British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) is considered to be one of the greatest symphonists of the twentieth century. A pupil of both Max Bruch and Maurice Ravel, Vaughan Williams was prolific across several genres, having composed eleven works for wind band and brass band, nine symphonies, five operas, chamber music, music for film and stage, along with several song cycles and church music.
Flourish for Wind Band (1939) was written as an overture to the pageant “Music and the People” performed in the Royal Albert Hall in 1939. The score was then lost, only to reappear in 1971. This short work (only about 90 seconds long) was originally scored for military band. It opens with a brief brass fanfare. This gives way to a lyrical melody before the fanfare returns to end the piece.
– Andrew Pease
Erika Svanoe (b. 1976) is a conductor, composer, and educator based in Menomonie, Wisconsin, USA. She earned a DMA in conducting from The Ohio State University as well as degrees from Oklahoma State University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. As a composer, Svanoe has won numerous composition awards and prizes. Her music has been performed around the world by some of the most prestigious school, tertiary, and professional ensembles.
The composer writes the following about Echoes (2019):
- "Echoes celebrates “The Kirkbride,” a sprawling Victorian campus which formerly housed the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center. The piece tries to reflect nostalgia, conflict, and industriousness: three things I felt while learning about the building and its role in the community. The building has beautiful architecture, but also has fallen into a state of neglect. The title “Echoes” was inspired by these pictures, seeing the beauty that was once in full force under layers of dust and disrepair. Echoes infuse the piece, with musical ideas being restated in close succession."
Yukiko Nishimura (b. 1967) is a graduate of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Following graduation, she began private study with Sir Alfred Reed at the University of Miami School of Music and later continued her composition studies with Richard Danielpour at the Manhattan School of Music. Among her honours are the special mention at the 15th and 26th International Competition for Original Compositions for Wind Band in Corciano, Italy.
As the title Merry-Go-Round suggestions, this whimsical piece depicts the joy of riding on a merry-go-round or carousel. The main melody is delightful and memorable, supported by vivid scoring and appealing harmonic structures, which definitely have jazz influences. Composed in ternary form, the main theme presents itself and later comes back around to end the piece much like it began.
Edward Gregson (b. 1945) is one of Britain’s most well-respected composers, whose music has been performed, broadcast, and recorded worldwide. He studied composition with Alan Bush and piano at the Royal Academy of Music. A composer of international standing, he was written numerous wind band, brass band, orchestral, chamber, and choral pieces, as well as music for the theatre, film, and television.
Festivo(1985) was commissioned for the 10th Anniversary of the Bolton Youth Concert Band for performance at the Conference of the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Wind Ensembles (WASBE) in Belgium, July 1985. Gregson offers commentary on the work:
- "Festivo is a…festive piece, exuberant in style and cast in rondo form. An introduction announces, in fragment from, some of the melodic and rhythmic ideas. The main theme, which is light-hearted and exuberant, is announced on clarinet but is immediately tossed around…the final statement of the rondo tune is heralded by bell-like chords on brass with tubular bells adding colour."
John Zdechlik (1937-2020) was a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was an active composer, performer, conductor, and clinician. He earned his Ph.D. in Theory and Composition from the University of Minnesota, as a student of Paul Fetler and Frank Bencriscutto. Zdechlik composed more than sixty commissioned and published works for wind bands in the United States, Japan, and Europe.
Chorale and Shaker Dance (1972) combines an original chorale tune and the traditional Shaker song “The Gift to be Simple.” Zdechlik transforms, varies, and juxtaposes both themes throughout the entire composition, incorporating intricate counterpoint and jazz-influenced syncopated rhythms. The Shaker melody does not appear in its entirety until near the end of the piece, when the trumpet section plays the tune over a flurry of activity in the upper woodwinds and a sonorous low-brass accompaniment.
– Travis J. Cross
John Barnes Chance (1932 – 1972) began composing as teenager, having completed his first symphony at the age of seventeen. He received his Bachelor and Master’s degrees from the University of Texas where he studied percussion and composition with Clifton Williams, Kent Kennan, and Paul Pisk. Chance was selected by the Ford Foundation to be a part of the transformational Young Composers Project, from 1960 to 1962. It is during this period he composed seven pieces, including his first work for wind band.
Incantation and Dance (1960) originally titled Nocturne and Dance, but was later changed when the composer felt the beginning of the work had a more haunting feeling. Incantations are often uttered in rituals of magic, demonic rites, and conjuring of sprits, evil and benign. The opening incantation is full of mystery and expectation, wandering, unstable and without tonality. The dance begins quietly, but percussion instruments quickly begin, one by one, to drive a rhythmic pattern on complexity and energy, ending in a shattering climax of exaltation.
– Norman E. Smith
Program notes written and compiled by Nicholas Williams