Storytelling: PSYWE Spring Concert cover

Storytelling: PSYWE Spring Concert

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Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble opens its spring concert with the fanciful Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandby Los Angeles-based composer Steven Mahpar. The program continues with Ralph Vaughan Williams' elegiac The Lark Ascending and closes with Paul Hindemith's stirring Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber.
Admission is free, but tickets are required. Seating is general admission.
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Storytelling: PSYWE Spring Concert

GREGORY X. WHITMORE • CONDUCTOR

STEVEN MAHPAR • COMPOSER & NARRATOR

YURI CHOI • FLUTE

Steven Mahpar (b. 1977)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2009)

Down the Rabbit Hole The Caterpillar

The Mad Tea Party

The Mock Turtle & Lobster Quadrille

The Court of the Queen of Hearts

Steven Mahpar, composer and narrator

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)

The Lark Ascending

Transcribed by William H. Silvester

Yuri Choi, flute

I N T E R M I S S I O N

Paul Hindemith (1895–1963)

Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

Arranged by Keith Wilson

Allegro

Turandot-Scherzo: Moderato Andantino

Marsch

This afternoon’s performance has been generously sponsored by William J. Gillespie.

STEVEN MAHPAR: (b. 1977)

Los Angeles-based musician and composer Steven Mahpar (b. 1977) has written music in a variety of genres for the concert hall, film and television.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University, Fullerton. Active as a performer as well as a composer and teacher, he plays and teaches French horn, conducts the Pacific Brass Ensemble and is currently on the faculty of Mt. San Antonio College and California State University, Northridge.

Many of his compositions have been inspired by his Persian heritage, as well as by legendary film composers such as Alfred Newman, Jerry Goldsmith and Miklos Rozsa. Composed in 2009, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Suite is a whimsical retelling in music of the classic 1865 novel by the English mathematician Lewis Carroll (1832-1898).

RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 - 1958)

Born to an affluent family in a small English village, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) studied piano, violin, viola and organ. He pursued his musical studies at the Royal College of Music, and also spent several years studying at Cambridge University. He supplemented his musical education by studying privately with Bruch in Berlin and with Ravel in Paris.

A highly versatile musician, he was also active as a conductor, writer, lecturer, teacher, editor and folksong collector. To his lasting credit, Vaughan Williams actively assisted in efforts to help integrate Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany into British society during the Second World War.

Although there had been a great tradition of English music dating back to Elizabethan times, during the next 200 years the English musical scene had been dominated by foreigners. In fact, it has been remarked that the three greatest English composers of the 18th and 19th centuries were all German—Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn.

Following on the heels of English composer Edward Elgar, Vaughan Williams was the first to maintain interest in English folk music (along with his lifelong friend Gustav Holst), forging a musical style that was simultaneously highly personal and uniquely English.

Vaughan Williams sought to revitalize local musical materials rather than imitating foreign ones. In contrast to many other composers, he maintained a social outlook, conscious of music’s usefulness to a wide variety of audiences. He frequently composed small-scale works for amateur musicians in addition to larger ones for professionals.

Composed in 1914, The Lark Ascending was originally written for violin and piano. It was orchestrated in 1920 following the composer’s service as a wagon orderly in France and Greece during the First World War. The culmination of Vaughan Williams’ second musical period, it reflects the composer’s intense interest in English folk music. A highly personal adaptation rather than a direct transcription of folk music, its sophisticated musical language is derived from melodic and modal characteristics common to English folksong.

The piece was inspired by the 1881 poem The Lark Ascending by George Meredith (1828-1909). Vaughan Williams inscribed several lines of the poem’s text on the work’s first page.

The poem’s comparison of a bird to wine draws on Christian religious imagery. Although often reported to have been composed while Vaughan Williams was watching British troops on their way to France, this story is not verifiable.

The Lark Ascending

(excerpts selected by Ralph Vaughan Williams)

He rises and bigins to round,

He drops the silver chain of sound,

Of many links without a break,

In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

For singing till his heaven fills,

'Tis love of earth that he instils,

And ever winging up and up,

Our valley is his golden cup

And he the wine which overflows

to lift us with him as he goes.

Till lost on his aerial rings

In light, and then the fancy sings.

PAUL HINDEMITH (1895 - 1963)

One of the foremost and most versatile German musicians in the mid-20th century, Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) served as composer, theorist, teacher, pedagogue, writer, violinist, violist and conductor. When his father insisted he become a musician, the young Hindemith studied violin with local teachers in his hometown near Frankfurt, then won a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Frankfurt Conservatory.

To help support the financially struggling family, he played in a trio with his two siblings and his father accompanying on zither. The family performed in a variety of locations, including inns, dance halls, cinemas and spas—experiences that would later prove highly influential on the mature Hindemith’s musical style and philosophy.

Hindemith received financial support from wealthy patrons, allowing him to add composition to his violin studies at Frankfurt Conservatory. He began composing, writing in a variety of genres and styles. After graduating, he continued performing on both violin and viola, playing in the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra and joining his former teacher’s string quartet as second violinist.

Hindemith served in World War I, forming a string quartet and continuing to compose. The experience of making music in the trenches led him to first realize, as he himself would later put it, “that music is more than style, technique and the expression of powerful feelings. Music reached out beyond political boundaries, national hatred and the horrors of war. On no other occasion have I seen so clearly what direction music must take.”

After the war, Hindemith continued performing and composing, devoting his energy to modern music and serving as his own advocate. He soon received sponsorship from a prestigious publisher and began developing his own musical voice.

Devoted to the use of music to serve social causes, Hindemith became the leading figure of what has been termed “New Objectivity.” In the words of musicology scholar Giselher Schubert, New Objectivity can be described as “the simultaneous emergence of socio-political and artistic trends that emphasized the democratization of all areas of life. Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) thinking in music suggested that the style of a particular work should depend on the character and function chosen for it.” The philosophy was firmly opposed to 19th-century Romantic

notions of art. In Hindemith’s own words, “The composer today should write only if he knows for what purpose he is writing. The days of composing only for the sake of composing are perhaps gone forever.”

In 1927 Hindemith was hired to teach at the Berlin Musikhochschule. In keeping with his philosophy of the practical role of music in society, he became one of the first composers to teach film music (among many other topics). He also taught a course for amateurs at the Volksmusikschule, and wrote music specifically for records.

The Nazis’ rise to power in 1933 reflected the very antithesis of everything Hindemith believed in. Distraught, fearful and disillusioned, Hindemith retreated into his art and was vilified by Hitler and Goebbels. Taking an indefinite leave from his teaching position in Berlin, he embarked on several international trips.

Ostensibly going as a musical ambassador to raise musical conditions in Istanbul, he used excursions to Turkey as a way of secretly helping Jewish musicians relocate there, where they could live free of the danger posed by Nazism. He moved to Switzerland in 1938 and immigrated to the United States in 1940.

In America, Hindemith taught at a variety of colleges including SUNY Buffalo and Cornell; he ended up teaching at Yale University for the better part of a decade. During the 1940s he became one of the most frequently performed composers in the United States and gained a solid reputation internationally (his music had been little performed outside of Germany before 1933). Hindemith was invited to take part in the Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1949 (the same lecture series in which Stravinsky participated in 1939 and Leonard Bernstein would later do in 1973).

Hindemith (to the left) received the Wihuri Sibelius Prize in 1955 from Antti Wihuri.

He returned to Switzerland in 1951, teaching at the University of Zürich from 1951 until 1957 and spent his last years conducting and touring (including South America and Japan) although still finding time to compose until almost the very end.

Composed in 1943, Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber was originally intended to be a ballet based on music by Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826); the choreography would have been by Léonide Massine. Ultimately, the project fell through. Massine wanted to use staging by Salvador Dalí, which Hindemith disliked, and Hindemith’s adaptations of Weber’s compositions disappointed Massine. One of the leading composers of German Romanticism, von Weber was particularly famous for his opera Der Freischütz.

Although the project fell through, Hindemith decided to continue with the project alone.

Instead of a ballet, Hindemith turned the work into a four-movement, purely musical work based on obscure piano duets by von Weber. The piece’s first movement is based on Op. 60 No. 4 (composed in 1818), its third movement is adapted from Op. 10, No. 2 (1810), and the finale is also drawn from Op. 60. Unlike the other movements, the second movement is based on Weber’s incidental music to the play Turandot, Princess of China (1809).

Interestingly, von Weber’s music for this play uses a Chinese melody that he encountered in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Dictionnaire de Musique (published in 1767). In fact, von Weber’s use of the melody was the first example of an authentic Chinese melody used by a Western classical composer—although the tune may have been adapted by Rousseau to suit Western ears.

Hindemith’s reworking of von Weber’s music for Turandot was but the latest in a long series of adaptations. The earliest traceable version of the tale was written by medieval Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi (1141- 1209) in his poem Seven Beauties, written in 1197. Centuries later, a version appears in One Thousand and One Days by François Pétis de la Croix (1653-1713), a 17th-century French scholar of Islam and the Near East.

Published in five volumes between 1710 and 1712, the book is a set of fairy tales de la Croix supposedly heard in Persia in 1675— although it is unclear how accurately he recollected tales he had encountered nearly four decades previously and how much was de la Croix’s own invention.

Khutulun daughter of Kaidu via Gallica Digital Library

De la Croix may also have been influenced by the real-life story of Khutulun, a 13th century warrior princess of Mongolia who had ruled over China as the descendent of Genghis Khan.

De la Croix’s version of Turandot was adapted by the Italian playwright Carlo Gozzi (1720-1806) in 1762. Gozzi wrote his version in the style of commedia dell’arte (an early form of Italian professional theatre featuring stock characters wearing masks).

This second version was in turn adapted in 1801 by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), the same German author and poet whose Ode to Joy was famously set by Beethoven. More serious and moralizing than Gozzi or de la Croix, Schiller’s version was set to music by von Weber in 1809. The work was also adapted by Puccini for his final opera, Turandot.

In the more recent versions of the story, Prince Calàf of Persia travels to Beijing, where he hears stories of Princess Turandot’s cruelty.

When he sees her portrait, he falls in love with her. After many machinations, she comes to return his love and renounce her harsh ways.

Joshua Grayson, Ph.D., is an historical musicologist and graduate of the USC Thornton School of Music.

Meet The PSWYE Music Director

Meet The PSWYE Music Director

Dr. Gregory Xavier Whitmore is director of bands at Mt. San Antonio College (Walnut, CA). Whitmore is also music director of Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble (Irvine, CA). These appointments follow a career as conductor of the College of the Desert Symphony Band (Palm Desert, CA), and director of bands at Cathedral City High School (Cathedral City, CA).

Whitmore, a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, received his bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education from The University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While a student at The University of Michigan, Whitmore actively performed in the University of Michigan Bands and led the University of Michigan Marching Band as “Michigan’s Man Up Front”—drum major—from 1999 to 2001.

Whitmore received his master’s degree in music with an emphasis in wind conducting from California State University, Fullerton studying under Dr. Mitchell Fennell. Whitmore holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in music and music education from Columbia University (Teachers College) in New York City.

Whitmore has conducted ensembles in such notable concert venues as the Musikverein (Vienna), the Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna), the MuTh (Vienna), Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall (Costa Mesa), Symphony Hall (Chicago), The Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Carnegie Hall (New York City), Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), Meng Hall (Fullerton, California), Holy Trinity Church (Stratford, England), St. John’s Smith Square (London), Chateau Vaux le Vicomte (Paris) and Heidelberg Castle (Germany). Under Whitmore’s direction, the Cathedral City High School Symphony Band was selected to perform as the showcase ensemble during the 2008 California Band Directors Association Annual Convention.

Whitmore belongs to several professional organizations that include College Band Directors National Association, Phoenix Honorary Leadership Society, Kappa Kappa Psi Honorary Band fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, Pi Kappa Lambda Honor Society, the National Association for Music Education, Southern California School Band And Orchestra Association and California Music Educators Association.

A recognized member of four editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, Whitmore has been included in the 2005/2006 edition of the National Honor Roll’s Outstanding American Teachers. Whitmore is a Golden Apple Educator Award Recipient and Orion Award Recipient for Excellence in Education. Whitmore was selected to represent the State of California by School Band and Orchestra Magazine in the 2008 edition of “50 Band Directors Who Make A Difference.”