Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Williams, Aaron Copland and "Simple Gifts"

One of my favorite parts of the inauguration ceremonies this past week was the performance of "Air and Simple Gifts" by the quartet of Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, who are two of my favorite musicians, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero.

I missed the introduction of the piece and for several days thought it was just a very inventive redux of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, which is one of my favorite pieces of classical music and arguably Copland's most recognizable composition after Rodeo: Hoe-down which was popularized by the National Cattleman's Beef Association "Beef: it's what's for dinner" commercials from several years back.

I just thought I would use this as an excuse to share one of my favorite performances of Appalachian Spring since I have not been able to get it out of my head since the inauguration. Performed by the Garfield Cadets, now just The Cadets, in 1987, the show below garnered the Garfield Cadets their fourth DCI championship in five years. I love how this arrangement states the major theme in a bold, brassy, in your face way about a minute in to the performance and then returns to that theme in a similar manner with a crescendo which begins at about 3:14 of the second video and then pays off in spades when the corps hits the power formation at 3:36. It blows me away EVERY time I listen.

Now without further gilding the lily and certainly no more ado, I give you part one of their performance:

And part two:

For those of you who are interested this performance is available from the DCI shop on DVD. Sadly the DCI does not seem to still have their Collector's Series of CDs in print at the moment, however I found a "Cadets of the 80s" CD on which should have this performance.

If you just want some straight Aaron Copland, I think you would be challenged to find a better recording than Copland: The Music of America which was recorded by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. This CD is available via Amazon or, I am certain, your online music vendor of choice, or for those of you in the Houston area I encourage you to go and hit Joel's Classical Shop on Shepherd. It is one of those local gems which we should all be supporting.

1 comment:

heidi said...

Wow, thanks for bringing me back to high school. We did Appalachain springs my senior year as our marching show, and had something that looked pretty similar to what you liked in the second video at that same point. I can still remember the poor short guy on the end never quite making his mark (I was the flag person closest to him).