Holst’s ‘The Planets’ and music from ‘Star Wars’ amongst evening’s selections
On Friday, April 1, the Mount Allison symphonic band presented an evening of familiar tunes, showcasing a historical trajectory of space-themed music. The concert highlighted works composed by David Gillingham and John Williams, noticeably inspired by engaging motives initially composed by Gustav Holst.
The evening began with music from Star Trek, immediately bringing the concert’s theme to life. John Moss’s arrangement of Star Trek Through the Years features an extensive range of moods, and the symphonic band filled all of those roles expertly. The brass and timpani provided the piece’s substance and broad emotions, whereas the flutes and triangle added a starry atmosphere.
Next, the band ventured into our own solar system with selections from Holst’s The Planets. “Mars, The Bringer of War” began with a catchy rhythmic hook, submerging the listener into its titular battle imagery. This motive set up powerful and climactic moments in which all the instruments joined forces with a chaotic and warlike feeling throughout. “Venus, Bringer of Peace” offered an emotional contrast with a more relaxed tempo, setting the tone for a sense of calm. The first half ended with “Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity,” a challenging piece due to its changing texture and articulation. This movement from The Planets also incorporates the luscious “I Vow to Thee, My Country” melody. The band’s interpretation was majestic through a slower pace, helping complement the brass’ pure and grand tones.
The evening’s second half began with “Galactic Empire” by American composer David Gillingham, offering a more mysterious-sounding work while still continuing the brass-dominated texture present in the majority of the performances. This piece effectively set up the most anticipated set of the night: music from Star Wars. The band’s energy and enthusiasm were evident in the opening of “Imperial March.” In a piece that requires rhythmic intensity and precision, each performer played a key role: For example, the double bass added core and depth to the sound to make each rhythmic idea firm, allowing dramatic build to develop naturally. “Princess Leia’s Theme” presented a more delicate approach, though the texture was still thick in regard to the amount of instruments involved. The agitated action of “The Battle in the Forest” made it thrilling to hear, giving the sense of urgency and adrenaline of a battle. The cymbals and timpani reinforced continuous accents and offbeat movement, adding suspense between the contrasting emotions.
The program ended with “Yoda’s Theme” which led directly into the main Star Wars theme. The former brought a melodic and delicate setting for the brass and flutes, slowly developing before transitioning into the bold main theme. The opening motive from “Mars” was similarly incorporated into this final performance; the rhythm itself effectively hearkened back to the primary motive in the brass. After hearing “Mars,” Holst’s impact on these later works was clear, and the band took advantage of the acoustics in Convocation Hall to convey this triumphant range of sounds.