On Thursday November 7th, the University of North Texas Wind Symphony performed a fantastic concert that incorporated pieces from many different styles and cultures. The ensemble’s ability to express the emotions and distinctive settings of each piece far exceeds its high reputation.
The band began with Anthony O’Toole’s “Fanfare to ‘The Hammer’” (2013). The piece is a tribute to Hank Aaron or “The Hammer” an African American, who despite living in the time of segregation and racial uproar, rose up to become a professional baseball player. This heroic and inspirational story is certainly exhibited throughout the piece. It begins with a blast of excitement and grander. The fanfare motive is carried out in the high brass through most of the piece, highlighting the powerful and motivating tradition that baseball has created. Suddenly, a particularly odd and interesting clarinet solo rises above the rest of the ensemble. The noticeably dissimilar melody created by the clarinet creates slight tension when pitted against the fanfare melody of the high brass; however, the clarinet is slowly joined by other woodwinds until they finally come together with the brass in a beautiful harmony that pushes forward to the valiant end. The solo demonstrates the bravery Hank Aaron displayed in attaining his dreams; even though it was not initially accepted, Aaron continued to persevere and paved the way for racial equality in the world of professional sports.
The next piece, Oliver Messiaen’s “Et Exspecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum”, was a multi-movement piece proving to be the highlight of the performance. Before the piece began, a guest speaker spoke about the meaning behind the piece and why it was selected. Originally written for the French government during a time of great controversy, the piece is a declaration of Roman Catholic themes. The first performance of the piece took place at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. The exceptional beauty of the stained glass windows of the chapel are a true reflection of the magnificent emotional statement the piece creates. Each movement is based on a single bible verse and this particular performance was dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy, allowing a moment of silence in between movements to give the audience a chance to reflect.
The first movement, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130:1-2) begins with a dark haunting melody in the in the low brass. Gradually low woodwinds are added and the melody is executed in a chorale structure. This can be seen as the unsettling mindset one would be in if they are in Purgatory and await resurrection. Such as the throbbing agony that is anticipation, the percussion performs dramatic strikes that are a surprise against the smooth melody of the low voices. These percussive voices are placed above the rest of the ensemble in the balcony, as if they are a higher power speaking back to the lost souls. The high woodwinds come in at...