Richardson — On the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 27, the Lone Star Wind Orchestra celebrated the 10th anniversary of Eugene Migliaro Corporon as Music Director with “Joyride,” a concert centered around one of the maestro’s passions: cars. The LSWO’s fulsome and rich sounds were agile and accomplished. It was also a remarkable display of community support for top-notch wind orchestra repertoire.
The first titular selection drew from Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and John Adams’ A Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Written five years ago by Michael Markowski when he was 18 years old, the two-and-a-half-minute mashup’s percussive ignition kicked a billow of exhaust in front of layered rhythms and syncopated punches. An effervescent start.
Opening drag race completed, it was time for Rest by Frank Ticheli, an adaptation of his choral setting of the poem “There Will Be Rest” by Sara Teasdale. Retaining trendy added-ninths harmonies, it translated well to this setting. Sharing breath-supported phrasing, the wind instrument idiom is the next closest thing to the choral art. Vibrato, lyrics and legato could be excused for the benefit of contrasting timbres and snapping articulations. The brass beast’s ultimate intimacy captured the program-printed line, “The music of stillness holy and low.”
Internal Combustion (A Celebration of the American Automobile) was introduced by way of its use of an old commercial ditty “In My Merry Oldsmobile.” Redressed in different decades, the melody changed styles from 1950’s doo-wop, big band swing, dark shrouds, and music-box twinkle then taken down by trombone slides à la Bartók’s Interrupted Intermezzo. Midway through a recording of a Model-T horn was surrounded on all sides by multi-meter jalopies and tuba/marimba ping-pongs.
Locking in these ensemble-wide syncopations was never better evidenced than by the Brett Penshorn guest-conducted Two-Lane Blacktop by James David. Penshorn’s crisp and minimal direction adeptly coordinated one exceedingly complex idea after another. The five-and-a-half-minute octane rush was not without its staples of modern concert band writing: repeated staccato trumpet clusters, flute/xylophone doubling, and important-cadence-closing tympanic triplets. This was musical exhibit X, Y, and Z in the intellect over emotion argument; winning on conviction of execution.
The world premiere of James Stephenson’s Concerto Grosso followed. This unique composition was well thought through and contained none of the standard clichés. With Veronica E. Mascaro on flute, Joey Resendez on alto saxophone, Dr. Jason Hausback on bass trombone and Andrew Eldridge on marimba the piece featured a perfect balance between band and ensemble. Like an experimental chef combining flavors that would seem to clash though when tastefully prepared become a revelation, low brass brash and marimba paradiddles were surprisingly knit together by lyric alto sax lines. Harp and flute were sometimes drowned out by a flurry of themes in the coda’s summation.
Proving that more is more, the finale Redline Tango by John Mackey made vaguely bluesy scintillating slashes sound anything but easy. The nothing if unexpected jabs and drunken glissandos reminded all that, in the music world, band geeks have the best sense of humor.
For all of the adventuresome programming, it did look as though the #timesup movement has not yet reached planet band. Kudos for featuring contemporary composers, of the six they were: all male, all white, all American, mostly all young but, at least, all alive.
Know that the future is hopeful in the garage of wind orchestra music. The front 50 percent of the hall was filled with large compliments of attentive middle and high school band students from successful local programs. To see these young musicians absorbing the meticulous craft of the fine LSWO should give our community confidence in the continuing love of discipline servicing thoughtful collaborative music making.