Corbett Auditorium jumped to hyperspace in a dazzling array of light and sound Friday night when the CCM Wind Symphony took to the stage with the Cincinnati Youth Wind Ensemble.
“Star Wars: Pops in Space” was the theme of the evening as the musicians staged an out-of-this-world concert of music that ranged from J.S. Bach’s familiar 18th century Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, theme to countless horrific and futuristic films in modern times, to John Williams’ contemporary “Star Wars Suite.”
Dr. Ann Porter and the Cincinnati Youth Wind Ensemble opened the performance of the “American Overture,” composed by Joseph Wilcox Jenkins for the U.S. Army Field Band and published two years before the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik, the first satellite in space.
The program leaped forward in time with the youth orchestra’s performance of “We Seven” by Derek M. Jenkins (no relation to Joseph). The piece was inspired by the 1962 book of the same name written by the first Americans to venture into space, the seven astronauts of NASA’s Project Mercury — Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, Gordon Cooper, Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter.
Then the CCM Wind Symphony took the stage. Led by conductor-in-residence Fangfang Li, who directed them in Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor before a remarkable leap back into space.
CCM Music Director Kevin Michael Holzman assumed the baton and the program turned again to the skies to present Grammy award-winning composer Eric Whitacre’s unique composition, “Deep Field,” a piece that rippled through the air in more ways than one.
Deep Field was inspired by the discovery of the Hubble Deep Field, a region of space in Ursa Major — the great bear constellation of the northern sky, more commonly known as the “big dipper.” The Hubble Deep Field was discovered in 1995 when a series of images taken through the Hubble Space Telescope revealed thousands of never-before-seen galaxies containing billions and billions of stars.
Audience members saw representations of those stars on their cell phone screens as they and their phones joined the orchestra in performing the complex, technical piece. In a delightful twist of theatrical etiquette, audience members were asked to turn their cell phones on, not off, and pump up the volume as loud as they could when Holzman cued them to launch an app written just for the concert.
Holzman conducted the Wind Symphony in a masterful performance of tonal sounds that seemed at one time to accelerate and, at another, fade through the murkiness of space. Near its conclusion, Holzman gave the cue and devices in the audience’s hands joined the symphony as the app released a pre-recorded aria of mechanical tones joined by more than 4,000 voices, recorded in over 120 countries around the world.
When it was over, Li returned to the podium to kick off the second half of the evening with “Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity,” a selection from Holst’s “The Planets.” It was a fitting introduction to the finale — John Williams’ famous, familiar “Star Wars Suite” — for which Holzman returned to the podium.
The series of “Star Wars” selections ranged from the staccato cadences of the title theme and “The Imperial March,” through the lilting tones of “Princess Leia’s Theme” to the busy “Forest Battle,” mysterious “Yoda’s Theme” and the rousing finale. Spirits soaring, the audience leaped to its feet at the end of the evening in a standing ovation, cheering the mastery of the young musicians and the power of their force.
The CCMONSTAGE Winds Series, of which the performance was a part, continues Saturday, March 28, with a collaborative concert featuring the acclaimed Carmel High School Wind Symphony and the legendary Percussion Group Cincinnati. Information is available here.
CCM’s pops offerings then continue on Saturday, April 11, when the CCM Jazz Orchestra welcomes guest vocalist Steve Lippia for “Simply Sinatra,” an evening filled with the hits of “Old Blue Eyes.” Information is available here.
Cincinnati native Carol Ellison recently returned home after living and working for 30 years as a writer/editor in New York and Boston. These days she plays with paint and pencils, and occasionally mashes them up with her word processor to teach writing to kids of all ages through a method she calls “art of the story.” In fact, you can reach her at email@example.com.