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FHSU Bands end season with 'travelin' music'

5/12/2014

On Friday evening, the FHSU Symphonic Winds and Wind Ensemble concluded their season by giving their members another opportunity to shine. And shine they did.

The Symphonic Winds began their part of the program with "Suite Francaise," "French Suite" by Darius Milhaud, written especially for young musicians. For this, conductor Lane Weaver yielded the baton to five student conductors, each of whom led one movement of the work. I think Milhaud (d. 1974) would have been pleased with their performance and that of the band.

Graduate student and assistant conductor Nathan Froebe then had the honor of conducting the world premiere of his own composition "Lucid Dreams," with Lane Weaver on trombone -- most likely portraying the dreamer. In his program note, Froebe defined "lucid dreaming" as "having awareness that one is dreaming." The piece is intended to evoke the phases of the dreamer's control of the dream -- including at the center a nightmare loss of control that has the high brass quivering and the rest of the band massed beneath it. Impressive. Someday, we'll all be glad we knew him when.

Weaver himself conducted the band's final number, a lively performance of Alfred Reed's Latin fantasy "El Camino Real," which resulted in cheers and whistles from the audience.

Conductor Jeff Jordan and the Wind Ensemble began their performance with "Cheers!" by Jack Stamp, a jolly fanfare inspired by Stamp's visit to England. They continued with Frank Ticheli's "Blue Shades," an extremely complex, occasionally jarring amalgam of old-time blues and, according to the program note, Ticheli's "own voice." I think everyone in the band deserves a medal, maybe also an aspirin, especially soloists Matt Rome on clarinet and Mike Ritzel on oboe.

After Ticheli, Jordan and the band rightly thought something soothing was in order. Percy Grainger's "Irish Tune from County Derry," also known as the "Londonderry Air," filled the bill. Stephanie Demuth, winner of the Lyle Dilley Award for Instrumental Education, graced the performance on flute.

Quoting comedian Jackie Gleason, Jordan referred to Stephen Melillo's "Godspeed!" as "travelin' music." The band gave a virtuoso performance of an upbeat piece that starts fast, slows down in the middle, and ends faster than it began. Both "Godspeed!" and the standing ovation the concert received were just right for ending this season and anticipating a happy future.

Ruth Firestone is a supporter of the arts and frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.