Symphonic Collage: A Musical Tapestry is an unprecedented aural experience designed and programmed by guest conductor Allan McMurray in collaboration with The Philharmonic Winds.
This exciting initiative follows the concept that a wind music concert should incorporate full band music, solo and chamber works. Altogether, it would be a non-stop adventure for the listeners; a less than 90 minutes program that would represent all of wind music.
“During my conversations with Adrian (current president), I suggested numerous pieces and works for full band, while he would let me know if the ensemble has played it recently or if there was something he thought wouldn’t work for the ensemble.
We then put together a list of works that were inspired by human experience and emotions. Starting with Gabrieli who wrote some of the earliest orchestrated music for winds, we also included original works by Debussy, Wagner and Mozart,” said Allan, when asked about the conceptualization of the program.
To ensure that each work fits the spirit of the program, Allan carefully picked the music, starting with the full ensemble pieces that he would like to have. He then narrowed down on his selection of solo and chamber pieces that would create contrast or exploit the hall, based on the consideration of the musicians that he would have.
“I chose every full ensemble piece and most chamber works with the exception of one. I originally recommended a solo marimba work but the soloist came back with an alternative which I have listened to and altered in my program.”
“I developed an idea for the instrumentation I could work with and started imagining what would be representative of wind music. I believed that audience should hear great classic works written for winds, and not just full band music. Therefore, I also chose the solos for flute, clarinet, saxophone, saxophone quartet and the brass quintet.”
Apart from full band, solo and chamber music, Allan also selected certain movements of wind music that could be performed as a standalone work. Such music include, Lincolnshire Posy’s Movement V. Lord Melbourne (War Song) by Percy Aldridge Grainger and Symphony No. 2’s Movement III. Apollo Unleashed by Frank Ticheli.
“There are some movements that don’t work by themselves as they are part of a symphony which has a thematic development. Some movements however, like any of Holst’s first suite and second suite can be played by itself. Each of these movements is a wildflower and you can recognize each one differently. If you take a piece of music that is like a symphony, it will not work, just like Music for Prague which is a narrative tone form. The story has to be complete.”
Taking advantage of the Esplanade hall, the ensemble would be using several spaces such as the stage, the balcony and the different seating tiers. There would also be a portion of the stage carved out for Mozart, and a riser for solo marimba.
“By placing musicians at certain areas, we will also be introducing the use of lighting design. For example, we will be lighting up the organ position, or getting behind musicians so that shadows can be cast. As a piece grows or gets soft, the light will complement it by varying in intensity.”
This theatre ensemble approach of creating an experience for the audience is not an entirely new concept, as Allan has already done at least 30 of such concerts since 1978.
“It is a necessary concept. It cannot just be a concert where audience come and watch a bunch of wind players, who unlike string players don’t move. There has to be something to enrich that experience, particularly in these days. Many conductors are starting to do that with bands to explore other dimensions, such as incorporating a violinist, a bagpiper, a guitarist, or even a solo singer. It is like a collage of music not just a wind tapestry.”
“… but in this concert, I want to focus on wind music and celebrate the diverse offerings that wind players can bring to the musical community,” he emphasized.
Symphonic Collage with Allan McMurray – A Musical Tapestry
4th June (Sunday), 8pm
Esplanade Concert Hall
Tickets: $15, available here
A contributing editor at TBP.