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ISSUE 118 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/19/2004

'Band' new day dawns

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer

Friday, November 19, 2004

Over 330 musicians, including the St. Olaf Band, the Norseman Band and a festival band of nearly 160 high school students, performed a concert of both new and traditional band music in Skoglund Auditorium on Saturday afternoon, culminating this year's St. Olaf Festival of Bands. The two-hour program featured performances of three original works by guest conductor Mark Camphouse, a solo tuba performance by Associate Professor of music Paul Niemisto and the campus premiere of "Metropolis Dawn," a new band composition by Christopher Renk '05.

After opening with contemporary American composer Andrew Boysen's bright, syncopated "Kirkpatrick Fanfare," Niemisto and the Norseman Band welcomed Camphouse to the podium to conduct the Norseman Band in playing his recently published work, "Yosemite Autumn."

Camphouse, a professor of music at Radford University in Virginia, gave an introduction to "Autumn," describing its inspiration: a recent family vacation to Yosemite National Park and other areas in the western United States. "I was just so overwhelmed with the majestic beauty of [the Yosemite region]," Camphouse said.

Through plaintive French horn solos and stately, Aaron Copland-inspired ensemble passages, "Autumn" musically conveyed Camphouse's feelings about nature.

The Norseman Band concluded its portion of the program with Robert Russell Bennett's 1969 suite "Down to the Sea in Ships," a set of five short movements depicting ocean scenes.

Next, the festival band took the stage, with Camphouse conducting another of his works, "Three London Miniatures." The highlight of this three-movement suite was its lyrical, emotional middle segment, "For England's Rose," a tribute to the late princess of Wales, Diana Spencer.

The St. Olaf Band, conducted by Professor of music Timothy Mahr, opened the concert's last section with British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Toccata Marziale," a complex tapestry of British folk-inspired musical materials.

The program continued with Camphouse's final conducting appearance of the day, leading his 2003 piece "Canzon, Fugato and Hymn," a work inspired by the music of Renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli.

Mahr returned to the podium to conduct the 1966 "Suite for Tuba" by Don Haddad, featuring Niemisto on solo tuba. "[The tuba] so rarely gets put in front of the ensemble," Niemisto said. "It has a beautiful sound and can play melodically."

The Band then performed the campus premiere of "Metropolis Dawn" by Christopher Renk '05. Subtitled "The Construction of the Empire State Building, 1930-31," Renk's high-energy work guided listeners through an array of bustling melodies and towering harmonies. "The urban inspiration came from the St. Olaf Band's [2003] visit to the East Coast," Renk said.

The concert closed with the frenetically paced "Whirr, Whirr, Whirr!!!" by Ralph Hultgren.

"This concert was very special because we had a composer on the podium whose works are challenging and engaging," Mahr said. "All three ensembles rose to the occasion."

The Festival of Bands, held at St. Olaf each fall, features a day of musical instruction for select Minnesota high school students, opportunities for St. Olaf ensembles to work with a nationally recognized guest conductor and a performance in an afternoon concert.

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