NSU Wind Symphony to celebrate investiture of Dr. Marcus Jones in Sept. 8 concert


The Northwestern State University Wind Symphony will present its first concert of the academic year on Thursday, September 8 at 8 p.m. in the A.A Fredericks Auditorium. Admission is free and open to the public. A livestream will be available at capa.nsula.edu/livestream.

Anthony Pursell is the conductor. Charles Fernandez is guest composer and conductor. Ella Castro will be featured on vocals. Pursell said the concert will feature music from several cultures from around the world, entertaining the audience with a variety of musical sounds and experiences.

The concert will feature the premiere of a work by Fernandez commissioned by the faculty, staff, and students of the Mrs. H.D. Dear, Sr. And Alice E. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts at Northwestern State in celebration of the investiture of its 20th president, Dr. Marcus Jones. The title of the work, “The Journey: where our paths may go” was recommended by the students and was agreed on by Dr. Jones. The work is presented as a processional and includes the school songs of Grambling State (fight song), Southern University (Alma Mater), and Northwestern State University (Alma Mater), all institutions Dr. Jones attended. The work will be conducted by the composer and will be used as the processional during the President’s investiture the next day.

The concert begins with Shelly Hanson’s “Seis Manuel,” a work that demonstrates the traditional song and dance of the Jibaro people, the peasant farmers of the mountains of Puerto Rico. This work was specifically chosen due to its unique characteristics offered by the musicians to explore playing as soloists, much like in the modern-day jazz band.

Following the work by Hanson, the ensemble will move to the mountains of Peru and experience the Incan empire at its zenith and its tragic encounter with the Spanish conquistadors in Satoshi Yagisawa’s “Machu Picchu”. The work paints the great 16th-century empire that unified most of Andean South America and the golden city of Cuzco. Irresistible to Francisco Pizarro, while stripping the city of massive quantities of gold, in 1533 he also destroyed Cuzco’s Sun Temple, the shrine of the founding deity of the Incan civilization. Yagisawa’s musical depiction paints the grandeur of the golden city and the battle that would destroy its civilization.

Afterward, the Wind Symphony goes to the United States and explores the beauty of the spiritual. Typically sung by Black Americans, these songs have a rich history originating in biblical stories. They also described the extreme hardships endured by African Americans who were enslaved from the 17th century until the 1860s. From the spiritual, many new derivative music genres emerged, including the blues. Written as a tribute to his father on his retirement as Director of Bands from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, Jess Langston Turner’s setting of the spiritual allows us to showcase the beautiful artistry from vocalist, Ella Victoria Aubrey T. Castro, a graduate student in music education at Northwestern State. She graduated with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. Currently, she is the instructor of NSU Men’s Chorus, and is a graduate assistant in the voice department of School of Creative and Performing Arts. Castro is studying voice with Dr. Terrie Sanders, orchestral conducting with Dr. Douglas Bakenhus, and piano with Dr. John Price.

The Wind Symphony will then perform “Persepolis Bazaar” by Fernandez, which explores a day in the life of a Persian market. Starting and ending with a prayer on Soprano Sax, it goes through all the various people you might expect at such a bazaar: children, dancing girls, vendors of all sorts, men on horseback and the like.

Along with guest conducting the Wind Symphony, Fernandez will present several clinics for the students and public. Fernandez is an Emmy and Annie nominated composer and orchestrator who began composing for television, film and stage in 1989. Originally from New Orleans, Fernandez moved to Los Angeles and has worked on many television series with the Disney Corporation and DreamWorks. He also has credits with Adult Swim’s “Robot Chicken.” Fernandez teaches at UCLA Extension, the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts, and Thinkspace Education (England).

Concluding the concert, the Wind Symphony will perform the iconic work by John Barnes Chance, “Variations on a Korean Folk Song” The music is based on the Korean folk song, Arirang which is sung today by people in both North and South Korea. It represents the symbol of unity in the region that is divided since the Korean War. The music originates over 1,000 years ago and was discovered by Chance while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

Wrapping up the concert we visit the United Kingdom and find the origin of the Northwestern State University Fight Song through Zo Elliott’s “British Eighth March.” Elliott’s “British Eighth” was dedicated to the members of Britain’s celebrated Eighth Army and accepted on their behalf by General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, their celebrated World War II Commander. In typical British march style, it has great verve and a trio tune everybody leaves humming.