The back of the composer’s head was ridiculous

We sent Bwog’s Musical Magistrate Sarah Thompson to check out the Columbia University Wind Ensemble. Here’s what she came up with.

Last Sunday afternoon I made my way blearily to Roone Arledge for the Columbia University Wind Ensemble’s winter concert. I wondered if I’d be able to tell the difference between a clarinet and a tuba on four hours of sleep, but my two years at band camp (for the piano, because I’m cool) prepared me well for this occasion. Apparently a wind ensemble includes not just woodwinds, but any band instrument you blow on—meaning brass too—as well as percussion, a bass, and a harp “just because.”

Conducted by Courtney Snyder, the ensemble of about sixty began to play Pageant by Vincent Persichetti, a piece where the horns and deep brass hauntingly develop a melody that is then passed on to the clarinets and flutes. The emotional swells of sound in the first movement reminded me of the longing for something that will never come, like winter break. Before I could get too depressed, the piece transitioned into a jaunty parade, which the ensemble members could have articulated a bit more clearly, and then an exciting percussion part ended it off.

Next up was the world premiere of the Symphony for Band by Edward Green, which had been commissioned by the bands of thirteen institutions. I stood up to try to snag a picture, but this guy with a head of gleaming white hair to rival Prezbo’s own blocked my shot. Director Andrew Pease announced that Green was a Grammy nominee and was present at the show—oh, it was the back of the composer’s head that had been so ridiculous. The first and fourth movements were joyful, the second rather sad, and the third joking. The ensemble handled the work fairly well, and Green had a smile on his face the whole time, but the high brass struggled with its solos and the members didn’t seem as connected to the music as possible.

But still—bravo! I was among those who clapped the loudest for the wind ensemble (they also performed the carnival-ish tune Shepherd’s Hey after) because they played spiritedly and together, and I’m kind of a band geek too. The disappointing part was that more people didn’t show up, possibly due to the concert’s proximity to finals, but for everyone who can’t be satisfied with just Lana Del Rey and Skrillex: check out CUWE next time.