The Colombo Wind Orchestra | Sunday Observer

The Colombo Wind Orchestra

The 8th annual concert of the Colombo Wind Orchestra will be at St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk Church in Colpetty, on Saturday, March 21, conducted by the well-known British conductor, Mr. Robert Lennon.

The Colombo Wind Orchestra is Sri Lanka’s only concert wind band. It was formed in 2010 by the wind players of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka.

Today the orchestra consists of more than 40 players representing the entire range of wind instruments from the piccolo flute through oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba and saxophones, in addition to percussion, double bass and keyboard. The diversity of these instruments create a truly colourful and enjoyable musical experience!

One of the characteristics of this orchestra is the fact that there are several generations of musicians performing, with the more experienced players encouraging and inspiring the younger members.

Apart from their annual concert in March, the Colombo Wind Orchestra perform outreach concerts in other parts of the country bringing music to people that would otherwise be deprived. The repertoire consists of a wide range of music, from classical western music to pop, jazz, as well as Sinhala songs.

At St. Andrews there will also be a selection of diverse works starting off with Dmitri Shostakovich’s vibrant curtain raiser, the Festive Overture in A Major. This is one of Shostakovich’s most frequently performed works and, as the story goes, this patriotic music was composed for the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra (to celebrate the October revolution) in no less than 3 days!

On the program there will also be Frank Meacham’s popular march as well as a wonderful medley from the famous Lion King with music by Elton John, Hans Zimmer and Tim Rice.

One of the highlights will be an arrangement for the orchestra by Robert Lennon with excerpts from Kurt Weill’s, A Little Threepenny Music, influenced by jazz and pre-war German dance music. Based on the Beggar’s Opera by John Gay, it tells the story of Macheath (Mack the Knife), a murderer in Victorian London. This suite retains all of the unique characters of the opera, with instrumentation that includes saxophones, a simple drum set and a combination of guitar, banjo and bandoneon among the more traditional wind instruments.

The orchestra will also perform the Trumpeter’s Lullaby by Leroy Anderson with Sri Lanka’s leading trumpetist, Naveen Fernando. It is a short piece for solo trumpet and orchestra that is different from the traditionally loud trumpet solos with a quiet melody based on bugle notes played by the trumpet accompanied by the rest of the orchestra playing a lullaby background.

El Camino Real is a brilliant piece for concert band by American composer Alfred Reed. This fiery fantasy is based on a series of Spanish folk melodies and contrasts well with the First Suite in Eb for Military Band by the British composer Gustav Holst.

Officially premiered in 1920 at the Royal Military School of Music, this first suite convinced many other prominent composers that serious music could be written specifically for a concert wind band. Holst was an excellent trombonist with great performing experience which probably contributed to the writing of this suite.

Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Wagner’s romantic opera Lohengrin is definitely a band piece. The occasion for the procession is the imminent betrothal of heroine Elsa to Lohengrin, the mystic knight of the Holy Grail come to deliver the people of Brabant from Hungarian invaders. In this transcription for band all the luxuriant Wagnerian colour, drama, pageantry, power and mysticism of the original are recreated!