WSU Symphonic Band: "Pictures at an Exhibition"

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Harpist Jordana Galvez accompanies the WSU Symphonic Band in their concert Tuesday night.
The Weber State University Symphonic Band performed Modest Moussorgsky’s famous piece, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Tuesday night in the Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium.

“It’s got a lot going on,” said percussionist David Strait of the famous work. “There are a lot of harmonies and changes from movement to movement. It’s really exciting, and it has a lot of different styles thrown together. It’s the overall perfect package for a band.”

“Pictures” was originally composed as a solo piano piece by Moussorgsky after the death of his friend, painter and architect Victor Hartmann. Moussourgksy based each movement of the piano work on a separate painting or architectural achievement of Hartmann’s. Maurice Ravel, a French composer, later orchestrated the piano piece in 1922.

Because of its diversity in musical styles, “Pictures” required extensive preparation, according to percussionist Tyler Hess.

“There’s a lot to do on that,” Hess said. “The percussion players are moving around a lot on that piece, running from instrument to instrument.”

Strait, a criminal justice major, is not normally a part of the WSU Symphonic Band, but was drafted by the band’s director, Thomas Root, and his wife, a flute player, to help cover the litany of percussion parts for the performance.

“I love to play the timpani on this piece,” Strait said. “They’re the big drums in the back, and they’re quite melodic, but still support the other instruments.”

Aside from “Pictures,” the band also performed “Lithuanian Rhapsody,” an original composition by Root.

“The best number of the night from a brass perspective is Dr. Root’s piece,” said Andrew Wood, an instrumental music education major who has been playing cornet with the band for two years. “It’s just got some cool features, and it blends really well through all the sections, even brass and percussion. I think it’s a great contribution to the program.”

Root tried to capture what he called the “national spirit of (Lithuania) through both quiet and forceful settings of these melodies,” which he studied by visiting the Lithuanian community in Chicago.

“This work was composed in 1994 at the request of Dr. Robert Smith,” Root said, “then Provost of Weber State University, to celebrate the evolving relationship between America and Lithuania, a project to which Dr. Smith was committed. It is a continuous and freely composed set of six rustic songs of the country of Lithuania, the last of which is the Lithuanian national anthem. . .One of the first performances of this work was with the President of Lithuania in attendance.”

The band also performed the edited world premier of “Snow Fantasy,” an original composition by WSU student Kevin Greever, who also conducted the piece. Each of the three themes in the piece are meant to depict three moods of the winter months.

“This is (Greever’s) first work for band,” Root said. “Kevin Greever is a young composer whose talent indicates that he will be (a) force in the compostition world for some time to come.”

Also included in the program were “The Star-Spangled Banner,” arranged by Luigi Zaninelli and performed alongside the WSU ROTC Colorguard, as well as “If Thou Be Near,” a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach and “Pastorale,” a contemporary work by Clifton Williams.