Summer 2024 Program

This summer we present a program of dance music including a wide variety of styles and genres.

We start off with Sousa’s second most popular March, The Washington Post (nothing can top Stars and Stripes!). Written in 1889 and recorded in 1890 (you can hear the original recording here) for a school age writing contest sponsored by the Washington Post newspaper it quickly gained favor internationally. It just so happened that the march was well suited to the newly popular “two-step” dance which was usurping the waltz as Europe’s favorite.

Next comes a set of pieces inspired by different cultures. Tir na Nog is a sprightly Irish dance. Malagueña, by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, is thought to be based on an old Spanish folksong from Andalucía – southern Spain. Opa! is one of Julie Giroux’s greatest. It starts out with a Greek prayer and then transforms into a wild Greek dance. Albanian Dance, written by Twin Cities musician, composer and teacher, Shelley Hanson is very faithful to the style of southeastern European dance music.

Michael Praetorius collected and arranged hundreds of Renaissance folk dance tunes, arranged them in 4 and 5 parts and compiled them into a massive book called Terpsichore (for the Greek goddess of dance). He also wrote a well respected to this day, treatise on Renaissance musical instruments. These dances along with his instrument compendium has informed decades of modern performances of Terpsichore. In this arrangement I have tried to stay true to the Renaissance concept of “open” (mixed) and “closed” (same family) ensembles of instruments. In the first and last dances the full band plays while in the other four brass, sax, clarinet, and flutes, double reeds and bells are featured.

Although it could be argued that one can dance to almost anything, Stillwater is our break from dances. Commissioned by the Minnesota Consortium for Black American band composers, this beautiful piece was inspired by the composer’s time in Stillwater, MN. The town, countryside and especially the river deeply moved him and he composed this piece in honor of the place. Continuing with the theme of rivers this next medley, American Riversongs features tunes written for some of America’s most famous rivers and ends with an interpolation of a Creole dance from the mouth of the Mississippi. Much of the jazz genre is appropriate for dancing and Salute to American Jazz is no exception. It moves through four distinct eras and styles of jazz music expertly arranged by Sammy Nestico. Copland’s Saturday Night Waltz from his ballet Rodeo (1942) is pure Copland. While quoting the folk tune Old Paint he gently plays with “waltz time” in very fascinating and subtle ways sometimes obscuring the beat and at others having it sound like 2 instead of 3.

The next three pieces are also by American composers and were written for the movies (or to be more accurate in the case of the second two for the theater and then movies. John Williams wrote Dance of the Witches for Steven Spielberg’s move, Witches of Eastwick. The dance medley from Fiddler on the Roof accurately conveys the spirit of the Sholem Aleichem stories the play was based on. And finally, so many of the dance scenes in the play/movie West Side Story continue to be considered some of the best musical dancing ever – especially Mambo!

We close with our traditional ending, the Saint Louis Park Community Band March that long time band member Al Sweet wrote to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Saint Louis Park Community Band in 2022. Certainly not written as a dance but feel free to try!

~Steven Light – June 2024