Our March 15 program is a showcase concert: one that showcases a variety of our musicians, but also a variety of styles of music. Since our concert is being held in the Frisco City Council Chambers, Programming Director Michael Jones chose music that hails from the history of Texas. The concert will start with music from Renaissance Spain and continue through each of the countries that controlled the lands of Texas. We're including works from Native American composers, as well as composers from Mexico, France, the US, the Confederacy, and Texas itself.
Keep reading below for Michael's description of each piece! And once you're excited about the performance, you can buy your tickets through the Frisco Parks and Recreation website here.
Anonymous: Ayo Visto lo Mappamundi
Originally written in the Sicilian dialect spoken in the Mediterranean islands of the Spanish Empire, Ayo Visto lo Mappamundi ("I have seen the map of the world") was written during the age of European exploration. The song compares various geographic locations of the Spanish Empire to the beauty of the composer's love, Cecilia, starting with a play on words comparing the name Sicily and Cecilia. (In true lovesong fashion, those locations in the song do not at all compare to Cecilia's beauty!)
Gaspar Sanz: Canarios
Sanz (1640-1710) was and still is an important figure in guitar compositions and teaching in the Spanish Baroque period. Canarios is a dance piece with lively rhythmic interplay. You can listen for the rasqueado, a characteristic strumming sound used often in Spanish-influenced guitar pieces.
François Couperin: Troisíeme Concert Royale
Couperin wrote four suites for the French court. Unlike many other pieces written around this period, these Concerts Royaux suites were written specifically to be listened to and not danced to. No instrumentation was given so an ensemble could use any musicians they might have had on hand. We are performing two movements of the third suite. The Prelude is slow and highly ornamented in the flute and viola. The Muzette has an accompaniment style called bourden where a drone of octaves and fifths are the foundation, and the melody plays on top.
Santiago de Murcia: Folias Gallegas
Santiago de Murcia was a musician, guitarist, and composer in Spain during the end of the 1600's and early 1700's. Although he most likely did not travel to Mexico, many of his compositions did and were not uncovered until very recently. Folias Gallegas was originally written for solo guitar but our arrangement uses the guitar as harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment.
José Mariano Elízaga: Últimas Variaciones
Elízaga was a Mexican composer in the early 1800's best known for spearheading public music education. He founded the first music conservatory and music-publishing company in the Americas. His Últimas Variaciones for solo piano was not found until 1994. The virtuosic style is similar to the solo keyboard works of Haydn.
Edwin Meyrick: The Texian Grand March
The Texian Grand March was written originally for solo piano and dedicated to "General Houston and his brave men at Arms". The overall technical skill to perform this piece is not nearly as high as for Últimas Variaciones, making it more accessible to more musicians who did not have a formal education. During the mid-1800's and later (as we'll see further on in the program) more music was being written and published for the general public. This wider appeal made it necessary for the composers to write music that could be played with a less stringent formal education.
Aaron Copland: "Simple Gifts" variations from Appalachian Spring
The hymn "Simple Gifts" was composed by Elder Joseph Bracket of the Shaker community. This hymn gained popularity outside of the Shakers in the 20th century thanks to Aaron Copland who incorporated it into his ballet Appalachian Spring. The "Simple Gifts" melody goes through several variations with changing textures.
Stephen Foster: "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" and "Beautiful Dreamer"
Stephen Foster is known as the "Father of American Song." The songs he wrote were popularized by their accessibility and by the fact that they could be sung and performed without the benefit of years of formal music education. The subject matter of these two songs, and many of his others, have a nostalgic, wistful quality that looks longingly towards a simpler time and place. As settlement of the US continued westward, many people found Foster's songs a reminder of the life they had left behind.
R. Carlos Nakai: December Snow and Whirlwinds Dancing R. Carlos Nakai has become one of the most recognizable figures of Native American flute performance and composition. A member of the Navajo-Ute tribe, he actually began his music studies as a trumpet player before switching to Native American flute. Since the 1980's he has recorded and collaborated extensively with many different ensembles and styles of music. Our two selections are composed and notated to be able to be played on either a traditional Native American flute or on a Western concert C flute.
Scott Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag
A native of Texarkana, Scott Joplin popularized the Ragtime style and worked to bring it from a little respected form of music to one of higher stature. He composed Maple Leaf Rag for solo piano, but we are presenting it as a duet between viola and bassoon. Ragtime combined elements of Western Classical music, such as the march-like structure and feel (which can be heard in the bassoon) and blended it with more African-American elements like complex rhythms (which can be heard in the viola). Ragtime became a great source of influence for composers such as Debussy and Stravinsky.
Dave Brubeck: Unsquare Dance
We are ending our concert with an arrangement of Dave Brubeck's Unsquare Dance. Brubeck was well know for experimenting with non-traditional time signatures--this piece being in 7/4. Later on, Bill Crofut and Chris Brubeck (Dave's son) wrote lyrics making fun of the difficulty of counting and playing in 7. 7/4 creates an uneven, lopsided, and slightly awkward feeling that makes Unsquare Dance quite charming. Brubeck ends the piece with a musical quotation of Turkey in the Straw and the "Shave and a Haircut-Two Bits" riff.