EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 22, 2014

Wind power

Renaissance-inspired works will be performed by Salem Winds

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — People enjoy loud music.

“Human beings want the experience of being able to go and be overwhelmed by the sound of powerful music,” said Mark Aldrich, a retired professor of music at Salem State. “Before amplified music, to get that experience, you needed to have 35 or more players sitting together on stage to generate that kind of power.”

Wind bands got maximum volume by leaving their violins, cellos and other stringed instruments at home and playing only wind instruments and percussion.

“The wind band evolved — you can trace it to medieval times, when wind instruments were used outside because they were louder,” Aldrich said. “String players would play inside, in court.

“The wind band began to serve a function — they were used for parades, ceremonies and outdoor activities.”

Salem Winds, a wind band that Aldrich founded 12 years ago, will play on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall at Salem State University.

The concert, “Modern Wind Band Words Inspired by the Renaissance, Part 2,” continues a program that began with a performance last December.

The ensemble features about 40 professional musicians and devoted amateurs from around the North Shore, playing flutes, oboes and bassoons, trumpets, horns, a trombone, a euphonium — a small tuba — and tuba, and all sorts of percussion instruments.

“We have learned over the last 10 years how to resonate the hall to its maximum efficiency,” Aldrich said.

But as the function of wind bands has changed, so has their repertoire, and Salem Winds will feature works that explore the rich history of wind band music.

The concert will open with “Courtly Airs and Dances,” written by American composer Ron Nelson in 1995, a piece in six sections that Salem Winds also played last December.

“These are six short movements based on five popular Renaissance dances, each characterizing a different European country during the 16th century,” Aldrich said.

Such works inspired the Renaissance music that followed and make a fitting introduction to this performance.

“Canzona,” by Peter Mennin — who led The Julliard School until his death in 1983 — was written in the 1950s as a commission for the Edwin Franco Goldman Wind Band.

“They were the premier band in the country and rivaled Souza,” Aldrich said.

The work is patterned after the canzone of Giovanni Gabriele, an Italian composer from the late 16th and early 17th centuries who was famous for writing works for brass instruments.

“He would use choirs of brass instruments, and would put them up on the balconies of churches and fill halls with brass players, and spread them around,” Aldrich said. “The acoustic experience was amazing. That was one of the earliest wind bands.”

“Flourishes and Meditations on a Renaissance Theme” by Michael Gandolfi, who teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music, will follow.

“He wrote this piece, commissioned by the President’s Own U.S. Marine Band, and won the national award for best wind band composition in 2012,” Aldrich said. “This is a very challenging work. The piece is in theme and variations form, which had its advent during the Renaissance.

“That theme is Spanish folk guitar music, a widely played and popular folk tune during the Spanish Renaissance, which was also used in a famous piece by Joaquín Rodrigo, ‘Fantasy for a Gentleman.’”

Wind bands have an impressive history in Salem, starting with Irish immigrant Patrick Gilmore, who formed wind bands here and in Boston in the 1850s.

“He developed a band here for three years, and it became known as one of the finest in the land,” Gilmore said. “He is known as the father of the American wind band.”

His successor, Jean Missud, took over from Gilmore and conducted a wind band in Salem from 1878 to 1941.

While wind bands don’t try to compete with groups that use electronic amplification, their acoustic sound has qualities that would be lost in a speaker, Aldrich said.

“When music is translated into an electronic medium, it tricks you into hearing the full depth and clarity of acoustic music, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s an electrical, fragmented signal that is being reproduced.

“Recording technology still can’t keep up to the speed of the human brain. It doesn’t even approach the psycho-acoustic effect of a live performer, the music going from one human heart to another, the emotion, the experience of live acoustic music — and beautiful, not just loud.”

If you go

What: Salem Winds, playing modern wind band works inspired by the Renaissance, part 2

When: Tuesday, May 27, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Salem State University Concert Hall, 71 Loring Ave., Salem

Cost: Free

Information: www.salemwinds.org