburst from the whole orchestra. A poignant oboe solo follows. Soon, the allegro kicks in, and we’re off to the races. A series of vivacious, brief solos by the various woodwinds follow, aptly illustrating why this work is a perennial favorite of woodwind players. Here and there, and especially towards the end, the famous “Rossini crescendo” (a passage with a repeating figure over static harmonies, that constantly gets louder) generates the excitement for which Rossini is famous, and which never fails to please. It all simply reminds us that great art isn’t always profound, but can also stir with adroit simplicities.
Grainger’s arrangement of the Scottish song The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight became Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon. The river Doon flows gracefully between the Loch Doon and the Firth of Clyde in Stirlingshire, Scotland. It was inspired by Robert Burns poem, The Banks of Doon, written in 1783. The piece was originally scored in 1903 for a chorus of women’s unison voices, accompanied by men’s voices, whistlers, and harmonium or organ at will. This was one of Grainger’s earliest folk-music arrangements, and it was dedicated to his dear friend Sigurd Fornander. The setting for band was completed in 1932.
March King John Philip Sousa wrote this march in honour of Troop A, or The Black Horse Troop. This was an independent military organization which was established in Ohio after The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 amongst fears about the military’s ability to maintain law and order. The Black Horse Troop then became part of the Ohio National Guard Cavalry. The remarkable first performance of The Black Horse Troop in 1925 has been documented by legendary band conductor Frederick Fennell, who attended it at the age of 11. At the conclusion of the concert, just before the march was to be played, the whole of Troop A of the Ohio National Cavalry Guard rode their horses onto the stage and stood to attention behind The Sousa Band as Sousa conducted his musicians in the premiere of this elegant, triumphant march.
Program Note by Fredrick Fennell: The Black Horse Troop march was completed December 30, 1924, at Sousa’s Sands Point, Long Island, estate. It was played for the first time about ten months later on October 17, 1925, at a concert of the Sousa Band in the Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio – and I was there. I had not been to such an event as this one. I remember that as Sousa’s march was being played, Troop A rode [their horses] onto the stage and stood behind the band to the tumultuous cheering of all. The March King enjoyed a long relationship with the men and horses of Cleveland’s Ohio National Guard Cavalry, known as Troop A.
Arabesque was commissioned by the Indiana Bandmasters Association and written for the 2008 Indiana All-State Band. Arabesque is based in the mystical sounds of Middle Eastern music and it is composed in three parts. “Taqasim” (tah’-zeem), “dabka” (dupp-keh) and “chorale.” The opening flute cadenza, although written out in notes, is meant to sound like an Arabic taqasim or improvisation. Much the same as in jazz improvisation, the soloist is to play freely in the scales and modes of the genre. In this case, the flute plays in bi-tonal harmonic minor scales, and even bends one note to capture the micro-tonality (quarter-tones) of the music from this part of the world. However, opposite to jazz, taqasim has very little change to the chordal or bass line accompaniment. It is almost always at the entrance to a piece of music and is meant to set the musical and emotional tone.
The second section, a dabka, is a traditional Arabic line dance performed at celebrations, most often at weddings. Its drum beat, played by a dumbek or durbake hand drum is unmistakable. Even
though rhythmically simple, it is infectious in its ability to capture the toe-tapping attention of the
listener. The final section, the chorale, is a recapitulation of previous mystical themes in the
composition, interwoven with a grandeur of a sparkling ending.
Rodney Newton is a British composer, music educator, percussionist, conductor, and music publisher with a background in film music. Capriccio was written for and premiered by the Scottish tubist James Gourlay. It is a fast moving piece featuring bold cadenzas, a driving main theme, and slow sentimental moments that help to paint a very flashy and cinematic picture.
Stardust is a jazz song composed by American singer, songwriter and musician Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. Now considered a standard and part of the Great American Songbook, the song has been recorded over 1,500 times either as an instrumental or vocal track, featuring different performers. During his time attending Indiana University, Carmichael developed a taste for jazz. He formed his own band and played at local events in Indiana and Ohio. Following his graduation, Carmichael moved to Florida to work for a law firm. He left the law sector and returned to Indiana, after learning of the success of one of his compositions. In 1927, after leaving a local university hangout, Carmichael started to whistle a tune that he later developed further. When composing the song, he was inspired by the end of one of his love affairs, and on the suggestion of a university classmate, he decided on its title. The same year, Carmichael recorded an instrumental version of the song for Gennett Records. In 1928, Carmichael left Indiana after Mills Music hired him as a composer. Mills Music then assigned Mitchell Parish to add words to the song. Don Redman recorded the song the same year, and by 1929, it was performed regularly at the Cotton Club. Isham Jones ‘s 1930 rendition of the song made it popular on radio, and soon multiple acts had recorded Stardust. Because of the song’s popularity, by 1936, RCA Victor pressed a double-sided version that featured Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman on respective sides.
Teutonic Tales was inspired by the legend and lore of Germanic and Norse mythology. Written for
Mike Roylance, principal tubist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the original suite features three
movements titled Demon Dance, Freya and Thor’s Hammer. The piece was premiered in October of
Freya – Freya was the goddess of beauty and love. A beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed young woman, she was the sister of Frey and in later traditions the wife of Odin.
Demon Dance – In German mythology, a demon is a supernatural being that is generally described as a malevolent spirit. The countless tales of trolls, werewolves, and other figures in Teutonic folklore
have stirred imaginations for centuries.
Meet the Artists
The Plano Community Band is a volunteer organization made up of approximately 70 musicians from all walks of life who share a passion for music. The band performs two Spring concerts and a Fall concert each year at the beautiful Eisemann Center in Richardson, but is best known for its Summer concerts at Haggard Park, in old downtown Plano. The Summer Series begins the first Monday in June, and performances at the park continue every other Monday evening for a total of five concerts. The band has themes for each concert including kids’ night, big band and a patriotic concert.
The band is a nonprofit organization sponsored in part by the Plano Cultural Arts Commission. The band is also supported by John Paul II High School, member dues and from generous donors in the community. There is never an admission charged for any of the band’s public performances.
The Plano Community Band is a proud member of the Association of Concert Bands, an international organization dedicated to the advancement of adult community bands. The band has performed at several of their national conventions as well as hosted the conventions in 1992 and 2010, and recently performed at the 2022 convention in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Plano Community Band’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, is a retired music educator and band director with over 35 years of experience working with student and adult musicians in Texas and Georgia. He was born in Harlingen in the Rio Grande Valley and spent most of his adult years in Richardson and Sherman, Texas. Joe is a third-generation band director. His father, Joe Frank, Sr., was a well-known Texas band director and orchestra director and charter member of the Phi Beta Mu Band Director Hall of Fame. Joe taught for 17 years in the Richardson ISD where mentors such as Joe Frank, Sr.; Richard Floyd; Tommy Guilbert; Robert Floyd and Howard Dunn helped form his concepts of teaching students and interpreting, rehearsing and performing wind band literature. In 1990, Joe became Director of Bands for the Sherman ISD and helped lead the Sherman Bands to 14 years of successful performances, competitions and statewide recognition. While living in Athens, Georgia, Joe became director of the Classic City Band and developed a love for working and making music with adults. Joe currently lives in Denison, Texas, with his wife, Becky. He is a frequent clinic/consultant and adjudicator for middle school and high school bands. His daughter, Jessica, is a stay-at-home mom and volunteer youth leader. She currently plays clarinet in the Band. His son, Jeff, is a pediatric neurologist in Oregon. Joe enjoys sailing, golf, snow skiing, and traveling with Becky.
Plano Community Band’s Associate Conductor, Business Manager, and Event Coordinator, was born in Texas City, Texas, and has made Plano his home since 1969, going through the Plano schools and the band program at Plano Senior High. During his high school days, Jim was privileged to have played with Doc Severinsen and Alan Vizzutti, and his first love always seemed to be jazz. After graduation, he was selected to play with the National Bandmasters Association Jazz Band, performing with Marvin Stamm at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Jim attended Sam Houston State University on a music scholarship, receiving his degree in Music Education in 1991. While at Sam Houston, Jim studied under Dr. Fisher Tull, Dr. Gary Sousa and Dr. Rod Cannon. Jim also headed up the recording and archiving of concert performances and was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi. After teaching a couple of years, Jim returned to Plano and began working in the communications field. He currently holds the position of Director of A/V and Computer Services for the 4,500-member Custer Road United Methodist Church. To keep music in his life, Jim joined the Plano Community Band in 1993 as the baritone saxophone player. Jim also plays with many Dallas-area jazz and big bands. He became the Band’s associate conductor in 1995.
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