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ISSUE 117 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/5/2003

Valhalla Band plays ‘light’ on cold night

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer


Friday, December 5, 2003

On the snowy evening of Nov. 22, the St. Olaf Valhalla Band, a student-run ensemble of about 50 members, performed a concert of new and traditional band music in Boe Chapel. Conducted primarily by Erin Vork ’04 and Dominic Hartjes ’05, the program featured theme music from several popular films and TV shows as well as the premiere of “Light of Olympus,” a new work by Carl Holmquist ’05.

After opening with Gustav Holst’s classic “Moorside March,” an energetic fanfare by a recognized master of band writing, the group transitioned into the quiet, lyrical lines of “Down a Country Lane.” Aaron Copland, famous for creating a uniquely “American” sound in his music, wrote this brief, reflective work on a commission from Life magazine in 1962.

Adding a bit of spice to an otherwise English/American program, the band then moved on to Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky’s “Suite from ‘The Sleeping Beauty. ” This work, which contains several famous themes from the composer’s 1890 ballet score, has been described as music “from the hand of a real master … at the height of his genius.”

A lesser-known work, “Prologue,” by American composer Morton Gould, was next on the Valhalla program. Originally written as theme music for the 1964 CBS television series “World War I,” the work is as a gut-wrenching musical evocation of the pain and tragedy of the “war to end all wars.”

Next, composer Holmquist took the podium to conduct the world premiere of his new work “Light of Olympus.” A stirring exploration of a catchy, heroic tune, “Olympus” is described by Holmquist as “a spirited piece … that creates a sense of light through music.”

The five-minute work was well-received by the audience, and Holmquist appeared pleased with the performance. “It was a thrill and an honor to hear the piece and work on it with a group like Valhalla that plays music for all the right reasons,” he said.

Although most of the other works on the program were conducted by Vork and Hartjes, the following piece, “Suite from ‘Superman,’ ” was led by Vork’s sister Lauren Vork ’06. For her first large-ensemble conducting experience, she tackled this thrilling medley of themes from John Williams’s popular score to the 1978 film “Superman.”

The next piece, the whimsical Julian Kandahar theme from the British television program “Wallace and Gromit,” was programmed due to popular demand by Valhalla members. “Back in September,” Vork said, “I mentioned to the band that I had ‘Wallace and Gromit,’ and they all said they really wanted to play it.”

The following work, David Holsinger’s mixed-meter extravaganza “Havendance,” proved to be a tour-de-force display of the capabilities of the student-run band. To conclude the concert, the group’s President, Haley Clark ‘04, conducted an arrangement of Ralph Manuel’s “Alleluia,” the traditional Valhalla Band closing number.

Founded in 1997 by James Miller ’01 and Jayce Ogren ’01, the Valhalla Band offers a musical opportunity for students who do not want to audition for an official ensemble or did not qualify for one. The group, which is not affiliated with the Music Department, is entirely student-organized, rehearses once a week on Sunday afternoons, and requires no audition.

“What I find unique about this band is that people are here purely because they want to be here,” said Erin Vork.





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