Tarleton centennial celebration concert includes original compositions


STEPHENVILLE (January 20, 2017) — Tarleton State University’s 100th anniversary as a founding member of the Texas A&M University System continues Friday, Jan. 27, with a concert that includes original compositions by music faculty members Drs. Anthony Pursell and Troy Robertson and accompaniment by the Boston Brass.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center. Tickets are $10 and go on sale one hour prior to show time at the box office.

The special evening of music and singing—showcasing Tarleton’s wind and jazz ensembles and university choirs and soloists—also features guest conductor Dr. Timothy Rhea, director of bands at Texas A&M University.

“This promises to be a night like no other,” said Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio. “We invite the entire community to help us celebrate our century-long partnership with the Texas A&M University System. It will be a night to remember for many years to come.”

The concert begins with the premiere performance of Centennial Colors, an original composition by Dr. Anthony Pursell, director of Tarleton bands, who describes the music as “a celebratory work that encompasses the spirit and history of Tarleton—from its aspirational beginnings to the present day.”

Centennial Colors starts with a thunderous fanfare introduction, symbolizing John Tarleton’s dream of providing educational opportunities for the people of Erath County and the region. The big bold statement by the percussion and brass are symbolic of the tremendous goals set by a very modest entrepreneur, Pursell explained.

Elements of Tarleton’s future are part of the introduction, with a short quote of the school’s alma mater (Color Song) composed in inversion (upside down). A lyrical melody by the woodwinds, also based on an inverted version of the alma mater, provide a second statement. Short spurts by trumpets remind listeners of John Tarleton’s fundamental goals during periods of turmoil.

A repeated statement of the lyrical melody gets very uneasy at one point, symbolizing the extreme financial challenges that faced the school’s early faculty, staff and administration and forced the closure of the institution for a short time. As the music appears headed toward certain tragedy, the introduction is restated, reminding listeners of John Tarleton’s promise and the dedication of the faculty, staff and administration to continue his dream for generations to come.

Following the debut of Centennial Colors, Rhea will conduct Percy Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry. Published in 1917, this work gives the audience a very realistic glimpse of the music written at the time Tarleton became a member of the A&M System.

Rhea’s visit to Tarleton represents the strong camaraderie between the two institutions and the commitment for continued collaboration.

“Rhea is a very prominent musician who is highly respected in the fields of music education and collegiate bands,” Pursell said. “He is the current president of the American Bandmasters Association, the hall of fame for band directors, and, to be voted as its president, is indeed an honor that shows how much other members trust his leadership.”

Featuring Tarleton’s Select Women’s Ensemble, Texan Gentlemen and the Chamber Choir, the university’s vocal division takes the reigns with several selections from the same early time period. The culminating work, The Yellow Rose of Texas, was arranged by Tarleton’s Director of Choirs Dr. Troy Robertson. His goal in arranging the work is “to celebrate Tarleton’s centennial in a way that reflects its history and unique culture in relation to Stephenville, Texas.”

The concert then takes a turn and features three of Tarleton’s applied music faculty, Dr. Heather Hawk and Dr. Iwao Asakura, singing solo works, accompanied by Dr. Leslie Spotz.

Dr. Brian Walker, Tarleton’s assistant professor of trumpet, performs a new arrangement of Kevin McKee’s beautifully written solo, Centennial Horizon.

While the work’s title certainly supports the theme of the concert, “it is actually a musical portrait of the state of Colorado, known as the Centennial State since its formal adoption during the nation’s 100th birthday,” Pursell said. “The piece is very significant for many reasons. It is a gorgeous work originally written for trumpet and piano. The composer, Kevin McKee, is a good friend of Dr. Walker’s and, about a year ago, we were approached about supporting the piece in a national consortium to make it a work for solo trumpet and wind ensemble. Featuring Dr. Walker on this work is symbolic, showing the connections of friendship and applauding his personal determination to beat cancer.

“We are so proud of Dr. Walker’s spirit and determination and, to me, this is indicative of John Tarleton’s dream and the fight of the Tarleton people, especially in the early history of the university when the doors closed once and almost for a second time. Strength, determination, loyalty and persistence describe this great university and its people, and Dr. Walker lives out these values each day,” Pursell said.

The Tarleton Jazz Ensemble had three works commissioned by three different arrangers for the concert, highlighting the tremendous work of the ensemble and its director for the past 27 years, Greg Ball. Nationally-known arrangers such as Rick Stitzel, Kris Berg and Dan Cavanaugh have all personally touched Tarleton’s jazz program, and the opportunity to feature their talents is fitting for such an important part of the university’s history.

“I am very excited to debut these new works for the jazz ensemble as part of the university’s centennial concert,” Ball said. “Rick, Dan and Kris are good friends. They also are highly respected jazz educators and musicians. These works will be played for years all over the country, and I’m proud that Tarleton has been involved in their creation.”

To close out the concert, the internationally-acclaimed Boston Brass performs with the Tarleton Wind Ensemble in a fun-filled original work titled, Cinematic Fantasy. The work promises to be a whirlwind experience for the audience and the ensemble as it combines familiar music of the cinema and television with the virtuosic flare of the solo brass quintet.

“Boston Brass was our featured guest in 2013 when we launched a new event known as Brass Day. During that event, they gave several concert performances, one of which was for the university president and his guests,” Pursell said. “Boston Brass made such a great impression at that concert and during the Brass Day event, that we invited them back to help us celebrate our centennial. They are a versatile group of musicians who can play everything from Gabrielle to Gershwin and do so in a very comedic way that makes even the toughest music critic smile and laugh.”

As a final treat, the Tarleton instrumental and vocal divisions perform a new rendition of the Tarleton Color Song, composed in collaboration with Drs. Robertson and Pursell. The short work pairs both forces in a thunderous conclusion that encourages audience participation and symbolizes the collaborative spirit of the university.

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