One weekend in Hays this month will see concerts on two consecutive nights, one featuring Fort Hays State University's Wind Ensemble and choirs and the other starring the Hays Symphony Orchestra and Vivaldi.
The FHSU Band and Choir will perform a concert of American music, "The Black and Gold Presents the Red, White and Blue," at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, in the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.
The following evening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, the Hays Symphony Orchestra will play Vivaldi in the First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall, Hays.
Ticket prices for both the "Red, White and Blue" and Vivaldi concert are $6 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students (12 and over), and free for children 11 and under and FHSU students with student I.D. To purchase tickets, contact the Department of Music and Theatre at FHSU at 785-628-4533.
The top choral ensemble at FHSU, The Fort Hays State Singers, will open the "Red, White and Blue" with a "set of unaccompanied choral settings including three verses of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' detailing the story of our flag's night at the battle of Ft. McHenry," said Dr. Jeff Jordan, associate professor of music and theatre.
Following the "The Star Spangled Banner," the Fort Hays Singers will perform "America," a "Colonial-era hymn set to music by American composer William Billings, with 'Sally Ann,' a lively rendition of an early folk song/fiddle tune," said Jordan. Next, the Fort Hays Singers will sing "Slumber Song," a "lovely lullaby for sopranos and choir" composed by American composer Edward MacDowell.
"The set will close with a feature for the men of the choir, a tune from the musical, 'The Civil War,' 'Tell My Father,' accompanied by Pam McGowne on piano and Hannah Koshgarian on cello," said Jordan.
In its section, the Fort Hays Concert Choir will showcase an "exciting set of patriotic choral arrangements" that includes several different American tunes, beginning with the well-known hymn, "My Country 'Tis of Thee.” Jordan called it a "quiet hymn," but said the choir will build it to a "massive finish and follow it with a symphonic piece, "Anthem," from "America: An Epic Rhapsody for Chorus and Orchestra," by Ernst Bloch.
Following a rendition of "America the Beautiful," the "Armed Forces Salute" will feature the hymns of the five United States military services. As a special tribute to the veterans in the audience, the concert choir will sing this selection from the aisles of Beach/Schmidt, asking veterans to stand and be recognized.
"Irving Berlin's towering rendition of the inscription found on the Statue of Liberty, 'Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,' will feature the choir processing back on stage in a visual portrayal of those ancestors welcomed to America by the Statue of Liberty," said Jordan.
"The finale number will be the traditional Peter Wilhousky arrangement of 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' accompanied by piano, trumpets, snare drum and piccolo."
Throughout the program's first half, musical selections will be accompanied by images projected onto the large screen above the Beach/Schmidt reflecting American themes.
Kicking off the second half of the "Red, White and Blue," the FHSU Wind Ensemble will celebrate America's favorite pastime with a "bright and vivacious tribute to baseball legend 'Hammerin' Hank Aaron,' in 'Fanfare to the Hammer,'" said Jordan.
"Composer Anthony O'Toole incorporates significant numbers from Aaron’s career into musical motives to form the work’s major themes, including '715,' the number which surpassed Babe Ruth’s standing home run record and 4-8-1974, April 8, 1974, the date Aaron hit that famous home run," said Jordan.
Following "Fanfare to the Hammer," the FHSU Wind Ensemble will play "Simple Gifts," composed by Aaron Copland. Copland is often called the Dean of American Composers.
'Variations on a Shaker Melody' is drawn from his 'Appalachian Spring' and utilizes the familiar tune 'Simple Gifts' in a setting scored for band by the composer himself," said Jordan.
Next, the Wind Ensemble will play "Three Negro Dances" by Florence Price. " Price is a name known to few musicians, much less the average household," said Jordan.
Price was the first African-American woman whose work was performed by a major United States orchestra and influenced early jazz and ragtime. Jordan called "Three Negro Dances" a "brief, but energetic suite."
"Elegy for a Young American" is the fourth work in this portion of the program. Jordan said it is "composed in memory of President John F. Kennedy and spans a range of emotions from muted sadness to deep despair to, ultimately, hope. The composer eloquently demonstrates the modern wind band’s ability to move between whispering sensitivity and overwhelming dramatic power."
For its next work, the Wind Ensemble will perform "Variations on America," composed by Charles Ives. Jordan called Ives "perhaps the most original of American composers."
"His music often exhibits fierce dissonances juxtaposed with humorous quotes of hymns, American folk tunes and patriotic songs in an attempt to capture the sounds of his childhood, particularly those of the amateur bands and choirs he grew up with," said Jordan.
The program's final piece is designed to "knock the daylights out of the audience," said its composer, Robert Jager. "Esprit De Corps" is a tribute to the Marine Band and its former conductor, John Bourgeois.
Based on the Marine Hymn, "Esprit De Corps" is a "kind of fantasy march as well as a salute to the Marine Corps in general, and a fine display piece for any group of band musicians," said Jordan.
`The following day, Saturday, Oct. 26, the Hays Symphony Orchestra will perform Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" at the Hays First Presbyterian Church, 2900 Hall. Matt Means, assistant professor of music and theatre, and Naomi Kitzis, Hays senior, will be featured.
"Vivaldi wrote sonnets to depict the seasons and then wrote this music to accompany the sonnets," said Ben Cline, conductor of the Hays Symphony Orchestra and chair of the Department of Music and Theatre at FHSU. "This is known as program music -- music that evokes the meaning of text, story or an idea."
The "Four Seasons" is a "set of four concertos for violin and orchestra, and each concerto depicts one of the seasons," said Cline. This work is the best known and most popular of all of Vivaldi's compositions.