USC Thornton Winds concert program
The USC Thornton Winds are led by guest conductor Michael Haithcock in La Création du monde by Darius Milhaud, AMEN! by Carlos Simon, Sinfonia by Zhou Tian and Divertimento in E-flat Major, K. 166 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Michael Haithcock has earned the praise of both composers and conductors for his innovative approaches to developing the wind ensemble repertoire and programming. He is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Michigan and conductor of the University of Michigan Symphony Band.
La création du monde
Divertimento in E-flat Major, K. 166/159d
III. “Andante Grazioso”
W. A. Mozart
Darius Milhaud was born in 1892 at Aix-en-Provence, where his father, who remained connected to his Jewish descent, was an almond merchant. His musical training began in his native city, but by the age of seventeen he was studying at the Paris Conservatoire with Paul Dukas and developing close friendships with Georges Auric and Arthur Honegger. Of equal, and perhaps greater, importance to his creative development were his literary friendships with Francis Jammes and Paul Claudel. It was Claudel, Milhaud’s collaborator on such projects as his Oresteian Trilogy, who took the composer to Rio de Janeiro in 1917 when his health kept him from serving in active military duty during World War I. Milhaud later described the visit to Latin America as the equivalent of a stay in Rome for him (the war had temporarily halted the competition for the coveted Prix de Rome). His time in Brazil brought Milhaud in contact with Latin American folklore and popular music.
The usual association of Milhaud’s compositional style with his membership in Les Six (a group of friends that also included Auric, Honegger, Francois Poulenc, Louis Durey, and Germaine Tailleferre) does not do justice to the full complexities and nuances of his music. His Jewish–Provençal background was of great importance to his works, and its influence may be heard in some of his best works, sometimes through a melancholy pastoral atmosphere rather than overt references. Despite his fondness for working with themes from past composers (especially of the eighteenth century), he seems to have taken little from other composers or other periods. He gave multiple explanations for the origins of his use of polytonality, which he regarded as a Latin solution to the problem of the decay of tonality. One such explanation involved a recurring, quasi-mystical experience at night in the country, when he felt rays and tremors converging on him from all points of the sky and from below the ground, each bearing its own music—“a thousand simultaneous musics rushing towards me from all directions.”
Another explanation of the origin was the study of a duetto by Bach in which the original entries of the two voices appeared to be in different keys. Milhaud did not use polytonality as a system so much as a color. Side by side with the Latin qualities of Milhaud’s music, there exists a strain of expressionism, as evinced in his penchant for thick timbres. Like many French musicians of his generation, he rejected Wagner and Brahms but accepted Mahler and Strauss. Schoenberg, whom he admired greatly, was a friend for many years.
Described by the Los Angeles Times as a composer who “refashions musical history as excitable new realms with an unmistakable musical purpose essential for our times,” Carlos Simon is a multi-faceted and highly sought-after GRAMMY-nominated composer and curator. His music ranges from concert music for large and small ensembles to film scores with influences of jazz, gospel, and neo-romanticism. Simon is the current Composer-in-Residence for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Simon’s work spans genres, taking great inspiration from liturgical texts and writers such as Terrance Hayes, Colson Whitehead, Lynn Nottage, Emma Lazarus, Isabel Wilkerson, Ruby Aiyo Gerber, and Courtney Lett, as well as the art of Romare Bearden. A “young composer on the rise, with an ear for social justice” (NPR), Simon’s latest album, Requiem for the Enslaved, nominated for a 2023 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, is a multi-genre musical tribute to commemorate the stories of the 272 enslaved men, women, and children sold in 1838 by Georgetown University. Released by Decca in June 2022, this work sees Simon infuse his original compositions with African American spirituals and familiar Catholic liturgical melodies, performed by Hub New Music Ensemble, Marco Pavé, and MK Zulu. Simon wrote his first piece for band, AMEN!, for the Symphony Band in 2017 at the request of Michael Haithcock.
Simon earned his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers, and holds degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College. He is an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Music Sinfonia Fraternity and a member of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Society of Composers International, and Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society. He has served as a member of the music faculty at Spelman College and Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and now serves as Assistant Professor at Georgetown University. Simon was also a of the 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, the highest honour bestowed by the Sphinx Organization to recognize extraordinary classical Black and Latinx musicians and was named a Sundance/Time Warner Composer Fellow for his work for film and moving image.
Grammy-nominated Chinese-American composer Zhou Tian (JOH TEE-en) seeks inspiration from different cultures and strives to mix them seamlessly into a musically satisfying combination for performers and audience alike. His music — described as “absolutely beautiful…utterly satisfying” (Fanfare), “stunning” (the Cincinnati Enquirer), and “a prime example of 21st-century global multiculturalism” — has been performed by leading orchestras and performers in the United States and abroad, such as Jaap Van Zweden, Yuja Wang, the New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony, “The President’s Own” US Marine Band, Dover Quartet, and Shanghai Symphony, where he recently served as the Artist-in-Residence.
His Concerto for Orchestra, commissioned and recorded by the Cincinnati Symphony and Music Director Louis Langrée, earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in 2018, making him the first Chinese-born composer honored in that category. In 2019, Beijing Music Festival named him “Artist of the Year.” His Sinfonia was selected as the Sousa-ABA-Ostwald Award winning composition in 2022. The Wall Street Journal states his compositions “accomplish two important things: They remind us of how we got from there to here, and they refine that history by paying belated tribute to contributors who might otherwise be forgotten.”
Born into a musical family in 1981 in Hangzhou, China, Zhou moved to the United States when he was 19. Trained at the Curtis Institute of Music (B.M.), the Juilliard School (M.M.), and the University of Southern California (D.M.A.), he studied with some of America’s finest composers, such as Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Rouse, and Stephen Hartke. He is associate professor of composition at Michigan State University College of Music.
La création du monde
Milhaud described La création du monde (The Creation of the World) as a composition “making wholesale use of the jazz style to convey a purely classical feeling.” The introductory alto saxophone theme, along with that of the following section, have been described by the critic Herbert Glass as “among the most original uses of the Baroque prelude and fugue form.” While the work now exists primarily in the concert repertoire, the music was conceived as a ballet. The first performance, on October 25, 1923 at the historic Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, was presented by the Ballet Suédois with costumes and sets by cubist painter Fernand Léger and a scenario by Swiss poet Blaise Cendrars. The story’s “flowering of spring” as a source of renewal was in stark contrast to the pagan rituals of death and sacrifice in Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps, premiered a decade earlier. The contrast was intentional for a variety of artistic, political, and religious reasons.
While the plot drew richly from a mythical African story of creation, the music was inspired by the composer’s first experience in Harlem during the early 1920s. Milhaud reported that the music he heard during those visits “was absolutely different from anything I had ever heard before and was a revelation to me. Against the beat of the drums, the melodic lines crisscrossed in a breathless patter of broken and twisted rhythms.” Milhaud also recalled the reviews of the first performance as “denouncing my music as frivolous and more suitable for a restaurant or a dance hall than for the concert hall. Ten years later, those same self-anointed critics were discussing the philosophy of jazz and learnedly declaring that La création du monde was the best of my works.”
This work pays homage to my family’s four generational affiliation with the Pentecostal church as either pastors, deacons, missionaries, or musicians. Pentecostal denominations—such as the Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.), Pentecostal Assemblies of God, and many others—are known for their exuberant outward expressions of praise. Worship services are often characterized by joyous dancing, spontaneous shouting, and soulful singing. The music in these church gatherings is essential in fostering a genuine spiritual atmosphere for the congregation. My intent in AMEN! is to re-create the musical experiences I witnessed so many times as an organist and pianist in my father’s church.
The three movements of AMEN! are performed without break to depict the succinct flow of a typical church service. In the first movement, I’ve imagined the sound of an exuberant choir and congregation singing harmoniously together in a call and response fashion represented by a three-part trombone choir. The soulful second movement quotes the traditional gospel song “I’ll Take Jesus For Mine” that I frequently heard my grandmother sing. The title, AMEN!, refers to the plagal cadence, or “Amen,” cadence (IV-I), which is the focal point of the climax in the
final movement. Along with heavily syncopated rhythms and interjected contrapuntal lines, this cadence is repeated and ascends upwards by half step until a frenzied, emotional state is reached.
Divertimento in E-flat Major, K. 166/159d
W. A. Mozart
The word divertimento comes from the Italian divertire (“to amuse”) and was used by Mozart and his contemporaries to refer to a distinctive musical genre (although Haydn used the designation for all his string quartets and most of his keyboard sonatas before 1772). The mood of the genre is generally lighthearted, and the works themselves, especially after 1780, were written to serve as entertainment at social functions. By contrast, titles such as “partita” or “serenade” came to indicate a more serious purpose and a somewhat grander scale.
The Divertimento in E-flat major, K. 166/159d, is an example of the form’s lighthearted character, although it also reveals the mark of genius that one would expect from a work by Mozart. Most likely written in March 1773 for the superb musicians that the 17-year-old composer encountered while in Milan, the work is one of the two divertimenti that constitute the earliest works for wind instruments in Mozart’s catalogue. The blithe nature of the music and the simplicity of the orchestration do not reveal the depth and compositional maturity that Mozart would attain in his more famous serenades for winds, completed roughly a decade later.
The five-movement structure begins with a simple yet charming Allegro that announces the unique importance of the English horns. Mozart’s inclusion of a pair of these instruments is significant as works of this sort typically were written for an octet comprising pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and horns, in addition to which English horns are used in rather few of Mozart’s scores. The Menuetto that follows also calls attention to this added pair of instruments, which become the focal point of the movement’s trio section, along with an accompanying bassoon (in this instance, an actual “trio” for the trio). A brief Andante is followed by an Adagio that, with the beautiful sonorities of sustained horns and oboes in a distinctively high tessitura, comes the closest of anything in this work to matching the later achievements of the mature Mozart. The finale is a spirited contredanse in the expected form of a rondo.
Sinfonia seeks inspirations from cultures close to my heart and mixes them into four different movements. It begins nostalgically and ends on a hopeful, uplifting note.
Grainy films and stylized black-and-white images from the 1940s and 50s inspired this nostalgic throwback. Although it starts brightly, at its core lies the night.
II. “Transit ”
New York City. Subway. Rush hour. Each stop opens to a new soundscape. “Say, did I hear Jazz?” Someone asks. “STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS, PLEASE,” New York replies.
Shanghai. Night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. A vocalise was conceived.
May 10, 1869. Promontory, Utah. A one-word telegraph was sent across the United States in Morse code, announcing the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Now the country was connected as never before: a journey between San Francisco and New York that previously took up to six months now took only days. Some 150 years later, that word, “D-O-N-E,” is transformed here into music using the rhythm of the Morse code. Throughout the finale, the “done” motif is passed back and forth by numerous instruments in the ensemble. An accumulation of materials sends the piece to a climax at the end. This movement was adapted from a movement of my orchestral work Transcend.
“D-O-N-E” rhythmic motif, based on the Morse code:
About the Artists
Michael Haithcock retired from his duties as director of bands and professor of music (Conducting) at the University of Michigan in May of 2023 after twenty-two years of distinguished leadership which followed his twenty-three years at Baylor University. Following in the footsteps of William D. Revelli and H. Robert Reynolds, Professor Haithcock conducted the internationally renowned University of Michigan Symphony Band, guided the acclaimed band and wind ensemble graduate conducting program, and provided administrative leadership for all aspects of the University of Michigan’s diverse and historic band program. In February of 2012, he was named an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor by the University of Michigan which is the University’s highest award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. He is the primary author of the Elements of Expressive Conducting, a widely adopted textbook for conducting classes.
Ensembles under Haithcock’s guidance have received a wide array of critical acclaim for their high artistic standards of performance and repertoire. These accolades have come through concert reviews at national and state conventions, performances in major concert venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and a variety of performances presented during the Symphony Band’s May 2011 tour of China, as well as recordings on the Albany, Arsis, and Equilibrium labels. Reviews of the ten commercial CD’s he recorded with the U-M Symphony Band stated, “programming and execution of this caliber ought to be available worldwide…musically impressive, giving a sense of elation.” The American Record Guide praised the “professional manner with which the group delivers…they show great skill and artistry” and proclaimed the “sound of the U-M Symphony Band is something to savor.” The University of Michigan Symphony Band’s YouTube channel is also a highly acclaimed resource for bands around the world as well as an important archive of his artistic accomplishments while director of bands at U-M.
Throughout his career, Professor Haithcock has been a leader in commissioning and premiering new works for band and has earned the praise of both composers and conductors for his innovative approaches to developing the band repertoire as well as his interpretations of new and standard works. He is in constant demand as a guest conductor with professional ensembles, major universities, all-state, and festival ensembles. He is also a resource person for conducting symposiums and workshops in a variety of instructional settings.
A graduate of East Carolina University, where he received the 1996 Outstanding Alumni Award from the School of Music, and Baylor University, Haithcock has done additional study at a variety of conducting workshops including the Herbert Blomstedt Orchestral Conducting Institute. The Instrumentalist, the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, The School Musician, the Southwest Music Educator, and Winds Magazine have published his articles on conducting and wind literature.
Professor Haithcock is an elected member of both the music honor society Pi Kappa Lambda and the American Bandmasters Association. He remains active in the College Band Directors National Association following his term as president (2001–2003) and was given the organizations Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021. In 2011, he was awarded the Distinguished Service to Music Medal by Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity.
Yoo Min Sung
Jorge Araujo Felix