The Resident Symphony Orchestra of the City of Anaheim

PROGRAM NOTES

Southern Harmony


Program Notes

Roger Nixon: Centennial Fanfare-March

Born and raised in California's Central Valley towns of Tulare and Modesto, Roger Nixon (b. 1921) acquired a taste for the rhythms and dances of the early settlers of the state which appear in many of his works. His musical interests were nurtured in the public school music program, summer camp at Pacific Grove, and Modesto Junior College. He spent the war years in the Navy as a commanding officer of an LCMR in the Atlantic. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied with Roger Sessions, Sir Arthur Bliss, Ernest Bloch and privately with Arnold Schoenberg. In 1960, he joined the faculty at San Francisco State University. He has written over 60 compositions for orchestra, band, choir, and opera. In 1997, Nixon was honored by the Texas Bandmasters Association as a Heritage American Composer. Roger Nixon wrote the Centennial Fanfare - March in 1970 for the City of Modesto’s 100th Anniversary. The genre of the "fanfare - march" is something unique to Nixon in his compositions for band.

 

Travis Cross: And the Grass Sings in the Meadows

Travis J. Cross (b. 1977) has been appointed to the music faculty of the Herb Alpert School of Music at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he conducts the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band and directs the graduate program in wind conducting. As wind ensemble conductor for five years at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Cross led students in performances at the Virginia Music Educators Association conference, Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall and developed the Virginia Tech Band Directors Institute into a major summer conducting workshop.

Cross earned doctor and master of music degrees in conducting from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and the bachelor of music degree cum laude in vocal and instrumental music education from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. His principal teachers were Mallory Thompson and Timothy Mahr. Prior to graduate study, he taught for four years at Edina (Minn.) High School, where he conducted two concert bands and oversaw the marching band program.

His more than 20 original compositions and arrangements are published by Boosey & Hawkes, Daehn Publications, and Theodore Music. He has appeared as a guest conductor, composer, and clinician in several states, internationally, and at the Midwest Clinic and leads honor bands and other ensembles in Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Thailand during the 2013–2014 season.

“And the Grass Sings in the Meadows” was commissioned by the City of Fairfax, VA Concert Band, Robert Pouliot, music director and conductor. The premiere performance took place on April 16, 2011. The title of the work comes from the final stanza of the “Spring Carol” by Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson.

 

Donald Grantham: Southern Harmony

In 1835, William "Singin' Billy" Walker's songbook Southern Harmony was first published. This remarkable collection contains, according to its title page, "a choice collection of tunes, hymns, psalms, odes and anthems; selected from the most eminent authors in the United States." In fact, few of the numbers in the book are identified as the work of a particular composer. Many are folksongs (provided with religious texts), others are traditional sacred tunes, while some are revival songs that were widely known and sung throughout the south. The book was immensely popular, selling an amazing 600,000 copies before the Civil War, and was commonly stocked "along with groceries and tobacco" in general stores across the American frontier. From 1884 until World War II, an annual all-day mass performance of selections from Southern Harmony, called the "Benton Big Singing", was held on the Benton, Kentucky, courthouse lawn. The event drew participants from Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois.

The music of Southern Harmony has a somewhat exotic sound to modern audiences. The tunes often use modal or pentatonic rather than major or minor scales. The harmony is even more out of the ordinary, employing chord positions, voice leading and progressions that are far removed from the European music that dominated concert halls at the time. These harmonizations were dismissed as crude and primitive when they first appeared. Now they are regarded as inventive, unique, and powerfully representative of the American character. In his use of several tunes from Southern Harmony, the composer has attempted to preserve the flavor of the original vocal works in a setting that fully realizes the potential of the wind ensemble and the individual character of each song.

The Southeastern Conference of Band Directors commissioned Southern Harmony.

 

John Adams: Lollapalooza

Composer, conductor and creative thinker John Adams was born and raised in New England. He learned the clarinet from his father and played in marching bands and community orchestras during his formative years. He began composing at age ten and heard his first orchestral pieces performed while still a teenager. After graduating from Harvard, he moved in 1971 to the San Francisco Bay area where he has lived ever since.

 

“Lollapalooza was written as a fortieth birthday present for Simon Rattle who was been a friend and collaborator for many years. The term "lollapalooza" has an uncertain etymology, and just that vagueness may account for its popularity as an archetypical American word. It suggests something large, outlandish, oversized, not unduly refined. H.L. Mencken suggests it may have originally meant a knockout punch in a boxing match. I was attracted to it because of its internal rhythm: da-da-da-DAAH-da. Hence, in my piece, the word is spelled out in the trombones and tubas, C-C-C-Eb-C (emphasis on the Eb) as a kind of ideé fixe. The "lollapalooza" motive is only one of a profusion of other motives, all appearing and evolving in a repetitive chain of events that moves this dancing behemoth along until it ends in a final shout by the horns and trombones and a terminal thwack on timpani and bass drum.”

 

James Barnes: Fantasy Variations on a Theme by Nicolo Paganini

James Barnes (b. 9 September 1949, Hobart, Oklahoma) is a member of both the History and Theory-Composition faculties at the University of Kansas, teaches orchestration, arranging and composition courses, and wind band history and repertoire courses. At KU, he served as an Assistant, and later, as Associate Director of Bands for 27 years.

His numerous publications for concert band and orchestra are extensively performed at Tanglewood, Boston Symphony Hall, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Barnes has twice received the coveted American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award for outstanding contemporary wind band music. He has been the recipient of numerous ASCAP Awards for composers of serious, the Kappa Kappa Psi Distinguished Service to Music Medal, the Bohumil Makovsky Award for Outstanding College Band Conductors, along with numerous other honors and grants. He has recorded three commercial compact discs of his music with the world famous Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. He has also been commissioned to compose works for all five of the major military bands in Washington, DC. A recent CD by the United States Air Force Band features his Third Symphony.

John Bourgeois and the U.S. Marine Band, which premiered the work at the 1988 MENC Convention in Indianapolis, commissioned Fantasy Variations. Since its premiere, it has been performed over 150 times by the Marine Band. Twenty variations, based on the theme of Paganini's 24th Caprice in A Minor (for solo violin), showcase every soloist and major section of the modern symphonic band. Although both Brahms and Rachmaninoff wrote variations of this work for other media, this is the first setting for wind band.