By Desmond Homann, Variety Editor originally published in Issue 11, Volume 30 of The Univeristy Register on Friday, April 27, 2018
Following their concert at the beginning of March, the University of Minnesota Morris’ Symphonic Winds has been preparing for this year’s tour, in which the group will be touring and performing throughout Alaska. On this tour, Symphonic Winds will be performing in four different cities: Anchorage, Homer, Palmer, and Fairbanks. Before leaving for Alaska, Symphonic Winds will be holding an open rehearsal on Saturday, April 28 from 2-4 p.m. and have a concert on Sunday, April 29 at 3 p.m., both of which will be in the HFA Recital Hall. This will be an entertaining concert and the ensemble has been working hard on all of the included pieces for months. The money from ticket sales is going toward the Alaska tour, so those who attend the concert are helping to support the group.
The tour ensemble for Alaska is made up of alumni, faculty, guest musicians, and the regular Symphonic Winds ensemble. This tour has been in planning for two years now and looks as if it will be a wonderful opportunity for all those involved. One may ask why the ensemble chose to tour in Alaska, of all the possible places to tour. According to Simon Tillier, the conductor for Symphonic Winds, it is because “Alaska is a place that obviously has a lot of natural beauty about it. That, combined with its strong cultural outlook, is something we all should experience.” Tillier also reflected upon meeting a group of young musicians from Alaska a few years ago. He was impressed with their musicianship, which could have originally sparked his interest in the state.
For Tillier, the most important way the group can be supported is if people come and hear the great variety and drama of the music included in the program.
“This is a program that says who we are and where we have come from. It’s a synthesis of what we’ve been performing over the past year or so,” explains Tillier. This program truly does resonate with the ensemble. For example, one of the pieces included in the program, “Mississippi Suite” by Ferde Grofé, begins with a first movement inspired by Minnesota’s Lake Itasca, before its focus moves down along the Mississippi River.
One unique aspect of this program is its inclusion of a new piece commissioned by the ensemble, titled “States of Structure—Icemelts”. This intricate piece,composed by multi-instrumentalist Jenni Watson, focuses on ecological challenges in the world right now pertaining to ice, water, and climate change. This piece fits beautifully within the environmentally-conscious outlook of the University of Minnesota Morris. In addition to being a wonderfully complex piece that fits right in at Morris, this is also an importance piece due to the ensemble and the conductor’s connection with Watson and her work. Watson is a composer the group hopes to continue working with for quite some time. It is important to the group to present this composition as it is now, though Tillier and Watson have planned for the future, hoping to have Watson extend “Icemelts” into a longer piece made up of three different movements. Once the movements are finished, Symphonic Winds will be performing Watson’s work again. “Icemelts” is one of the most difficult, but also one of the most important pieces the group will be working with for this upcoming tour. For those coming to the open rehearsal or the concert, make sure to listen for all the unique parts within this piece that Symphonic Winds has put amazing effort into. The ensemble greatly appreciates it!