Yale Concert Band to give first in-person concert of the semester
Yale Concert Band kicks off the season with pieces by Bernstein, Holst, Price and Still
Yale Concert Band 2020. Courtesy of Harold Shapiro.
The Yale Concert Band will host a concert today featuring music that spans continents, cultures and styles.
This show is both the YCB’s first in-person performance of the semester and the first undergraduate musical performance with a live audience this academic year. The concert will also be streamed online.
YCB is a group of 50 wind, brass and percussion players, and its musical style embraces both traditional wind band repertoire and contemporary experimental pieces. In accordance with COVID-19 protocols, the audience will be capped at 275 people and only be open to Yale ID-holders. Due to restrictions on the length of live concerts, the show will start at 7:30 p.m. and last 75 minutes. The program consists of Walter Beeler’s arrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide,” as well as other compositions by Gustav Holst, Florence Price and William Grant Still.
“It’s a menu of culture and diversity and gender and sounds — something for everybody,” YCB Director Thomas Duffy said.
In Friday’s performance, the band also plans to include works like Arturo Márquez’s “Danzón,” John Philip Sousa’s “Keeping Step with the Union” and Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis’ “Miške” — which means “forest” in Lithuanian.
According to Duffy, the selection of Čiurlionis’ piece for the program is tied to YCB’s history, as the band previously premiered one of the composer’s pieces. YCB also holds a connection to Čiurlionis’ native country of Lithuania, where the group toured ten years ago and met with a Lithuanian conductor whom they later invited to Yale. Since Čiurlionis was a painter as well as a composer, the band’s performance of his piece will be accompanied by a screen projection of his paintings.
YCB’s repertoire selection process involves both Duffy and band members. According to YCB President Alina Martel ’23, Duffy’s familiarity with previous programs allows him to arrange concerts in a way that avoids repetition and allows for “new and exciting” repertoire.
Duffy noted that he appreciates hearing musicians’ opinions on the pieces, so he typically suggests works the band could play and then conducts a survey on which pieces they believe an audience would enjoy.
“I am looking forward to playing “Danzon” — it has a Calypso [music style] vibe, but it’s kind of a fun and almost danceable piece,” Keenan Miller ’24, who plays French horn, said.
Last year, health restrictions forced the band to conduct all meetings virtually. According to Martel, this meeting format facilitated these discussions, so much of the planning for Friday’s concert occurred last year.
The band put together virtual performances last year by stitching together recordings of each member playing their part individually. Although Martel said it was “fun” to meet over Zoom, being around other people in person is a more meaningful experience.
“[Over Zoom] we could still create music, but that level of working with someone else — having them right next to you and being able to react to changes in their playing [simultaneously] — creates a level of cohesion in the piece that you can’t really get by recording virtually,” Martel said.
In addition to limitations on performance time and audience capacity, YCB has been working with University public health officials on additional precautions. For instance, band members will get tested for COVID-19 twice this week in addition to wearing instrument-specialized masks that allow them to play their instruments while limiting spread of airborne aerosols.
According to Miller, the horn players’ masks include a slit which opens and closes, allowing them to blow on the instrument’s mouthpiece while keeping the mask on. On the other hand, the flute players will wear a different kind of mask in which the flute’s mouthpiece remains on the inside of the face covering.
Each instrumentalist will also have a bell cover — a circular piece of fabric with an elastic attached that goes over the bell of an instrument — in order to prevent the musicians’ saliva from spreading. According to Miller, the spread of saliva is the “danger” of playing wind or woodwind instruments.
Despite these inconveniences, Miller said he is “very excited” to return to a performance hall and play for an audience after so long away from it.
Martel expressed similar sentiments about having an in-person audience back.
“When we finish one of our pieces, there’s a little bit of reverb in the hall and then the applause starts. I think that is going to be a magical and cathartic moment for all of us,” Martel said.
The Yale Concert Band traces its roots to 1917.