2016 Star Wars Suite for Orchestra – John Williams
The music of the Star Wars franchise is composed and produced in conjunction with the development of the feature films, television series, and other merchandise within the epic space opera franchise created by George Lucas. Released between 1977 and 2015, the music for the primary feature films was written by composer John Williams and, in the case of the first two trilogies, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
In July 2013,Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced at Star Wars Celebration Europe that Williams would be returning once more to score the seventh episode, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Williams’ scores for the two existing trilogies count among the most widely known and popular contributions to modern film music.
The scores utilize an eclectic variety of musical styles, many culled from the Late Romantic idiom of Richard Strauss and his contemporaries. There are also several obvious references to the music of Gustav Holst, William Walton, Sergueï Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky. Williams said he wanted to ground the otherwise strange and fantastic setting in well-known, audience-accessible music. Indeed, Lucas maintains that much of the original trilogy’s success relies not on advanced visual effects, but on the simple, direct emotional appeal of its plot, characters and, importantly, music.
Star Wars often is credited as heralding the beginning of a revival of grand symphonic scores in the late 1970s. One technique Williams used was that of assigning a phrase or melody to signify a character, place, plot element, mood, idea, relationship or other specific part of the film. It was used extensively in the operas of Richard Wagner. It is used today in films to tie parts of the film to the sound track.
The Star Wars Suite includes sections representing John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932) is an American composer, conductor, and pianist. In a career spanning over six decades, Williams has composed some of the most popular and recognizable film scores in cinematic history, including Jaws, the Star Wars series, Superman, the Indiana Jones series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and the first three Harry Potter films. Williams has been associated with director Steven Spielberg since 1974, composing music for the majority of his feature films. Williams wrote theme music for the Olympic Games, NBC Sunday Night Football, the 2011 film The Adventures of Tintin, the television series Lost in Space and Land of the Giants, and the incidental music for the first season of Gilligan’s Island. Williams has composed numerous classical concerti and other works for orchestral ensembles and solo instruments; he served as the Boston Pops’ principal conductor from 1980 to 1993, and is now the orchestra’s laureate conductor.
Williams has won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, and 22 Grammy Awards. With 50 Academy Award nominations, Williams is the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. In 2005, the American Film Institute selected Williams’ score to 1977’s Star Wars as the greatest American film score of all time. Williams was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl’s Hall of Fame in 2000, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. Williams will receive the 2016 AFI Life Achievement Award. Williams composed the score for eight movies in the Top 20 highest grossing films at the U.S. box office (adjusted for inflation). In 2015, he scored Star Wars: The Force Awakens, earning him his 50th Academy Award nomination. In 2016, Williams composed the score for Spielberg’s The BFG which opens in July 2016, he will score the animated short film “Dear Basketball” directed by Glen Keane and based on a poem by Kobe Bryant and has shown interest in composing the score for Star Wars: Episode VIII coming out on December 15, 2017.
Summer Dances – Brian Balmages
Summer Dances was written for the Columbia Concert Band, Columbia, Maryland, for an outdoor summer concert. The piece was written to capture the beauty and spirit of the many festivals and events associated with the season. In writing the piece, elements were included to make it very appropriate to perform in or out of the concert hall.
The piece thrives on rhythmic pulse throughout. The fast rhythmic figures of the opening are contrasted with the statelier motives presented later in the piece in the slower, more lyrical section.
Brian Balmages wrote, “The wind ensemble version of Summer Dances has been one of the most popular pieces I have ever written, and also happened to be the very first piece I published with The FJH Music Company. For over a decade, I have had numerous requests from orchestra directors to transcribe it for symphony orchestra. In addition to the incredible textures available with strings, I was able to go back and revisit a few sections from an orchestration point of view. The result is a piece that is truly tailored to a symphony orchestra and makes use of the elegance it possesses along with the sheer power it can command.
Originally written for an outdoor festival, the piece maintains a dance-like quality throughout, even during the lyrical portions of the work.
Brian Balmages is an American producer, conductor, performer and composer. His music for winds, brass, and orchestra has been performed in countries throughout the world. His active schedule of commissions and premieres has incorporated groups ranging from elementary schools to professional ensembles including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the University of Miami Wind Ensemble, Boston Brass, Off Bass Brass, and the Dominion Brass Ensemble. His music has been performed by members of leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony, and others. World premieres have included prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. His music was also performed as part of the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service in 2013, which was attended by both President Obama and Vice President Biden.
Balmages received his bachelor’s degree in music from James Madison University (Virginia) and his master’s degree from the University of Miami (Florida). He is a recipient of the prestigious A. Austin Harding Award from the American School Band Directors Association and was also featured in James Madison University’s “Be the Change” campaign.
As a conductor, Mr. Balmages has enjoyed engagements with numerous all-state and regional bands and orchestras as well as university and professional groups. Notable guest conducting appearances have included the Midwest Clinic, Western International Band Clinic, College Band Directors Eastern Regional Conference, American School Band Directors Association National Conference and others. Additional conducting appearances have included the Kennedy Center and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. He has also served as an adjunct professor of instrumental conducting and Acting Symphonic Band Director at Towson University in Maryland. Mr. Balmages has received numerous commissions and recently premiered a selection at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. He has also been named the prestigious 2016 “Distinguished Alumni Award” by the James Madison University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts.
Currently, he is Director of Instrumental Publications for The FJH Music Company Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Armed Forces Salute – Bob Lowden Arr. Joyce Eilers & Bob Lowden
In honor of our men and women of the Armed Forces, featuring: The Caisson Song, Army Semper Paratus (Always Prepared), Coast Guard The Marines’ Hymn Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder, Air Force Anchors Aweigh, Navy.
Pinball Wizard – Peter Townshend arr Patrick Russell
“Pinball Wizard” is a song written by Pete Townshend and performed by the English rock band The Who. It was featured on their 1969 rock opera album Tommy. The original recording was released as a single in 1969 and reached No. 4 in the UK charts and No. 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Tommy, was the first “Rock Opera”. The beginning of a new genre of Musicals. Tommy is about a young man who is deaf, dumb, and blind, but becomes a pinball champion and gains hordes of adoring fans. It was made into a play and continues to run as an off-Broadway production.
The lyrics are written from the perspective of a pinball champion, called “Local Lad”, Tommy Walker.
“What makes him so good?
He ain’t got no distractions
Can’t hear those buzzers and bells
Don’t see lights a flashin’
Plays by sense of smell.
Always has a replay
Never tilts at all
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pin ball.”
“I thought I was the Bally table king, but I just handed my pinball crown to him”.
Townshend once called it “the most clumsy piece of writing [he’d] ever done”. The song was a commercial success and remains one of the most recognized tunes from the opera. It was a perpetual concert favorite for Who fans due to its pop sound and familiarity. It has been played at almost every Who concert since its debut live performance in 1969.
The live performances rarely deviated from the album arrangement, save for an occasional jam at the end sometimes leading to another song. Bootleg recordings show that this song has been known to last as long as 8 minutes (at a concert at the Rainbow Theatre in London on 3 February 1981), although live versions lasting as long as that are extremely rare. Although Pete Townshend wrote this, it existed mostly in his head while they were recording it, and the other members of The Who had no idea how most of the story would end until they finished it. It was the last song written for Tommy. Townshend wrote it when he found out influential UK rock critic Nik Cohn was coming to review the project. Townshend knew Cohn was a pinball fanatic, so he put this together to ensure a good review. Cohn gave it a great review, and Pinball became a main theme of the rock opera. It’s common to craft a song to be a hit, but it’s rare that one is written specifically to get good reviews from one critic.
As Townshend told Uncut in 2004, “I just remember saying to him, with maybe an element of sarcasm, ‘So, if it had pinball in it, would you give it a decent review?’ He went, ‘Of course I would. Anything with pinball in it’s fantastic.’ And so I wrote ‘Pinball Wizard,’ purely as a scam.”
The Who performed this at Woodstock in 1969. The song was still fairly new, so many in the crowd did not recognize it. The Who were given the early morning slot, so they ended up playing this as the sun came up.
After writing this song for Nik Cohn, Townshend almost didn’t even mention it to the band because he hated it so much. They told him to play it and told him he had written a hit. Meanwhile, he thought it was a mindless, badly written song. (thanks, Jason Lee – New York, NY)
Even though it was tacked on, the song turned out to be important to the story. Tommy’s skill at pinball, despite being a “deaf, dumb and blind boy,” provided a way for him to become famous.
Perhaps more importantly for the band, whose penchant for smashing instruments and flashy clothes had, by 1969, put them in considerable debt, “Pinball Wizard” gave them a song that could stand outside of the story for radio airplay. Released a month later, it reached No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, the Who’s second-highest charting single in the U.S. to date, paving the way for the runaway success of Tommy.
In 1994, Data East created a pinball machine inspired by the Broadway adaptation of the Who’s rock opera. And if you’re able to find one these days, we don’t recommend trying to play “by sense of smell.” You’ll lose a lot of money.
Townsend said, “The chordal structure for the intro was inspired by [English Baroque composer] Henry Purcell, who did this very short piece called ‘Symphony Upon One Note.’ It’s a very plaintive piece, almost like the [20th century U.S. composer] Samuel Barber composition ‘Adagio for Strings’ — only the Purcell piece was written in 1600 or something. A single bowed note runs throughout that whole piece. I found that a stunning thing to call upon while I was in the process of writing ‘Pinball Wizard.’ I analyzed every single chord in the piece and found ways to play them on guitar.
Read More: The Day the Who (Reluctantly) Recorded ‘Pinball Wizard’ http://ultimateclassicrock.com/the-who-pinball-wizard/?trackback=tsmclip
The Music Man – Seventy-Six Trombones Meredith Willson, arr. Ted Ricketts
“Seventy-Six Trombones” is the signature song from the musical play The Music Man (1957), which was written by Meredith Willson. The song also appeared in the 1962 film and in the made-for-TV movie adaptation in 2003. It is also a piece commonly played by marching and military bands.
In the musical, “Professor” Harold Hill uses the song to help the townspeople of River City, Iowa visualize their children playing in a marching band by recalling a time when he saw several famous bandleaders’ bands in a combined performance. While an average-sized high school marching band might have about 10 musicians playing the trombone, and a large college marching band seldom has more than 30 trombonists, the band that Harold Hill describes to the villagers includes 76 trombones, 110 cornets, “more than a thousand reeds”, double bell euphoniums, and “fifty mounted cannon” (which were popular in bands of the late 19th century).
In 1971, for the grand opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the grand opening parade included a 1,076-piece marching band made up of High school band students from around central Florida. This band marched down main street at Disney World playing “76 Trombones”. Meredith Willson was the guest conductor for this event. The size of the band, 1,076 marchers, included 76 trombones.
In Willson’s hometown of Mason City, Iowa, the song is honored (along with the whole plot of The Music Man) in a building called “Music Man Square”, which is located next to Willson’s boyhood home. In one large room, there are 76 donated trombones hanging from the ceiling.
The Music Man is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, based on a story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. The plot concerns con man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys’ band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to the naive Iowa townsfolk, promising to train the members of the new band. But Harold is no musician and plans to skip town without giving any music lessons. Prim librarian and piano teacher Marian sees through him, but when Harold helps her younger brother overcome his lisp and social awkwardness, Marian begins to fall in love. Harold risks being caught to win her.
In 1957, the show became a hit on Broadway, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and running for 1,375 performances. The cast album won the first Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and spent 245 weeks on the Billboard charts. The show’s success led to revivals, including a long-running 2000 Broadway revival, a popular 1962 film adaptation and a 2003 television remake. It is frequently produced by both professional and amateur theater companies.
Meredith Willson was inspired by his boyhood in Mason City, Iowa, to write and compose his first musical, The Music Man. Willson began developing this theme in his 1948 memoir, And There I Stood With My Piccolo. He first approached producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin for a television special, and then MGM producer Jesse L. Lasky. After these and other unsuccessful attempts, Willson invited Franklin Lacey to help him edit and simplify the libretto. At this time, Willson considered eliminating a long piece of dialogue about the serious trouble facing River City parents. Willson realized it sounded like a lyric, and transformed it into the song “Ya Got Trouble”. Willson wrote about his trials and tribulations in getting the show to Broadway in his book But He Doesn’t Know The Territory.
The character Marian Paroo was inspired by Marian Seeley of Provo, Utah, who met Willson during World War II, when Seeley was a medical records librarian. In the original production (and the film), the School Board was played by the 1950 International Quartet Champions of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA), the Buffalo Bills.
1812 Festival Overture – Peter Ilych Tschaikowsky
The Year 1812, festival overture in E♭ major, Op. 49, popularly known as the 1812 Overture, is an overture written in 1880 by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to commemorate Russia’s defense of its motherland against Napoleon’s invading Grande Armée in 1812.
Tchaikovsky was asked to compose a piece to commemorate the Battle of Borodino which was fought in September of 1812. The Russians were still excited about that victory. While it is true that is was a wonderful feeling to watch the French retreat, it wasn’t because of superior fire power. The Russians evacuated Moscow just at the onset of winter and took all food and supplies with them. The army French army could not sustain itself during a very long, very cold (colder than normal) winter in the middle of Russia. Napoleon was forced to retreat.
In 1880 Nikolai Rubinstein was commissioned to celebrate this Russian victory at the dedication of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. He asked Tchaikovsky to write a commemorative composition. Rubinstein’s request to Tchaikovsky might have gone something like this: “Compose a ‘go to’ commemorative composition and fill it with national themes. Make it a ‘useful’ occasional work to be performed to mark the opening of the cathedral. And the 25th anniversary of Alexander II’s coronation. And don’t forget about the 1882 All-Russian Arts and Industry Exhibition. They’ll want something too…”
The original premier performance was scheduled to be held outside the cathedral and include cannons and the church bells in the city. The cannon thing and the cathedral bells proved to be more difficult than first anticipated, and just before the scheduled completion and performance, in 1881, The Emperor of Russia, Alexander II, was assassinated. This took some of the enthusiasm out of the performance. Triumphal music didn’t seem appropriate. The performance took place two years later without the band or cannons, in a tent at the Arts Industry Exhibition 20 August 1882. In 1891 Tchaikovsky conducted it at the dedication of Carnegie Hall.
Tchaikovsky hated the piece. He said it was, “very loud and noisy and completely without artistic merit, obviously written without warmth or love.” He complained the he was “…not a conductor of festival pieces” and that the Overture would be “…very loud and noisy, but without artistic merit, because I wrote it without warmth and without love.”
This was very discouraging to him. He was very proud of his symphony work and artistic melodies and felt this was not what his music was about. It was written in six weeks and has proved to me one of the most popular and performed of all his works. It has made the Tchaikovsky estate exceptionally wealthy.
The piece is a programmatic depiction of the events of that last battle.
When the French army began marching toward Moscow, Russia’s Holy Synod called its people to pray for safety, peace and deliverance, knowing that Russia’s Imperial Army was only a fraction of the size and not at all ready for battle. Russians gathered in churches across the country to offer prayers.
The opening section of the overture is a stanza hymn of the Holy Cross (O Lord, Save Thy People) for four cellos and two violas.
The next section includes a combination of pastoral and folk themes depicting the life of Russian citizens as the French army continues to advance. The French National anthem is heard more and more.
As the fighting continues, the French National Anthem continues to dominate and the Russian Tsar asks his people to defend their country. Russian folk melodies can be heard as civilians join the army. At the battle of Borodino, the turning point of the war a blast of 5 cannons can be heard.
Following the Battle of Borodino, Tchaikovsky represents the French retreat with a series of descending melodies and then restates, O Lord, Save thy People, along with God Save the Tsar!, is played powerfully in the brass section with a strong display of chimes in the background. The ringing chimes are written to represent the bells of Moscow. The bells of Moscow have such a huge influence on Russia because, in the Orthodox religion, the bells represent an icon of the voice of God. At this moment in the piece, any Russian should feel great pride for their country. In the years following the premiere of the 1812 Overture, national pride in Russia was higher than it had been in decades.
Tchaikovsky didn’t think too highly of his efforts, as he said his heart wasn’t in it. He’d rather have been composing something with romantic passion and suffering than glorying in the power of the state. However, there does seem to be much passion and suffering despite these misgivings. The popularity and success of this overture told him that the world cared more about theatrical spectacle than his personal expression in his other works. The more successful it became, the more convinced he was that the world did not understand him.
The music does, however reflect a great deal of the passion and flavor of the rest of his works.
At the time, the logistics of performing with cannons was beyond the scope of the technology of the time. There was always a lag between the firing of the cannons and the sound that resulted. It is doubtful that Tchaikovsky expected the cannon shots to be executed with split-second precision, but he did take the time to notate the timing carefully. Modern computer technology has made is possible, with the aid of video cues to make the rendition almost completely accurate and it is performed many times during the summer months at outdoor concerts across the country. Many times with fireworks.
“It is the one piece of classical music that includes ‘The Bombs Bursting in Air,'” says Deane Root, a music professor at the University of Pittsburgh and director of its Center for American Music.
The music can be interpreted as a fairly literal depiction of the campaign: in June 1812, the previously undefeated French Allied Army of over half a million battle-hardened soldiers and almost 1,200 state-of-the-art guns (cannons, artillery pieces) crossed the Niemen River into Lithuania on its way to Moscow. The Holy Synod, aware that the Russian Imperial Army could field a force only a fraction of this size, inexperienced and poorly equipped, called on the people to pray for deliverance and peace. The Russian people responded en masse, gathering in churches all across the Empire and offering their heartfelt prayers for divine intervention (the opening hymn).
Next we hear the ominous notes of approaching conflict and preparation for battle with a hint of desperation but great enthusiasm, followed by the distant strains of La Marseillaise, the French National Anthem, as the French approach. Skirmishes follow, and the battle goes back and forth, but the French continue to advance and La Marseillaise becomes more prominent and victorious – almost invincible. The Tsar desperately appeals to the spirit of the Russian people in an eloquent plea to come forward and defend the Rodina (Motherland). As the people in their villages consider his impassioned plea, we hear traditional Russian folk music. La Marseillaise returns in force with great sounds of battle as the French approach Moscow. The Russian people now begin to stream out of their villages and towns toward Moscow to the increasing strains of folk music and, as they gather together, there is even a hint of celebration.
Now, La Marseillaise is heard in counterpoint to the folk music as the great armies clash on the plains west of Moscow, and Moscow burns. Just at the moment that Moscow is occupied and all seems hopeless, the hymn O Lord, Save Thy People that opens the piece is heard again as God intervenes, bringing an unprecedented deep freeze the French cannot bear (the winter winds blow in the music). The French attempt to retreat, but their guns, stuck in the freezing ground, are captured by the Russians and turned against them. Finally, the guns are fired in celebration and church bells all across the land peal in grateful honor of their deliverance from their treacherous and cruel enemies.
There was a transcription made at one time that substituted a choral rendition of the opening hymn, a children’s choir in the middle when all looks hopeless and a choral climax at the end with a triumphant version of O Lord, Save Thy People and God Save the Tsar.
Although the 1812 Overture was played a few times in the United States, particularly at the opening of Carnegie Hall 1891, in 1974 Arthur Fiedler chose it to be performed for a July 4 performance of the Boston Pops. It was during the cold war and most unusual that a piece commemorating a Russian war should be popular in the United States.
However, “With the exception of ‘America the Beautiful,’ the U.S. is short of patriotic hymns,” says Botstein. “‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is a tongue-twister; then you have ‘America,’ which is really the British national anthem. Being an immigrant nation, we are not offended by using another country’s national anthem.” So the stage was set for the Russian overture to become one of this nation’s most popular pieces at many summer celebrations. Today, many American’s believe that Tchaikovsky’s overture represents the USA’s victory against the British Empire during the War of 1812.