The Highland Park High School Wind Symphony, under the direction of Dr. James Hile, is preparing to go on a nine day tour to China next week. On Sunday March 23, the Wind Symphony presented a preview or "Send-off" concert of their program which they will perform in three or four cities in and around Beijing. In addition to the concerts they will perform, the group will be sight-seeing in and around Beijing, visiting sights such as Tianamen Square, The Imperial Palace, The Temple of Heaven, and The Great Wall. The trip is designed to be an intercultural exchange and educational program, and the concert music that the Wind Symphony will perform represents some of the best-loved classical music of the USA, Europe and China.
The HPHS Wind Symphony has previously toured to China two times, and the sponsor or host of these tours is and has been the Soong Ching Ling Foundation of the Peoples Republic of China. The Wind Symphony has also toured in recent years to Italy and to Prague, where they competed in an international band competition and won the Gold Medal!
The concert program opened with the National Anthems of the People's Republic of China and the United States of America. This was followed by a rousing and virtuosic rendition of the Festival Overture by Dmitri Shostakovich. Then, Aaron Copland's Variations on a Shaker Melody ( Tis a Gift to be Simple) provided a lovely and lyrical contrast.
Additional works by American composers followed: Alfred Reed's Gallop was performed at a galloping pace, as was Leroy Anderson's Bugler's Holiday, which featured three fine and highly entertaining trumpet players- Sam Litt, Hannah Nussbaum and Aaron Krumbein- as soloists in this genuinely happy and peppy tune.
Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2- of "Tom and Jerry" cartoon soundtrack fame- followed the Leroy Anderson- and proved to be an excellent virtuosic vehicle for all sections of the band- even though it still sounds best in it's original incarnation as a solo piano piece ( spoken as a true pianist, of course!).
Scott Greene, the Principal Clarinetist of the HPHS Wind Symphony and three-time All-State Musician, was the featured soloist in Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee, performing with agility and glittering pyrotechnics in this famous selection.
My favorite and perhaps the most impressive performance of the concert was the Finale from Symphony No. 3 of James Barnes, and American Composer, based in Kansas. In this piece, intricate conversations between different instruments made the work seem more like a chamber music piece, while at other times the textures and sonorities clearly defined the work as symphonic in scope.
Concluding the program were two traditional pieces of both China and the USA. My Motherland by Qiao Yu and Liu Chi, was explained by Dr. Hile as being comparable to the USA's America, the Beautiful. The concert concluded with John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, with the piccolo solo performed by Raizel Lieberman.
Bravissimo to this amazing young ensemble of some of Highland Park High School's most dedicated and talented musicians. It is expected that they will represent Highland Park, Illinois and the United States of America as one of the finest high school music ensembles this country has to offer. According to Dr. Hile, it is hoped and expected that HPHS will host a similar group from China at some point in the future and that friendships and memories formed will last a lifetime!
Bon voyage and many thanks go out to all who made this tour possible- but especially to Dr. Hile, whose vision, dedication, leadership and musical inspiration are clearly in abundance and greatly appreciated by his wonderfully talented and enthusiastic students and their supportive parents.