Holiday Concert Program Notes

Festival Fanfare for Christmas

John Wasson

Born – 1956 in St. Paul, Minnesota

This piece was commissioned and debuted by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for their Christmas gala in 2000.

Trombonist and founder of Dallas Brass, John Wasson began his career by arranging music for his high school band. As a popular composer for wind and brass ensembles, he has composed and arranged for a variety of organizations, including the Dallas Cowboys, National Geographic, the U.S. Airforce Band and the Salvation Army. He currently performs with his jazz ensemble and creates music for various worship settings in the Dallas area.

Following a triumphant opening fanfare, Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Joy to the World are combined in a series of duets and eventually involving the entire orchestra.

 Three Dances from The Bartered Bride

Bedřich Smetana

Born – March 2, 1824 in Litomysl, Czech Republic

Died – May 12, 1884 in Prague, Czech Republic

This piece was debuted at the Provisional Theater in Prague on May 30, 1866.

Although independent for only 50 of the past 400 years, the small Czech Republic – formerly Czechoslovakia and earlier, Bohemia – has always been fiercely proud of its culture and has produced a surprisingly large number of excellent musicians and performers.

As a wave of nationalism swept through most of Europe at the beginning of the 19th century, Smetana sought to represent the Czech culture in his compositions. The Bartered Bride, his second opera, contains folk songs and traditional dances, and tells the comic story of a pair of young lovers who must outwit the village matchmaker, their parents and the bride’s fiancée in order to be together.

In his revision of the opera, Smetana added three traditional Czech dances: a Polka accompanies the joyous villagers; the Furiant occurs in a bar and features syncopated rhythms – sometimes in two, sometimes in three; and a Skocna, literally a “jumping dance”, portrays carnival acrobats.

Smetana inspired a future generation of Czech composers, including a young orchestral violist who played at the opera’s premiere – Antonín Dvořák.

Christmas Festival, Forgotten Dreams, and Song of the Bells

Leroy Anderson

Born – June 29, 1908 in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Died – May 18, 1975 in Woodbury, Connecticut

Christmas Festival was composed in 1950, Song of the Bells in 1951, and Forgotten Dreams in 1954. From 1950 to 1962, all of Leroy Anderson’s pieces were premiered by his own recording ensemble for Decca Records.  

Leroy Anderson, a Harvard alumnus fluent in nine languages, was a linguist specializing in Scandinavian and German languages at the Pentagon. In addition to serving in the military, composing and directing the Harvard Band, Anderson played the trombone and studied the double bass while earning his Bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory. Best known for his catchy tunes and playful orchestrations, he wrote and arranged pieces for studio orchestra as well as for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.

Christmas Festival, composed at the beginning of Anderson’s career, is a medley of Christmas favorites. Forgotten Dreams was written for piano and orchestra, and its theme was used on several televised programs, most notably Eyewitness News in the 1970’s. Song of the Bells is a smooth, almost Viennese waltz interrupted by two brief jazzy sections and featuring an unusual duet for chimes and bells. Anderson’s signature style is evident in all three pieces, with folk music and creative orchestral effects.

Italian Street Song

Victor Herbert

Born – February 1, 1859 in Dublin, Ireland

Died – May 26, 1924 in New Haven, Connecticut

This aria is from the operetta Naughty Marietta, which debuted October 24, 1910 in Syracuse, New York and on Broadway on November 7 of that year.

Victor Herbert bridged the gap between the Viennese operettas of Franz Lehár and Johann Strauss and the Broadway musicals that became a part of the American musical fabric in the 1930s. He began his career in America as a cellist in the Metropolitan opera, where he solidified his love of opera and became a prolific composer. He often worked on two compositions side by side or wrote orchestral parts without bothering to pen a score.

Naughty Marietta is set in 1780 New Orleans. Arguably his most popular work, it tells the story of Captain Warrington who attempts to capture the notorious French pirate, Bras Pique, and the mischievous Countess Marietta who helps – and hinders – his progress. At the end of the first act, Marietta, disguised as the son of an Italian puppeteer, performs the Italian Street Song to distract the townsfolk.

Meine Lippen sie Küssen so Heiß from Juditta

Dein ist mein ganzes Herz from Land of Smiles

Franz Lehár

Born – April 30, 1870 in Komárno, Hungary

Died – October 24, 1948 in Bad Ischl, Germany

The operetta, Land of Smiles, premiered at the Metropol Theater in Berlin on October 10, 1929. Lehar conducted the premier of his final opera, Juditta, at the Vienna State Opera on January 20, 1934.

During the final years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna was a rich cultural center with a high demand for music, operas, and entertainment.

Following violin studies at the Prague conservatory, Lehár served as the bandmaster for the Austro-Hungarian Army and Navy, eventually finding employment in Vienna, where he composed operettas. In Juditta, the title character leaves her country home to become a nightclub dancer in North Africa, and in this song – translated as “My lips, they give so fiery a kiss” – she pretends to have no idea why she is so alluring to men.

The bittersweet ending of Land of Smiles made it a favorite with Viennese audiences. Set in China in 1912, the operetta tells the story of a Viennese countess who marries a Chinese prince but is unable to overcome the culture shock of living in Peking. When she leaves her husband to return to her Austrian homeland, the prince sings of his undying love for his wife.

Lehár wrote “You are my Heart’s Delight,” for Richard Tauber, who performed it for the Berlin premier.

Christmas at the Movies  –  Music from Five Classic Holiday Films

Arranged by Bob Krogstad

This holiday medley includes music from five classic Christmas movies. “Somewhere in my Memory”, from the 1990 film, Home Alone, was composed by John Williams, who also scored Star Wars, Harry Potter, E.T., and Indiana Jones.

“Where are you, Christmas?” was part of the first Dr. Seuss film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. James Horner, best known for Titanic and Avatar, composed the score.

The 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street, won five academy awards and is preserved in the National Film Registry for its cultural significance. The score was composed by Cyrl J. Mockridge, who also wrote music for Cheaper by the Dozen and the 1955 film, Guys and Dolls.

“The Polar Express” from the 2004 film of the same name, was scored by Alan Silvestri, who also wrote for Cast Away, Back to the Future, and Forrest Gump.

Danny Elfman composed the music for Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Mission: Impossible, and Big Fish. His “Making Christmas” was written for Tim Burton’s 1993 Halloween/Christmas crossover film The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Radetzky March

Johann Baptist Strauss

Born – March 14, 1804 in Vienna, Austria

Died – September 25, 1849 in Vienna, Austria

The Radetzky March was written to commemorate the victory of Feldmarschall Radetzky over the Italians and was debuted on August 31, 1848 in Vienna.

Johann Strauss Sr. was often at odds with his son. Although he encouraged all of his sons to be businessmen, all three gravitated toward musical careers. During the series of European revolutions that started in Vienna in 1848, Johann Jr. sided with the revolutionaries who opposed the autocracy of the Austrian Chancellor Metternich, while his father supported the established order of the monarchs.

Dedicated to Austrian Feldmarschall Radetzky, this march was first performed for Austrian Army officers, who, upon hearing the refrain, stomped and clapped in time to the music, a tradition that continues today. More festive than militant in nature, this piece has been used all over the world for every imaginable occasion – in department stores, military schools and the annual New Year’s concert in Vienna.

Explosion Polka

Johann Strauss II

Born – October 25, 1825 in Neubau, Austria

Died – June 3, 1899 in Vienna, Austria

Written for a benefit concert called the Joyful Explosions Festival, the Explosion Polka premiered at the Josefstädter Theater on February 8, 1847.

After the discovery of nitrocellulose by German scientist Schönbein in 1840, news of this explosive compound made the rounds in Vienna. The Viennese public was delighted that many products could be made “explosive ” – apparently even polkas! Strauss caught onto the trend and wrote one of his most bombastic pieces- with many musical outbursts.

 

 

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