In preparation for their tour to Australia in the spring, BYU Wind Symphony will present Music from the Land Down Under on Nov. 3. The evening’s program will include an emotional selection of music which will give Provo audiences a taste of the exciting music Australia has to offer.
“I assembled this concert of music by Australian composers because I think it is important to learn more about the country and music before we go there,” said Donald Peterson, professor of instrumental ensembles and the conductor of the Wind Symphony. “That is a lot of what drives the music selection, becoming more musically acquainted with the country and developing more connections.”
Two of the pieces were written by Percy Grainger, one of Australia’s most prominent composers. Grainger is a favorite among Peterson and the symphony members, who will have the opportunity to visit the Grainger Museum in Melbourne while on tour.
“Grainger is a staple among wind band composers and his music is truly unlike any other,” said Nick Ayala, piccolo player and graduate student studying instrumental conducting. “His sensibility and treatment of the melodies, which mostly come from Australian folk tunes, as well as the way he interweaves them together creates a unique sound that you can't get from other composers. His music is fun, sometimes technically challenging, and always endued with a great deal of emotion and feeling.”
The other composers on the program were introduced to Peterson when he visited Australia this past May in preparation for the tour. One composer, David Stanhope who is known for his wind band compositions, promised to attend a Wind Symphony concert if they played one of his pieces.
“Some of the songs are tied to the people I met and experiences I had while in Australia,” Peterson said. “I know they will be even more so after we return home from tour.”
Perhaps the most moving piece on the program was written by Ralph Hultgren. The work is titled “On a Bright Sunlit Morning” and was written in response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Hultgren, a converted Christian, was seeking for a way to deal with his grief and frustration when he read a Psalm about turning evil to good. He decided to set the Psalm to music.
“It is a response from an Australian about an American event,” Peterson said. “Ralph said BYU is a good place to perform the piece as the Psalm will be appreciated because of the religious emphasis.”
The vocal soloist for “On a Bright Sunlit Morning” is baritone Darrell Babidge, professor of vocal performance. Babidge has a personal connection to the song as he was living in Manhattan at the time of the attacks.
“Babidge has sung with us before,” Peterson said of the collaboration. “The stars aligned. I gave him a recording and asked if he would be interested and he was enthusiastic about it.”
Two other Hultgren works will be performed at the concert. “An Australian Rhapsody” is a medley of famous Australian songs while “Bushdance” is based on fiddle tunes played in the outback.
“They sound very much like a hoedown,” Peterson said. “They are dance tunes to be played around a campfire and are a part of Australia’s history and culture.”
Rounding out the program is “Invercargill March,” a world famous march by Australian Alex F. Lithgow written in honor of his birth town in New Zealand.
"I think audiences will appreciate having a varied representation of music composed by Australians,” Ayala said. “The music is very traditional in nature, but it is infused with a very Australian fingerprint.”
“The wide variety of styles and emotions should appeal to audiences,” Peterson said. “I hope they get a sense of the warmth and happiness of the Australian people. There are some poignant moments that cause people to feel deeper, but I also hope that, by the end, they go home dancing and whistling.”