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American Music Month wrapping up at U. of I. with two concerts

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Close your eyes and you might think John Philip Sousa himself is in the concert hall, conducting his quintessential American band and its lead cornetist, the “Godfather of cornet,” Herbert L. Clarke.

That’s how authentic the music will be on Nov. 29 during the next concert of the 2007 American Music Month celebration at the University of Illinois, “Celebrating Herbert L. Clarke’s Legacy to Early 20th-century American Bands.”

The American Music Month’s final concert on Dec. 4, “21st-century Directions in American Wind Band Music,” also will challenge the musical imagination. The wind concert will focus on “new music directions for wind symphonies that continue to promote the music legacy Sousa started so many years ago,” said Scott Schwartz, the archivist of the university’s Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.

The center sponsors the annual tribute to American music and holds the papers of Sousa and Clarke, including their music and instruments.

Seventy-five years after Sousa’s death, “The March King” remains an American cultural icon, Schwartz said. Clarke is lesser known today, but was Sousa’s premier cornetist and his profound love for the instrument” earned him national and international renown, and his teaching of consummate technique solidified his place in today’s music annals for brass musicians.”

The Clarke concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, will feature the U. of I. Symphonic Band II and Concert Band I.

The ensembles will tip their musical hats to Sousa and his cornetist by performing, among other pieces, Sousa’s “Jack Tar” (1903) and “King Cotton March” (1895), and Clarke’s “The Bride of the Waves” (1904) and “From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific” (1909).

Tracy Parish will perform on Clarke’s New York Wonder B-flat cornet, which was made by C.G. Conn and Co. in 1901; Daniel Birnschein will perform on a gold-plated Frank Holton and Co. B-flat cornet made in 1931. The soloists are graduate students in music at Illinois.

The Dec. 4 concert, also beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the performing arts center, will feature the U. of I. Wind Symphony and the Symphonic Band I. The program will begin with Stravinsky’s “Symphonies of Wind Instruments,” considered one of the most difficult pieces for bands to perform, and move through works by Strauss, Wagner and Michael Daugherty, before concluding with Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Actors.”

For more information about the concerts, go to the Sousa Archives Web site or the performing arts center Web site.

The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music is part of the U. of I. Library and the University Archives. It acquires and preserves significant archival records and historical artifacts in multiple media formats that document America’s local and national music history and its diverse cultures, Schwartz said.

The center’s collections are used for scholarly research, exhibitions, journalism, documentary productions, school programs, music performances and other research and educational activities. The center “actively pursues alliances inside and outside the university community, and, where necessary, financial support,” he said.