Saddleback’s Wind Ensemble delivers a flawless first performance of the season

Conductor Maestro Yorgus takes his final bow after concluding the wind ensemble performance. (Ally Beckwitt/Lariat)

Conductor Maestro Yorgus takes his final bow after concluding the wind ensemble performance. (Ally Beckwitt/Lariat)

Saddleback’s Wind Ensemble takes the stage at the McKinney Theatre on the night of Friday October 6 for their first concert of the year titled October Winds. Conducted by Maestro Yorgus Kouritas, he led the musical group through seven different pieces, each ranging in style, tempo and difficulty.

They began the night with a piece called Introduction, Song & Gigue composed by Ralph Lehman which integrated a saxophone solo.

“My favorite piece was the saxophone solo,” third chair flute and piccolo player Betty Whyte said. “We just got that piece like one rehearsal ago and he is so awesome.”

Kouritas then led the band through a slow piece and onto an ensemble that was composed of many different styles and tempos.
This composition was created by William Walton and is made up of nine movements, each ranging in tempos, sound, and tone. In between each song performance Kouritas explained each of the compositions and the background behind the song itself and the composer.

“Originally the nine movements were for solo piano were intended for his niece Elizabeth Walton,” said Kouritas. “After a few transformations we received a final wind ensemble version.”

Folk Dances the next piece performed was written by Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the greatest composers and certainly the best to have come from former Soviet Union. During that time in Soviet Union composers were pressured to compose in a specific style that would satisfy the officials. If they did not write in that way they were asked to and followed their own path composers faced the risk of being exiled for many years.

“Folk Dances was the dance of youth, purely instrumental movement intended to lighten up the suites,” said Kouritas. “That includes several Russian folk melodies strung together one after the other as a rise to a big finish.”

The concluding number was Selections From Porgy and Bess composed by George Gershwin. Porgy and Bess is originally an opera with a libretto written by Dubose Heyward and the opera was adapted from Heyward’s play Porgy.

“George Gershwin was a genius of a composer,” said Kouritas. “He was the first composer who in the 20 century combined classical and jazz.”

The wind ensemble instruments for the evening were made up of clarinets, trumpets, flutes, horns, saxophones, tubas, trombones, euphoniums, timpani-percussion, a bassoon and an oboe. Two of the ensemble members, Betty Whyte and MaryAnn McNamara, have been a part of this music group at Saddleback since the late 90s.

“Some of our pieces are more challenging and some are relaxing,” said MaryAnn McNamara. “Folk Dances, that’s a real challenging piece and so I like it for that reason and the Porgy and Bess is fun to play some pop-musical type things just because it is so relaxing and you get to play a more jazzy style music.”

The next scheduled wind ensemble performance is dated for December 7 and will directed by Yorgus Kouritas again.