Festive Fall
October 10, 2021

Program Notes:

Festive Overture
Dmitri Shostakovich

Personal accounts of Dmitri Shostakovich describe him as an anxious, nervous
man—which is no surprise, given his constant cat-and-mouse relationship with the
censors and culture police under the reign of Stalin. Shostakovich’s true loyalty to the
Soviet government and its leader remains a famously unresolved problem among music
historians. Formally denounced by the regime twice, Shostakovich won back favor both
times through more obviously pro-Soviet works. His controversial memoir Testimony
indicates that he did not wish to support the Soviet regime; this certainly corroborates the
widespread interpretations of Shostakovich’s music that understand it to be woven with
sarcastic and bitter threads, rather than triumphant and nationalistic ones.

In Testimony, Shostakovich explains the difficulty of a creative artist’s tribulations under
such a regime: “It didn’t matter how the audience reacted to your work or if the critics
liked it. All that had no meaning in the final analysis. There was only one question of life
or death: how did the leader like your opus? I stress: life or death, because we are talking
about life or death here, literally, not figuratively. That’s what you must understand.
…An artist whose portrait did not resemble the leader disappeared forever. So did the
writer who used ‘crude words.’ No one entered into aesthetic discussions with them or
asked them to explain themselves. Someone came for them at night. That’s all. These
were not isolated cases, not exceptions. You must understand that.”

The circumstance behind the creation of Shostakovich’s immortal Festive Overture is the
stuff of legend. Shostakovich was visited at his apartment in fall of 1954 by a conductor
from the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra, who needed a new work to celebrate the October
Revolution—with the concert only three days later. With Shostakovich at the time was
his friend Lebedinsky, who recounts: “The speed with which he wrote was truly
astounding. Moreover, when he wrote light music he was able to talk, make jokes and
compose simultaneously, like the legendary Mozart. He laughed and chuckled, and in the
meanwhile work was under way and the music was being written down.” Other accounts
tell of Shostakovich locking himself in a room and sliding completed pages of the score
under the door as they were completed for the copyist to take and turn into parts for the
orchestra. However the specifics of the story played out, we do know that the vibrant
Festive Overture was composed at an extremely rapid pace, and yet the finished work is
polished, symmetrical, and natural, showing no signs of compositional haste whatsoever.


Kathryn Salfelder

Cathedrals is a fantasy on Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzon Primi Toni from the Sacrae
, which dates from 1597. Written for St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, the
canzon is scored for two brass choirs, each comprised of two trumpets and two
trombones. The choirs were stationed in opposite balconies of the church according to the
antiphonal principal of cori spezzati (broken choirs), which forms the basis of much of
Gabrieli’s writing.

Cathedrals is an adventure in "neo-renaissance" music, in its seating arrangement,
antiphonal qualities, sixteenth century counterpoint, and canonic textures. Its form is
structured on the golden ratio (1:0.618), which is commonly found not only in nature and
art, but also in the motets and masses of Renaissance composers such as Palestrina and
Lassus. The areas surrounding the golden section and its series of extrapolated
subdivisions have audible characteristics, often evidenced by cadences, changes in
texture, or juxtaposition of ideas.

The work is a synthesis of the old and the new, evoking the mystery and allure of
Gabrieli’s spatial music, intertwined with the rich color palette, modal harmonies, and
textures of woodwinds and percussion.   – program note from the composer

Grant Luhmann

Soloist: MU1 Meera Gudipati, flute

Panacea, for electronically processed flute and wind ensemble, uses a computer program to capture, transform, and amplify the soloist’s performance in real time. The electronics augment the flute’s abilities, allowing it to duplicate itself endlessly and play notes spanning the entire range of human hearing. Because the electronic manipulation occurs in real-time, the soloist is given some passages of partial improvisation which are interpreted differently by the electronics each time the piece is played. The ensemble generally performs the role of expanding upon and extending the electronics. The soloist, electronics, and the ensemble often become indistinguishable from one another.

Though in a single movement, the piece has four continuous sections that each explore a different capability of the electronics. The opening three minutes of the first section are a partially-improvised cadenza for flute and electronics alone. The flute begins softly, tentatively exploring the space provided by the electronics. It sets about creating its own orchestra, building a dense chorus of flutes that span the range of the piano keyboard. In this way, it sings its own world into existence.

When the texture of this flute orchestra becomes fully saturated, the band finally enters, seamlessly fitting into the world that came before it. Just as the electronics are a direct extension of the flute, so, too, is the ensemble an extension of the electronics. Increasingly, the ensemble finds its own independent voice, and the flute ascends to its high register to create a sparkling filigree over the singing of the ensemble it brought into existence.

The activity finally winds down, and the flute finds itself alone again, this time without much aid from its electronic duplicates. Thus begins the second section of the piece, a meditation on white noise and the sound of wind through leaves. The texture shimmers, yet remains hushed and reserved.

Eventually, the texture darkens, as though a cloud has passed over the scene, and the flute finds itself in opposition to the saxophones—the first time it has ever conflicted with the ensemble it created. The flute seeks to establish its voice again before plummeting abruptly into its lowest register, beginning the third section of the piece.

In this section, the flute plays alone with electronics again, with four electronic copies of itself murmuring like organ pedals at the bottom reaches of human hearing. The low brass joins in its deepest register, lending a sense of vastness to the texture. A chorus of brass enter, layers are added, and the flute gradually accelerates. The ensemble builds in independence and confidence for several minutes before the accumulating energy is released in the only rhythmically-driven passage in the entire piece. This moment is a crystallization—an apotheosis—of material that has come before.

But before too long, this brightly shining crystal sublimates, vanishing into air sounds and hushed energy similar to the second section of the piece. This transitions to the fourth and final section, in which the flute plays a chant-like, glacially slow melody accompanied by itself in canon four octaves down. The atmosphere remains ponderous, still, and the ensemble joins for the last few moments to bid this place farewell. On the last chord, the soloist extends a gently oscillating pattern of chords and is given the privilege of selecting the chord that the piece ends on. Thanks to the electronics, Panacea can end on a different harmony every time it is performed.

Rather than having a single leading voice, Panacea often instead is a wash of sonorities. Melodic fragments surface from time to time only to duck back beneath waves of dense sound. I invite listeners to explore these textures freely and, rather than listen for a single melodic voice, let their ears settle on whatever catches their interest at the moment. – program note from the composer

The Glory of the Yankee Navy
John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa personified turn-of-the-century America, the comparative innocence
and brash energy of a still-new nation. His ever-touring band represented America across
the globe and brought music to hundreds of American towns. Sousa’s legendary career
began early, when in 1880 he became conductor of the U.S. Marine Band at the fresh-
faced age of twenty-six. Within twelve years the vastly improved ensemble had won high
renown and Sousa’s compositions earned him the title of “The March King.” Sousa
continued his momentum with the formation of his own band in 1892, which quickly
found itself the subject of worldwide acclaim. In its first seven years the band gave 3500
concerts; in an era of train and ship travel it logged over a million miles in nearly four
decades. There were European tours in 1900, 1901, 1903, and 1905, and a world tour in
1910-11, the zenith of the band era.
The Glory of the Yankee Navy appeared on the very first Coast Guard Band concert
program at the Coast Guard Acadamy’s Leamy Hall. The march is based on material that
Sousa first adapted from a musical comedy The Yankee Girl, later evolving it into the
martial version heard today. Because of these stage origins, this march yields the rare (for
Sousa marches anyway) opportunity to put words to the tune, as found below in the
original lyrics from the Library of Congress Digital Image Collection:


“Yo ho, yo ho” said Uncle Sam,
I want a sailor man,
a brave American,
To sail away to ev’ry land

And let them see the Stars and Stripes of Uncle Sam,

“All right, all right,” said Union Jack,
I am the man you lack,
so let them clear the track,
I’ll sail around the world and back,
Until no nation dare attack the Union Jack”
So the navy sailed away with colors flying
And the sailor ladies left their lassies crying
And ev’rywhere the Jackies went
they made a hit of great extent,
And brought an endless fame to Uncle Sam.
The glo-ry of the Yankee navy
Will expand to ev’ry land
And may it keep our nation peaceful
Evermore from shore to shore,
Let’s live in peace with all the world,
But let us fight when we are right;
In time of peace prepare for war,
In Yankee Dixie land.

Ship ahoy, sailor boy! Ship ahoy, sailor boy!

From Maine to Alabam
That’s the cry of Uncle Sam
Ship ahoy!

The glo-ry of the Yankee navy
Will expand to ev’ry land
And may it keep our nation peaceful
Evermore from shore to shore,
Let’s live in peace with all the world,
But let us fight when we are right;
In time of peace prepare for war,
In Yankee Dixie land.


"Four Sea Interludes" from Peter Grimes
Benjamin Britten

Throughout his life, Benjamin Britten composed prolifically and established himself as a
leading twentieth century composer—but it was specifically his operatic canon that
gained him lasting global influence. Of any composer born in the twentieth century, his
operas are performed worldwide the most frequently. Peter Grimes is arguably his most
popular opera, and premiered in 1945 to critical and popular acclaim. the Four Sea
Interludes are extracted from six that exist to cover scene changes in the staged opera.
Musically significant not merely for their transportive effects that take the audience from
one physical story location to another, they also explore both inner and outer turmoil
among the opera’s characters and evoke a nearly constantly foreboding nature. The
events of the opera merit this underlying menace; the story concerns itself with Peter
Grimes, a loner fisherman who is hounded to self-destruction after the mysterious but
accidental deaths of two of his apprentices. Benjamin Britten wrote the opera’s Interludes
to lead into their respective next scenes without pause, and re-composed endings to
enable performance of the Four Sea Interludes as a concert piece.

The first Interlude, “Dawn,” bridges the Prologue and the early morning of Act I, and in
the opera follows the questioning of Peter Grimes regarding the death of his first
apprentice. Britten’s Dawn reveals the timelessness of the morning calm on the
ocean—high voices singing like gulls, arpeggiated gestures that whirl and glisten like the
early sun reflecting across the water, and brass chords that evoke the new light of the day.
“Sunday Morning” is the Prelude to Act II and is played as the second Interlude. It is easy
to hear church bells, the sun again off the waves, and the hurried but elated villagers in
the music. The third Interlude is “Moonlight,” which depicts a tranquil night in the harbor
as Peter Grimes walks the beach, fighting his inner turmoil, slipping into madness, and
speaking to his deceased apprentices. The music is rich, beautiful, sweeping, and
illustrative, yet laced (as are the first two movements) with the foreboding of the events
of Act III. Played as the last movement of the Four Sea Interludes is “Storm,” which is
actually from Act I of the opera and tells of the breaking of a great storm over the town.
While the rest of the folk have battened down the hatches, Grimes stays
out—introspective, “gazing into the sea and approaching storm.” The music’s thrashing
violence again mimics Grimes’s turmoil; temporary refuge from the storm opens in a
wide melodic arc taken from the aria Grimes sings as he tries to envision a way out of his
situation, and finally the hope expressed in the aria is battered by the tempest’s final