Composer Heather Morris
There is nothing like the sound of a concert band. Not that I have anything against the full orchestra timbre, but the sound that come from the combined brass, woodwinds and percussion (minus the strings) is inherently festive and rousing. Such was the case for Cabrillo College’s Concert Band and Symphonic Winds on Sunday, May 4, under the direction of instructor Jon Nordgren. Along with familiar works by Mozart and John Phillips Sousa, the program spotlighted an outstanding ensemble of percussionists in Vaclav Nehybel’s Festivo. More percussive virtuosity followed, featuring Paul Kuhn, in Variations on a tune for Tympani by Maurice Garner. Into the Storm by Robert Smith was expertly conducted by assistant conductor Nicholas Marinovich.
Mr. Nordgren and his bands are to be commended on the breadth and difficulty of the literature that was covered in one semester’s time. The heartfelt enthusiasm of students and community members, young and older, was irresistible and a testament to the value and meaning of music and the arts in every community. To this end, Mr. Nordgren made a sincere appeal to the audience to sign a petition supporting the practice of repeatability for art and music classes, which are currently subject to new restrictions. I invite you to lend your voice to this very worthy cause.
The Symphonic Winds portion of the concert offered selections from “Oliver,” (a hint of the upcoming production of same by Cabrillo Stage), Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No. 1, Gustav Holst’s First Suite for Military Band and the world premiere of local composer Heather Morris, entitled Memoirs: A Journey Through my Musical and Not so Musical Family.
Rob Zvalko was horn soloist in the Strauss concerto. Notwithstanding occasional flubs, Mr. Zvalko gave a bold interpretation of the work, which was enthusiastically enjoyed and appreciated by audience and musicians alike.
The First Suite by Holst was the best performed and the most substantial work on the concert. Guest Dr. John Graulty’s conducting, articulate, adept and expressive, commanded an extra level of attentiveness that brought out the best in the players.
Heather Morris was born and raised in England. She has a degree in music from Sheffield University and has pursued graduate studies in Education at Durham University. Her composition, as the title implies, comprises nostalgic recollections of her life in England, with musical references to horse carts, choral hymns, church bells, factory whistles and the rain which showered the tiny hamlet of Affetside where she grew up 200 days a year!
Her piece began with an English sounding tune (which was actually sung by some members of the ensemble). As her narrative developed, the work crescendoed to a striking theatrical effect. To my surprise, Ms. Morris wove the melody of O Sole Mio, a reference to a favorite and familiar tune of her youth, into the mix. Cascades of clarinet lines did sound like sheets of rain. The final section let out a dissonant screech (the factory whistle), followed by an ostinato figure that was contrapuntally tossed about throughout the band. Sounds of bells like those from English countryside towers echoed the imaginary musical landscape at the conclusion of the piece, again punctuated with both singing and playing. It was an enjoyable piece to listen to and a successful rendering of fond memories with which the listener could easily identify.