Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The American Band(stand)

This week I have spent copious amounts of time just listening to music. There have been a number of end-of-quarter ensemble concerts as well as my Romantic-era Music History Final (studying for which required a lot of listening). In order for this post to make sense, I need to elaborate on my love of program music. I love any song, work, or ditty that tells a story or evokes a setting different from the here and now. That's probably why I've always found film scores to be so effective. 

When maestro Mark Gibson gave us a dress-rehearsal pep talk about playing Mahler's Symphony No.6 as though we (the orchestra) were the hero missing from the story composed by a supposedly content (at least at that point in his life) Gustav Mahler, it was as though the world of the symphony sprung to life right before my eyes. For those of you unfamiliar to the piece, it's particularly dark, even for Mahler, though I don't think I would call it sad. Creepy would be a more fitting adjective. Or, as Maestro Gibson so aptly put it, 'like a Johnny Depp movie'. 

Playing in this Mahler concert was perhaps one of the most invigorating and simply enjoyable performance experiences of my life. The piece came alive onstage as it never had for this orchestra before. On page 19 I got so wrapped up in the music that I grabbed the wrong instrument and played flute instead of piccolo (or was it piccolo instead of flute? ...oops. Good thing the part was doubled!) for about half a page. It felt as if the orchestra really had become the missing hero that Mahler himself couldn't compose. 

The next day I was able to attend an all-Sousa concert by the Wind Symphony. And what a concert it was. I've always been a fan of some good ol' American music. Love me some Copland, Barber, Liebermann...but I suppose most of you already knew that. I also spent a good chunk of my childhood wishing that I lived in River City Iowa about a hundred years ago so I could hang out with Professor Harold Hill, but I digress... Since there is nothing like music to take you away, the concert was a really great opportunity to take a load off from the emotional overload that was the Mahler symphony. I felt as though I really had taken a mini vacation to a simpler time where the most pressing issue at hand was finding a date to the town picnic. Gosh, wouldn't that be the life? 

I will leave you now with some turn-of-the-century inspiration in the form of Robert Preston (The Music Man. Matthew Broderick just can't compete) and vintage-inspired dresses by Modcloth. 

Photo credits: Google images and Modcloth.

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