“Let Tyrants Shake Their Iron Rod”

The idea of giving a name to a piece of music (or even to these posts) is daunting to me; trying to come up with the word or phrase that totally encapsulates the themes and inspiration. Some composers stay away from that risky endeavor, with numbered opuses and symphonies. Others gain title ideas from the impetus for their work, using lines of a poem or the name of the opera.

Image result for chester revolutionary war lyrics

And in the Revolutionary War period, it was common practice to give one’s composition a completely unrelated name so that if other words were given to the song at a later date, there would be no confusion. This is how William Billings’ “Chester” was named, and has no more to do with a New England town of Chester (there are seven) than with Chester Cheetah.

“Chester” began as a church hymn, but was adopted by the Continental Army as a marching song. The lyrics, written by Billings himself (as far as any historian can tell), help to play into this winter concert theme of “Warhorses”:

When God inspir’d us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc’d,
Their ships were Shatter’d in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our Coast.

The Foe comes on with haughty Stride;
Our troops advance with martial noise,
Their Vet’rans flee before our Youth,
And Gen’rals yield to beardless Boys.

William Schuman, an American composer, used “Chester” as inspiration for the third movement of his “New England Triptych: Three Pieces for Orchestra After William Billings.” The words of the piece express perfectly the burning desire for freedom that the colonists felt during the Revolutionary War, a feeling that echoes through Schuman’s 1957 composition and still sounds in the present day.

One of the ending lines of “Chester” is “Loud Halleluiahs let us Sing.” As we’re in the midst of the holiday season, the midst of a time of turmoil and strife, we can keep the hopeful, fighting spirit of the colonists alive in our hearts, and that someday we will be able to celebrate, by singing loud halleluiahs*.

*The author would like to note that while “Chester” is based upon a Christian hymn, the word “halleluiah” is often used in a nondenominational sense, and that is how it is being used in this entry

Our Winter Concert will be performed December 8th, 2019 at 3pm – Mitchell Fine Arts Center (Haggin Auditorium) – You can RSVP on Facebook.

Warhorses marching onward

ckcb poster Fall 2019 aThis fall, as we work through rehearsals for the December concert, the theme “Warhorses” gives us two ways to look at our concert repertoire. Not only is the term emblematic of riding into battle, with bravery at your back and hope at your front, the term “warhorse” has also come to mean a person with long tenure in their field, and a wealth of experience.

Many of our composers on this upcoming concert bill could be said to fit that brief, but one in particular is Percy Grainger, a prolific composer whose work spans decades, and is well-known in concert bands and across, but who still viewed his career as a failure.

Born in Australia, Grainger moved to Frankfurt to study music, then on to London, ending, finally, in the United States. It was during his time in London when he wrote “Colonial Song,” which is the piece that will be featured in December’s concert. Originally written for solo piano, as a gift for his mother, Grainger wrote “Colonial Song” as “an attempt to write a melody as typical of the Australian countryside as Stephen Foster’s exquisite songs are typical of rural America.” As Kentuckians, I think we can all see the value in a good down home tune.

Grainger’s music was divisive, not always loved. Early iterations of this piece did not make him popular with critics, or his contemporaries, though as he served in the United States Army, Grainger reworked this piece for military band. By the end of the twentieth century, forty years after his death, “Colonial Song” was included on lists of “meritorious works” and has been recorded by several high-profile wind ensembles.

Themes from “Colonial Song” found themselves used in marches written by Grainger, further cementing this militaristic bent to the tune that started as a Christmas present. Warhorse by theme, “Colonial Song” plays well with the other tunes on the bill. Warhorse by achievement, Grainger certainly deserves his day in the sun.


Our Winter Concert will be performed December 8th, 2019 at 3pm – Mitchell Fine Arts Center (Haggin Auditorium)

Looking ahead…

com·mu·ni·ty (noun)As summer is ending, it’s time for the community band, and band supporters, to look towards what’s next. The fall is an exciting time of change and new-ness, and CKCB is not an exception to the rule.

First and foremost, we have an updated website! If you have trouble find the pages you used to visit, let us know, but we hope you enjoy the easy to navigate layout and the clean look to it all!

Secondly, it’s time to think about membership to the band – if you’ve long thought about joining our ranks, fall is the time to make that decision! We have three open rehearsals, starting with our first rehearsal at 7:30pm on September 5th, and any qualified musicians interested in continuing on will be asked to have a brief audition with our band director. Full details on what to expect can be found on the For Prospective Members page, and more audition-specific information on the Audition Information page.

Thirdly, though all are welcome to sit in on open rehearsals, we’d especially like to invite any tuba, euphonium or trombone players to come by and see what we’re all about!

Our concert schedule is updated for this season, and keep an eye on our Facebook page for hints about our upcoming repertoire. We’re excited to get back into the swing of things and we hope to see you at rehearsals, at concerts, or wherever you like to support us best!

Summertime and the living is easy

SUMMER CONCERTS

Originally, I was going to make a few jokes about the dog days of summer, but then looked up the origin of the phrase and learned that it’s how we refer to the most humid days of summer, and the rising of the Canis Major constellation. As Kentuckians, we know that the most humid days of summer are from March 1st through November, so we’ve been living in the dog days for a bit.

The best way I can think of to beat the summer heat is to not go outside until the sun has set. And, wouldn’t you know it, there are three free concerts in the evening this summer. CKCB is going on our annual tour, visiting Paris, Bardstown and the UK Arboretum! We hope you’ll come out to see us, to hear our dulcet tones mix with the chirping of crickets and to see if the fireflies can keep the beat.

From Sousa to Rodgers and Hammerstein, we promise an evening full of tunes you recognize, of the lovely nostalgia that comes from those hazy summer evenings. We’ll be in Paris, KY on June 30th, Bardstown on July 5th, and the UK Arboretum on July 6th. All concerts are at 7pm, and all concerts are free!

 

Angels in the Architecture – and at the Lexington Opera House

The Lexington Opera House will be hosting the Central Kentucky Concert Band on May 5th at 3pm (that’s one week away!) Our music will take you to other planets, other places, other worlds. One of our pieces may transport you even further, to the unknown world of the heavens as we play Frank Ticheli’s “Angels in the Architecture.”

angels

In Ticheli’s own words, “The work unfolds as a dramatic conflict between the two extremes of human existence — one divine, the other evil.” From a quiet Shaker song to a Hebrew song of peace, “Angels in the Architecture” is meant “pose the unanswered question of existence,” the constant and un-ending battle between light and dark – will one ever triumph over the other.

As a part of this piece, we have a guest soloist, Dr. Catherine Clarke Nardolillo, a wonderful Kentucky-grown vocalist, sharing her gifts with us on stage. She’s performed in numerous laudable locations, including Carnegie Hall, and she’s been reviewed in the New York Times – we are indeed fortunate to have her singing with us for this concert!

During times of strife and turmoil, music can be a way to help us answer the questions we have about life. While Ticheli’s motif may not leave you entirely settled, it may leave you with a sense that you aren’t alone in the world, that other people are along the journey with you. 

We hope to see you next Sunday, freshly recovered from the Derby, at the Lexington Opera House!

 


Our spring concert will be held May 5th at 3pm at the Lexington Opera House. RSVP to our event on Facebook

The opportunity for music

mars

Earlier this year, the Mars Opportunity Rover mission ended. It’s final words came to Earth as “my battery is low, it’s getting dark.” This came about as the planet was covered in a dust storm, blocking out the sun from reaching the solar-powered Mars rover.

Mars is a planet full of unknown, even after missions to photograph its surface. These planet-wide storms project an image of chaos and anger, fitting, then, that the planet gains its name from Mars, the Roman god of war.

In our upcoming concert (May 5th, 3pm), we play two pieces from Gustav Holst’s Planets suite, one of which will be, as you may have guessed, “Mars.” Though Holst writes from an astrological perspective and not an astronomical, thus “Mars” is more about the effect of the planet on the psyche, rather than the Roman god, there are similarities between the two. (And if you want to dig more into the astronomy of it, Mars the planet is generally thought to be ruled by the sign of Aries, which stems from Ares – the Greek counterpart to Mars. There are connections everywhere.)

In astrology, Mars is the planet of activity and energy, a feeling created by Holst’s composition. The piece is meant to unsettle, to make things seem slightly off, keep the listener, and perhaps also the instrumentalists, on their toes. The time signature plays with the idea of the expected, not quite allowing things to become balanced. There’s a military feel to the piece, one that can be seen as a forerunner to many other famous compositions, such as Williams’ “Imperial March” from Star Wars, or Zimmer’s score for Gladiator.

Why did I begin this post with the Mars rover Opportunity? Because this concert, as all of our concerts are, is focused around a theme that is meant to transport the listener, to take you away for however long we have your attention. This spring’s concert is entitled “Worlds Away,” and that’s precisely where we hope to bring you. Just as Opportunity gave us images of this other planet, unknowable, wild and scary, visiting us at the Lexington Opera House on May 5th will give you a chance to be transported to other worlds, other times, other places. We hope to see you there.


Our spring concert will be held May 5th at 3pm at the Lexington Opera House. RSVP to our event on Facebook

It’s concert day!

We’re excited to perform this afternoon at 3pm in the Haggin Auditorium at Transylvania and hope to see you there!

As a note, parking may be a little tighter in the lots around the Mitchell Fine Arts building (where the concerts are held), so please be advised that it may take a little longer to find a space, or that a little walk from the car to the auditorium may be in order!

Stay warm, stay safe, and we can’t wait to see you this afternoon! If you have questions or concerns, send us a message on Facebook!