“Music for the Holidays”
Sunday, December 14, 2014 at 3:00 PM
McAfee Center, Saratoga
Dr. Edward C. Harris, conductor
Vivace Youth Chorus, Peggy Spool, director
Festival Fanfare for Christmas
John Wasson (b. 1956)
John Wasson was raised in Minnesota, where he was first introduced to professional musicians at an elementary school concert by the Woodwind Quintet from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He explored oboe, clarinet, and cornet before finally deciding on trombone in high school, when he also began arranging music for his high school band. He received degrees in composition and trombone performance from the University of North Texas. During these years he also played bass trombone and tuba on tour with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, was a founding member of the Dallas Brass, and performed with the Woody Herman Orchestra during their 50th Anniversary tour. During his early work as a composer-arranger, he was a staff arranger for the Dallas Cowboys stadium band and composed music for many national advertising campaigns. Mr. Wasson has composed numerous commissioned works for various ensembles and educational institutions, including the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the U.S. Air Force Academy Band, and many middle- and high-school bands across the country. He continues to be active as a performer and as a composer of worship music.
Festival Fanfare for Christmas was commissioned and premiered by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; it was adapted for wind ensemble in 2012. It is based on two carols, “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The opening features a baroque-style fanfare played by two trumpets, which is later played by two horns, another pair of trumpets, and eventually the whole ensemble. The fanfare returns throughout the piece, played by the trumpets and by other instruments.
Howard Hanson (1896 – 1981)
Howard Hanson was born in Nebraska and became an influential American composer, conductor and educator. At just twenty years old, he was appointed Dean of the Conservatory of Fine Arts at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California. In 1921 he won the Prix de Rome and, as a result, was the first composer to enter the American Academy in Rome. Hanson was the Director of the Eastman School of Music from 1924 to 1964. In 1944 he received the Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 4. Hanson’s musical style is romantic and tonal, enhanced by dissonances and occasional asymmetric rhythms, with a preference for the low instrument registers. His sense of humor was demonstrated when, shortly after a famous incident when duck feathers unexpectedly descended in the Eastman Theater during the cannonading in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Hanson opened a faculty meeting by declaring: “Gentlemen, there is no truth to the rumor that next week the orchestra will play The Water Music!”
Nebraska celebrated its 100th anniversary of statehood in 1968, and Hanson was commissioned to compose a commemorative work. Dies Natalis (The Nativity) was originally written for orchestra, and Hanson later arranged the work for symphonic band to mark the 50th anniversary of the Eastman School of Music. Based on a beautiful Lutheran Christmas chorale setting of “How Bright Appears the Morning Star,” the composition evolves through an introduction, five variations, and a finale. The composer noted: “I used to sing it as a boy in the Swedish Lutheran Church of Wahoo, Nebraska. This chorale has, without doubt, been the greatest single musical influence in my life as a composer. Traces of the chorale appear in my early orchestral work, Lux Aeterna, and in sections of my opera, Merry Mount. The chorale form has also influenced my Chorale and Alleluia for band and my fourth and fifth symphonies for orchestra.”