Wind Ensemble

Williams Symphonic Winds and Opus Zero Band

Steven Dennis Bodner, director

The Williams College Department of Music presents the Symphonic Winds and Opus Zero Band under the direction of Steven Dennis Bodner on Saturday, May 8, at 8 p.m. in Chapin Hall on the Williams College campus. This free event is open to the public and does not require tickets.

In its final concert of the year, the Symphonic Winds and Opus Zero Band presents an exciting evening of music composed almost entirely by Williams students, faculty, and alumni. The program is framed by two works written for the groups by Williams Department of Music chairman David Kechley. Written for the Opus Zero Band’s recent performance tour to Pennsylvania, Rush is a taut, lean, exhilarating work for only 13 players, showcasing the ensemble’s individual and collective virtuosity in a brief, but exhilarating romp. BANG!, on the other hand, is a massive, muscular, piece for large wind ensemble; written for, and premiered in 2005, by the Symphonic Winds, BANG! unleashes the power and intensity (as well as subtle beauties) of the modern wind band.

The concert will feature the premieres of works by five special—but surprise!—guests. You will have to attend the concert to learn who the surprise guests are and to hear what these amazing artists have created specially for this concert.

Also on the program will be works by two Williams students, junior Jacob Walls ’11 and senior Brian Simalchik ’10. Jacob’s Three Bands pits two horn soloists—Elizabeth Irvin ’10 and Peter Gottlieb ’11—against various, colorful instrumental groups. A setting of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem Rain towards morning, Brian’s piece (composed for an unique ensemble of trios of sopranos, violas, and alto saxophone, with drum set) is at once both delicate and driving, capturing the poem’s poignant, transcendent tone.

Since graduating from Williams in 2001, Judd Greenstein has been creating “aftershocks” of his own. He has been described by author/critic Alex Ross as being “at the heart…of New York’s contemporary classical scene” and Newsweek writer Seth Colter Walls (brother of Jacob, whose work is being premiered on this concert, too) described Judd’s record label/artists’ community New Amsterdam Records as “an upstart label that’s been releasing one quality disc after another since its founding.” Judd’s funk-influenced Get Up/Get Down was written for Milwaukee’s Present Music in 2006

The one exception to the “Williams”-connection that every other composer on this program shares is David Lang, whose haunting Street will also be included. A re-interpretation of 16th-century compositional techniques from a decidedly personal, post-minimalist perspective, Street is a work trapped between eras, a work that not only explores the very notion of “time,” but seems to be, in itself, timeless. The recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, David Lang is one of the co-founders/directors of Bang on a Can, the composer collective that, among other things, produces a Summer Music Festival at Mass MoCA every July.

The Williams Symphonic Winds is a 60-member ensemble dedicated to performing the most significant music written for  large wind ensemble; the Opus Zero Band was formed four years ago (originally as Chamber Winds) to perform mostly new music for variable instrumentations, ranging from trios to chamber orchestra and everything in between. Now in his tenth year as Music Director, Steven Dennis Bodner has developed the ensembles’ identity as leading proponents of the performance of new music at Williams College. The ensembles have commissioned and premiered a number of works by contemporary composers, including Williams faculty and alumni. Recognized as one of the premier wind ensembles in New England, the Symphonic Winds performed at the 2006 College Band Directors National Association Eastern Division Conference; the Opus Zero Band performed at this spring’s conference in West Chester, PA. Recently, Opus Zero Band has collaborated with MASS MoCA to present acclaimed work-in-progress performances of David Neumann’s/Eve Beglarian’s feedforward and Philip Miller’s Hottentot Venus. The ensembles have been noted both for their adventurous and creative programming and for the quality of their performance, described as “astounding” by the Berkshire Advocate and “amazingly good” by composer Louis Andriessen.