The UC Davis Concert Band, directed by Pete Nowlen, will travel a bit through time and space during their performance on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall.
Included will be a sonic journey to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, which included exhibits designed to demonstration the newly discovered uses of electricity as well as technological entertainment wonders like the original Ferris wheel — at 264 feet in height, it was the tallest structure at the fair, and it could carry 2,160 passengers at a time.
The exhibits also included cultural wonders from distant parts of the globe, including the first Indonesian gamelan to perform in the United States, a group of hula dancers from far-off Hawaii, and more.
The exotic sights and sounds moved composer Clarence Dalbey to create a piece titled “Twenty Minutes on the Midway Plaisance,” with 13 short movements that depict the newfangled Ferris wheel as well as an Irish village, a Bedouin encampment, an Alpine horn, a Chinese theater, a Mexican orchestra, Java Village (on the isle of Java, in what is now Indonesia) and more.
The piece apparently has not been performed in decades, according to conductor Pete Nowlen, who added “Clarence Dalbey’s piece includes what is possibly the first impression of gamelan in American music and almost certainly the first impression of a Ferris wheel, which debuted at the fair. This performance by the UC Davis Concert Band likely presents the modern premiere of a wonderfully evocative piece of American concert band history.”
The performance will include projections of historic photos from the 1893 Chicago Exhibition.
Given the Balinese angle in Dalbey’s “Twenty Minutes on the Midway Plaisance,” conductor Pete Nowlen has invited the UCD Gamelan to make a special guest appearance at the concert, performing some music on an actual Indonesian-style ensemble. Nowlen has also programmed “Bali,” a band composition drawing on gamelan themes by composer Michael Colgrass, who is a past winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music.
Nowlen has also invited the Mira Loma High School Band, directed by Michael McAllister, to perform four numbers at the concert: the “Radetszky March” by Johann Strauss, “Albanian Dance” by Shelly Hanson, “Spring Festival” by Chen Yi (the Chinese-born composer who has visited UCD in the past), and the premiere of “CorOlympus” by Michael McAllister, with Nowlen taking a turn as horn soloist.
Perhaps as a nod to the high school and college musicians participating in the concert, Nowlen also will conduct the UCD Concert Band in a performance of a sampler titled “The Music of Video Games,” with themes from Super Mario Bros., Halo, Kingdom Hearts, Civilization IV, Myst III: Exhile, Advent Rising, Final Fantasy VII and World of Warcraft. Naturally, there will be some projected images of scenes from these popular video games to go with the music.
Tickets for this family-friendly concert are $12 general, $8 students, www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.