Digital Playbill

Winds & Brass

Table of Contents
Premiering July 24, 2021
Music Director: Eric Garcia


Eric Alexander
(b. 1973)
Soapstone Prairie Quintet for Woodwinds
I. When the Land Belonged to God
II. Windswept Winter
III. Old Stomping Grounds

Adam Eason
(b. 1986)
Wind Quintet

György Ligeti
(1923 – 2006)
Six Bagatelles for Woodwind Quintet
I. Allegro con spirito
II. Rubato. Lamentoso
III. Allegro grazioso
IV. Presto ruvido
V. Adagio. Mesto
VI. Molto vivace. Capriccioso

Reena Esmail
(b. 1983)
“Tuttarana” from KhirKhiyaan

John Cheetham
(b. 1939)
Sonata for Brass
I. Moderato
II. Andante
III. Animato

Kenneth Amis
(b. 1970)
Brass Quintet No. 1
I. Andante – Allegro vivace
II. Scherzo
III. Adagio
IV. Allegro con brio


Allison Emerick, Principal Flute
Sponsored by Tess and Jim Emerick

Lauren Blackerby, Principal Oboe
Sponsored by AJ & Susie Balukoff

Carmen Izzo, Principal Clarinet
sponsored by Phil and Jennifer Jensen

Patty Katucki, Principal Bassoon
Sponsored by Richard & Jo Ann Stillinger

Brian Vance, Principal Horn

John Kilgore, Principal Trumpet

Drew Ziemba, Associate Principal Trumpet
Sponsored by vICKI KREIMEYER

Sandon Lohr, Horn

Michael Maier, Principal Trombone

Adam Snider, Principal Tuba
Sponsored by Kristen Hopper and Claudia Mcnair

Allison Emerick

Lauren Blackerby

Carmen Izzo

Patty Katucki

Brian Vance

John Kilgore

Drew Ziemba

Sandon Lohr

Michael Maier

Adam Snider


Education and
Program Notes
Winds & Brass

Eric Scott Alexander / April 06, 1973

Soapstone Prairie Quintet for Woodwinds

Eric is the Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Boise State University. His dynamic music has been received with acclaim all over the world. Here is his program note for this evocative piece.

Soapstone Prairie Quintet was commissioned in 2016 by Classical Revolution Northern Colorado as part of series of multimedia events at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery in Fort Collins, Colorado. The project, called Melody of Our Landscape, celebrated the 2015 release of genetically pure bison into the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area in Northern Colorado. The premiere at the Museum of Discovery included panoramic photography and video of western landscapes, projected onto the ceiling of the Otterbox Digital Dome Theatre.”

“The composition is scored for the traditional woodwind quintet instrumentation of flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. It is in three movements and is intended to depict the life of bison as a part of the magnificent Western landscape. The first movement, When the Land Belonged to God, is inspired by and named after the masterpiece by American Old West painter C.M. Russell. The second movement, Windswept Winter, portrays the life of bison on the prairie in winter, with its frigid, swirling winds. The final movement, Old Stompin’ Grounds, was inspired by watching video footage of these bison being released from their holding pens into the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, where their ancestors once roamed free.”

Adam Eason / b. 1986

Wind Quintet

“When I compose, I rarely have a specific “program” in mind. Music tends to come to me sound-first, and then I consider any implications and titles later. In this case, I had settled on the opening melody and I had the thought to compose a work in homage to my favorite European Classical composer, Franz Haydn.

I had two goals in mind: first, to imagine what Haydn might have written if he had been exposed to a sampler plate of 20th-century recordings; and second, to write something which sounded Classical if you weren’t paying attention, and only revealed its oddities upon closer inspection. I don’t have enough hubris to say I managed the first goal, but I feel confident I did well at the second.

When submitting the work for performance, I toyed with the idea of subtitling it “Divertimento.” This in reference to the genre, which acted as a pleasing diversion from the tedium and seriousness of life, but also to the idea of using a style to divert attention away from something off-stage but, somehow, still makes itself felt. I don’t have anything in particular in mind for what this ‘other’ could be. I only suggest that, if the work were personified, it’s as if the music attempts to maintain some sense of decorum in the presence of a prankster, and doesn’t always succeed.”

- Adam Eason

György Ligeti / May 28, 1923 – June 12, 2006

Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet

If this ear-catching piece strikes you as utterly original, like nothing you’ve ever heard before, you’re right. György wrote it in 1953 in Hungary, behind the Iron Curtain in virtual cultural isolation from the outer world. Under the repressive thumb of Josef Stalin, the Communists silenced all works they considered subversive, including pieces by Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Stravinsky, Britten, and Arnold Schoenberg. Composing anything that sounded “modern” could bring down the wrath of the Party on you, meaning you might simply disappear. Accordingly, György worked quietly on experimental pieces which he kept to himself. Because of his isolation, he set out to construct an original musical language from the ground up. As he later explained, “In 1951 I began to experiment with very simple structures of sonorities and rhythms as if to build up a new kind of music starting from nothing. I regarded all the music I knew and loved as being, for my purpose, irrelevant and even invalid. I set myself such problems as: what can I do with a single note? with its octave? with an interval? with two intervals? What can I do with specific rhythmic interrelationships which could serve as the basic elements in a formation of rhythms and intervals? Several small pieces resulted, mostly for piano.”

In 1953, he arranged for brass quintet six movements from one of his new piano pieces, and the unique Six Bagatelles was born.

Although Stalin died that year, György did not release his bagatelles to the public for three years, still fearful of the State’s menacing authority overall artists. Even then, the sixth bagatelle was omitted from the first performance as “too audacious”. The complete set of six was not played until 1969 after he emigrated to Germany.

György labeled the Bagatelles in order (1) “spirited”, (2) “lamenting”, (3) “graceful”, (4) “rapid and coarse”, (5) “mournful and melancholy (Bela Bartok: In Memoriam)”, and (6) “capricious”. In the third movement, György lightens the texture by calling for the bassoon to stick a rag in the instrument’s bell to serve as a mute.

Postscript. György, his father, and his brother were sent to a Nazi internment camp after Hitler invaded their country in 1944. His father and brother perished. György did not, only to fall prey to Stalin. It is a tribute to the human spirit that a man who survived the horror of the mid-20th century could survive to write music full of optimism, life, and energy. Bagatelle means “trifle”, but these six are anything but.

Reena Esmail / February 11, 1983

“Tuttarana” from KhirKhiyaan

Reena speaks:
“So much of my work with brass instruments has come into being because of incredible and intrepid brass players who have shown me new windows into my own music. Hence the title: Khirkiyaan means ‘windows’ in Hindi, and this brass quintet is made up of three ‘windows’ into my work. Each movement is a transformation of another piece of mine for another instrumentation, reimagined for brass quintet.

Tuttarana, the third movement of this piece, was commissioned by The Brass Project, a brass ensemble formed from graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music. It was originally a piece for women’s choir. The title of this movement is a conglomeration of two words: the Italian word ‘tutti’, means ‘all’ or ‘everyone’, and the term ‘tarana’ designates a specific Hindustani musical form, whose closest Western counterpoint is the ‘scat’ in jazz. Made up of rhythmic syllables, a tarana is the singer’s chance to display agility and dexterity. While the brass version of this piece doesn’t have the actual syllables that the vocal version does, it does aim to showcase the brilliant virtuosity of the ensemble.

The other two movements were added later. The first movement, Jog, is a movement of my string quartet Ragamala.Though not entirely in the purest form of the Hindustani raag called Jog, it does use the characteristic between the Western perception of major and minor.

The second movement comes from my song cycle for guitar and mezzo soprano, called Chuti Hui Jagah (The Space Between). ‘Joota’ means ‘shoe’ in Hindi. The title comes from a tiny couplet by the poet Manav Kaul: “When the shoe bites / Then it becomes difficult to navigate through the world / And when the shoe stops biting / Then it becomes difficult to navigate through time.”

It was through working with brass players, being shown the seeds of what was already there in my existing work, and then transforming it for these instruments, that allowed these windows to open.”

John Cheetham / January 13, 1939

Sonata for Brass

Born in Taos, New Mexico, John began his life in music as a trombone player with an affinity for jazz. In the 1950s, while in college he played with a big band. This experience piqued his interest in arranging and composing, and he pursued a doctorate in musical arts and composition at the University of Washington. What sparked his interest in classical music was playing Beethoven’s Eroica with the Albuquerque Civic Symphony. Cheetham describes himself as “bombarded” by the magnificence of the piece. During every rehearsal, he carefully studied Beethoven’s compositional techniques and the effect the parts had on the players. To use his word, he soon went “legit” and gravitated to the classical realm, but not altogether. His jazz roots in terms of challenging syncopated rhythms, changing meters, and jazz-influenced harmonies remain with him. Moreover, although trained by “modern professors” in the middle of the 20th century, he was not seduced by their progressive stylistic wiles. He describes himself as an “unapologetic conservative”. “I’m not willing to give up melody,” he said. “I still think a tune goes a long way. When you hear a piece you like, and you whistle it down the hall, it’s the melodic element you are whistling. That means a lot, I think. I’m gratified to hear someone whistling something I’ve written.”

Paul Von Hoff is the trombonist and artistic director for the Gaudete Brass, the group that commissioned Sonata for Brass. When asked to describe it, he said, “To put words to it almost diminishes it. There is joy and energy. All five of us think it is very powerful. Its success comes from its five intriguing parts, but even the accompaniment is interesting.” I agree.

John wrote not only for the audience but also for the players. He gives each a significant solo role in this piece which may explain its enduring popularity among chamber ensembles as well as the audience.

Kenneth Amis / December 1970

Quintet No. 1 for Brass

“This is Jeopardy! And the music question for $1000 is, Acclaimed composer-performer from Bermuda who also plays the tuba.” (Ken Jennings might not even get this one.) “And the answer is, Kenneth Amis!” Yes, a world-renowned tuba player from Bermuda. He entered Boston University at 16 and subsequently graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with a master’s degree in composition. Kenneth is a performing member of the Empire Brass Quintet, one of the preeminent brass chamber groups in the world, and he held the International Brass Chair at the Royal Academy of Music in London. One reviewer wrote, “You haven’t lived until you have heard Kenneth Amis as tuba soloist in Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca.” Another described him as “witty and sensitive, one of the only tuba players of which it can be said that his playing is subtle and nuanced.” (I bet he hasn’t heard our Adam Snider.)

Kenneth took up the tuba by accident. His parents started him on the guitar and the piano, but he didn’t like either. He switched to the trombone in school, but one day the tuba player in the band dropped out, and the music director shifted everybody one chair to the left. What was waiting for him? The tuba and the rest is history.

Kenneth looks for a wide variety in his musical life. He emphasizes teaching as an important part of his career because it causes him closely to examine his techniques and aesthetic ideas to make sure they are worthy of being passed on to his students. He heartily subscribes to the idea that “to teach is to learn”.

I talked to Kenneth about this engaging piece. As you might expect, he is a thoroughly delightful person. I wanted to know more about it so I could prepare you to enjoy it. To my surprise, he wrote it when he was only 17 years old! He describes it as “intentionally conservative” not designed to break new ground. If anything, it captures the Romantic style as exemplified by Brahms. His advice is just to “relax and listen”. He did say that the third movement is a palindrome, which means if you play it backward, it will sound the same as if you play it from the beginning. He doesn’t expect anyone to listen to it in that light, but I thought I’d throw it in for you music majors.

How fun to talk to a living composer. Wouldn’t you like to talk to Beethoven? Or Rachmaninoff? Or Elgar? Thank goodness they continue to speak to us through their timeless music, and thanks to Kenneth for continuing our great music tradition. Where would we be without music?

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