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The Swarthmore College Wind Ensemble's Fall 2023 Performance

The Swarthmore Wind Ensemble will perform in the Lang Concert Hall on Saturday, November 18th at 8 pm. Directed by Andrew Hauze ‘04, the concert will feature seven remarkably different and striking pieces that encompass a wide array of musical experiences, traditions, and styles. 

“We’ll be playing pieces ranging from a cheerful march composed by the great American composer John Phillip Sousa, to a disturbing modern composition, "The Last Hive Mind", by Shunying Li, to cornerstone compositions of the Wind Ensemble repertoire,” Professor Hauze says. “I really wanted to expose the students to a rich variety of music.” 

The Ensemble will perform “The Thunderer,” a traditional march written in 1889 for the Columbia Commandery No.2. “It really is a quintessential American march,” Professor Hauze says, “and one of Sousa’s pieces that is foundational to his work.” 

Another American work included in the concert repertoire is Omar Thomas’s modern arrangement of “Shenandoah,” a beloved folk song that depicts the lives and journeys of fur traders canoeing down the Missouri River. This arrangement of the piece imparts a more introspective and brooding impression, giving the composition a rich texture that captures the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley.

“The Last Hive Mind” is an experimental piece that has garnered both love and bewilderment within the ensemble. “It was composed very recently,” Professor Hauze remarks, “inspired by an episode in the show Black Mirror, it’s sort of dystopian, describing a version of humanity run by a malevolent hive mind. It sounds like the soundtrack of a horror movie sometimes.” The piece features a section where members of the ensemble have to play ‘ideas’ at different speeds without consulting or coordinating with each other, creating a chaotic cacophony that contrasts sharply with other parts of the piece that are more orderly and rehearsed. This paints a surreal musical image of the monstrous being that dominates this envisioned future. 

“We don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next,” Phillip Wu says of the piece. “It’s so modern that there are weird ideas which we are not familiar with.” He says that it doesn’t have the same rhythm that most classical repertoire has, making it difficult for the musicians to intuitively grasp the progression of ideas within the piece. “It’s an important experience to have though,” he stresses, “of the modern pieces I’ve played it’s one of the more out-there ones, but it’s so satisfying to go from the start of the semester where the whole ensemble falls apart to the well-oiled machine we are now.”

“The Last Rose of Summer” is an Irish folk song arranged by Dessa Caguioa ‘24. “I’m excited to listen to it live,” Dessa says. “I originally arranged it for a chamber orchestra but I didn’t get to hear it performed back then.” Talking about her creative process, Dessa discusses difficulties she had to overcome in arranging the song. “I don’t have any experience with brass instruments at all,” she admits, “so rearranging the piece for a family of instruments I’ve never learned before was challenging for me. ” 

Despite this adversity, she was able to create a beautiful piece. “I love the woodwind chorale in the middle,” she says. “I used to be a marching band girl and I’m proud of how this one turned out.“ She notes her favorite part of the song, “there’s a countermelody in the last section being performed by the flutes and saxes, and it’s one of the first countermelodies I wrote for the piece.” 

The repertoire selection was completed and tied together by Professor Hauze. “People generally feel very close to him, he’s always there for us and works to boost our morale during rehearsals,” Phillip says, “and the group also has an amazing sense of comradery. No matter what the content is, there’s that spirit of collaboration which binds us together.”

The Wind Ensemble performs their fall semester concert in Lang Concert Hall on Saturday, November 18th at 8 PM