John Frayne: UI Band provides some cool sounds on a hot summer night
The second concert on the University of Illinois Quadrangle behind the Illini Union was July 18, at the end of a long hot day in a longer hot week.
High praise should go to the UI students and alumni in the UI Band, as well as the conductors for soldiering through the heat. The audience out on the quad grass, on lawn chairs or blankets, was about the same size as the June concert, and I found the heat not oppressive. But it is cooler to listen to music than to make it.
The main conductor of the evening was Linda R. Moorehouse, who is associate director of bands at the UI. During a long summary of the plot of Richard Wagner's opera "Lohengrin," Moorhouse was interrupted by repeatedly failing wireless microphones, but the third mike held out to the end of her comments.
The band then tore into a rousing performance of the introduction to Act III of "Lohengrin." The horns in the band had a field day in the opening fanfare, and the arrangement by Jack Stamp made a curious change in Wagner's melodic line.
One of Morton Gould's top hits followed: the "Pavane" from his American Symphonette No. 2. In the unfolding of this catchy tune, three trumpeters, Robin Thomas, Dan Morrison, and Blase Cermak did outstanding work in the elegant solos.
A potpourri of Antonin Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 was then vigorously conducted by Moorhouse. In the band arrangement by James Curnow, these lovely melodies seemed perfect for a summer night.
Guest conductor Jeananne Nichols, who is assistant professor of music education at the UI, then adroitly led the band members in classic melodies from George Gershwin's folk opera, "Porgy and Bess." There were eloquent trumpet solos during the aria "Summertime," and later, fine saxophone solos during "Bess, you is my woman now," a tune which the arranger Robert Russell Bennett used as the capstone of this uplifting suite.
A film was scheduled to be shown on the site of the concert at 9 p.m., so the program was shortened by one number, and Gershwin's music was followed by Yo Goto's rhapsody on the famous Italian song, "Finuculi, Finucula," which some composers, to their cost, assumed to be a folk song, but it really was the work of composer Luigi Denza, who set the words, in Neapolitan dialect, of Peppino Turco. The song celebrated the opening of a finicular cable car to the top of Mount Vesuvius. An eruption of the volcano destroyed the cable car in 1944, but the melody plays on.
Goto's arrangement had a grandiose introduction and after running the tune through various choirs of the band, at varying sound levels, and tempos, this rhapsody ended with an apotheosis worthy of its volcanic inspiration. This jumpy melody set a pair of toddlers to dance up near the band.
Nichols then led the band in Thacher Guild's "Illinois Loyalty," and, as tradition dictates, the audience clapped along. Moorhouse, standing on the side, encouraged the two dancing toddlers to clap along. This relaxing concert was definitely family friendly.
Those looking for classical music during these "dog days" will be happy to know that Baroque Artists of Champaign-Urbana will give a choral concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Chapel of St. John the Divine, 1101 South Wright St., C.
This date is the day on which Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750. In honor of the great Bach, the chorus of BACH will perform the motet "Sei nun wieder zufrieden" ("Be now happy once again") from Bach's Cantata No. 21.
Then, extending their interests beyond the Baroque era, the chorus will sing Part Songs by Johannes Brahms, and Benjamin Britten's cantata "Rejoice in the Lamb."
Rounding out the program will be three excerpts from Sergei Rachmaninoff's "All-Night Vigil" (frequently called Vespers), and part of Eric Whitacre's work "The Flight," a work that sets to music a text by Charles Anthony Silvestri about the great Leonardo da Vinci's efforts to invent a machine to enable humans to fly as free as the birds.
John Frayne hosts "Classics of the Phonograph" on Saturdays at WILL-FM and, in retirement, teaches at the University of Illinois. He can be reached at email@example.com.