Friday, April 21, 2017



a: a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
b: an illustrious warrior
c: a person admired for achievements and noble qualities
d: one who shows great courage

The word is grossly overused. My all-time favorite running back: Barry Sanders. An extraordinary athlete, but a hero? I think not. Michael Jordan, Muhammed Ali (he called himself the Greatest!), Hank Aaron? Not a hero among them, but Jackie Robinson? He was a hero, putting his life and safety on the line to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Yes, these were admirable athletes with amazing abilities, but that's it. To me, that last definition--"shows great courage" sums up what it means to be a hero.

Musical heroes? Hard to think of one except for (possibly) Shostakovich and that's a stretch. Bach, Beethoven, and all the other killer B's? Nah. Other artists as heroes? Writers? Painters? Sculptors? Leonardo was the ultimate Renaissance man, but no hero.

Uh Uh....
Military men and women as heroes? Yes, but it's usually the unsung kind: the grunts in the trenches willing to throw themselves on a live grenade to save their fellow soldiers. But the generals? Usually not, as most are sitting in the background watching the battle unfold before them.

Definitely not...

Many heroes are expressed in music and the journey the Quad City Wind Ensemble takes with its next concert, Heroic Measures. This is music about individuals or groups who made sacrifices for their beliefs or for others around them. In this, the close of my tenth year with the ensemble, I'm hard pressed to think of a more profound and emotionally wrought program.

William Walton, among the great British composers of the 20th century, is very well-known in his homeland for his film music. It is spectacular. His Spitfire Prelude and Fugue was extracted from one of the four film scores that Walton composed in 1942. That film, The First of the Few, chronicles the design of the famous fighter plane and pays homage to the boys who flew them in the Battle of Britain. Their courage inspired Winston Churchill's speech, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few". The Prelude is hailed as one of Walton's greatest marches, and the Fugue is a flurry of notes, eventually combining with elements of the Prelude at its thrilling climax.

Anyone who knows me is aware of my deep love of the music of Mark Camphouse. His 1992 work, A Movement for Rosa, remains one of my favorites. Written in three distinct sections, it expresses significant events in the life of civil rights heroine (yep--she was definitely one). These include her early life following her 1913 birth in Tuskegee, Alabama; the years of racial strife in Montgomery and the quest for social equality, and an almost serene conclusion, broken however with dissonance that reminds us all of the lingering presence of racism. Mr. Camphouse actually sat with Miss Parks at a performance, stating, "the most memorable experience that I've had – as a musician and as an American."

The tale of Siegfried begins before his birth in the second part of Richard Wagner's massive tetralogy, Die Walkure. The third part is based on Siegfried's adult life, while Götterdämmerung is truly the "twilight of the Gods," the climax of the entire story, and the end of at least 15 hours of music(!) The five hour conclusion is a tale of mistaken identities, magic potions, and an accord gold ring, among so much more. Siegfried, the hero who slew the dragon, Fafner, is himself slain by enemies of his family and the Funeral Music ensues. This brief interlude is full of many of the leitmotivs Wagner has constructed as the basis for the entire four-part opera "mini-series," composed over a period of 26 years and first performed in its entirety in August 1876 at the new Festspielhaus in Bayreuth.

Miklos Rozsa: "Parade of the Charioteers," from Ben Hur

Few scenes on film can match the intensity of the chariot race sequence in William Wyler's 1959 epic. The 18-acre arena itself was the largest movie set ever constructed. Planning for the sequence lasted a year and the scene itself took five weeks to shoot. In 2004, the National Film Preservation Board selected Ben-Hur for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" motion picture. And the music? Rózsa's score won the Academy Award (his third) and is considered his cinematic masterpiece. While a charioteers' "parade" is not at all historically accurate, who would really have it any other way?

Eric Ewazen: Hymn for the Lost and the Living  Ewazen writes:

On September 11, 2001, I was teaching my music theory class at the Juilliard School, when we were notified of the catastrophe that was occurring several miles south of us in Manhattan. Gathering around a radio in the school’s library, we heard the events unfold in shock and disbelief. Afterwards, walking up Broadway on the sun-filled day, the street was full of silent people, all quickly heading to their homes. During the next several days, our great city became a landscape of empty streets and impromptu, heartbreaking memorials mourning our lost citizens, friends and family. But then on Friday, a few days later, the city seemed to have been transformed. On this evening, walking up Broadway, I saw multitudes of people holding candles, singing songs, and gathering in front of those memorials, paying tribute to the lost, becoming a community of citizens of this city, of this country and of this world, leaning on each other for strength and support. A Hymn for the Lost and the Living portrays those painful days following September 11th, days of supreme sadness. It is intended to be a memorial for those lost souls, gone from this life, but who are forever treasured in our memories.

Artie Shaw: Clarinet Concerto, Ian Aplington, winner of our solo competition

Stephen Melillo has composed more than 1145 works (!), including 33 hours of pieces written for what he calls "Ensembles of the 3rd Millennium." Melillo is counted among the earliest composers for any medium to self-publish his own work; his astute business sense (or a great staff) assures fast delivery. Best of all (to me) is that Steve is a really nice guy, inscribing scores and parts with personalized messages and including "gifts" with any purchase made. David, Stephen's 800th, 4-movement work, has many layers of meaning. True for all of the "storm" works, these layers have been extended to include the use of many new and fresh colours. It is a dramatic work, calling for a boy-soprano or soprano-actress who can depict David, the boy before battle! David is a work about Faith Triumphant! David's faith brings down the insurmountable Goliath. The work is dedicated to Faith and Hope despite the untimely passings of friends and family.

We're mounting a performance that says something; that sends a message, or possibly many of them. It is surely not to be missed.

Saturday, May 13, 2017, 7:30 PM
Galvin Fine Arts Center
St. Ambrose University
Davenport, IA