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ISSUE 118 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/22/2005

Band gives lively concert

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer

Friday, April 22, 2005

In its penultimate campus performance before an upcoming trip to Norway, the St. Olaf Band performed a colorful Spring Concert in Skoglund Auditorium on Sunday afternoon. The 90-minute program, conducted by Professor of Music Timothy Mahr, featured solo performances by a pair of seniors and the premiere of a new work by Michael Sweeney ’05.

The program began with "Fanfare og Koral" by Norwegian composer Egil Hovland, a work commissioned by the St. Olaf Band for its 1966 European tour. This inventive opener, originally composed for organ, highlighted the brass and percussion sections in alternating interludes, building to a dizzying fugue and finale.

Next, the band played a movement from American composer Paul Creston’s 1930 "Concertino for Marimba," featuring soloist Sara Heimsoth ’05 on marimba. The movement’s impressionistic ensemble material was enlivened by atmospheric tremolo chords and solo lines on marimba.

"It’s a very special experience to perform a solo with the band," said Heimsoth, who had performed an arrangement of the same work at her senior recital two nights earlier.

Bass clarinetist Dominic Hartjes ’05 took center stage for the next work, "Solo de Concours," a 19th century piece by French composer André Messager. Hartjes performed the work’s rapid solo passages with flair, a striking display of technical agility on an instrument more often associated with slow-moving bass lines.

"I can’t imagine a better way to finish four years here at St. Olaf," said Hartjes, who will begin graduate conducting studies at Ithaca College this fall.

The first half of the concert concluded with the premiere of "A Journey Through the Dark Funkscape," a 10-minute work by Sweeney, who plays tuba with the band.

A deft melding of classical and contemporary jazz traditions full of catchy riffs and imaginative scoring, "Funkscape" tells the story of an "average, white Norwegian man" and his voyage to a mythical land of syncopated rhythms.

"[‘Funkscape’] is harder than blazes [to play], but it ended up being a good piece," Mahr said after the concert.

Along with Christopher Renk ’05 and Carl Holmquist ’05, Sweeney is one of three band members to have an original work performed by the ensemble this year.

"It’s great to be around other composers and see what they’re writing," Sweeney said. "Everyone can feed off each other."

After opening the program’s second half with "Windsprints," a brief burst of condensed musical energy by contemporary American composer Richard Saucedo, the Band moved to the reflective "Chorale Prelude: O God Unseen" by Vincent Persichetti. The last of Persichetti’s 13 band pieces, this emotional work incorporated singing by the instrumentalists and climaxes on a unison pitch that represents the binding power of faith.

The concert concluded with American composer Frank Ticheli’s "Symphony No. 2." Written in 2004, its three movements portray three sources of celestial light – shooting stars, the Moon and the Sun – culminating in a quotation of a Bach chorale during the final movement, titled "Apollo Unleashed."

"It was nice to get a performance in after two-and-a-half months of rehearsal," Mahr said. "This group is made to be on stage, and we’re looking forward to playing [some of] these pieces again in Norway this summer."

The 93-member St. Olaf Band will perform a pre-tour sendoff concert with the St. Olaf Choir and St. Olaf Orchestra at 8 p.m. May 29 in Skoglund Auditorium.

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