Thursday, September 5, 2013

Melville, Moby, and Music: A Concert by the Premiere Brass Quintet

I've read Herman Melville's classic novel, Moby Dick. There's not a brass quintet in it anywhere.

But that minor detail will not daunt the Premiere Brass Quintet and I from embarking on a musical exploration of Moby Dick, Melville's life and times, his influences, and the results of his influence in a free community concert entitled, "Melville, Moby, and Music," to be given Noon to 1 p.m., Saturday, September 7, 2013 at the Edendale Branch Library in Echo Park (2011 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025). Come hear us in the Community Room. There will be free parking in the library lot.

Actually, the elusive white whale will be making appearances all over Los Angeles in September as part of the "Whatever Happened to Moby Dick" celebration sponsored by the Los Angeles Public Library and the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

For our part, our concert program provides musical answers a few questions.

What was music like aboard ship in the days of sail?
  • We'll play some sea shanties that I arranged especially for this concert.
Who was one of Melville's principal influences?
  • The art of the British painter, JMW Turner, with its striking imprecision, was a major influence for Melville. We'll play the first movement of my original composition, "Isle of Colours." The work's movements represent and honor three great British painters: JMW Turner, John Constable, and David Hockney.
What was Melville's response to the Civil War?
  • We'll play two recently discovered and newly restored pieces from a collection of original Civil War brass band music. It's as close as you'll get to being there, without going to a reenactment!
How did Moby Dick influence later artists?
  • We'll play two sea-themed pieces of 20th-century art music (arranged for brass quintet by my friend, Charles Warren): the "Jig" from Gustav Holst's "St. Paul's Suite" and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Sea Songs."
  • We'll also play popular selections from stage and screen that listeners of all ages will enjoy and recall!
  • And we'll close with Ian MacDonald's original composition, the "Maritime Overture" from his "Sea Sketches."
  • (We might even play a new setting of "Shenandoah" as an encore, if needed! It features our tubist, Bill Roper.)
The Premiere Brass Quintet is five professional musicians who are active in the concert halls and recording studios of the greater Los Angeles area: Ray Burkhart and Kevin Brown, trumpets; Steve Durnin, horn; Loren Marsteller, trombone; and William Roper, tuba. We look forward to meeting you and sharing our music with you.

It'll be a whale of a concert, and that's no fluke!

Dr. Ray


The Premiere Brass Quintet was introduced by Niels Bartels, Senior Librarian of the Edendale Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, and Library Foundation of Los Angeles President Ken Brecher provided an overview of the month-long, city-wide "Whatever Happened to Moby Dick" celebration and series of events. I announced the selections and provided useful and occasionally humorous historical information and context. The enthusiastic audience gave a hearty standing ovation, and we played my new arrangement of the sea shanty, "Shenandoah," as an encore. Eventually, I wrote five sea shanties (The Maid of Amsterdam; Goodbye, My Love, Goodbye; Clear the Track and Let the Bulgine Run; Shenandoah; and Blow the Man Down) and published them with the astonishingly creative title of Five Sea Shanties.

The Premiere Brass Quintet (L to R): Ray Burkhart, Kevin Brown, William Roper, Steve Durnin, and Loren Marsteller

I thank photographer Vic Pallos and art director Emilie Pallos of Emilie Pallos Graphic Design for the photography.

Read Christina Linhardt's review of the concert HERE.