The Student Movement

Arts & Entertainment

In a World of Fascination: The Thematic Musicality of the AU Wind Symphony Concert

Bella Hamann

Photo by Randy Ramos

It was below freezing the night of January 28.

Shivering, I made my way over to the Howard Performing Arts Center; I had known for a couple months that the next Wind Symphony concert would feature a piece from one of my favorite films. I was happily surprised, however, because not only did I thoroughly enjoy the song I came to the concert for, but the other musical selections complemented the finale beautifully.

The first half of the concert started with a selection of pieces performed by the Southwestern Michigan College Brass Band. I especially enjoyed two of their performances: “Farandole from L’Arlesienne Suite” (1872, Bizet), a song that I played in high school and had forgotten about until I heard it performed (although, I played an orchestral arrangement, but nevertheless). The one I liked most, however, was entitled “Blue Rondo a la Turk” (1960, Brubeck), because it was played in 9/8 time, a quite difficult time signature and one that I particularly enjoy listening to.

After the intermission, the AU Wind Symphony took the stage. They started off strong with “Strike Up the Band” (1927) by George Gershwin, who is in my top 5 of early 20th century composers. Clear, crisp, and in cut time, the first song propelled the concert forward to the next piece, “Huapango” (1950, Moncayo), a song which the conductor, Byron Graves, said was based on the musical genres of southern Mexico. There were parts of this piece that were akin to dancing in the middle of a plaza, surrounded by butterflies below a cloudless sky.

Next was a suite entitled “In the Forest of the King” (La Plante, 2000). Comprised of three separate movements, this selection switched between themes of playfulness to somber reflection to mischief. Then came “The Incredibles.” Composed in 2004 by Michael Giacchino, the soundtrack of the classic Disney-Pixar film was the recipient of multiple awards and was Grammy-nominated. Almost immediately I was on the edge of my seat and only leaned back after the music ceased. From a primary motif that jumps from one key signature to another, to the massive jazz elements intertwined with its never-ceasing quest for a continuous propulsion into imminent danger, it was a hold-your-breath kind of performance, and, as suddenly as the penultimate composition came to a sudden halt, the long awaited finale instantaneously transported me to an alternate dimension.

The finale was none other than a symphonic arrangement of the soundtrack of “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Joe Hisaishi, one of my all-time favorite films and one of the best possible ways to end the evening. As the notes left the stage and traveled upwards to the balcony where I sat, I could not help but imagine that I had gone to that faraway land of steampunk cities and magical meadows, and that the waltz which I had heard an infinite amount of times was yet again gracing me with its gift of wonder and fascination. That’s the thing about a well-composed film track: not only does it transport you, but the idea of lingering onto one thematic element of a location is unsatisfactory. You must move forward, sailing along with the stories of bravery, sacrifice and the mundanity of life that makes Studio Ghibli films as iconic as they are. The song seemed to end as quickly as it started; it was not until after the thunder of applause began that I realized the concert’s final song had been ten minutes long.

It was still below freezing when the concert ended the night of January 28th, but as the doors opened to the brittle outdoors, I was no longer cold. 

The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.