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St. Olaf Band to visit Great Lakes cities during fall tour

By Karl Reichert
October 11, 2007

The St. Olaf Band, one of the nation's finest symphonic wind ensembles, will circle Lake Michigan during its 10-concert 2007 Fall Tour in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan Oct. 13-22. The ensemble will present a rich program that features a mix of classic and contemporary works.

Clockwise from top left: John Schwehn, Gregory C. Sylvester, Jonathan Bartz, Whitney Noble, Luke Varland, Keeley MacNeill and Willa Lengyel.
The tour begins with a concert in La Crosse, Wis., Saturday, Oct.13, and includes visits to Wheaton, Ill., as well as East Lansing, Interlochen, Sault Sainte Marie and Houghton in Michigan. The St. Olaf Band also will perform in Appleton, Wis., before heading back to Minnesota for concerts in Duluth, Circle Pines and Northfield.

Tickets for tour concerts are $10 for adults and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door, online or by calling 800-363-5487.

The Home Concert at St. Olaf College in Skoglund Center Auditorium Monday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. is free and open to the public. It also will be streamed live and archived online.

Under the baton of Timothy Mahr '78 -- nationally known for his work as a conductor, composer and clinician -- the St. Olaf Band performs the very best compositions and transcriptions for the symphonic band, producing an exciting, crowd-pleasing style. The concert opens with David Maslanka's 2005 composition Mother Earth. "The St. Olaf Band has had a wonderful relationship with David Maslanka, having performed many of his works since 2000 and been involved with a number of commissions," says Mahr. "We present his short concert opener Mother Earth because we can't imagine a tour program without his voice being represented, even if just for a few minutes."

The program
The first half of the program includes Ponchielli's Sinfonia in B flat minor, which, according to Mahr, "provides the band with a chance to enjoy the operatic sophistication of an original work for band from a great 19th-century Italian composer."

In alternating performances, two St. Olaf College seniors take center stage conducting the premiere performances of their own compositions: Jonathan Bartz's The Valley of the Dry Bones and Gregory C. Sylvester's The Quintessence of a Modern Century. "Both Greg and Jonathan have created very engaging works," says Mahr, who also teaches music composition at St. Olaf College.

"These two young men came to St. Olaf having already been active composing while in high school. They've taken their studies seriously and have also taken full advantage of many opportunities to refine their compositional voices. We?re very excited to share their new works on this tour. Both possess qualities normally found in the work of professionals."

Percy Grainger's Lincolnshire Posy "is a cornerstone work of our repertoire and the chance to make it come alive night after night on tour is one to relish," Mahr says. "It's a magnificent display of what a genius can do with simple folk tunes."

The second half of the program opens with John Philip Sousa's march The Northern Pines. "It only makes sense for us to share this Sousa march on this tour through the upper Midwest," Mahr says, ?especially as we are performing at Interlochen, where the work was premiered about 75 years ago."

Frank Ticheli's Sanctuary is sublime in its message and beautifully scored, Mahr says, adding: "It will be the favorite of many of our audience members."

A tradition for the St. Olaf Band on tour is to feature solo performances by seniors in the band. This year the ensemble will feature a standard woodwind quintet. The soloists are: Willa Lengyel, flute; Keeley MacNeill, oboe; Whitney Noble, clarinet; Luke Varland, bassoon; and John Schwehn, horn. "Our treatment of the Arnold movement of his Three Shanties is quite unique and loaded with surprise," says Mahr.

The program concludes with one of Mahr's own works. "Noble Element is a work dear to my heart," explains Mahr. "I composed it in 2002, at a time when unselfish acts of courage were commonplace in the news. The piece celebrates those who make the tough decisions and respond to trying situations with nobility."

Making music since 1891
Founded in 1891 as the St. Olaf Cornet Band, it has developed over the decades into an ensemble known for superb musicianship. From 1957 to 1994 Miles Johnson conducted the St. Olaf Band, and since 1994 it has been under the leadership of Mahr.

The St. Olaf Band, hailed as "one of America's preeminent bands" by The New Yorker, is the oldest music organization at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., a campus internationally renowned for the high caliber of its music ensembles. From its earliest days the St. Olaf Band has toured nationally and internationally. In 1906 it performed a four-week, 30-concert tour of Norway, making it the first American Collegiate band to make a European concert tour. The Band has subsequently toured several times in Norway, Great Britain and central Europe, as well as throughout the United States.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or