WWS Appoints Andrew Chung as Music Director

Andrew Chung
WWS Music Director Andrew Chung

The Wellington Wind Symphony Board of Directors is very pleased to announce the appointment of Andrew Chung as our new music director.

Andrew’s appointment comes after a year-long search. During our 2018-19 season we had the privilege of working with three excellent finalists, and we thank Pratik...   read more

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Music Director Search

The Wellington Wind Symphony is undertaking a search for a new music director.

Are you an exceptional musician and conductor with outstanding qualifications and leadership skills?

Are you able to lead and collaborate with musicians to foster musicianship and increase a group’s level of artistic excellence?

Do you see yourself as a passionate and...   read more

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Thank You, Dan Warren

Daniel WarrenIt is with regret that the Wellington Wind Symphony announces our Music Director Daniel Warren’s resignation from this position, effective at the end of the current season.

Daniel Warren is a highly sought-after conductor, arranger and trumpet soloist, and has conducted many of Canada’s leading orchestras. He is well-known in Kitchener-Waterloo as a member of the KW Symphony and the conductor of musical ensembles in the region. Dan leaves the WWS in order to pursue new musical opportunities.

In my ten-year tenure with the Wellington Winds I have come to love and appreciate this wonderful group of musicians. I will always remember fondly the exquisite music-making, dedication and friendship of the members

...   read more

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A Tribute to Michael Purves-Smith

Michael Purves-Smith

Michael Purves-Smith, 1945-2018

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of Michael Purves-Smith, our music director emeritus and principal oboist. Michael was the soul of the Wellington Wind Symphony, and we are devastated by his loss. As Susan Follows so aptly puts it, “Michael was a connoisseur of life.” We remember Michael for his musical leadership, of course, but mostly we cherish the huge influence he has had on us all. Michael’s extraordinary musicianship, insatiable intellectual curiosity, and above all his humanity have been our inspiration.

Michael Purves-Smith Obituary

“He was “a gentle, beautiful man,” said Daniel Warren, who is the current artistic director of Wellington Winds.

“He never spoke hastily or hurriedly. It was always thought out, considered, and considerate.”

Purves-Smith: ‘Gentle, beautiful’ (WR Record)

In Our Own Words

News of Michael’s passing has shaken the Kitchener-Waterloo and broader music community. We in the Wellington Wind Symphony mourn him as a member of our extended family. It is with love that we share these thoughts and memories from WWS members, in their own words.

Dear Shannon,

There was a room full of people with such sadness clearly etched on their faces last night. We are so sorry for your loss.

Michael was a person who did so many wonderful and generous things with his time on this earth, all without the slightest trace of it feeding his ego, or building up his reputation in the eyes of the world. He was always gracious and humble. This to me is a person who has his priorities beautifully chosen. We all only have so much time on this earth and we can chase after superficial things, or we can see what really matters. Michael clearly saw what really mattered and worked to make it happen.

~ Ginger Pullen

I feel knocked down by the loss of Michael and then picked up by the memory of having known him. Its easy to assess the mark he has made on our orchestra- his musicianship elevated and enlightened us but he also improved us by his example. Michael’s soft-spoken intellect and commitment to all the “hot button” issues of our age serve all of us as a paragon of what we should strive for. He left with a lot of unfinished business – a testimonial to his curious mind and his dedication to trying to make this world a better place for all. To Shannon and the boys, I can only offer the love and support that friends do for each other.

~ Gerald Achtymichuk

Michael Purves-Smith Retires as Wellington Winds Music Director

Tributes to Michael Purves-Smith at the time of his retirement from WLU, 2009 (Music Times)

A long time ago, a much younger man, sporting a dark beard (in case some of the younger players are confused, we are not born with white hair. Some of us earn it!) stepped onto a podium and conducted the Wellington Winds ensemble.

The events leading up to the search and acceptance of Michael, as our fearless leader, are a bit fuzzy now. Much water has passed under the bridge since then. But, at the time, who would have thought that this person would dedicate 25+ years of his life, of his musical life, to a group of community musicians.

Michael Purves-SmithThrough his own arrangements, we were introduced and treated to many other genres of music…to song, to the opera, piano and to the sometimes quirky arrangements of his own compositions. Our minds were set free from the standard band repertoire. We were treated to a smorgasbord of music. How many other bands can say that!

May I suggest that we all raise a glass and propose a toast to acknowledge how fortunate the community, the Wellington Winds AND all of us musicians were/are to have been touched by Michael’s unselfish gifts.

“Here’s to ya, Michael. Thank you so much.”

~ John Monkhouse

So many wonderful memories of Michael where do I begin?

After I left the podium with the Winds there were a number of ‘guest’ conductors that kept the group alive and well. How ‘well’ may have been in question, however,...   read more

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Wind Symphony Whimsy

Wind Symphony Whimsy

Wellington Wind Symphony concert-goers are familiar with the wide range of repertoire that the group performs, from transcriptions of orchestral works to original compositions. Our next concert Wind Symphony Whimsy, consists of music all written originally for wind ensemble by some very accomplished composers. It covers a wide range of musical styles and contains some great music that can only be performed by a group like the WWS.

The Seven Deadly Sins

Steve Fox & MPS 2017

Alto clarinet soloist Steve Fox conferring with composer Michael Purves-Smith.

The concerto for this concert, entitled The Seven Deadly Sins for alto clarinet and wind ensemble, is perhaps the only concerto for this combination in existence so far, and was written by noted Canadian composer and WWS music director emeritus Michael Purves-Smith.

The featured artist is Stephen Fox, one of Canada’s leading clarinet soloists. He will be performing on an alto clarinet, with a stunningly lovely sound, that he himself built. Getting to know this surprising instrument is reason enough to pique one’s curiosity.

Read more:

WWS News: The Seven Deadly Sins

Wind Symphony Whimsy, from The Music Times (shared with permission)

Woolwich Observer Extra: These Sins are music to composer’s ears: Elmira’s Michael Purves-Smith draws on Bosch’s visual representation to write a concerto about the Seven Deadly Sins

...   read more

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Seven Deadly Sins

The Wellington Wind Symphony (WWS) has a unique offering for its next concert, Wind Symphony Whimsy. A new concerto by acclaimed Canadian composer and Elmira resident Michael Purves-Smith, entitled The Seven Deadly Sins for Alto Clarinet and Wind Ensemble, will be the featured work. Soloist Steve Fox will perform on a beautiful alto clarinet which he built himself. The WWS is delighted to be a part of this great collaboration between composer and performer, and to share the story of its creation.

Michael Purves-Smith

Michael Purves-Smith

This is the first concerto for this instrument with wind ensemble and it follows only one other with a modern orchestra, yet the instrument has a history as long as that of the much better-known soprano clarinet. Mozart loved the alto-range clarinets and wrote his incomparable Concerto for Clarinet for a similar instrument. However, since the beginning of the 20th century the instrument has most often been found performing a generally disregarded inner part in bands. Composer Michael Purves-Smith, however, regards the alto clarinet as perhaps the best of the whole wonderful clarinet family. The range of its tone colour is extraordinary, and perhaps no other instrument can boast such tonal consistency over its extraordinary four-octave range.

Stephen Fox

Stephen Fox, Alto Clarinet

The instrument has found a new champion in the soloist for this concert. Steve Fox is not only a distinguished clarinet soloist, but he also has an international reputation as a clarinet-maker, building superb instruments that are played by the likes of Joaquin Valdepeñas, principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony. Fox earned a Master’s degree in theoretical plasma physics before turning to a career in the clarinet world.  He brings those skills to understanding the acoustics of the instruments he builds with spectacular success, as in the alto clarinet that he will use to perform this concerto.

Fox is also an important historian of the clarinet family; he builds instruments over an astonishing gamut from copies of historical instruments to modern experimental instruments. When one considers that he is also a go-to repairer of the clarinets in orchestras around the world, it is fair to say no other individual has ever mastered such a profound and wide-ranging command of his chosen instrument.

For composer Michael Purves-Smith, retired from the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University and WWS music director emeritus, writing a concerto for such an instrument and player was a daunting task.  Purves-Smith has often turned to narrative as a means to draw disparate musical threads into a pleasing and convincing whole. His wife and WWS clarinetist Shannon suggested the Seven Deadly Sins. The idea held promise, so Purves-Smith set to work. Each of the sins imposed its own demands, some obvious, such as Sloth, and others such as Avarice, much less so. We expect the audience to be both beguiled and entertained. Most importantly, they should come away from the performance feeling that they have been a part of something both unique and beautiful.

Read more about The Seven Deadly Sins and Steve’s clarinets in this article from The Music Times, shared with permission:
Wind Symphony Whimsy, from The Music Times

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Why Transcribe Strauss Four Last Songs?

Composer, arranger, WWS oboist and music director emeritus Michael Purves-Smith provides unique insight into his thinking as he transcribed Strauss’ Four Last Songs, to be featured on our concerts on October 23 and 30, 2016.

Why Transcribe Strauss’ Four Last Songs?

by Michael Purves-Smith

When Jan Narveson of the Kitchener Waterloo Chamber Music Society first suggested that Strauss’ wonderful orchestral arias be transcribed and performed by the Wellington Winds, the task seemed virtually impossible. The original instrumentation is enormous and dense, and the music accompanies a soprano soloist. Winds do not easily play as softly as the strings, so it seemed likely that the voice would be overpowered. Yet when one comes to examine the score, one finds that the composer has made extensive use of winds throughout. In fact, that is one of the miracles of this miraculous music.

Moving Masterpieces

With the exception of one more short song with piano accompaniment, these are the last works from the octogenarian composer. They were written just after the Second World War, a time that had been devastating for the composer, whose artistic life had been utterly disrupted, and whose beloved family had been seriously threatened. He could not escape some involvement with the Nazis because his daughter-in-law was Jewish. She, though not her extended family, survived the war only because of Strauss’ insurmountable artistic reputation with the German public. As a result, Strauss suffered through a prolonged trial and denazification during the last few years of his life, even while he must have been tormented by grief at the loss of so much that he cared deeply about, especially that of so many friends and colleagues.

In such circumstances, it was a further miracle that he found the resources to write this sublime music that has come to be accepted as being among the canon of rarest artistic merit.

While these songs are stylistically unrelated to the music written during and immediately after the war, they nonetheless explore new musical territory, territory that only Strauss knew. It reaches unexplored zones of harmonic language delineated by an intense chromaticism which is nevertheless thoroughly grounded in tonality. Furthermore, perhaps no other composer ever wrote melodies that seem to stretch more achingly to unfinished possibilities. Then there is the way in which this melodic language is so richly intertwined, astonishingly especially in the lower ranges of the orchestration. Sometimes there are as many as twenty independent melodic parts, each of which has potent  melodic value.

Through all this, the composer achieved an almost perfect balance with the voice. The trick for anyone attempting to translate this music to a different medium is to maintain that delicate balance. In fact, the overall weight of the orchestration is not greater in this transcription than in the original, which calls for an orchestra of over 100 players. Astonishingly, the tutti orchestra is employed for the bulk of the time, even including divided strings in many places. With the greatly reduced numbers in this performance, the difficulty is sometimes to find enough players to cover all of the parts, and at other times to achieve the weight that the composer wants. This is especially true of the viola and cello parts. Strauss divides these sections to an unusual degree, and this imparts a very pronounced darkness to the colour of the music. Fortunately, the saxes, two altos, tenor, and baritone, when played with great sweetness, can stand in for the low strings. At the top of the orchestral landscape, it is often difficult to capture the sonorities of the first violins when transcribing for winds. However, because Strauss wants a richly dark sonority, he doesn’t make much use of the highest register of the violins, and when he does the range does not preclude the flutes playing those parts with delicacy.

Finally, there is the issue of the length of the musical lines. Some of them are famous for their demands, even in the original, but here the winds must cover the string parts as well. The result is musical lines that are sometimes almost endlessly sustained. Performing this music is an extreme challenge for all of the players, but it is a privilege to make great chamber music on a grand scale.

That is why one would transcribe such a work.

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A Tribute to Howard Cable

By Michael Purves-Smith, Conductor Emeritus of the Wellington Wind Symphony

Howard Cable

Howard Cable, 1920 – 2016

Howard Cable passed away on March 30, 2016 at the age of 95. The last concert of the Wellington Wind Symphony this season will include the composer’s beautiful arrangement of the national anthem, O Canada.

It is hard to overestimate Howard Cable’s contribution to band repertoire. He wrote for this medium throughout his career and he knew it with an unsurpassed intimacy. It is easy to forget that, hardly more than a boy, he graduated from the Royal Conservatory in Toronto with a degree in conducting and bandmastership, a degree that one suspects was made for him.

Howard first worked with the Wellington Winds as conductor in 1988. Already past retirement age, he was youthful and ready for a continuation of a career that was ongoing literally until the day he died. He was working on a program for Symphony Nova Scotia and was scheduled to attend a recording session later in the day. Between 1988 and 2016 he composed as much music as many do in an entire career, especially for bands of all levels, brass and winds.

That 1988 concert showed just how wide-ranging his skills were. It included three of his original works for band, two of which were his most beloved medleys, the Quebec Folk Fantasy, and the Newfoundland Rhapsody, and one in which everything including the melodies was original, the Stratford Suite. That performance also included Howard’s arrangement of the overture, The Bridal Rose, by Calixa Lavallée, the French Canadian composer of O Canada. Howard returned once again as guest conductor in 1995. You can hear our performance of his Stratford Suite from that concert on our YouTube channel, under Howard’s direction.

Howard was always happy to provide wonderful arrangements for band of the music that he loved. And it is as an arranger that he is most remembered. On that score he was nothing short of amazing. Until very recently, even though he had trouble standing, he continued to conduct full programs of his big band arrangements, all by memory, to full houses.

The Wellington Wind Symphony invited Howard to direct them again in October, 2006. This time, most of the music he chose to direct was original and recently composed for band. It was a memorable concert, and we continued to develop our relationship with this great musician. He returned once again in 2011 to help us rehearse his  Banks of Newfoundland, an event that we captured on video. This is Howard’s reworking of what has been lovingly dubbed “The Newfie Rhap.” Howard’s music is challenging, and he wanted to make this work more accessible to community and school bands. Bringing the best out of young musicians was another of Howard’s life-long interests. A outstandingly gifted musician, he will be greatly missed, and his music played for generations to come.

Connect to the Wellington Wind Symphony’s Howard Cable YouTube playlist, which includes:

  • Howard Cable rehearsing his Banks of Newfoundland
  • Banks of Newfoundland (Concert Performance)
  • Snake Fence Country
  • Stratford

...   read more

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Yuletide 2015

Please join us on Sunday December 13 at 8 pm for our special Yuletide concert. Please note that there is one performance only!

Yuletide2015_e-ad

Featuring:

  • Shostatakovich’s Festive Overture
  • C’est Noel! by Canadian André Jutras
  • Grainger’s

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Jennifer Enns Modolo Masters Mahler

Jennifer Enns Modolo

Jennifer Enns Modolo

This Sunday November 1 we mark the second performance of our On the Road Again program. We are very pleased to have mezzo-soprano Jennifer Enns Modolo joining us once again to perform Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer).

The orchestral song cycle was a relatively new form when Mahler wrote these songs. Mahler wrote the texts himself, based on German folk tales known as Das Knaben Wunderhorn (The Young Boy’s Magic Horn). The songs tell the tale of a young man’s lost love.

Mahler’s orchestration is interpreted for wind ensemble by Roger Müller. Music director Dan Warren has been

Mahler

Gustav Mahler, 1909. Library of Congress (Public Domain)

working with Müller to refine this new arrangement, which successfully captures the essence of Mahler’s original orchestration.

Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Enns Modolo is no stranger to audiences in the Kitchener-Waterloo, and indeed across the country and internationally. A graduate of the music faculty at Wilfrid Laurier University, she has delighted audiences in recital, oratorios and on the opera stage. We are thrilled to have Jennifer as our soloist for this most fascinating and beautiful work.

Related: Featuring Slide by Slide

We look forward to seeing you at the concert! More information: On the Road Again, November 1, 3pm, Kitchener

 

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