Dallas Wind Symphony — and Ridgewood!

Tonight, Lois Hicks-Wozniak gives the second-ever performance of my Concerto for Soprano Sax and Wind Ensemble. She’ll be the soloist with the Ridgewood Concert Band, under the direction of Christian Wilhjelm. I’ve really enjoyed working with Lois (albeit only through email), and it looks like she’s going to give a hell of a performance. I wish I could be there to hear her perform, but I believe that Newman is going in my absence.

I’m still anxiously awaiting permission to post the recording of the Dallas Wind Symphony’s premiere performance of the sax concerto, but while we wait, here are some shots from that visit.

Upon my arrival in Dallas, a went to dinner with Jeff Gershman, director of bands at Texas A&M Commerce. Jeff picked a really good place in Plano. (Is Plano on top of a huge oil reserve? Good lord, how many Ferraris can one fit into a single shopping district? It was like Rodeo Drive, but with humidity.)
I had pork tenderloin.

The next day, I had a six hour rehearsal with the DWS — two hours with just the winds, two hours with the whole band, and two hours with the brass and percussion. All six with Don Fabian, playing the chop-busting concerto.

The concerto has a fairly substantial part for harp. Even so, she had some time to relax. (I challenge you to name another musician in a band who could pull off a fur coat during rehearsal.)

Here, Junkin bitch slaps somebody who mis-counted my 5/8 bar.

The concert also included the premiere of the band version of “Casey at the Bat” by Frank Proto. A very entertaining and bizarre piece for band and narrator.

I made several goofs in the concerto — one of them being the request for all trumpet players to switch to flugelhorns for the slow movement. (That alone is not the goof.)  I prefer the sound of the flugelhorn there, but never expected that a band would have access to enough flugelhorns for the entire section to make the switch. Well, the DWS actually had six flugelhorns. Towards the end of the movement, figuring that the parts would really just be played on trumpets or cornets, I marked the part “con sord.,” which means “with mute.” Trumpets have mutes — lots of ’em. (In the picture above, the player is using a plunger mute — literally a plunger.) French horns have mutes, trombones, the euphonium, even the tuba. But you know what instrument doesn’t have a common mute? The flugelhorn. So when I marked “con sord.” above the flugelhorn part, I figured it would be a trumpet playing the part anyway, and if so, I wanted it muted. What I didn’t notate was “con sord. – unless flugelhorn.”
What did the DWS players do? I mean, I asked for a mute, as far as they could tell — a mute that doesn’t really exist.

So they had flugelhorn straight mutes manufactured. Here is a picture of the trumpet section playing flugelhorns with custom straight mutes.

It’s a great sound, really — at least when it’s quiet. When it’s played loudly, it sounds very, very weird. Quiet, it gets a kind of very distant, barely audible drum corps sound (and I mean that in a good way).  It sounds like they’re 150 feet away.  You’ll hear it when I post the recording. And if other bands wish to perform the concerto the way the score indicates they “should” — with mutes in the flugelhorns — contact the DWS to arrange a rental!

The concert also included my piece “Sasparilla,” with its extensive accordion part. Here’s the wonderful Jessica Faltot, rehearsing what would be her second performance of this part. (If anybody else in the Dallas area programs this piece, I really can’t recommend Jessica highly enough.) Great sound, and so much fun to watch.

After six hours of rehearsal, we were ready for more drinks. (This one isn’t mine, but how many dirty vodka martinis can we really look at?)

Dinner that night was at a nice steak house called Chamberlain’s. I had the Kobe beef with garlic whipped potatoes.

I’ve waxed on in the past about my love of cream-style corn, a love that stems from my white trash roots. (I’m just kidding, mom.) Here’s what non-canned cream corn looks like. Who knew?

Dessert was yummy. I mean, hot molten chocolate cake is always a treat.

The next day, I had a radio interview on WRR, the Dallas classical radio station.

I had a 15-or-so-minute interview with Adriana Bate. The interview was a lot of fun — thanks Adriana! They gave me a recording of the interview, and I intended to post it, but now I can’t find the CD on my cluttered desk.

During a short break during the interview, a WRR employee came into the studio and asked for an autograph for her niece, a member of the Poteet High School Wind Ensemble (who is currently rehearsing Strange Humors for their upcoming TMEA performance). She also had me pose for a cell phone picture, proving that she had really met me. (This was flattering, but I doubt there are a lot of people making false claims that they “really met John Mackey” just to impress people. Claiming to have met AEJ — I get that. Me? Not so much.) I don’t think I’ve ever been asked for an autograph outside of a concert hall. She gets big points for flattery.

The concert was both fun and terrifying. It’s always weird to sit in the audience for a premiere, partially because it’s usually the first time I’ve heard the piece without the distraction of following the score at the same time. There’s the constant “will the audience enjoy this part?” and “does that part even work?” and “maybe I should have fixed that” and “maybe I should have gone to business school.”  Add to that an audience of 1500 paying listeners, and it gets to be a bit much. I don’t have many premieres of this scale. If I did, I wouldn’t live past 35.

The players did an excellent job bringing the piece to life, and Jerry Junkin conducted the hell out of it. I hope I can post it soon so you can hear it! Stay tuned…


Nikk says

Congrats, John.

Jamie says

they had flugelhorn mutes made special for your piece? That's soooo cool!

Gus Greely says

I think if I were ever lucky enough to get a group like DWS to play something of mine (50 years from now, say -- before I'm dead would be nice) and someone from the trumpet section looked at me and said "that mute doesn't exist" I would have a nervous breakdown and run out of the room crying and tremoring with shame, catch the next flight back to LA, and hide under my sheets for a week, and watch the Muppet Movie to calm my nerves. But then again I'm a wimp. Big points for nerve.

Can't wait to hear some of it live at Midwest.


Aaron says

No Mr. Mackey you shouldn't have gone to business school. If you had we'd be missing out on a LOT of great music.

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