Duke Wind Symphony's Celebration Concert welcomes new president, season

To mark the inauguration of President Vincent Price, the Duke Wind Symphony's Celebration Concert will take place Thursday.
To mark the inauguration of President Vincent Price, the Duke Wind Symphony's Celebration Concert will take place Thursday.

The Duke Wind Symphony will celebrate the beginning of a new season, the arrival of new students and the inauguration of President Vincent Price all in one with the Celebration Concert Thursday in Baldwin Auditorium. The free concert will begin at 8 p.m. and will be followed by a reception with refreshments. 

All of the performance pieces have been carefully chosen to best highlight the exceptionally celebratory nature of the concert. Selections include “You Are Cordially Invited” by Michael Markowski, “Hymn to the Fallen” by John Williams, “Let the Amen Sound” by Travis Cross, “October” by Eric Whitacre and “Libertadores” by Óscar Navarro. Of course, such celebration would not be considered complete without some invigorating fanfares to capture the hope and excitement of the occasion. Thus, the audience will also be able to enjoy an elegant and lyrical fanfare from the ballet “La Peri” written by the French composer Paul Dukas, which is juxtaposed by the lively “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Each piece will paint a unique smudge of color onto this canvas of celebration.

“We are doing a piece by Eric Whitacre called October. I know it’s a little bit early — we’re still in September. But he actually did October because it’s his favorite month,” said Verena Mösenbichler-Bryant, Director of the Duke University Wind Symphony and Associate Professor of the Practice of Music at Duke.

But even though we are not quite there yet, October is just around the corner, playing the prelude of the holiday season marked by Halloween, Thanksgiving and, finally, Christmas.

“October is my favorite month. Something about the crisp autumn air and the subtle change in light always makes me a little sentimental, and as I started to sketch [the music] I felt that same quiet beauty in the writing,” Whitacre has written of his piece. “The simple, pastoral melodies and subsequent harmonies are inspired by the great English Romantics (Vaughn Williams, Elgar) as I felt that this style was also perfectly suited to capture the natural and pastoral soul of the season.”

The vibrant “Libertadores” will also lend vividity to the concert. The piece is structured in two parts — one part is about the Amazon River, and the second part captures Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín, leaders of South America. 

“You can hear different aspects of the landscape in the music,” Mösenbichler-Bryant said. “You can hear tribal sounds — there are actually some singing in the piece and lots of usage of hand percussion. So you hear lots of drums and many many beautiful colors.”  

Perhaps what’s more fascinating than the music is the symphonic group itself. Founded in 1906, the ensemble is composed largely of non-music majors who come from such diverse academic backgrounds and interests that it was only possible for them to meet each other through their shared passion for music. Regardless of their different academic pursuits, the students can always find common comfort and inspiration in playing in the symphony that daubs a layer of artistry on their often-stressful academic life.

“I think it’s really, really beautiful that students that are in biology, physics, pre-med, engineering find the time to come and make music,” Mösenbichler-Bryant said. “For them it’s a wonderful creative outlet, and they are dedicated to the music making. And you always can hear that passion in their music making.”

Ryan Culhane, a sophomore playing bass clarinet in the symphony but planning to major in chemistry and physics, confirmed the relaxing effect of music in his life.

“I love [my experience in the Wind Symphony]. It’s so much fun. It’s a really nice release from the stress of school,” Culhane said. “You are able to get together and make music with other people who also want to make music with you.”

For most other students who do not have such a creative outlet but are trapped in the library all week writing papers and studying for midterms, going to a concert and getting lost in some colorful music can do the job of stress relief. Besides, it is a promising new school year that is worth being celebrated by everyone, especially the first-years who have just embarked on the transforming journey of college life. Moreover, President Price’s inauguration will bring more special and exciting hues to this new season.

The musicians in the Wind Symphony are also looking forward to attendance and support from their peers, as Culhane pointed out: “If they come out and hear us, they’ll want to come back.”


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