2003 WASBE conference
All Good Things
“All good things come in threes” used to be the received wisdom about so many trios, including Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. Nowadays I am not so sure; during the last few months, once again we had a George Bush in the White House, once again we all invaded Iraq and once again I was Chair of Artistic Planning for a WASBE Conference. Most of the hard work had already been done before Bush and Saddam started their war, and luckily this time no groups cancelled because of it. One fascinating by-product of Conference informal discussions was to garner the different views of the war from delegates from the Gulf States, from Australasia, from Europe, from Canada and from USA. I am sure we would have sorted out a lot of international problems, had George and Tony given us a brief to do so, despite the early closing time of Swedish hotel bars.
In Jönköping the bare facts were that we had thirteen concerts, five repertoire sessions, six headliner sessions, four masterclasses, a five session stream of school band activity, daily conductor mentoring sessions, meetings of specialist groups such as the composers forum, and upwards of forty clinics and papers. Yes, of course there was too much on at 4 pm; the alternative is to have five sessions in five days, turn away thirty-five would-be presenters and lose their expertise, camaraderie and input into the Conference. One possible partial solution would be to have sessions repeated, so that if you miss on one day, you might pick up the topic on another, but I am an unrepentant believer in inviting a large number of composers, conductors and academics to be involved – something for everyone.
As Craig Kirchhoff observed, leading the Wednesday discussion, there is that old saying, we are what we eat, and in a sense we are what we play. My artistic planning committee felt that the composer is of paramount importance to WASBE; we had no “gala” concerts, all programmes were given equal status, and all the groups encouraged to build a full-length concert with an intermission. The result was, in my view, that we were given a whole series of major works, often with the composers present. Under the skilful organization of Rolf Rudin, a dozen pieces were programmed by WASBE composers and ten composers were in Sweden to hear their works.
I have always felt that WASBE composers should receive a strong platform, and we heard twelve, possibly more, “WASBE Composer” works. Kamillo Lendvay and Frigyes Hidas had their 75th birthdays celebrated by the unpronounceable Kiskunfélegyhÿza band from Hungary, Johan de Meij conducted his charming and winsome The Wind in the Willows, and the Danish Concert Band also played Rapsodia Borealis for Trombone by Søren Hyldgaard and council member Yasuhide Ito’s Gloriosa, Csaba Deak had a world premiere of Recollection, a tribute to his mentor Hilding Rosenberg, we heard Karel Husa’s Les Couleurs Fauves, Adam Gorb’s Towards Nirvana, Vincente Moncho’s de Tango, Michael Short’s Estonia and Dana Wilson’s Vortex, Stephen Bryant of Gorilla Salad fame had hisAlchemy in Silent Space workshopped by Dennis Johnson while Marco Pütz’s Dance Sequence was this year’s commission by the WASBE Schools network.
A number of composers made the journey to hear their performances and introduce their music. Johan de Meij was there as composer, conductor, publisher, arranger and trombonist, and in one session was set up to be recognised for each of these activities – Christian Lindberg could have claimed the same! Eric Ewazen from Juilliard gave an interesting talk on his very substantial Concerto for Bassoon and Wind Orchestra played persuasively by Jeffrey Keesecker and the Florida State University Wind Orchestra, David Kechley introduced his Restless Birds before a Dark Moon for Alto Saxophone and band, with Wayne Tice as the ebullient soloist with the Orchestre d’Harmonie d’Électricité de Strassbourg, Chris Marshall came all the way from New Zealand to talk about the premiere of his L’homme armé, Csaba Deak talked about his pieceRecollection in the context of contemporary Swedish music, and Hiroshi Hoshina conducted a loving account of his Fu-Mon with the Kanagawa University Band. Artist-in-Residence, Christian Lindberg, unfortunately could only join us at the beginning and end of the week, and there seemed no time in his busy schedule to discuss his commission, Concerto for Wind Orchestra, premiered in the opening concert, though Britta Byrstrom was able to talk about her new work for the International Youth Wind Orchestra, WEEDS, and of course Marco Pütz and Adam Gorb were there to talk about the problems of writing for younger bands and to hear their works.
Florida State University was invited as Ensemble in Residence, and gave a concert, two repertoire sessions, and also contributed players to the International Youth Wind Orchestra and the Guildhall for their rep session. Three major military bands and Sweden’s leading professional wind orchestra were also invited, but for the rest, the ensembles were chosen by blind audition, compact discs or tapes were made of every group that applied, circulated to twelve members of the Artistic Planning Committee who then voted. Three bands, community bands from Spain, Slovenia and Norway, were forced to withdraw for financial or personnel reasons; this meant a loss of Spanish repertoire, made up partially by three clinic sessions, and a cancellation of new works from Slovenia, but Odd Terje Lysebo’s Nanset Wind Ensemble came in as a late replacement with an extraordinarily varied programmes. Kiskunfélegyhÿza, Guildhall, Florida (2) and Nanset gave invaluable repertoire sessions.