Paul Valjean – one of those “one-work” wonders!

Pittsburgh’s NPR classical music station, WQED-FM 89.3, sometimes plays pieces by what they call “one-work wonders,” composers who are known only by a single work.  Usually such composers wrote more, but only one – justifiably or not – has captured the music community’s collective ear and made it into the repertoire. On rare occasions, such composers truly only wrote one piece – which made it!  Such a work is the 1955 Dance Suite of Paul Valjean, written when the composer was a 20-year-old student at the Eastman School of Music, studying bassoon with K. David Van Hoesen (father of Pittsburgh Symphony harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen). The suite was written for a show organized by Eastman School of Music bassoon students, “The Bassoonists’ Ballet.”

Paul Valjean went on to a career as a dancer and choreographer, and apparently composed no more.  His Dance Suite, however, developed a life of its own and became popular with wind groups, being distributed through multiple generations of photocopies before its ultimate publication in 2000. You can hear it yourself on the Winds’ Holiday Express concert, Saturday November 26th at 8pm!

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Forty years ago…

Forty years ago this month, Eric Draper approached David Tessmer and Jim Whipple – all of whom were playing in the Carnegie Civic Symphony (now the Pittsburgh Civic Orchestra) about starting a wind quintet. Adding Eric’s friend and classmate from Duquesne University Mike Jacob on clarinet and hornist Mark Thompson from Carnegie Mellon, the Renaissance City Woodwind Quintet was off and running, and gave their first performance in an elementary school in Chartiers-Houston School District that fall. Later that season, the group won the Pittsburgh Concert Society Auditions.  Shown here is the group with baritone Rob Ferrier performing one of their winning selections, the Pügesange by American composer Brian Holmes, on the Concert Society Series the following season.  By this time Jeffrey Ellrod had taken the place of Mark Thompson on horn, who had moved away to attend graduate school.  Just look at all that dark hair!

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Clockwise, from the lower-left corner:
. . .
David Tessmer, flute
 . . . Eric Draper, oboe
 . . . Jeffrey Ellrod, horn
 . . . R. James Whipple, bassoon
 . . . Michael Jacob, clarinet
with Robert Ferrier, baritone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s an “aguinaldo?”

An aguinaldo is a genre of Venezuelan Christmas carol. Our concert of Latin American music features three of these. Luna Decembrina (“December Moon”) is an instrumental version of a choral setting by Gilberto Rebolledo, and is especially catchy with its hemiola rhythms (3/4 figures in a 6/8 meter).  Our long-time collaborating composer Efraín Amaya arranged two more for this program, Niño Lindo (“Pretty Child”) and Cantemos, Cantemos! (Sing, Sing!). In Venezuela, the musicians are typically rewarded with food and drink, but at our concert the audience gets treated to the reception as well, not to mention the tour of the toy train museum afterwards!

Efrain-Amaya

 

 

Venezuelan/American composer Efraín Amaya. The program also includes his Kaleidoscope, written for the Winds through the Pittsburgh New Residency.

The Power of Two

The latest addition to the Winds’ repertoire this month is Contrapunctus VI from The Art of Fugue by J.S. Bach, in a brand new transcription for wind quintet by composer/bassoonist R. James Whipple. In this amazing piece, Bach casts the theme (the “subject”) against itself moving twice as fast, and often upside-down (“inverted”)!  It’s pretty wild to hear one part enter after another but finish first! And this isn’t all; there’s a direction that the piece is to be performed in “French overture” style, so all the dotted rhythms become “doubly-dotted” which means that the short notes are twice as fast! You can hear this amazing creation on the Winds’ concerts on Saturday and Sunday, May 17-18. Here’s what the first page looks like (the dashed brackets show where the theme is inverted).

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RCW reed trio opens Johnstown series

The Winds’ reed trio of oboe, clarinet, and bassoon opened the newly-renamed Johnstown Concert Series (formerly the “Chamber Music Series of Greater Johnstown”) on Saturday, September 28th.  The downtown Third Presbyterian Church was an absolute stunning space with at least a three-second reverb! The program included French and American works from the 19th and 20th centuries, transcriptions of two Bach fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier and a suite of Renaissance pieces, and an unaccompanied bassoon solo based on Innuit folk music by the late Canadian composer Milton Barnes, performed by bassoonist R. James Whipple.

the interior of First Presbyterian Church of Johnstown

the interior of First Presbyterian Church of Johnstown 

 

Jack and Renate warming up

Jack and Renate warming up

the incredible high open interior of the dome

the incredible high open interior of the dome

 

RCW awarded Heinz grant for Façade

The Renaissance City Winds has been awarded a grant from the Heinz Endowments’ Small Arts Initiative for a production of Façade, which will open the 2013-14 season on September 20 and 22.  This is a major chamber work of the early 20th century with music composed by William Walton and poetry by Edith Sitwell.  The narration will be by legendary choral conductor Robert Page and noted actress/singer Kate Young.

William Walton

William Walton

Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell

Where’s the Renaissance Music?

Q – Where’s the Renaissance music?

A – We’re the RENAISSANCE CITY Winds, named after Pittsburgh’s nickname.  In the immediate post-WWII years, downtown Pittsburgh was reborn with the demolition of warehouses and industrial facilities and the construction of Gateway Center, the modern skyscrapers where the Allegheny and the Monogahela merge to form the mighty Ohio River. That’s where the “Renaissance City” came from!

While we play a few transcriptions from the Renaissance (1500s), the first original music for oboes and bassoons came along in the early Baroque, and the clarinet at the very end of the Baroque. So most of our music is from 1630-2013!

In 1943, after the first round of smoke control

In 1943, after the first round of smoke control



Pittsburgh reborn - aka "The Renaissance City"

Pittsburgh reborn – aka “The Renaissance City”

Freeport Finale on Sunday, July 28

The Winds’ three programs on the Trinity Concert Series in Freeport, Pennsylvania, conclude on Sunday, July 28.  Pianist Rodrigo Ojeda joins the Winds in “American Accents,” with music by Samuel Barber, Gunther Schuller, Roy Harris, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, and a ragtime piece by Julia Niebergall. Concert is at 6pm with a reception afterwards. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is at Fifth and Buffalo Streets in Freeport, just up PA Route 28 from Pittsburgh. Don’t miss it!

Rodrigo-Ojeda

photo by Larry Rippel

photo by Larry Rippel

 

Freeport Series Opens June 30

Winds at Freeport on June 30, 2013 at 6pm

Mark your calendars for the first concert of the Winds’ summer series at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Freeport, Pennsylvania (just up Route 28 from Pittsburgh). Barb O’Brien and John Marcinizyn have a great program of flute and guitar duos worked up for this.  Concert is at 6pm with a reception afterwards. Trinity Lutheran is at Fifth and Buffalo Streets in Freeport. Don’t miss it!

Future events in the same location on July 14 and July 28.  All are Sundays at 6pm.

O-Brien.n.Marcin