WCU Wind Ensemble signs off with endurance

The Western Carolina University Wind Ensemble said goodbye with their last performance of the semester Monday night, April 24, at the Bardo Arts Center.

Five complex pieces challenged the members of the ensemble, but all of them were prepared for the journey.

The first piece Smetana Fanfare was a bold first statement to prepare the audience for the rest of the concert.  It was the shortest piece, other than the classic Sousa march The Liberty Bell, which concluded the program.

The Spring 2017 WCU Wind Ensemble. Photo by Eldred Spell.

Margaret Underwood, conductor of the Wind Ensemble, walked the audience through the motives From a Dark Millennium because of its complexity.  The ideas in the piece mysterious and dark with repeated musical patterns from the piano, percussion, and wind instruments.  It involved singing and whistling from the ensemble as well as violin bows being using on the metallic keyboard instruments in the percussion.  Ironically, the piece was 13 minutes in duration and contained ideas that you wouldn’t leave the concert singing.  Underwood explained that the piece was written in a octatonic scale opposed to a major or minor scale, which explains its s heavy, dark sound.

“The piece was fantastic but very difficult to learn,” said junior horn player, Courtney Stiwalt.  “Most of us were reading in strange meters and notations that we had never experienced before.”

Between each piece was a minor set change because each piece of the program required more or less from the sections on the band.  For example, From a Dark Millennium excluded saxophones and euphoniums.

Little Threepenny Music was an eight-movement piece that was 20 minutes in duration.  It included some traditional wind band values, but also contained acoustic guitar or banjo in each movement.

“I wanted to program all high-level artistic music,” said Underwood.  “I knew this program was going to really stretch the ensemble because most of those tunes aren’t things that you are going to leave whistling.  If you’re listening for a melody, you’re going to be incredibly disappointed, but if you’re listening for the colors and the shifts in color, that helps a lot.”

In the fall, the Wind Ensemble will be commissioning a piece composed by Dan Welcher.  The piece is based on the three major national parks in the eastern United States.

For more information on concerts and recitals, visit the Student Activities Calendar.