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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Wind Ensemble Heats Up with Winter Concert

Paul Bambach crafts a program for Thursday that's substantial and lighthearted

Frank Ticheli trails John Philip Sousa in the polls, but trumps him musically in every way.
Frank Ticheli trails John Philip Sousa in the polls, but trumps him musically in every way. (Charlie Grosso photo)

The UCSB Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Paul Bambach, with graduate assistant Kelley Coker, will offer its annual Winter Concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 3, in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall in the Music Building.

With his usual ingenuity, Bambach has fashioned a program that manages to be substantial and lighthearted at the same time. The winds will play the Symphony No. 2 for Concert Band (2003) by Frank Ticheli, the Suite No. 1 in Eb-Major, Opus 28a (1909) by Gustav Holst, Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger (arranged by Frederick Fennell) and Serenade for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion (S. 1000) by the elusive P.D.Q. Bach (tastefully adopted to the modern Concert Band by professor Peter Schickele).

It says a lot about the intransigent musical conservatism of this country that John Philip Sousa is still the most performed composer of music for concert band, but at least the great Ticheli, a professor of composition at USC, usually comes in second in most polls.

His Symphony No. 2 proves — to my satisfaction, at least — that wind ensembles are good for more than military parades and half-time entertainments. Ticheli says, “The symphony’s three movements refer to celestial light — shooting stars, the moon and the sun.” My favorite movement is the mysterious and lyrical second, of which the composer says: “Dreams Under a New Moon depicts a kind of journey of the soul as represented by a series of dreams.”

Fennell, the godfather of American wind ensembles, calls Holst’s gorgeous Suite No. 1 “the first significant work for wind band written in the 20th century.”

The Australian-born Grainger, pianist and composer, was a genuine eccentric in most of the things he did, from designing his own clothes to running through the streets to a concert, then leaping onto the stage at the last minute because he liked to play while exhausted. He seems to have been influenced more by Grieg than Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, though his lovely compositions are full of British folk melodies.

Bach’s music speaks for itself — it must, in fact, because I wouldn’t know where to start.

Admission to the UCSB winds concert is $15 for the general public and $7 for students, with tickets sold at the door.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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