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Concordia concert has colorful theme

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Arizona State professor conducts concert, chooses theme

Gary Hill, who is a professor of music and the director of ensembles at Arizona State University, returns to New Mexico to conduct Concordia Santa Fe’s June concert next Sunday afternoon at St. Francis Auditorium. Hill was a guest conductor for the Santa Fe-based professional wind ensemble in 2010.

“Often Concordia programs are linked to the theme of the art being displayed at New Mexico Museum of Art, but in this case I chose the theme,” he said.

Hill calls the concert “Primary Colors” and has programmed pieces for wind ensembles that feature colors in their titles.

The high-energy piece “Red Line Tango” by John Mackey is one that Hill has conducted at least a dozen times.

If you go
WHAT: Concordia Santa Fe presents “Primary Colors”WHEN: 2 p.m. June 23

WHERE: St. Francis Auditorium in the New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace Ave., Santa Fe

HOW MUCH: Free; donations accepted. For information call 505-913-7211

“This piece began its life as a piece for a dance company that was played by a quartet,” he explained. “The original title was ‘Damn.’ It became ‘Red Line Tango’ when John Mackey made it into an orchestral piece. Because it’s so heavily dependent on winds, John arranged it for winds. This piece is a pivotal one in his career. It really launched it.”

More than a decade ago Hill conducted an ensemble at ASU in a performance of Frank Ticheli’s piece “Blue Shades.” It was one of the first performances of the work. “Blue Shades” takes Concordia Santa Fe’s players on a journey through jazz and blues styles. Blues harmonies, rhythms and melodic idioms are heard throughout the piece. At times, Ticheli makes references to musical clichés from the Big Band era. A long clarinet solo takes place near the end of the piece.

One of the concert’s slower compositions is “The White Peacock” by Charles Griffes. It was written for piano in 1915 and orchestrated in 1919. Griffes, who wrote in an American impressionistic style and also was influenced by early-20th-century Russian composers, had his career cut short in 1920 when he was died from influenza at the age of 35.

Twentieth-century Australian-born composer Percy Grainger, on the other hand, had a long and productive career. One of the works he wrote for instrumentalists is “Green Brushes,” which is presented during the concert. The music is based on an early-19th-century English folk song that composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth also used in their music.

Next Sunday’s concert is Concordia Santa Fe’s third one of the year. The ensemble consists of approximately four dozen New Mexico-based woodwind, brass and percussion players. Rather than have a permanent music director, the group hires a guest conductor for each performance.

“I’ll be working with many of the musicians I worked with three years ago,” said Hill. “Our venue at St. Francis Auditorium is a good one for us. It’s an intimate space, but the room is capable of holding the sound well.”

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