Something Blue… Something New

The 2016 Spring Band Concert is almost here!

Madelyn Conklin, Entertainment Editor

“The band program prides itself on having ‘not just your typical spring band concert,’” said Josh Bartz, Portage Northern Band Director. The Spring Concert is almost here, and no one wants to miss this one.

  Every year, Portage Northern bands have a spring concert towards the end of the school year involving the Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble, but as Bartz said, this concert is not like any other. The theme of this concert is called “Something Blue… Something New,” and this title was chosen for a reason. Each of the bands will be playing at least one piece involving the sky in some way, which represents the “blue” portion. In addition, and probably the most exciting part of the concert, is that the Wind Ensemble will be playing two world-premiere pieces, one written by a Portage Northern Bands alumnus Caleb Hammer, which represents the “new” portion of the title.

  The first band to perform will be the Concert Band. One of the songs that this band will be performing is “Into the Storm” by Robert W. Smith, a challenging piece that attempts to capture the intensity and force of the greatest storms. The other piece that they will perform has a completely different vibe. The band will be performing “Gadget” by Randall D. Standridge, which is a piece with fun, high-energy melodies played by the winds and interesting sound effects played by the percussion section. The Concert Band will take the audience through multiple different emotions, and the audience will be pleased with the overall performance.

  The Symphonic Band will be playing second at the Spring Concert. Their first song that they will perform is “Llwyn Onn (Pastorale Setting)” by Brian Hogg. This piece is a serene and slow piece set in a quiet country scene. Through the rest of the piece, the band will take the audience through images of the morning mist coming with the rising sun and a path of tall trees, the beauty and calmness of the piece never fading away. The second piece that they will play is “Dominion of the Sky” by David Shaffer, which is, as Bartz said, “easily the hardest piece Symphonic Band has ever attempted.” This piece is one of those featuring the “blue” aspect of the concert’s theme and is jam-packed with energy and vibrant images. Because of the difficulty of the piece for this band, they have been working hard to make sure the performance is as amazing as possible. “It takes a decent amount of practice at home,” said Sydney Wesley (11), flute player in the symphonic band. Indeed the band worked hard for this piece to sound as it does now, and audiences will be able to see the hard work.

  The last band to perform at the Spring Concert will be the Wind Ensemble. The Wind Ensemble will be strongly representing the “new” aspect of the concert’s title with two songs performed for an audience for the first time. One of the songs that the band will be performing is “Sinfonia Concertante” by Jude Gore, a piece specifically featuring two pianists from the Wind Ensemble: Ryan Milka (12) and Nick Huffman (12). In regards to how Bartz chose this piece, he said, “This work came together as a collaboration with a dear friend and colleague from many years ago. In a band director forum on Facebook, I was searching for a piece to feature two of our outstanding students on piano. No one came back with any ideas… until Mr. Gore recommended a commission.  One thing led to another and now we have the opportunity to showcase two outstanding musicians with a brand new work!”

  The other piece that the Wind Ensemble is extremely excited about is “Into Existence” by Caleb Hammer, a Portage Northern Bands alumnus. This piece represents both the “blue” and “new” aspects, and the whole piece will entertain the audience until the end. “The piece invokes ideas from astrophysics, of matter coming into and out of existence at extraordinary speed,” said Bartz. When asked about the inspiration for writing this piece, Hammer said, “Bartz and I were in the talks for this work when I got off my first offical composition in the composition studio at the Western Michigan School of Music. The composition was about black holes, and I came across this idea of matter and antimatter popping in and out of existence. The idea was to create an earth shattering piece that gives the audience a very intense, five minute adventure.” Not only is the piece itself entertaining, but every member of the band is excited to be working with the composer, who once performed in the same band. The band and the composer both put months of hard work into this piece. “So much time has to be put into creating ideas, writing them, orchestrating, and editing,” said Hammer.     

  Collaboration and editing between the band and the composer was an extremely important part of making this piece work, and it definitely paid off in the end. In regards to both of the pieces they will perform, Hammer states, “If people have or have never been to a band concert, the two pieces the top band is playing will take everything you know about ‘classical music,’ throw it out the window, stomp on it, and show you what’s up in the new world of band.”

  All in all, each of these bands will be bringing a great amount of entertainment to the 2016 Spring Concert. Even more importantly, this performance will be the last one that the current senior band students will be playing in, so don’t miss out! The concert takes place in the Portage Northern Auditorium at 7:00 pm on Thursday, May 19th. And bonus: it’s completely FREE, so make sure to be in attendance for a great performance and amazing entertainment. In the words of Bartz, “It’s truly going to be a concert to remember!”



Want to hear some other music composed by Caleb Hammer? Check out these links!