Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed April 26, 1999
Contact: Glenn Hare

Wind and Jazz groups to play Updike poems and Ellington suites

A joint concert by Brown's Wind Symphony and Jazz Band at 8 p.m. Friday, April 30, will feature Duke Ellington Suites and poems by John Updike.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Thermodynamics. Chemistry. Particle Physics. Sounds like the course roster for a second-year science concentrator at Brown. But in fact, it's the music for an upcoming concert by the Brown University Wind Symphony. The dual spring concert also will include a performance by the Brown University Jazz Band. The show is set to take place in Sayles Halls Friday, April 30, 1999, at 8 p.m.

Under the direction of Matthew McGarrell, the Wind Symphony will perform Updike's Science, a series of five poems by writer John Updike arranged for voice and wind ensemble. The poems highlight Updike's humor and cleverness. "The tongue-and-cheek compositions poke fun at some heady scientific subjects," said McGarrell.

The first poem, Thermodynamics, depicts the boredom associated with a cooling cup of cocoa: "The scum has come, My cocoa's cold. The cup is numb, And I grow old."

Chemistry (In Praise of C10H9O5) pays tribute to terylene, an almost indestructible man-made fiber: "My tie is made of terylene; Eternally I wear it. For time can never wither, stale, Shred, shrink, fray, fade, or tear it."

Another poem, Hydrodynamics, describes looking through the window of a front-loading washing machine: "This porthole overlooks a sea Forever falling from the sky, The water inextricably Involved with buttons, suds, and dye."

The works were to set music by Brian Holmes, a professor of physics at San Jose University, who also is a highly trained French horn player and composer. Holmes studied with Harry Shapiro and has arranged several pieces, including the opera One Shepherd Stayed Behind. "The music is also quite humorous," adds McGarrell, "and has the sensibilities of light opera. Listeners will hear musical quotes of Gilbert and Sullivan and sections that are similar to the works of Debussy and Tchaikovsky."

Mezzo-soprano Katherine Emory will be the featured vocalist on the Updike compositions. As a member of the New York City Opera, the Texas Opera Theatre and Opera New England, she has toured throughout the United States. A graduate of Harvard University, she made her New York City solo recital debut in 1990 at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall.

The concert also will feature the Wind Symphony performing movements from Benjamin Britten's opera, Gloriana, written for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The second half the concert will showcase the talents of the Brown University Jazz Band. In tribute to Duke Ellington's 100th birthday anniversary, which is being celebrated this year, the group will play several of his concert jazz arrangements. Selections from his Deep South Suite (1946), The Shakespeare Suite (1957) and four movements from The Far East Suite (1966) will be included.

To complete the program, the Jazz Band will be joined on stage by members of the Wind Symphony to perform Ellington's seldom heard Creole Rhapsody, which he composed in 1931. "This was Ellington's first foray into composing jazz music for the concert stage," said McGarrell. Creole Rhapsody will be performed from a new transcription of the 1931 recording made by senior music concentrator Katherine Brucher. She will deliver a pre-concert talk on Creole Rhapsody and Duke Ellington's concert music at 7:30 p.m. in Sayles Hall

The performance is free and open to the public. Sayles Hall is located on the College Green.