Wind Ensemble concert to summon the heroes

Paul Koch conducts the GCU Wind Ensemble at a concert in October.

“A hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway.” -- Christopher Reeve

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Heroes often go unsung, but not if Grand Canyon University Band Director and Wind Ensemble conductor Paul Koch has anything to do with it.

Heroes will be the melody, the harmony and the heart and soul of the University Wind Ensemble’s concert, dubbed “Summon the Heroes,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix. The concert, which also will spotlight the Black Canyon Chamber Winds in its debut performance, arrives just in time for Veterans Day.

“It’s the day after we observe Veterans Day on Monday, though it’s not exactly a Veterans Day concert,” Koch said from his office in the College of Fine Arts and Production.

While some works will be an obvious salute to veterans, such as Greg Danner’s “The Greatest Generation,” inspired by the Tom Brokaw book about Americans who grew up in the throes of the Great Depression and stepped into their adulthood during World War II, others will ease into the concert’s theme: heroes.

The ensemble's concert will feature a hero theme.

Koch said the theme encompasses the heroism of veterans but is painted in a more abstract and less literal interpretation in other pieces to be performed, such as “O Magnum Mysterium,” in which the hero is Jesus.

The concert will kick off with “Summon the Heroes” by John Williams, known for composing music for such films as “Star Wars," "Jaws" and "Harry Potter."

Williams wrote the work for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The six-minute orchestral work is the third of four the composer wrote for Olympic opening ceremonies.

“It's very powerful and majestic,” Koch said, noting that the piece is colored by rich brass sounds that give it that majestic tone.

The performance will feature trumpet soloist Christopher Philpott.

The second work, “O Magnum Mysterium,” is by Morten Lauridsen, one of the most frequently performed living composers in the world (and one of the world's leading composers). He wrote it as a choral work, though it has been orchestrated for wind orchestras and is a popular piece for instrumental groups. It has become one of the world’s most performed and recorded compositions since it premiered in 1994.

The text of “O Magnum Mysterium” -- it begins with “O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord lying in a manger!” -- tells about the birth of Jesus and is a chant popular at Christmastime, generally sung before readings at midnight Mass.

“It's a very lyrical and beautiful piece,” Koch said.

Lauridsen wrote: “For centuries, composers have been inspired by the beautiful ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ text with its depiction of the birth of the newborn King among the lowly animals and shepherds. This affirmation of God’s grace to the meek and the adoration of the Blessed Virgin are celebrated in my setting through a quiet song of profound inner joy.”

The concert repertoire includes works by John Williams and Morten Lauridsen.

The Wind Ensemble will close with “The Greatest Generation,” a 20-minute work interspersed with the reading of letters written by and to servicemen during World War II. The work will be narrated by Paul Danuser, Assistant Professor in the College of Education but perhaps best known as the public address announcer at  GCU men’s basketball games.

The letters of four soldiers tell those servicemen’s stories from those tenuous times: Art Nicholl’s letter to his mother; words from John Lingenfelter, who left for war before his wife could give birth to their first child (he writes to his unseen daughter); words Private Alfred Birra wrote to his wife after D-Day that tells about landing at Normandy; and a letter from Dr. Robert Cromer, who conveyed the qualities that made that generation so great.

Koch said he asked students to submit pictures of their grandparents or great-grandparents who fought in the war. They will be displayed at the concert.

“Most are men and women in uniform. You’ll visibly be able to look at the pictures of people from our group of students who served in World War II," he said.

A Japanese-American student told him about her grandparents, who lived in an internment camp during the war.

The Black Canyon Chamber Winds will be performing with the Wind Ensemble at the concert. The 14-member group, conducted by Frank Dubuy, features some of GCU’s best music students.

Koch said of the formation of the Black Canyon group, “We’d like to get to the point of having two concert groups here, and this is the beginning of it.”

The Black Canyon ensemble’s portion of the concert finds its heroes in 19th-century adventurers who sought their fortunes as trappers and traders, in Irish immigrants making their way to the New World and in the young riders of the Pony Express.

The ensemble will perform Steve Hodges’ vibrant “Camino del Sol,” or “Path to the Sun,” which includes a Latin rock feel; Frank Ticheli’s arrangement of “Shenandoah,” a folk song that tells the story of a fur trapper who falls in love with a Native American chief’s daughter; David Shaffer’s “Last Ride of the Pony Express;” Melanie Donahue’s “Celtic Voyage,” a Celtic-flavored piece that expresses the feelings of Irish immigrants in their trek to the New World; and Robert Smith's "Hadrian's Wall," a structure built by the Roman Empire to protect their colony in England from Pictish tribes in Scotland.

The 40-member GCU Wind Ensemble performs four concerts a year -- two in the fall and two in the spring.

Coming up for the GCU Wind Ensemble, which performs four concerts a year -- two in the fall and two in the spring -- will be David Maslanka’s Requiem, a single-movement fantasia written in response to an event of the Holocaust in World War II. It will tie into GCU Theatre’s production of Holocaust drama “Who Will Carry the Word” in February, based on the account of Charlotte Delbo, who was part of the French Resistance and was imprisoned for three years at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942.

The final concert in April will be the pop concert “Curtain Up!”

Koch said of Tuesday’s hero-themed concert, “My hope is that our students will reach out to their grandparents or their parents” because the theme likely will resonate with them though the music, of course, is for everyone.

“We just want to play for people,” he said.


What: “Summon the Heroes,” a concert by the Grand Canyon University Wind Ensemble

Where: First Southern Baptist Church of Phoenix, 3100 W. Camelback Road

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Admission: Free

Information: 602-639-8800 or [email protected]


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