Synthesis Programme Notes


Danse Carnival – Randall D. Standridge

Musical drama and humor are on display in this homage to Romantic orchestra repertoire. A blazing tempo, interspersed with very slow sections, sudden dynamic shifts and the juxtaposition of d minor and F major add contrast to this dynamic work.

Shenandoah – Frank Ticheli

The Shenandoah Valley and the Shenandoah River are located in Virginia. The origin of the name for this river and valley is obscure. The origins of the folk song are equally obscure, but all date to the 19th century. Many variants on the melody and text have been handed down through the years with the most popular telling the story of an early settler’s love for a Native American woman. The composer writes:

In my setting of Shenandoah I was inspired by the freedom and beauty of the folk melody and by the natural images evoked by the words, especially the image of a river. I was less concerned with the sound of a rolling river than with its life-affirming energy — its timelessness. Sometimes the accompaniment flows quietly under the melody; other times it breathes alongside it. The work’s mood ranges from quiet reflection, through growing optimism, to profound exaltation.

Stars and Stripes – John Philip Sousa

Sousa consistently stated that this march was divinely inspired and was born of homesickness. In his autobiography, Marching Along, he provides the details of its creation after he had received a cablegram in Italy that his manager, David Blakely, had died:

“Aboard the Teutonic, as it steamed out of the harbor on my return from Europe in 1896, came one of the most vivid incidents of my career. As I paced the deck, absorbed in thought, suddenly I began to sense the rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. It kept on ceaselessly, playing, playing, playing. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and reechoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached the shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed. The composition is known the world over as The Stars and Stripes Forever and is probably my most popular march.” (By permission of John Philip Sousa, Inc., New York City)

Paul Bierley states that The Stars and Stripes Forever is “by far the most popular march ever written, and its popularity is by no means limited to the United States.” A ten-year international march popularity survey confirms Bierley’s statement. The universal appeal of Sousa’s march is illustrated by an article in The New York Times by Harold Schonberg which tells of a tour to China by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1973. After sitting politely but stonily through a program which ranged from Beethoven to Copland, the orchestra struck up The Stars and Stripes. “All of a sudden electricity permeated the hall. Faces broke into smiles; feet began tapping; there was a general air of understanding and happiness. Maybe,… (it) really is the greatest piece of music ever written by an American. In any case, it has made more friends for America than any other piece of music…”


Originally recorded by the innovative jazz fusion group “Weather Report,” Birdland has become one of the most popular jazz tunes ever. “Birdland” is a jazz/pop song written by Joe Zawinul of the band Weather Report as a tribute to the Birdland nightclub in New York City, which appeared on the band’s 1977 album Heavy Weather. The Manhattan Transfer won a Grammy Award with their 1979 version of the song, which had lyrics by Jon Hendricks. Quincy Jones won two Grammy Awards for the version of the piece he included on his 1989 album Back on the Block.[2] Arranged by Larry Norred, this version just might be the best yet!


Prelude from Holberg Suite – Edvard Grieg

This energetic piece of string music is first movement of a suite for string orchestra written by the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg in 1884 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dano-Norwegian humanist playwright Ludvig. It was originally written for piano solo, but Grieg arranged it himself a year later for string orchestra.

Presto from Divertimento for strings no. 1 in D, K136 – W.A. Mozart.

This is the last movement of a set of three Divertimentos for strings written by Mozart in Salzburg in 1772, at 16 years of age. The Divertimentos are lively pieces with very catchy themes. Not much is known about these works however they were probably written for a musical evening at a prominent Salzburg resident’s, and Mozart would probably have played in the ensemble himself.

Music from the Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides

The original score of this movie is credited to Hans Zimmer and Rodrigo y Gabriela. We are going to play an arrangement of some of the music from this movie arranged for Strings and Percussion by James Kazik. The themes include:
“Guilty of Being Innocent of Being Jack Sparrow”
Final credits

Jump in the line (Shake, Señora)

This is a Calipso song originally written by Aldwyn Roberts (otherwise known as Lord Kitchener), made famous by a version recorded by Harry Belafonte in 1961. It’s most memorable use was at the end of the Tim Burton movie ‘Beetlejuice’. This arrangement by Robert Longfield for strings, Percussion and Piano captures the liveliness of the music and features the violins strumming their instruments like a guitar.

Andante from Beethoven Symphony no 1 in C, op.21.

This is the second movement from L.v. Beethoven’s first symphony, published in 1801 but probably written around 1795. Even though there’s clear similarities to the music of Mozart and Haydn you can hear Beethoven’s unique style and drama coming through in this piece. It’s written for a classical sized orchestra so we’re adding Woodwind, horns and Timpani to the string orchestra. This is the first experience this orchestra has had of playing a full orchestral work.


Tea, coffee and supper will be served in the foyer


Flight – Claude T Smith

Flight is the official march of the Air and Space Museum of Washington, United States of America. It was commissioned and premiered by the Air Force Band in the museum in November 1984.

It is a highly descriptive work opening with a slow fanfare statement played by the trumpets. Quickly, moving to a typical march tempo with a charming placement of Pachelbel’s Canon, as requested in the commission. This theme is developed before being led back to the main brass themes. Broad, sweeping reeds, an active percussion section and more brass statements feature in preparation for a colourful and interesting change in time signature.

The listener is brought to focus as challenging fanfares across the ensemble lead to an exciting and thrilling conclusion.

4 Scottish Dances – Malcolm Arnold

Malcolm Arnold began his career as a professional trumpeter and was a full time composer by his thirties. A sought after composer, he was regarded alongside Benjamin Britten and William Walton. He had an ability to write within a huge repertoire from film scores, concertos, symphonies and light music, of which we hear tonight.

These four dances were composed early in 1957, and are dedicated to the BBC Light Music Festival. They are all based on original melodies but one, a melody composed by Robert Burns.

The first dance is in the style of a slow strathspey, Scottish dance, with snappy rhythms which brings a recognisable energy. The second movement begins with a lively reel. The reel develops continuously until the bassoon enters the conversation evoking images of a local village peasant rolling out of the pub!

The third dance is in the style of a Hebridean song and attempts to give an impression of the sea and mountain scenery on a calm summer’s day in the Hebrides. The last dance closes the set of dances with a lively fling.

Pacem: A Hymn for Peace – Robert Spittal

From a lyrically introspective opening to an emphatic climax, this songful work reflects the scope of the struggle for personal and universal peace. – Robert Spittal

Pacem (Latin for “peace”) was written by Robert Spittall for a wind ensemble at the Idaho State University. Spittal has a deep admiration for Renaissance composers, including Josquin Des Prez and Palestrina and as such his own writing reflects this. In writing Pacem, Spittal wanted to develop this Rennaisance style into a symphonic band setting. The result is a beautiful and moving hymn-like meditation which spans a range of emotions. Pacem focuses on the scope of humanity’s persistent, hopeful and often difficult struggle toward the realisation of personal and universal peace. Perhaps this is a timely way for us to reflect on the world stage’s current struggles…

Laputa: Castle in the Sky – Joe Hisaishi – arr. Kkazuhiro Morita

Castle in the Sky (Japanese: 天空の城ラピュタ) is notable for being the first film to be animated by Studio Ghibli directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Garnering cult status in recent times, the film is set in a fictional 19th century setting. It follows the adventures of a boy and girl who are trying to keep a powerful crystal from the army, a group of secret agents, and a family of pirates, while searching for a legendary floating castle.
The music is superbly written to depict the various scenes of magic and mystery, moving all the while through to marches and of course closing with the recognisable, lyrical main theme in all of its cinematic magnificence.

Symphonic Dances from Fiddler on the Roof – Music, Jerry Bock Words, Sheldon Harnick arr. Ira Hearshen

Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway in 1964 and was the first music theatre run to surpass 3,000 performances, holding the record for the longest running show for 10 years.

Set in Russia in 1905, the story centres around Tevye, who’s life is ever changing from the outside influences of modern day culture and does nothing but distract his family from his beloved traditional virtues of his Jewish faith. His three strong-willed daughters wish to marry for love, yet all the potential husbands are far from palatable!

The score is gloriously arranged by Ira Hearshen, one America’s leading orchestrators and arrangers, particularly on Broadway. He is also a highly regarded Hollywood film score writer, with credits including Toy Story and The Scorpion King. Hearshen’s arrangement makes good use of Bock’s original writing ensuring we get plenty of klezmer clarinets, evocative of Jewish music. Included in the Dances is: ‘Tradition’, the ‘Perchik and Hodel Dance’ the ‘Chava Sequence’ and ‘Dance’.


Synthesis – Brian Balmages

Written by Brian Balmages, Synthesis was intentionally written in the style of a “fanfare and celebration.” However, Balmages developed the idea and made the themes quite independent. The individual “fanfare” and “celebration” elements ultimately wind together juxtaposing toward the end of the piece.

West City Music is made up of four of West Auckland’s premiere ensembles and the group was inspired by the title of the piece, Synthesis, to form a massed band with players from across the group, an opportunity that doesn’t come up very often!

This bold fanfare sets the tone through the use of percussion and brass and woodwind dialogue ultimately achieving moments of power, harmonic intricacy, and excitement. The celebration ensues with rhythm becoming the focus and melodic ideas dance around. Before long the fanfare theme returns and develops with the woodwinds continuing their energetic rhythmic dance.

Thank You

West City Music would like to take the opportunity to thank the following groups and organisations:

  • Massey High School – Performing Arts Centre
  • Laidlaw College for providing our rehearsal space
  • All volunteer’s, supporters and family members that make our rehearsals and concerts possible

Thank you!