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ISSUE 118 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/15/2004

'Collage' a work of art

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer

Friday, October 15, 2004

Musical intersections of the past and present abounded throughout the St. Olaf Band's Homecoming Collage Concert in Skoglund Auditorium Saturday night. The 90-minute program, conducted by Professor of music Timothy Mahr, featured a musical tribute to the late former St. Olaf Band director Miles "Mity" Johnson, the campus premiere of a new work by Mahr and a guest conducting appearance by Bruce Perkins `79.

After opening with "Light Cavalry Overture," a brass-heavy fanfare by 19th century Austrian composer Franz von Suppé, the concert continued with Mahr's composition "and in this dream there were eight windows."

Commissioned in 2003 by the University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble, the enigmatic, multifaceted "windows" made use of only eight pitches out of the 12-note chromatic scale used in most Western music, leading to inventive sonic combinations throughout.

Next on the program was the four-movement "Music for Hamlet," written in 1971 by Alfred Reed. Inspired by various scenes from William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," this work sparkled with courtly brass fanfares, ghostly foreboding and delicate love themes worthy of Shakespearean drama.

For the following number, contemporary British composer Philip Sparke's "Invictus," the Band welcomed Perkins. Perkins, a former St. Olaf Band member, currently conducts ensembles in Britain and serves as the Welsh Representative to the British Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles.

After the concert, Perkins said he was impressed with the St. Olaf Band's evolution since his graduation in 1979. "The St. Olaf Band of 2004 is an amazing group of performers," he said. "I wouldn't be able to get in today."

The concert continued with the "First Norwegian Rhapsody" by St. Olaf music department founder F. Melius Christiansen. Originally composed for the St. Olaf Band's 1906 Norway tour, this lyrical arrangement of Norwegian folk melodies will serve the Band well during its summer 2005 return to Norway.

The emotional crux of the evening was a rendition of "Elsas Procession to the Cathedral" by Richard Wagner. Mahr dedicated the performance to the memory of former St. Olaf Band director Miles "Mity" Johnson, who passed away in August. One of Johnson's favorite works, "Elsa's Procession," slowly builds to a powerful climax that had special resonance for alumni audience members who played with the Band during Johnson's 37-year conducting tenure.

"['Elsa's Procession'] is such a beautiful piece, but it also relates so strongly with the story of Mity Johnson and what this group has become because of him," Christine Hanson '06, one of the Band's clarinetists, said.

Following the poignant "Lagan Love" by Luigi Zaninelli, the concert concluded with Michael Schelle's "Cliff Hanger March," which Mahr described as "a very serious march." True to Mahr's description, this highly traditional march brought the concert to a somber, reflective close.

Saturday's program was the first St. Olaf concert experience for several of the Band's new members, including oboist Keeley MacNeill '08. "It's an honor to play with such talented musicians," MacNeill said.

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