Brad Keesler reports on British composer Kit Turnbull's visit to Middle Tennessee State University where he, and Dutch composer Johan de Meij, were hosted by Director of Bands, Reed Thomas. Recently, the Middle Tennessee State University School of Music (Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA) had the privilege of working with and performing the music of Dutch composer Johan de Meij and English composer Kit Turnbull. The two composers visited the university during the week of January 30-February 5, 2012 in conjunction with the Tennessee Wind Band Conference. The Wind Band Conference has a long tradition of bringing in guest conductors from across the world to serve as clinicians for high school honor bands. The honors wind ensemble was conducted by de Meij and the group performed some of his own compositions, including Festive Hymn, Aquarium, and an arrangement of Jig-from St. Paul's Suite by Gustav Holst. Additionally they performed English Folk Song Suite by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
The members of the MTSU Wind Ensemble were also able to perform music by de Meij and Turnbull. The MTSU Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Reed Thomas, is the premier performing ensemble for wind, brass, and percussion students at the university and is comprised of the best musicians at MTSU. While de Meij and Turnbull were visiting MTSU, they were able to work with many of the students at the university. Turnbull spent the week as a Composer in Residence, speaking with composition students about his music as well as the trombone and euphonium studios, where he took some time to talk about his new trombone concerto that was to be premiered that weekend. Additionally, de Meij was able to rehearse with the wind ensemble the day before the concert.
On the evening of Friday, February 3 the MTSU Wind Ensemble presented its first concert of the spring semester, also in conjunction with the Wind Band Conference. The concert opened with de Meij conducting Wind Power, an overture for wind orchestra that he recently composed. This piece was inspired by the 2010 World Cup Games and was quite an energetic opening for the concert program. The next selection was the world premiere of Griot, a concerto for solo tenor trombone and wind ensemble written by Kit Turnbull. The soloist was Dr. David Loucky, professor of trombone at MTSU. The concerto was certainly well-played and very musical; Loucky's performance was amazing and he certainly exceeded the demands of many challenging aspects of a concerto premiere. The concerto is based on African themes; a Griot is an African storyteller, poet, and musician. The use of the wind ensemble allowed for Turnbull to utilize the many sounds and rhythms of African folk music, including lots of percussion. The piece received an rousingly enthusiastic reception from the audience. Following the concerto was another of Turnbull's newest compositions, Scenes from Childhood. It was played beautifully, and Turnbull was very effective in capturing personal and family life images and setting them to music. The concert ended with a stirring performance of de Meij's transcription of Patrick Doyle's Henry V. The performance, conducted by de Meij, was powerful and moving. de Meij brought unbridled passion and energy to the ensemble and the performance. There were multiple style and character throughout the piece, but the final section where the entire wind ensemble sings the hymn "Non Nobis, Domine," was certainly a wonderful way to end the piece. The audience gave a well-deserved standing ovation to de Meij and the wind ensemble after a fine performance.
Both concerts were attended by students and faculty of the university, members of the community, visiting high school students, their parents, and band directors. The audiences were very receptive to the music and the work the performers put into the concerts. The programming gave everyone who attended something to enjoy and remember.
The MTSU Wind Ensemble also had an opportunity to record Griot for future release on the Naxos Classical Music CD label. The soloist and members of the wind ensemble were very focused in their playing, the recording technicians were superb in their work, and the composer was very pleased with the end result.