ONE DEGREE OF SEPARATION
H. Owen Reed was a champion of band repertoire. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Intent on writing the first symphony for band, he drew on his experiences from his travels to Mexico where he visited Mexico City, Chapala and Cuernavaca immersing himself in the musical culture he found in such places as cathedrals and bullfight arenas. The symphony he wrote from those experiences was “La Fiesta Mexicana.”
Flash forward to the 1990s where Ben Hawkins, the current conductor of the Central Kentucky Concert Band, began travelling to Mexico to such cities as Mexico City and Cuernavaca in a musical outreach program to assist in musical instruction and instrument repair. Hawkins, too, was immersed in the musical culture that Reed experienced.
Says Hawkins, “My experience was that virtually every Mexican I met was a musician, including those who weren’t involved in the classes I was teaching. Music-making seemed to me to be a far more integral part of the ‘average’ Mexican’s life than is true here.”
When asked if in his travels Hawkins heard the same musical influences as did Reed, Hawkins replied, “I don’t have the expertise to discern the musical styles of one region of Mexico from another, in the way that Reed must have experienced them. But in a general way the sounds of his piece ring true to me based on my own travels.”
Hawkins replied when asked about the rewards of his travels to Mexico, “The single most significant reward to me was the overwhelming warmth, hospitality and gratitude that the people showed us. It was like that every time, in every town.”
Flash forward to 2015 where the Central Kentucky Concert Band is performing “La Fiesta Mexicana” in its upcoming concert at the Lexington Opera House at 3 PM on Sunday, May 3rd. Way back in the euphonium section is Dr. Earle Louder, retired Distinguished Professor Emeritus of euphonium and tuba from Morehead State University, who has performed with the band several times and has been a member of the band for two seasons. Dr. Louder was a student and band member at Michigan State University when H. Owen Reed was teaching there. Reed had his college band premiere “La Fiesta Mexicana” and Dr. Louder was there.
Says Louder, “As a student, I was in awe while in his presence. He was a quiet-spoken man who knew his business thoroughly. He, also, was a very personable human being who would put you at ease while carrying on a conversation with you.”
Regarding the premiere performance of “La Fiesta Mexicana,” Louder said, “In my opinion, the first performance of ‘La Fiesta Mexicana’ was well received and I felt honored to be a part of that performance.”
“I, personally, think La Fiesta Mexicana is a wonderful piece especially for concert band literature. I, again, personally, think that Dr. Reed had in mind the ‘larger symphonic band’ as the ensemble for this composition. This allows very large to very small ensembles within the entire band to set a variety of sounds imitating the various impromptu gatherings of the peoples of Mexico.”
In the Michigan band, Louder recalled some of Reed’s direction: “I do remember one of his, at the time, unique instructions. It kind of reminded me of the way a performer should look at playing jazz rhythms. His instructions, for the Aztec Dance and the Carnival [two of the three movements in the selection], were not to play the inherent rhythms strictly ‘mathematically and rhythmically’ correct, but rather to feel the dance like rhythms within each measure and be sure to meet together on the bar line. In other words, ‘don’t be stiff, feel the rhythms.’”
Who knew that one day, two countries, two bands, two states, and two persons would be linked in such a unique and unexpected manner?
Admission to the concert is free.
The Central Kentucky Concert Band was formed in 1976 and is an outlet for adult musicians in the Central Kentucky region to play with an ensemble. Based at Transylvania University, the band performs three concerts each year along with an outdoor concert series throughout central Kentucky. It has received financial support from LexArts and private contributions and is a member of the Association of Concert Bands of America, Inc.
Post by Mark Mitchell, CKCB PR Director