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Twin Ports Wind Ensemble tackles Ticheli, 'Ghost Train'

A diverse trio of Frank Ticheli's works for wind band, along with Eric Whitacre's "Ghost Train," will be the featured pieces when the Twin Ports Wind Ensemble opens its season with "Dream Catchers" Sunday at Marshall School.

A diverse trio of Frank Ticheli's works for wind band, along with Eric Whitacre's "Ghost Train," will be the featured pieces when the Twin Ports Wind Ensemble opens its season with "Dream Catchers" Sunday at Marshall School.

The group, which was formed in 1990 and is an outreach program of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, will also reprise the Ticheli works for a festival in early November, in which Ticheli will be guest conductor. That performance will take place at the new Weber Music Hall at UMD.

Dr. Mark Whitlock, who directs the Twin Ports Wind Ensemble and is director of bands at UMD, says Ticheli's work is diverse and among the best written for band, even though he also writes for chorus and orchestra, as well. His work is very popular, and he is a rising star.

"He's one of the big composers for band music," Whitlock said. "... He's found his niche in writing for all levels of band."

A professor of composition at the University of Southern California, Ticheli has appeared with the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra and the Beijing Conservatory conducting his music for band, as well as with about a dozen ensembles across the United States in the last year.

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One of his works that the Twin Ports Wind Ensemble is performing is "Loch Lommond," which is a new piece that has never been performed elsewhere. The others are "Amazing Grace" and a noteworthy work called "Gaian Visions."

The piece is based on the Gaian theory, which postulates the Earth as a living organism that can retaliate for mistreatment.

"'Gaian Visions' is a piece he wrote in reaction to his feelings about what we're doing to the Earth," Whitlock said.

The three movements -- "Forgotten Forests," "Desecration" and "Redemption" -- cover that vision.

"It's a very 20th century piece," he added. "It's not pretty at all."

That's in contrast to the style in the other two pieces, which are very approachable, Whitlock said.

The other feature piece, Whitacre's "Ghost Train," is based on a piece of folklore in which a supernatural train runs across the landscape. It's a long work and popular for bands, and it has a jazzy feel, featuring a tenor sax solo by local jazz musician and band teacher Randy Lee and a piano solo by Tom Wegrin, who is on the UMD faculty.

"I picture a 1940s kind of imagery," Whitlock said.

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Rounding out the concert are works by Ralph Vaughan Williams and a piece based on folk dances by Dmitri Shostakovich, which was written for a Russian band. (That's important: "Band people really work hard to get our own literature," Whitlock said.)

The group, which performs with 60-65 members, including professional orchestra musicians, music teachers and amateurs who treat it as an avocation, is all volunteer and has a large substitute list to accommodate schedules.

"The group of people that are in this (group) really take the music making seriously," Whitlock says.

The other concerts for the 2002-03 season include "Spirit of Life" on Feb. 9 and "American Emblems," which will have patriotic music and other American themes, on May 31.

Both will take place at the new Weber Music Hall.

It's also worth noting that while the Nov. 1 concert will be the first Twin Ports Wind Ensemble event in the new music hall at UMD, some of Whitlock's groups have already been rehearsing there. He, like many members of the UMD music faculty, is duly impressed.

"I just can't say enough good things about the hall," he said.

He said concertgoers and musicians are intimately connected with the music. "There is no seat in the house where you feel like you're at a distance from the music," he said.

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It's special for the musicians, too.

"You play better," he said. "You make better music."

News to Use

"Dream Catchers" will take place Sunday at 3 p.m. in Fergeau Auditorium at Marshall School. Cost is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors. The Nov. 1 performace is part of the UMD/MBDA Honors Band Festival Performance and will feature several other ensembles. The Twin Ports Wind Ensemble portion begins at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

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