Breaking ‘Wind’ at Winifried Smith

No one passing the concert at Winifred Smith Hall Wednesday, Nov. 14 would have guessed that the wind ensemble playing Kenneth Applegate’s captivating ‘Concerto for Tuba and Band’ met just once a week since fall quarter began. The UC Irvine Winds Ensemble was conducted by Abel Ramirez, assistant professor, director of wind bands and conductor of the Cal State Los Angeles Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band. Along with Applegate’s four-year-old ‘Concerto for Tuba and Band,’ the wind ensemble performed four 20th-century pieces, ranging from a Spanish paso doble to a Scottish lament.
John Zdechlik’s ‘Choral and Shaker Dance,’ from 1971, was a fitting start to the concert. The piece, based on the Shaker hymn ‘Simple Gifts,’ gradually builds in intensity as the time signature changes. Except for a slower middle section that did not bear as clear a connection to the other movements, the music generally provided the sensation of soaring, and at times, sounded as though it originated as part of an Olympic pre-games ceremony. A triumphant final section with an impressive timpani part brought the excitement to a climax, getting the audience ready for Jay Ungar’s ‘Ashokan Farewell.’
Featured in Ken Burns’ 1990 documentary series, ‘The Civil War,’ Ungar’s ‘Ashokan Farewell’ is a beautiful piece of longing. Before one glances at Ungar’s explanation of the famous piece, it is clear that inspiration came from the wilderness. The wind ensemble’s performance was smooth and flowing, expressing a sense of romance. ‘Ashokan Farewell’ is named for a camp in the mountains about 100 miles north of New York City, at which Ungar ran the Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps during the summer.
‘Ashokan is the name of a town,’ Ungar said of the piece, ‘most of which is now under a very beautiful and magical body of water called the Ashokan Reservoir