The wind ensemble is one of multitude of ensembles offered by the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. Members not only rehearse together regularly, but are also each assigned to a small chamber ensemble to further their musical abilities.
According to one veteran member of the wind ensemble, Katie Gassman, wind ensemble members not only practice during their biweekly, two-hour rehearsals, but also must spend a great deal of personal time practicing individually.“Depending on who it is, [and] what instrument, it could be an extra hour,” said Glassman, “It could be an extra 20 hours. You never know.”
Member commitment to the ensemble doesn’t stop with extra practice time. University of Denver sophomore flutist, Mary Hannig, talked about additional work she had to put in because she’s majoring in jazz guitar, not flute.
“I don’t have a private teacher here, so I relied a lot on YouTube videos and the advice of some great friends… and a lot of practicing,” said Hannig.
All the preparation and anticipation of the ensemble could be sensed before the incitement of the performance, as cacophonous clamors resounded from the jittery musicians on stage. Their saxophones, clarinets, and euphoniums brayed as they each took this last opportunity to practice various components of the setlist before they went live.
Then suddenly, as if someone pushed the mute button on a blaring stereo, a severe hush fell over the entirety of Gates Concert Hall, and the house lights dimmed.
Martin, the wind ensemble director, glided across to center stage to announce the European theme for the setlist, in the spirit of the concert’s collaboration with CEUCE and its relation to the European Union.The first stop on the journey across Europe was England with Adam Gorb’s piece, “Bells Across the Atlantic.” Martin ascended to his podium and his hands began to swirl, motioning for the musicians to commence playing. From that point on, it was as if a racehorse had been let out of the starting gate, and the ensemble charged triumphantly through the upbeat piece.
The enthusiasm continued throughout the next pieces, which brought the audience to France with Darius Milhaud‘s, “Suite Française,” to Spain with Joaquin Rodrigo‘s, “Adagio,” to Denmark with Soren Hyldgaard‘s, “Hans Christian Andersen Suite,” and to Greece with Andreas Makris‘, “Aegean Festival Overture.”
Each piece communicated a unique story through the dynamic braiding of each part into acohesive melody. Milhaud’s piece celebrated France’s rich folk tradition, while exploring the differing emotional stages of World War II. The second and fourth movements explored the darker emotions of war, with slow, discordant tones swelling from the stage, leaving a cathartic gloom on not only the listeners, but the musicians as well.
“It definitely accurately depicts, in my opinion, what it would feel like to be in a war zone in that time, and all the desperation that comes with it,” said Hannig, “So it was not difficult to play, but if you play it the right way, you can feel the sadness.”
Throughout the rest of the set, the pieces explored a roller coaster of emotions, from the solemn third movement of “Hans Christian Andersen Suite” based upon the tragic story of the Little Match Girl, to the exciting, carnivalesque “Aegean Festival Overture.”
The musicians played with precision leading up to their last piece, before which, Martin vaguely informed the audience that, in order to invoke a more visual storytelling experience, they would be trying something adventurous.
“We tried this in dress rehearsal and it completely imploded,” said Martin, “I think by thelaw of averages, this is going to go swimmingly.”
With that, the stage lights were extinguished, all except for the lamps fastened to each music stand, leaving a luminous glow upon the faces of the musicians.
As the Greek themed piece commenced, images of Greece were projected behind the musicians. A mesmerizing slideshow of images glided along with the music until it abruptly stopped near the end, leaving nothing but the image of Martin’s computer desktop. Despite the technical difficulties, the elegant flow of the music never faltered for a moment, ultimately allowing the artistry of the ensemble to supersede any lasting memory of the computer meltdown.The University of Denver wind ensemble facilitated an incredible musical journey to distant lands, without the listener ever having to leave his seat. Though there were minor technical difficulties, the beauty of the music overcame all other distractions.