UPEI Wind Symphony
Review by Ivy Wigmore
I’m relieved to see a fair bit of activity around the Confederation Centre as I approach for the UPEI Wind Symphony’s performance of Johan de Meij’s orchestral work, “The Lord of the Rings.” This is my second attempt. The previous week, we arrived—via cleared streets and in the sunshine—to learn that the performance was cancelled due to road conditions. This week, it’s a go—and the Homburg is packed, possibly because of the large fan base of the band that’s opening for the Wind Symphony.
Rowan Fitzgerald is conducting the Intermediate Schools Honours Band. Although he’d sworn not to talk for fear of going over time, Fitzgerald was compelled to mention the dedication of the students and teachers: They went in early, stayed late and gave freely of their time to make the whole effort possible, because that’s what it takes to keep the program going. The band performed an interesting selection of pieces, ranging from a sweetly melancholy arrangement of She’s like the swallow, through a rocking marching band version of Journey’s Don’t stop believin’ to Michael Sweeney’s Ancient Voices. The latter was a particular highlight, in which relatively simple parts, non-standard uses of instruments and even pencil tapping all combined to create a complex and evocative soundscape of the prehistoric world. I think the conductor, musicians, parents and other audience members were all happy with the performance.
Where will the musicians go from there? One potential future step is UPEI’s excellent Wind Symphony: We learn that a good number of its members performed with the Intermediate Honours band a few years back.
This is a repeat performance for the Wind Symphony, following a sold-out concert in December. Under the direction of Karem Simon, they performed Johan De Meij’s Symphony No. 1 AKA The Lord of the Rings. Each of the symphony’s five movements is based on a character or locale. Gandalf (the wizard) appears in a dazzling musical flash. Both his wisdom and his wizardly capriciousness are represented in the first movement, as is a wild and urgent ride on Shadowfax.
Subsequent movements take us to the Elvenwood, and introduce us to the slithery, pathetic character of Gollum. Journey in the Dark, the fourth movement, takes us with the Fellowship of the Ring through the Mines of Moria. A plodding rhythm, given emphasis and an edge through low brass, piano and percussion, indicates both the dread felt by the characters and their grim determination to continue onward, even after the catastrophic loss of Gandalf. The final movement finds us back in the Shire, where the normal character of the hobbits reasserts itself through a cheerful folk dance tune. We end on a sombre note, however, representing Frodo and Gandalf sailing away to The Grey Havens.
A week later, I’m reflecting back on the concert and thinking about the dedication behind the performances of both bands. The RCMP has advised drivers to stay off the roads today in the wake of last night’s storm; I’m trying to finish this review before I have to head out through snow-choked streets to the PEI Symphony Orchestra’s concert “Celebrate Fire in Winter.” Speaking of dedication… I heard that although many streets in town were at that point unplowed, the musicians had a 9:30 dress rehearsal. I picture them on skis and snowmobiles, instruments strapped to their backs, or shovelling their own paths to the Centre. I would just barely be surprised, such is the commitment of all these folk—teachers, students, musicians and volunteers—that put so much effort into bringing our community to life with music. Thank you.