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A Musical Milestone: Commissioning “A Bluegrass Overture”

In celebration of the Central Kentucky Concert Band’s 40th year of making music in the Central Kentucky region, band literature great, Philip Sparke, was commissioned to write a custom overture for the band which the CKCB will premiere in concert at 3 PM on May 8th at the Lexington Opera House. But how did such a thing come to pass?FullSizeRender (1)

It was the brainchild of music-literature guru and longtime CKCB clarinetist Gabriel J. Wooley. Peter LaRue, immediate past conductor, and Ben Hawkins, present conductor of the CKCB have both lauded Wooley’s knowledge of band literature and have from time to time followed his recommendations pertaining to a little-known musical “gem” that the band might play.

Wooley had been chomping at the bit to have a piece commissioned, and the band’s 40th anniversary celebration provided just the occasion to execute the plan.

The CKCB has performed British composer Philip Sparke’s works numerous times over the years and have been enjoyed by both the band members and the audiences.

A Yorkshire Overture was performed by the CKCB a few years back,” says Wooley, “and this tune was my inspiration to have Philip Sparke create a tune that could capture the essence of the CKCB and that would be written to take advantage of the depth in sound that the CKCB is able to produce as a band.”

“Philip Sparke, in my opinion, is one of the most creative composers of our time.”

“Part of Philip Sparke’s writing ability that I adore is the beautiful middle sections and his unique use of key signatures and chords throughout the band.”

“In turn, this would allow Mr. Sparke to produce great individual parts for each instrument and by the end create a challenging tune that all would enjoy playing and hearing.”

“The CKCB represents many strengths throughout its entire organization, and having those strengths opens the door to a composer like Philip Sparke to create music that requires intense and advanced musicianship. For a composer, writing an entire score of music is no easy task, as the composer must tailor the piece to what the group has to offer for the end result.”

Wooley understands the character of the band as a whole and through its member sections. He communicated these nuances to Mr. Sparke.

“I wanted to expose the great depth of sound that our brass section can produce during a performance. Mr. Sparke actually specialized in brass band writing and instrumentation, and this allowed him to write creative and challenging parts for this section. The use of supportive counter melodies, long tones, and chords, throughout the tune really highlights what a brass section can create to support the remaining players in the group.”

“The strength in the woodwind section of the CKCB is distinguished in itself, with its ability to play some real challenging passages. I wanted this section to compliment the great underlying theme of the brass section.”

“Because CKCB offers an incredible number of percussionists, I wanted Mr. Sparke to produce beats and sounds with the use of as many percussion and auxiliary percussion instruments as possible to support the piece.”

“In the end, my goal was to have a piece that all players involved would truly enjoy and remember for a lifetime!”

From start to finish, Wooley says that it took about two years to initiate and complete the project, with one of those years being taken up with the actual writing process.

Wooley admits, somewhat shyly, that he requested the piece be named A Bluegrass Overture which he considered to be a “bold move” on his part.

“What a great honor it has been for me to help produce A Bluegrass Overture with Philip Sparke. I hope to engage in future projects of this nature for special occasions that help celebrate the legacy that the Central Kentucky Concert Band has created.”

FullSizeRenderAt the end of the dance, however, the piper must be paid. Thrilled at the prospect of having a piece commissioned especially for the band, the board of the band started brainstorming fundraising ideas for the cost of the retainer. Each member of the band pays dues, but the dues do not cover the entire costs of each season. The band depends upon donations and other sources of income. Cue longtime band member and associate conductor Les Anderson and his wife Cathy, a member of the Lexington Singers and music enthusiast in her own right.

Anderson says, “I love playing the trombone and working with the band on a piece of music when I conduct. I thoroughly enjoy the camaraderie of the band.” This led to his decision to sponsor the commissioning of the Sparke piece.

“This was a decision Cathy and I made together over the period of about a month. The CKCB has given us so much over the years through being a part of it. We decided that we wanted to give back to it in this special way. It gives us a special connection to the CKCB through this piece that will last long after we have gone.”

Anderson approves of the fruits of Wooley’s and Sparke’s labors. “It is a very special and unique piece. Philip Sparke obviously put a lot of thought and effort into it. The information that Gabriel gave him about the CKCB and our talents has been well-incorporated into the music and makes it truly unique. I think it will get a lot of use in the band world.”

Admission to the concert is free.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in News

 

THERE’S A PLACE FOR US

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So you hit middle school and want to join the band. Your parents roll their eyes knowing that now a flute, or a trumpet or—Heaven help us—a TUBA will join the pile of art supplies, chemistry sets, leotards, and cleats that were purchased when you wanted to be an artist, a chemist, a gymnast, or baseball player.

But there are artists, chemists, gymnasts and baseball players. And so there are lifelong instrumentalists. But instrumentalists, as in other occupations or activities, come in different flavors. You can paint if you don’t become another Picasso. You can play in adult sports leagues if you aren’t Johnny Bench. But what to do if you really enjoyed playing in the middle school and high school band, maybe the college band, and are now an accountant looking at reams of paper with numbers on them all day?

In 1976, in Lexington, Kentucky, Peter Martin and Dennis Van Horn organized a solution to that dilemma in the Lexington area by forming the Bluegrass Community Band which was renamed its present name, the Central Kentucky Concert Band, a couple of years after its founding to better reflect its mission.

Over the course of the years, many conductors, beginning with Peter Martin and Dennis Van Horn, have led the band. Past conductors also include James Curnow, John Anderson, Harry Clarke, Les Anderson, and Peter LaRue who was with the band an amazing 20 years—half the band’s existence—before passing the baton to Ben Hawkins who is serving his second term with the band.

The band has invited the previous conductors to attend the May 8 concert at 3 PM at the Lexington Opera House wherein the band will celebrate its 40th anniversary. During the celebration, the band will reprise some of the very first selections it played, Chorale and Shaker Dance by John Zdechlik, and American Folk Rhapsody No.1 by Clare Grundman. Those selections will be conducted by the same man who conducted them 40 years earlier—Peter Martin. The concert will also feature the world debut of A Bluegrass Overture commissioned in honor of the band’s 40th anniversary and composed by the renowned composer of band literature, British composer Philip Sparke.

Two band members will also be playing who played in the very first concert 40 years ago. John and Karen Cosby (contra alto clarinet which is a clarinet on steroids, and clarinet, respectively) are the two remaining active founding band members in the band. Their band roots are deep, having met in college band and marrying soon thereafter. The Cosby’s story is similar to other band members’ as they played in school and loved playing, but when school was over, vocations other than professional musician called. Both Cosbys are retired civil servants.

John Cosby cites the band’s first concert with the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville in 2012 as a highlight of his time with the band when Doc Severinsen was a featured performer at the festival.

“A bonus,” says Cosby, “is having the opportunity to play at Danville again this year and be the only contra alto clarinet there!”

Cosby notes that music transcends place. “I have enjoyed having the opportunity to travel around the world and enjoy hearing the ‘world of music’ being performed in the language that we all understand: notes on the staff!”

While thinking back about his and his wife’s previous experiences with the band, Cosby feels optimistic about the band’s future.

“The Central Kentucky Concert Band will continue to provide the opportunity for musicians to perform and please the audience by recruiting talented players and playing quality music to include the ‘classics’ and ‘new’ musical literature.”

Admission to the concert is free.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in News

 

And on Another Day in May…

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In honor of the celebration of the Central Kentucky Concert Band’s 40th Anniversary, Philip Sparke has composed “A Bluegrass Overture.” The Central Kentucky Concert Band will present the world premiere of that piece in a free concert at 3 PM on May 8, 2016, at the historic Lexington Opera House. The band will also perform selections by Sammy Nestico, Morton Gould, Clare Grundman, and others.  This concert is sure to be a winner! Check back here and on our Facebook page, Central Kentucky Concert Band, for future updates!

 

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in News

 

The Music is in the Sharing!

The difference between a rehearsal and a performance is when the music is shared with an audience. Thanks to our great audience members who shared their time with us last Sunday! We had a blast sharing the stage with March Madness Marching Band! Thanks again to the many people who share their time, talents, and finances with us in order to put these concerts on!

Please mark your calendars for our next concert on Sunday, May 8th at 3pm at the Lexington Opera House. This very special occasion will be our official celebration of 40 years of making music in the Bluegrass.

We’re delighted to have at that time the world premiere of “A Bluegrass Overture,” a very special selection that was written especially for our band by the incredibly talented band literature master, Philip Sparke!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2016 in News

 

March Hare, March There, March Madness Everywhere!

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March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb.
Beware the Ides of March.
March madness.
March upstairs to your room and think about what you did.
So many Marches—so little time.

 

The word March lives in so many expressions, as does the musical form of the march itself. The Central Kentucky Concert Band (CKCB) will be exploring the many faces of the march at 3 PM on March 6 at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium. Among the many selections the band will present will be Ives’ “’Country Band’ March” which imagines a pastiche of many turn-of-the-century marches in a kaleidoscope of whirling chords and melodies—many playing at the same time. Contrasting with that selection would be Gould’s “American Salute” which features the melody “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” Mozart’s “Masonic Funeral Music” provides a quiet, introspective march where the beat flows quietly along. Sure to be an audience favorite will be John Williams’ themes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Star Wars,” and the “Olympic Fanfare and Theme.”

Offering some explanation of the forms, CKCB band conductor Dr. Ben Hawkins of Transylvania University says, “Most people, Americans, anyway, immediately link the notion of a “march” to Sousa. But marches come from everywhere and every time. They are used for many purposes, from mourning to civic celebration, and even to war. Even the three marches in the Williams’ medley display that variety.”

Also providing contrast not only to the form of the march, but to the presentation of the band form itself will be the very special guest of the band—the March Madness Marching Band (MMMB). Based in Lexington, the MMMB is an explosion and celebration of color and musical sounds. Several members of the MMMB are in the Central Kentucky Concert Band. Among them are long-time members of each band Fernie Williams and Beth Kraemer.

“For me,” Says Williams, “the Central Kentucky Concert Band and MMMB fill two distinct roles in my musical life. Each is unique and special in its own way. CKCB offers standard literature that I can learn, be challenged by and grow as a musician. This can range from Wagner to Grainger to Holst. MMMB has a dynamic and ever-changing list of music we perform—from Zappa to the Talking Heads to a Haitian anthem.”

Says Kraemer, “As an amateur, I appreciate the variety of musical opportunities we have in Lexington. CKCB and MMMB are on opposite sides of the spectrum in some ways, but for me they complement each other perfectly. The different music and performance styles, learning new musical pieces, and connecting with the wonderful musicians in each group are experiences that have really changed me.”

Kraemer notes, “Even the horizons of my wardrobe have been expanded and now cover the full range from concert black to sequins and tutus!”

Admission to the concert is free.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in News

 

March Concert

The Central Kentucky Concert Band is guaranteeing that March will come in like a lion!

Join us on March 6th at 3PM at Transylvania University’s Haggin Auditorium where we’ll explore many types of marches at our March Madness concert! We’ll be joined by our friends from The March Madness Marching Band who always turn the volume knob on fun up to 11!

As always, our concerts feature free admission, but in this instance you’ll get way more than you’ll pay for!

March Madness, March 6th

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in News

 

Send us your CKCB photos

Are you a long-time fan of CKCB? Or maybe a past band member?

CKCB is looking for photos of the band for a special project related to our upcoming 40th anniversary. If you have photos that you are willing to allow us to use online, please contact us at centralkycb@gmail.com. We are particularly in need of photos from the early years of the band.

Please share this request with anyone else you think may have photos of CKCB. Thank you!

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Photo by Justin Lynham

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in News

 
 
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