The absence has ended, and the void it created has vanished for Joe Martin.
After a wonderfully creative sabbatical during fall quarter, Martin will again conduct the Lamont Wind Ensemble on Wednesday night at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. The free performance begins at 7:30 p.m. in Gates Concert Hall.
Martin has directed the group for 16 years, the entire time he has been teaching at the Lamont School of Music. And while he wasn’t entirely away from the ensemble during his sabbatical, Martin did step aside.
He chose the music the group performed in its two concerts during the fall quarter, but he didn’t attend rehearsals. Tim Libby, his sabbatical replacement, is a respected colleague, someone Martin knew would work well with the ensemble, but Martin is glad to be back at the podium.
“I want the students to have the opportunity to work under other conductors because it’s what is best for them,” says Martin, associate professor of trombone and euphonium. “But at the same time, I get real possessive about the connections I build with the kids, and I really look forward to making music with them again.”
While on sabbatical, Martin recorded two CDs, one with trombone quartet Bone Structure and one with the Lamont Brass Trio, which includes fellow music faculty members Alan Hood on trumpet and Susan McCullough on horn. Martin selected the pieces for both CDs, which are due to be released this spring.
“With three people, even with four, you play a lot,” Martin says. “It gives me a chance to do some very challenging things and really some very virtuosic things. For me, it’s a much more in-depth artistic experience, interacting with just a few people at a very high level rather than being part of a large group.”
Wednesday’s concert, titled The Golden Age of Bands, is a celebration of the 1950s, when concerts of works written for wind ensembles came into vogue. In addition to pieces by Berlioz, Beethoven, Aaron Copland and Alfred Reed, the concert includes Elegy, written by John Barnes Chance in 1972, after the death of a high school band member and several months before the composer was accidentally electrocuted in his backyard at the age of 39.
Martin calls the piece “very heart-wrenching,” and after the ensemble played it through the first time, Martin asked the musicians: What is at the core of an elegy?
“It’s each person’s journey dealing with the grief,” Martin told the players, explaining that Chance’s piece is revered for effectively communicating that emotion, and that each musician individually must work through the sometimes knotty process of understanding the emotional content and then determining “how you move the sound” to translate that emotion intuitively.
“It’s a real powerful place to be in,” Martin says, “to try and help guide them to think about how to be professional players and bridge that gap, but also how to think about music and how to approach their music making. It’s very personal for me.”