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Sierra Nevada Winds presents 'East Meets West'
'An Asian Adventure' set for 8 p.m. Saturday in Yuba City
'East Meets West — An Asian Adventure'
Presented by Sierra Nevada Winds Orchestra
TIME: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: First United Methodist Church, 3101 Colusa Highway, Yuba City
TICKETS: $5 and $8
The Sierra Nevada Winds Orchestra will present its fall concert, "East Meets West — An Asian Adventure," on Saturday at First United Methodist Church in Yuba City.
Composed of 45 brass, woodwind, string bass and percussion musicians, the group formed in 1990 and is in its 23rd season.
Conductor and artistic director Robert Halseth, 71, of Gold River said they selected this theme to honor the Western world's numerous connections to Asia that can be found among some of the band's members as well as the Yuba-Sutter community.
"I found several pieces that represented China, Japan, Korea — but remember, there are something like 75 countries in Asia, so you can't possibly cover them all in one concert. And not all of them write band music," said Halseth, who is a professor of conducting and band director at Sacramento State University.
"For instance, there isn't much band music written about Thailand, even though the king of Thailand is a saxophone player."
Halseth said some of the pieces on the program "are outside our Western comfort zone for what music should sound like.
"The Chinese piece, for instance, 'Eulogize the Yangtze,' is written by a Chinese composer, Yu Jianfang, who was trying to pay homage to 5,000 years of Chinese history based on what has happened along the Yangtze river and how the river has contributed to life in China."
He said the pentatonic scale is the basis for much of the Asian music. "The Korean piece is based on that scale. There is a folk song that John Barnes Chance used as the basis for his 'Variations on a Korean Folk Song,' which he encountered while he was a soldier in Korea during the Korean conflict in the early '50s," Halseth said.
"He came back with that song and, being a first-rate composer, Chance put it together in a way that makes me think this is the best piece he ever wrote."
Halseth said the concert's final piece presented possibly the biggest challenge to the orchestra: "Godzilla Eats Las Vegas." "It sounds like an unusual piece to include. But Godzilla was the terror of Japan back in the old black-and-white movie days," he said.
"It was written by Eric Whitacre, who is a Julliard-trained, Nevada-born composer — and is one of the more widely sung or played composers in the world these days. The piece is hilarious, and it goes with a video — or more of a slideshow — that we secured from Florida State University.
"The music is hard — it challenges the players a lot; it challenges all of us to be on our toes. But it's a great closing piece to do because people leave with laughter," Halseth said.
The orchestra will play Whitacre's "October" earlier in the program. "It has been one of my favorites for quite a few years. It's wistful and just a lovely, lovely piece. I thought that I would include that on the program so people wouldn't think that Eric Whitacre only wrote goofball music about Godzilla. The beauty of 'October' is in line with most of his composing," Halseth said.
The program also includes "The Star Spangled Banner"; "Fantasy on Sakura, Sakura" by Ray E. Cramer; "Jacob's Ladder to a Crescent" by Toshio Mashima; and the traditional conductor's raffle.
"The opening piece, I think, sets the tone. It's 'Orient et Occident' by Camille Saint-Saëns. It starts off with music from the Western Hemisphere, Western civilization, that has a bombastic, British-sounding march. Then in the middle there's this delicate, beautiful, haunting melody that is definitely Asian. And it closes with a fugue where both themes are played simultaneously," Halseth said.
"I'm excited about the program."
Halseth is also scheduled to conduct two performances in Asia in the near future: in December at the Andaman Music Festival in Phuket, Thailand, and in January for the Canadian Academy honor band at the Asia Pacific Activities Conference in Kobe, Japan.
"The Sierra Nevada Winds Orchestra is a terrific, wonderful adult community band that plays magnificently. They are so much fun to work with, and we are looking forward to our first concert of the season in Yuba City," Halseth said.
"Come to hear a great band play terrific music — and have fun with it."