That’s the ticket
What: UC Davis Concert Band performing American music
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4
Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
Tickets: $12 general, $8 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787
The UC Davis Concert Band, under the direction of Pete Nowlen, will present its fall quarter concert — featuring a variety of American music, including several pieces with patriotic themes — at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall.
On the program will be two pieces by the now somewhat neglected American composer George Frederick McKay (1899-1970), including the orchestral tone poem “To the Liberator” (inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s life and legacy) and “Wake Me Up for the Great Jubilee” (an arrangement of a popular song from a century ago).
McKay was a prominent figure in the 1930s and 1940s, when conductors like Leopold Stowkowski and Sir Thomas Beecham programmed his music. Among McKay’s students was the young William Bolcom, who visited UCD recently in conjunction with violinist Gil Shaham’s performance of Bolcom’s Suite No. 2 for Solo Violin. Bolcom recorded some of McKay’s piano works, including a piece titled “From My Tahoe Window,” for the Naxos label in 2002.
The theme of Lincoln’s life also will be featured in “Threnos — A Song of Lamentation Based on the Gettysburg Address” by Daniel Bukvich (born in 1954).
Also on the program will be the sometimes-moody Symphony No. 3 (“JFK”) by Andrew Boysen Jr. (born 1968), which is scored for wind orchestra and percussion, violin soloist and boy soprano. The violin soloist will be Jolán Friedhoff of the UCD music department; the boy soprano will be Oliver Streissberg.
The symphony depicts various points in JFK’s life through movements titled ”P.T. 109″ (recalling the former president’s military service), “Ask not what your country…” (recalling his most famous speech), “November 22, 1963″ (the day of his assassination) and “John-John” (JFK’s young son).
Another piece — “Spirit of the Sequoia” by Philip Sparke (born 1951) — is a musical reflection on the iconic giant sequoia trees that grow in the southern portion of California’s Sierra Nevada, in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and elsewhere.
Closing the program will be the classic march “Americans We,” composed by Henry Fillmore (1881-1956). Born in Ohio, Fillmore studied music at the Cincinnati Conservatory and then literally joined the circus, touring the nation as a circus bandleader (his wife was also an “exotic dancer” with the circus) for several years, then returning to Cincinnati to serve for many years as the leader of the Shriners Temple Band, which marched in countless parades.
In 1938, Fillmore was told by a doctor that he had only a few months to live, prompting him to retire to Florida. But the physician was wrong — Fillmore proceeded to live for another 18 years, and spent his time in Florida rehearsing high school bands and composing fight songs for university ensembles to play at football games and other athletic events.
Conductor Nowlen is a longtime faculty member at UCD and Sacramento State, as well as leader of the VITA Academy and Camerata California (both based in Sacramento). In August, Nowlen was named the artistic adviser of the Music in the Mountains festival in Nevada County, guiding the planning of the festival’s 2014 season.
Nowlen was a member of the French horn section of the Sacramento Symphony from 1987 to 1996. His horn performance credits include the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet orchestras, Symphony Silicon Valley, Sacramento Philharmonic and the International Orchestra of Italy Opera.
Tickets for the UC Davis Concert Band’s performance are $12 general, $8 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787 and at the door.