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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Wind Ensemble Playing with ‘Water, Winds and Fire’

The bright, extroverted UCSB Wind Ensemble, conducted by their guiding light, Paul Bambach, will close out their season/academic year with their annual Spring Concert, this year called "Water, Winds and Fire," at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, May 28, in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall (Music Building).

Grainger
Composer, pianist and folklorist Percy Grainger became an American during World War I.

The Wind Ensemble's program will consist of John Mackey’s Undertow (2008), Eric Whitacre’s Cloudburst (1992, arranged for wind ensemble, 2001), the "Berceuse" and "Finale" from Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Robert Washburn’s Partita for Band (1964) (conducted by graduate assistant Adriane Hill), Aaron Copland's El Salon Mexico, Percy Grainger's Colonial Song (1911, 1917), William Schuman's Chester Overture, 1958 and Samuel Ward's America, the Beautiful (arranged by Carmen Dragon).

I have now heard this entire program and can assure you that it is a delight from start to finish.

Mackey (born 1973) was the son of musicians, but his parents declined to arrange any music lessons for him. His grandfather taught him to read music and operate a computer. He has never learned to play an instrument, but he was able to study composition at Juilliard, since that visionary institution does not require an audition for its composition applicants. He has produced a substantial body of instrumental music, much of it for wind band. Undertow, like the ocean current of the same name, pulls the listener along with its irresistible momentum.

Whitacre (born 1970) composed Cloudburst as a choral ode, based on the poem "El Cántaro Roto" by Octavio Paz, when he was just 22. It remains one of his best-loved works, almost his signature composition. In 2001, commissioned by the Indiana All-State Band, Whitacre arranged the work for band — thus earning the eternal gratitude of wind ensembles everywhere.

Dr. Washburn (1928-2013) was the dean and professor emeritus and senior fellow in music at the Crane School of Music of the State University of New York at Potsdam, where he himself had earned his bachelor's degree before earning his doctorate (1960) at Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Howard Hanson, Bernard Rogers and Alan Hovhaness. Dr. Washburn spent nearly his whole, long life in Potsdam, as student and then professor at the Crane School (SUNY Potsdam).

Grainger (1882-1961) was born in Australia and left there, at age 13, to attend school in Frankfurt. He began his career in England, 1901 to 1914, but moved to the United States in 1914, became a U.S. citizen in 1918, and spent the rest of his life here. When Sir Thomas Beecham, Baronet, first heard Grainger's Colonial Song, he congratulated the composer (with his trademark bitchiness) on having "written the worst piece of modern times." That was actually typical of English reaction to the piece. America liked it a lot better. When he joined the AEF in 1917, he directed a number of military bands, which probably inspired him to arrange Colonial Song for band, the last of his many arrangements of the work originally composed for solo piano.

Tickets to "Water, Winds and Fire" are $10 for general admission, $5 for UCSB students and non-UCSB students with ID, and free for children age 12 or younger. Tickets can be purchased at the door, by phone at 805.893.2064, or online by clicking here.

— 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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