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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Wind Ensemble Salutes 20th-Century Masters

It's always a long wait for the first concert of the new academic year by the UCSB Wind Ensemble, directed by Paul Bambach (with Adriane Hill, graduate assistant). But at last, at 8 p.m. Thursday in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall (Music Building), we get to hear what Bambach and his bright minions have been up to lately.

The concert, which they have dubbed "Wind Masters," features masterful compositions of three twentieth century composers, early, middle and late. The works, Bambach says, typify both the composers and their era.

We'll hear Hammersmith, Opus 52 (1930) by Gustav Holst (1874-1934), Variants on a Medieval Tune (1963) by Norman Dello Joio (1913-2008) and the Divertimento for Winds and Percussion (1996) by Roger Cichy (born in 1956). We'll also get to hear two lesser — in scale only — works by 21st-century composers: Rocket (2007) by Steve Rouse (born in 1953) and Joy (mostly!) (2005) by Frank Ticheli Composition Award-winning composer Micah Levy.

One of the things I like best about Bambach's programs is that not only do they always send me to Google and YouTube in search of an unfamiliar composer, but the search is always worth it. Over the years, I have met and enjoyed the work of more than a score of fine, living composers.

Cichy is a good example. The Divertimento is utterly engaging on its own, diverse terms and a heartfelt tribute, as Bambach points out, to "Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin, all of whose reflection of African-American influence on jazz idioms served to, in turn, influence Cichy's compositional style." (It may be a trick of my ear, but I also detect a, perhaps unconscious, hommage to Holst.)

I liked Dello Joio's music even before I knew his name, as composer of the score for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television series Air Power (1956-58) — CBS' answer to the phenomenal success of NBC's Victory at Sea with its brilliant score by Richard Rodgers. Like Holst's Hammersmith, the Variants on a Medieval Tune was Dello Joio's first composition for professional wind band. I was hoping he'd reach his centennial — almost.

Tickets to this concert are $15 for general admission and $7 for students, and are available at the door. Please call 805.893.7001 for more information.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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