Yale Concert Band kicks off the season with pieces by Bernstein, Holst, Price and Still
Yale Concert Band 2020. Courtesy of Harold Shapiro.
The Yale Concert Band will host a concert today featuring music that spans continents, cultures and styles.
This show is both the YCB’s first in-person performance of the semester and the first undergraduate musical performance with a live audience this academic year. The concert will also be broadcast online.
YCB is a group of 50 wind, brass and percussion instrumentalists, and their musical style embraces both traditional wind orchestral repertoire and contemporary experimental pieces. In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, the public will be limited to 275 people and will only be open to holders of a Yale ID card. Due to the restrictions on the duration of the live concerts, the show will start at 7:30 p.m. and run for 75 minutes. The program includes Walter Beeler’s arrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s “The Overture to Candide”, as well as other compositions by Gustav Holst, Florence Price and William Grant Still.
“It’s a menu of culture and diversity, genre and sound – something for everyone,” said YCB director Thomas Duffy.
In Friday’s performance, the group also plans to include works like “Danzón” by Arturo Márquez, “Keeping Step with the Union” by John Philip Sousa and “Miške” by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis – which means “forest” in Lithuanian.
According to Duffy, the selection of Čiurlionis’ piece for the program is tied to YCB’s history, as the group has already premiered one of the composer’s pieces. YCB is also linked to Čiurlionis’ homeland of Lithuania, where the band toured ten years ago and met a Lithuanian conductor whom they later invited to Yale. Since Čiurlionis was both a painter and a composer, the group’s performance of his piece will be accompanied by a screen projection of his paintings.
YCB’s repertoire selection process involves both Duffy and the band members. According to YCB President Alina Martel ’23, Duffy’s familiarity with previous programs allows her to organize concerts in a way that avoids rehearsals and allows for a “new and exciting” repertoire.
Duffy noted that he enjoys hearing musicians’ opinions on the tracks, so he usually suggests works the band could play, and then investigates which tracks they think an audience would enjoy.
“Can’t wait to play ‘Danzon’ – he has a Calypso [music style] ambiance, but it’s a fun, almost dancing piece, ”said Keenan Miller ’24, who plays the French horn.
Last year, health restrictions forced the group to conduct virtually all meetings. According to Martel, this meeting format facilitated these discussions, so much of the planning for Friday’s concert took place last year.
The group hosted virtual performances last year, putting together recordings of each member individually performing their role. While Martel said it was “fun” to meet on Zoom, being around other people in person is a more meaningful experience.
“[Over Zoom] we could still make music, but that level of working with someone else – having them right next to you and being able to react to changes in their playing [simultaneously] – creates a level of cohesion in the room that you can’t really achieve by recording virtually, ”said Martel.
In addition to limitations on representation time and audience capacity, YCB worked with University public health officials on Additional Precautions. For example, group members will be tested for COVID-19 twice this week in addition to wearing specialized instrument masks that allow them to play their instruments while limiting the spread of airborne aerosols.
According to Miller, horn players’ masks include a slit that opens and closes, allowing them to blow on the mouthpiece of the instrument while keeping the mask in place. On the other hand, flute players will wear another type of mask in which the mouthpiece of the flute remains inside the face cover.
Each player will also have a bell cover – a circular piece of cloth with an attached elastic that covers the bell of an instrument – to prevent the musicians’ saliva from spilling out. According to Miller, the spread of saliva is the “danger” of playing wind or wind instruments.
Despite these inconveniences, Miller said he was “very excited” to return to a performance hall and perform for an audience after such a long absence.
Martel expressed similar feelings about returning an in-person audience.
“When we finish one of our tracks, there is a bit of reverberation in the room, and then the applause begins. I think it will be a magical and cathartic moment for all of us, ”said Martel.
The Yale Concert Band dates back to 1917.