CULTURE: 100 years of the Yale Concert Band


Courtesy of the Yale Concert Band

This Friday, the Yale Concert Band will remember the year 1918: the year marking the end of World War I, the birth of Leonard Bernstein and the formation of the Yale Concert Band.

The concert, titled “Centennial Season Opener,” will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Woolsey Hall and will be led by music director Thomas Duffy. The program will feature repertoire such as “Decoration Day” by Charles Ives, “Agincourt Hymn” by Daniel Bukvich ’98 and “Symphonic Dances” from West Side Story by legendary American composer Leonard Bernstein. The concert will also feature a surprise guest reading a spoken component acknowledging the group’s centennial year.

“West Side Story,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” is a major 30-minute symphonic work that showcases the performers’ technical expertise and musical mastery. According to percussionist Ryan Haygood ’21, the piece is “definitely the highlight of the show.”

“It’s just a super energetic piece,” Haygood said.

“West Side Story” is notoriously demanding on the percussion section and requires musical versatility, Haygood said. He added that the five first-year percussionists are talented and well trained, making the section “strong enough and big enough” to play Bernstein’s masterpiece.

Duffy said the piece was a “very very difficult piece of music.” Yet after eight rehearsals, Duffy said he was pleased with the group’s “terrific” progress. “[‘West Side Story’] is a piece that everybody will recognize when they hear it,” he said.

However, Duffy said he is most excited about performing “Decoration Day,” which functions as a musical depiction of a cemetery gathering to honor fallen soldiers of the American Civil War.

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“It’s slow and beautiful and must be played very quiet,” Duffy explained.

“Decoration Day” contains hints of Renaissance music and Christmas hymns as well as “poly-everything” — including polymeter, polyrhythm and polyharmony — making it “difficult and very different,” according to Duffy.

“It’s a ton of fun to play all of the pieces, and, every concert, we usually incorporate a less traditional, quirky element,” said saxophonist Antonio Medina ’19.

In previous concerts, the band has incorporated effects like using audience members’ phones and playing from the balconies of Woolsey Hall. Medina said that on Friday, the concert will feature “stomping giant tubes on the stage in a triumphant song conclusion.”

Duffy said that he “wants [people] to come in” to have the opportunity to experience what the band has been working on for the past month.

“I want them to realize that sitting on the stage are not music majors, we don’t have a performance major at Yale,” Duffy said. “They are dedicated people playing for no credit, music that they love for no other reason.”

The Yale Concert Band comprises of around fifty wind, brass and percussion players selected through a competitive audition process.

Allison Park | allison.park@yale.edu







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