KINGSTON, R.I. – Feb. 24, 2023 – The University of Rhode Island Concert Band will feature a suite by a student composer while the Jazz Big Band will showcase works and arrangements by guest conductor Jen Allen as the spring semester music schedule gets underway.
In its Tuesday, Feb. 28, concert, the Concert Band will match Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1920s “English Folk Song Suite” with the premiere of an original composition by Matthew Masse, a junior music composition major. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Center, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston. For tickets, go to the event webpage.
Masse’s suite, “Fictional Folk Songs,” was inspired by Vaughan Williams’ work and other classic wind-band folk song settings, said Brian Cardany, director of the Concert Band and Wind Ensemble.
“I am very grateful that Dr. Cardany and the Concert Band have put so much work into bringing the piece to life,” said Masse, of Richmond, who will play flute and piccolo on the composition. “Digital mockups never compare to the sound of a real ensemble, and our ensemble plays it incredibly, almost exactly how I want.”
While an original march written by Masse was performed by The Westerly Band, this is the first large public performance of one of his pieces, he said. At more than 12 minutes, tied together by four movements, “Fictional Folk Songs” is the longest he’s written.
“I’ve always loved the idea of simple folk songs being reimagined in a band/orchestra setting to add color and complexity to known tunes,” Masse said. “It is fitting we are playing the Williams’ piece alongside it because the audience will be able to directly see my inspiration and how I incorporate ideas established in the genre with my original songs.”
Bookending the two suites, the Concert Band will perform Richard Saucedo’s “American Bandstand,” Clifton Williams’ Symphonic Dance No. 3 (“Fiesta”), and Frank Ticheli’s “Joy Revisited.”
The Wind Ensemble will open the night with a variety of works by major composers from the early 19th and early 20th centuries. The program features Charles Ives’ suite “Old Home Days” and includes Mendelssohn’s “Overture for Winds,” Wagner’s “Trauersinfonie” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Slava!”
On Thursday, March 2, the Jazz Big Band will play original music and arrangements by artist-in-residence Jen Allen, a visiting assistant professor at Trinity College in Hartford. The concert is at 8 p.m. in the Concert Hall. For tickets, go to the event webpage.
Allen, an educator, author and active recording artist, has performed frequently in New York and the Northeast, along with venues throughout the world. In 2011, she was chosen as one of eight pianists from around the world to participate in the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Workshop at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and she is a member of the prestigious BMI Jazz Composers Workshop in New York City.
“One of the things I’ve been trying to do as director of jazz studies is make sure that diversity, equity and inclusion are part of what we do,” said Emmett Goods, director of the Big Band. “I thought this was a unique opportunity to turn the reins of the Big Band over to an excellent conductor and arranger to really highlight what women are doing in jazz from that position. We don’t see enough female composers and arrangers in jazz.”
The Big Band will play three of Allen’s original compositions – “Begin Again,” “Tempest on Monhegan,” and “Ajar” – along with several of her arrangements of jazz and pop tunes, including Mulgrew Miller’s “Hand in Hand,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “How Deep Is Your Love.”
Emily Redmond, a senior who plays trumpet in the band, says Allen’s compositions are complex in the way they use harmony and build on ideas, while also blending brass sounds by using trumpet, muted trumpet and flugelhorn at the same time. Her arrangements, Redmond adds, respect the original pieces, but she added her own touches in arranging them for big band.
“It has been a pleasure to work with Jen Allen for this upcoming concert,” said Redmond, a music history major from South Kingstown. “Being able to play a female jazz composer’s pieces and have the opportunity to work one on one with her has been such a great experience. It really allows the band to learn exactly what a composer is intending for their pieces, and getting feedback from the composer directly is very beneficial to me as a musician.”
On Wednesday, March 8, the Symphony Orchestra will perform its first concert of the spring at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall. For tickets, go to the event webpage. The concert will feature selections from Aaron Copland’s ballet “Rodeo” and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor. “Both are thrilling pieces and all-time classics that we have thoroughly enjoyed exploring,” said Samuel Hollister, orchestra director.
Along with concerts by the Music Department’s major ensembles, the spring is full of smaller shows, including student recitals, jazz combo concerts, music convocations and other events. For a list of music events, go to the department’s events page.