New music for wind ensemble

The Jack H. Miller center and those who graced its lustrous concert hall experienced something entirely new on Friday, November 22. Hope College’s wind ensemble, directed by Dr. Southard, performed two never before heard pieces commissioned by the Music Department. These were “Vendetta” and “Summertime Echoes,” written by Josh Trentadue and Justin Rito, respectively. Between the two freshly printed works, the ensemble played three movements from the classic ballet “The Firebird.”

What felt most appealing about the concert was its introduction into the musical world and the world at large in two giant works. “Vendetta” was experienced as a percussive, viking-esque, primordial sounding cry of one who would seek revenge. It felt fresh and unique, contrasting massive blows from the brass and timpani with soft solo passages on the clarinet or oboe—just like the emotional highs and lows of one in such a state. The emotion most readily conveyed by this piece was that of anger, maybe even hatred. Trentadue mentioned at the concert that his creative process began with the end. That section happens to be a brutal, powerful display of double forte syncopation and loud percussion, signifying the fulfillment of a vendetta or a lack of its fulfillment. Either way, “Vendetta” was an exciting way to kickstart the concert. 

“Summertime Echoes,” the concluding piece, complemented “Vendetta” as milk complements an oreo. True, it contained atonal, frantic and modern sounding bits—just like “Vendetta”—but the majority of the piece was qualitatively different in both mood and style.  This song had its origins in a conversation between Dr.VanHemert, a music professor here at Hope, and its composer Justin Rito. Eventually, they decided to create a piece that highlights Dr. VanHemert’s saxophone skills, particularly his ability to improvise as a result of his jazz background. The result is a three movement epic that features highly technical and often lyrical soprano saxophone supported by full instrumentation. A percussion player by background, Rito created rhythmic support and harmonic features for the concert band designed to orbit around and enhance the saxophone part. To emphasize this, in dress rehearsal his critique was for “Everyone in the band notch down the dynamic marking by one. Jordan [VanHemert] turn it up 10%.” The piece contains three sections that give reign to the saxophone player’s improvisation. In his address, he mentioned that the piece is a reflection on his summer at the time and that it explores the dichotomy of light and dark, good and bad memories.

Additionally, both composers spent time working with students and speaking in classes. They were friendly, amiable and both mentioned their gratitude to Hope and to the Wind Ensemble for spending time perfecting the highly difficult works. Whether “Vendetta” and “Summertime Echoes” will become as classic as “The Firebird” is hard to tell, but they are nevertheless worthy of a listen.


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