USC Thornton Winds
The USC Thornton Winds, led by resident conductor Sharon Lavery, celebrates the career of Winds & Percussion faculty member Jim Self in this evening concert.
Jim Self is an esteemed tuba player and composer whose acclaimed work, Tour de Force, was commissioned for The Pacific Symphony in 2008.
In addition to Self’s Tour de Force, this program features Fanfare for Earth by Giovanni Santos, L.A.tudes by Jules Pegram, Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainger and Serenade in E-flat Major, Op. 7 by Richard Strauss.
Fanfare for Earth
I. “Dublin Bay”
II. “Horkstow Grange”
III. “Rufford Park Poachers”
IV. “The Brisk Young Sailor”
V. “Lord Melbourne”
VI. “The Lost Lady Found”
I. “The Figueroa Corridor”
II. “WeHo Tableau”
III. “Mulholland Nights”
IV. “Nuestro Pueblo (The Watts Tower)”
Serenade in E-flat Major, Op. 7
Tour de Force, Episodes for Wind Band
Fanfare for Earth
“Nature is the source of all true knowledge.” Leonardo Da Vinci
I spent a vast amount of my youth surrounded by beautiful palm trees, crystal clear oceans, and never-ending rainforests. The Dominican and Puertorican breeze became my steady breath. At an early age, I understood that earth took care of us. Fanfare for Earth represents my love, admiration, inspiration, and thankfulness for all nature offers us.
Lincolnshire Posy was commissioned by the American Bandmasters Association and premiered at their convention with the composer conducting. It is in six movements, all based on folk songs from Lincolnshire, England. Grainger’s settings are not only true to the verse structure of the folk songs, but attempt to depict the singers from whom Grainger collected the songs. Since its premiere, it has been recognized as a cornerstone of the wind band repertoire. Grainger states that:
“Lincolnshire Posy, as a whole work, was conceived and scored by me direct for wind band early in 1937. Five, out of the six, movements of which it is made up existed in no other finished form, though most of these movements (as is the case with almost all my compositions and settings, for whatever medium) were indebted, more or less, to unfinished sketches for a variety of mediums covering many years (in this case, the sketches date from 1905 to 1937). These indebtednesses are stated in the score.
This bunch of “musical wildflowers” (hence the title) is based on folksongs collected in Lincolnshire, England (one notated by Miss Lucy E. Broadwood; the other five noted by me, mainly in the years 1905-1906, and with the help of the phonograph), and the work is dedicated to the old folksingers who sang so sweetly to me. Indeed, each number is intended to be a kind of musical portrait of the singer who sang its underlying melody–a musical portrait of the singer’s personality no less than of his habits of song–his regular or irregular wonts of rhythm, his preference for gaunt or ornately arabesqued delivery, his contrasts of legato and staccato, his tendency towards breadth or delicacy of tone.”
“Almost anything you can say about Los Angeles is true. It’s large; it’s a mess; it lives; it’s vulgar; it’s beautiful. For L.A. represents, more than any other city, the fulfillment of the American Dream…of wealth, speed, freedom, mobility.”
-Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies
Études are typically intended as short pieces showcasing techniques that illuminate something about an instrument and its performer. But in my travelogue for band, L.A.tudes, I have assembled a collection of municipal études, five studies designed to evoke aspects of life in the endlessly exhilarating, remarkably iridescent City of Angels. Comparable in scope & duration to Percy Grainger’s landmark Lincolnshire Posy—a composer and work very dear to me—L.A.tudes is similarly a celebration of a specific place and its people, and it is my hope that these five musical vignettes sound like Los Angeles feels:
1. The Figueroa Corridor
Heraldic, brassy material performed at times in a lyrical, religioso style depicts the area extending from just south of Downtown Los Angeles to the museums at Exposition Park, a central district encompassing the classically-inspired campus of the University of Southern California as well as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1984 (and upcoming 2028) Olympic Games. Rich, gothic harmonies and flowing hymn-like passages suggest the area’s many architectural splendors, from an intersection boasting two of the city’s most ornate cathedrals to the Shrine Auditorium, ten times the site of the Oscars telecast.
2. WeHo Tableau
My home neighborhood of West Hollywood (colloquially “WeHo”) is arguably America’s most famous LGBT enclave, incorporated in 1984 as a safe haven for Los Angeles County’s gay population and perennially one of the country’s leading progressive municipalities. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, West Hollywood became refuge to America’s second-densest Russian-speaking population (years earlier, émigré Igor Stravinsky made his home here). The heart of L.A.’s nightlife and club scene, WeHo is one of our most vibrant communities, though quieter residential side streets jut off the colorful, highly walkable commercial strips. As such, I’ve written music that ambles along with a carefree gait, emblazoned in technicolor neon hues and Stravinskean mixed meters.
3. Mulholland Nights
A mystical, serpentine theme serves here as homage to ghosts of Hollywood past and of the fabled Mulholland Drive. As you careen around what David Lynch calls our “dream road,” you run the entire spine of the Santa Monica Mountains with alarmingly few guardrails — it’s little wonder that our most visually stunning street is also the most treacherous. Mulholland’s precipitous overlooks perched high above the vast San Fernando Valley to the north and the boundless Los Angeles basin below showcase unmatched views of the Pacific, the desert, several mountain ranges, and our entire cityscape. Though always cloaked in noir shadows, the music here is nostalgic and familiar. By movement’s end, we float to a celestial plain over the Hollywood Hills and its twinkling lights below.
4. Nuestro Pueblo (The Watts Towers)
Working far from the critical gaze of the academy but immeasurably close to the hearts of Angelenos, Sabato “Simon” Rodia was surely one of the twentieth century’s great “outsider artists.” An Italian immigrant who quietly constructed without nails or traditional binding agents the 100-foot Watts Towers, Rodia would mysteriously abandon the structure after 33 years of methodical, dogged work and leave town, never to return again. When unscrupulous L.A. city officials moved to demolish the towers in the 1950s, a stalwart band of local community members devised a public stress-test that ultimately deemed the landmark not only structurally-sound, but so strong that the cranes used to pull resistance against the towers were themselves lifted off the ground. Thanks to decades-long preservation efforts, the towers stand tall to this day, a beacon reflective of the neighborhood’s solidarity and immense cultural contributions as well as of the fortitude of one artist’s unwavering individualism and perseverance.
The movement opens with delicate, percussive pitter-patter on glass bottles, ceramic tiles, clay flower pots, and wind chimes made of seashells, the same sort of the estimated 100,000 found objects Rodia used to adorn the towers he called Nuestro Pueblo (“Our Town”). Lonesome clarinet lines built on humble triads recall Rodia’s monk-like work in the backyard of his home in Watts, an artistically fertile L.A. neighborhood that was also home to fellow visionaries Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, and the family of film composer Danny Elfman. The simple triadic cells begin to overlap in stretto, eventually forming an undulating web that crests into a warm, melancholic apex, a resplendent evocation of Rodia scaling his ever-higher creation above miles of sprawling cityscape before ultimately descending back to hushed ground-level.
Our L.A. journey concludes in perhaps the only way imaginable: on the open road. For while the disparate paths that bring each of us to Los Angeles reflect a diversity and internationalism rivaled by few other cities, the one thing that quickly becomes universal for each & every Angeleno is our infamous freeway system. Far more than mere portals for white Bronco chases, the freeways remain a daily source of utility, frustration, excess, and a surprising sort of zen energy induced by routine traffic jams (for years much of my musical rumination has taken place in the countless numbing hours spent on freeways and “surface streets” alike). But this is a bolt of a closing movement, beginning anticipatively at a stoplight flanking an on-ramp to “The 10.” It’s not long until we’re cruising bumper-to-bumper under explosive late afternoon sunlight, breezy tunes on the radio and smog-tinged sights set on the Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu down the way. Could any experience more epitomize the Southern California Dream?
Serenade in E-flat Major, Op. 7
This incredible serenade is a work from a young, but a very seasoned, 17 year old composer. Aside from his father, Franz Strauss, an influential horn player in Munich music circles, Richard Strauss received thorough training at home and from his father’s colleagues. Since the premier of the work on 27 November 1882, the Serenade has enjoyed a secure position in the wind repertoire. In a single movement, this piece, cast in a classical sonata form, displays the influences of Schubert, Schumann, and Mozart, of whom he idolized all through his lifetime. With masterful handling of the wind instruments, Strauss creates warm and vivid colors and dramatic and tender moments that belies his age.
Tour de Force, Episodes for Wind Band
Tour de Force is a series of nine episodes which happen to equal the nine concerts the Pacific Symphony played in Europe. All the episodes connect in one movement. The episodes have no musical connections to those European concerts and it is not a programmatic piece. The piece begins with a fast, loud flourish of cascading notes slowing and resting on a Pedal C in the low instruments.
Episode One is played by a “ripieno” ensemble (a group within a group). This group of nine solo players: three Saxophones, Flugel Horn, Tuba, Harp, Vibraphone, Flute and Hand Percussion plays a haunting slow interlude. The “ripieno” episodes were the first parts written.
Episode Two begins with a rousing fanfare in the horns, woodwinds and percussion followed by building section of contrapuntal lines based on (what to me is) a particularly interesting progression of altered-dominant chords—(jazz chords). The whole band joins in the build-up to a chromatic passage in 5/8 meter. The real “feel” is a super-imposed 5/16 meter.
Pizzicato-like woodwinds and percussion introduce the Third Episode—a Latin Funk in 5/4. Solo trumpet and clarinets play the melody punctuated by piccolo, brass and woodwinds. A short interlude features solo timpani and the percussion section with flutes.
Episode Four is a high-energy section marked by sections of band tutti with percussion material from the earlier interlude, contrapuntal sections and three-against-four rhythmic figures.
The first part of Episode Five is introduced by the harp. It is a development of the earlier “jazz progression” with a melody in the Solo Horn, Oboe, English Horn and Clarinets. This leads to a growing contrapuntal section, gradually adding winds and tapering off to Episode Six.
It begins with a slow groove in the percussion. The Contra-Bassoon plays a solo bass-line with staccato solo woodwinds entering every two measures. Horns and muted trumpets add background figures. Low woodwinds introduce the bluesy melody over the percussion. This Episode has a long build-up with the gradual addition of all the instruments and ends with a Gershwin-esque Clarinet solo.
Episode Seven is a return of the “ripieno” group of nine playing different material. The Solo Tuba and Solo Flute are prominent in this section.
Episode Eight starts with a short intro of brief solos: Oboe, Bassoon, English Horn, Bass Clarinet and Trombone. This is the “beginning of the end”. It starts with minimalist percussion figures on C’s and D’s punctuated by winds and brass. Many fragments from earlier episodes are brought back and developed in this long ending. Surprising meter changes, dissonant trumpets interjections and sudden breaks happen all the way to the big finale.
A return of the horn fanfare introduces Episode Nine–a high-energy, “Tour de Force” ending with the whole band (led by the percussion) driving the freight train. The piece ends with two measures of soli brass and finally joined by all on “Stacked 4ths” chords.
About the Artists
Sharon Lavery’s extensive career has led her to conduct in distinguished concert halls across the globe, including Carnegie Hall on several occasions. Since 2007 she has been music director of the Downey Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble hailed as one of the best metropolitan orchestras in Southern California. Ms. Lavery has appeared as guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, Vermont Symphony, Hollywood Chamber Orchestra, La Jolla Symphony, San Bernardino Symphony, La Brea Sinfonia of Los Angeles, and the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition Orchestra. For many years she held the post of cover conductor for the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, and she has also served as cover conductor for the San Diego Symphony. She has been the assistant conductor of the Pasadena Symphony, the associate conductor of the Herbert Zipper Orchestra of Los Angeles, and has also served as music director of the MUSE International Music Day Festival in Chiba, Japan. In addition, Lavery has conducted on CD recordings with Delos Records, Inc. and at Warner Bros studio in Burbank, CA.
In conjunction with her professional duties, Ms. Lavery serves as Resident Conductor of the Thornton Symphony, Chamber Orchestra, and Thornton Winds at the University of Southern California. She has led USC’s ensembles in concert on countless occasions, and served as music director of the Thornton Concert Orchestra for seven years. In addition to these duties at USC, Lavery teaches instrumental conducting.
Ms. Lavery is also known as an advocate for music education. She has conducted several All-State orchestras and wind ensembles throughout the United States, and currently serves on the conducting faculty of the Interlochen Arts Camp and the International Honors Performance Series.
Hailing from Ossining, New York, Lavery received her Bachelor of Music Education from Michigan State University, and Master of Music in Clarinet Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. She also earned a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from USC Thornton, receiving the Leonard Bernstein Memorial Scholarship for two consecutive years.
Jim Self is an award-winning Los Angeles based freelance and studio musician, a veteran of thousands of motion pictures, television shows and records, and tuba soloist on many prominent movies. His tuba was the “Voice of the Mothership” in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For many years he was first tuba for John Williams, James Horner, James Newton Howard, John Debney, and others. Jim has recorded with hundreds of artists including Plácido Domingo, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Don Ellis. He is principal Tuba/Cimbasso with the Pacific and Pasadena Symphonies, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestras. Early in his career Jim was in The US Army Band in Washington DC and was a Tuba professor at the University of Tennessee. For over 30 years he was a Private Pilot.
Born in 1943 in Franklin, Pennsylvania, Self holds degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Catholic University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Southern California, where he is currently Adjunct Professor of tuba and chamber music. He was awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Tuba Euphonium Association. Jim and wife Jamie have endowed 4 tuba scholarships at the Thornton School to establish the USC Bass Tuba Quartet. To date the Self’s have endowed over 35 tuba scholarships at universities all over America.
His nearly 100 compositions and arrangements include works for solo tuba, brass quintet, other brass, string and woodwind chamber music, wind band and orchestra and jazz songs. Jim has produced 21 solo jazz and classical recording projects that feature jazz greats like Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb, Francisco Torres, Ron Kalina and Warren Luening. Many feature his own unique instrument, the FLUBA (picture a tuba-sized Flugel Horn). Jim’s latest CDs include Hangin’ Out, a duo tuba/guitar CD with the great John Chiodini, My America 2, Destinations, and Touch and Go. Jim’s music and recordings are available from: www.jimself.com
Ha Eun An
Victor Martinez Jara
Jazzmine Van Veld
Jorge Araujo Felix